The New Year is almost upon us, and is traditionally the time of year for loved ones to come together and share gifts. No, the gifts that we give at the New Year are more personal and important. They will be valued more and do not require wrapping. In this day and time, many families live in distant locations and cannot easily come into physical contact due to the cost or difficulty in traveling, but it is possible to be together in mindfulness.
Originally, the holiday included gift giving, but not the like the gift giving that we have come to experience with the Christmas Holiday since the late 1800s when businesses decided it would be good to give material objects to other, only to increase there end-of-the-year sales.
1. Peacefulness - Make it your practice and train to try to live every moment to be content and peaceful, without stress. Relax, dwell peacefully in the present moment. Respond to events with compassion. When you have moments of stress, go back to your breathing, and attempt to be in that moment deeply, because there is the possibility of handling every kind of event and that is essential to keep the peace in yourself. Always act with love and not out of despair. Never, say or do things that will cause the other person to suffer. Do not be hateful and never speak when you are angry. When you are suffering, and you believe that your suffering has been created by your loved one, do not attempt to punish them for having made you suffer. You goal should be to overcome your own suffering. Try your best to practice peacefulness by simply telling them that you are suffering and asking them to help you, instead of berating them for not realizing what they do not know.
2. Your Love - This is perhaps an obvious and most important gift on the list, and it’s too important to gloss over. It’s imperative that you tell your loved ones that … well, that you love them. Regularly. But just as important is that you actually show them you love them. Hugs, intimacy, smiles, saying kind things for them, considering their needs and feelings … just little things that mean a lot.
3. Be Compassionate - How is this different than giving the gift of your love? Being compassionate is to feel or show sympathy and concern for others. It is possible to love someone and not show compassion. For example, parents often discipline our children and love them at the same time … but often compassion is even more important than discipline. Compassion is finding empathy with your loved one … trying to see things from their eyes, trying to understand what they’re going through … and then doing your best to be kind and to end their suffering and to make them happier.
4. A Voice - We can give so much just by paying attention to a loved one, and really listening, and showing that we’re interested in what they have to say, and showing that what they say is important and respected. Giving a person a voice, and showing that their words matter, will have a long-lasting different in their lives.
5. Listening - Make a effort to really listen to what others are saying. Be alert and ready to to hear them speak and find joy that they are speaking to you. Pay attention to them, avoiding the urge to determine what they are going to say. Listening is the ability to accurately receive and interpret messages in the communication process. Listening is key to all effective communication, without the ability to listen effectively messages are easily misunderstood and communications break down. Adults spend an average of 70% of their time engaged in some sort of communication, of this an average of 45% is spent listening compared to only 30% speaking, 16% reading and 9% writing. Learn to listen well in order to communicate with your loved ones. Deep listening is the kind of listening that can help relieve the suffering of the other person. You can call it compassionate listening. You listen with only one purpose - to help him or her empty their heart. And, if you remember that you are helping them to suffer less, and even if they say things full of wrong perceptions full of bitterness, you are still capable of listening with compassion. The fear, the anger and the despair is born on the ground of wrong perception. We have wrong perceptions concerning ourselves, and the other person is the foundation for conflict. Avoid conflict in all things.
6. Be in the Moment - When you love someone the best thing you can give them is your moment. How can you love someone if you are not in the moment with them? You over them your time, your true moment when you are not preoccupied with the past or the future. You are one with your beloved. It is not necessary to be in the presence of your loved one to be one with them. You may be thousands of miles apart, but can still send them emails, use social media to stay in touch, or even pick up the phone and call them. Use your mindfulness to recognize that and embrace your loved one in the moment. To be loved is to be recognized as existing and mattering to the other. If they are truly important, you should make the time to listen to them and speak if necessary.
7. Your Presence - This means making it a priority to spend time with them — if they are truly important, you can make the time. Presence does not mean that you are in the same physical location, the same room. You may be present with them on the phone, or in a chat room, or on a video conference. You might have to change things in your life to make the time to give to them, but it’s worth it. Beyond just making the time, though, you have to actually be in the moment when you spend time with loved ones. That means learning to stay in the moment, rather than having your mind on other things. Instead, focus on being there with your loved ones — really listen, really have fun, really be present.
8. Your Belief in Them - Make it a priority to be there for your loved one. Let them know that you are there for them. Simply knowing that another person is there and believing in them, showing that in your words and in your deeds, can make a huge difference. Studies of people who grew up in dysfunctional homes but who grew up to be happy and successful show that the one thing they had in common was a significant adult who believed in them. Goethe said, “Treat a man as he is, he will remain so. Treat a man the way he can be and ought to be, and he will become as he can be and should be.”
It is my hope that the New Year will bring you peace, serenity and tranquility. I hope that you find it in your heart to love others and yourself.
To find out more about Thich Nhat Hanh and his spiritual retreat visit http://plumvillage.org/about/thich-nhat-hanh/