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COMING CLEAN: Meditation for the Holidays

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A bustling holiday season has this mom seeking silence more than ever.

It’s quiet now, but for only a few more minutes before the door flies open and my husband is home, my toddler starts puttering around the house singing “Jingle Bells” loudly, the TVs are blaring, and the cat is meowing for dinner.

When I venture out, there’s Christmas music all around, bells jingling, and tires grinding over the frozen, slushy roads. The stores are busy and noisy, the malls are packed with shoppers, and the offices are abuzz with workers trying to wrap up before the end of the year.

Where’s my silent night?

I never noticed noise in my youth — in fact, I rather craved it. The energy of the people around me made me feel alive. I loved hearing accents and different languages, people shouting, doors slamming, music all around. Moving from the suburbs to the city, I was reminded of my place in this world, and how much bigger it truly was than I previously thought. Any drama I experienced seemed trivial when compared with global realities.

But it seems that our world is getting louder. According to experts in “Quiet, Please,” that’s true. Consider this fact from the story:

“With packed restaurants and devices we carry that buzz, beep, and sing, the world is getting louder. Movies today can get as loud as 130 decibels (dB), the equivalent of a jackhammer.”

And this:

“A 2012 Yale University study found that patients in an intensive-care unit who were exposed to sounds in excess of 83 dB suffered lowered immune function and even delirium from sleep deprivation.”

That excessive noise I used to love, it turns out, can cause havoc on our ears and bodies, especially over time.

In the past few years, I’ve switched from looking up rock clubs to tracking down nature centers. Where can I find the quietest close by? There’s got to be an app for that, right?

I once stood in a field of green grass near a babbling brook where we were trout fishing in Lanesboro, Minn., and it was the most serene I’ve felt in ages. To this day, I tap that memory when I meditate.

Meditation has become more and more important to me, especially during times when I feel more anxious due to overscheduling — definitely valuable during the holiday season when we feel pulled in every direction.

As a mom, meditation helps me stay calm in the moment — and beyond the practice — but my strategy has changed. There are smaller windows of time to find the quiet, but still I seek them out:

  • In the car during my commute. Public radio is often quite soothing, depending on the topic — and informative. If it feels too provocative or the news is too troublesome, I switch off the radio and zone in on the sounds of the wind and road as I become a more vigilant driver.
  • In a calming bath. Showers are too regular and don’t seem to allow for full Zen time. But a lavender-oil bath with Epsom salts, be it nightly, weekly, or even once a month if that’s all time affords, is a heavenly treat ripe for meditation time. I can completely clear my mind.
  • In the early-morning hours before anyone else is awake. My silence is generally ruined by the cat, so I can’t claim this always works for me.
  • In the time after my daughter has fallen asleep, and I feel comfortable settling in with a cup of bedtime tea without disturbance.
  • In the 15 to 20 minutes right before I fall asleep. I used to toss and turn or lie awake for an hour, but as soon as I starting using a meditation practice at bedtime, I’m out like a light in no time.
  • In active meditation on nature walks in the woods.
  • In desperation, I’ll find an open office at work or retreat to a room at home and shut the door.

Need some help finding quiet? Consider these resources:

Wishing you all peace this holiday season!

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