As women, many of us are the heart of holiday preparations, making sure everyone is fed, comfortable and entertained. We give, give, give, often to the point of exhaustion.
Yet, could our silence also be a gift? Not that we stop speaking or giving orders (although that may be a gift to some). Rather, what about taking time for inner silence through meditation or yoga? Such practices are emerging as essential tools for balance and sanity, especially during the hectic holiday season.
Giving depends on the fullness of our inner being. Without presence of mind and emotional availability, we can't give much to anyone. Taking time for meditation -- to access our deeper, inner self -- can be the most precious of gifts.
Transcendence empowers us
When speaking with women professionals, moms, students -- women of all ages -- at Transcendental Meditation gatherings, I hear reports of how their twice-daily meditation allows them to feel less overwhelmed, less consumed by out-of-town guests coming to visit, and able to transcend much of the drama surrounding the holidays.
Meditation can be a tool to transcend, to get beyond the to-do list, to refresh the mind and emotions by accessing the wellsprings of our energy and creativity deep within. A few minutes of effective meditation can balance many hours of demanding activity.
Scientific studies on the TM technique have shown that within minutes, deep transcendence can calm the sympathetic nervous system1, reduce cortisol, lower blood pressure, give your heart a rest, dissolve emotional tension and stress.2
After meditation we have more happiness, clarity and patience. We have more to give.
Consciousness: an underlying field of silence
Could it be that when we withdraw from the commotion and find a quiet place to meditate, we're not just escaping? Whether people notice or not, when you meditate, you're giving out a silent strength. The heightened brain wave coherence3 that neuroscientists associate with TM practice is not confined to the meditator's brain, just as the imperceptible aura of harmony that radiates from the meditative state is not confined to the meditator's inner world. The transcending process spreads ripples of harmony and coherence through the collective consciousness of our family, community and world. Numerous peer-reviewed scientific studies have measured this effect, showing that large groups of people practicing the TM technique together leads to a drop in crime, violence and terrorism.4
How is that possible? Pioneering quantum physicists, such as John Hagelin, tell us that underlying all matter -- beneath all the diverse happenings of our household, workplace and community -- is a silent field of energy, intelligence and order -- a field that is one with the deepest, most silent level of our own consciousness. Diving into that "least excited" field through meditation enlivens harmony in the atmosphere, touches those we love, spreads to our pets and neighbors, to folks near and far, and helps diffuse chaos, conflict and negativity. Taking time to meditate is a gift that nourishes our home and family from that most basic level of life -- the powerful but unseen "unified field" -- allowing everything to flow along more smoothly and sweetly.
Awakened silence is not a dead, dull, disinterested state of mind, it's a dynamic field of pure potentiality. It gives us the sensitivity we need to be understanding and nonjudgmental. It's the power that lets us be more tender in moments that require patience, and more warm and embracing when those around us need nurturing. This silence can emanate from us, and, without us saying a word, can uplift and nourish others. But only if it's lively in our awareness.
Taking time for the inner side of life can make holiday gatherings more enjoyable. And it's becoming socially acceptable to disappear and meditate. It may even evoke admiration (and perhaps curiosity) from others. In my family of meditators, when everyone's home for the holidays, it's so heartwarming and harmonizing for us to all get together for a group meditation.
You may find meditation to be the best gift that you can give yourself -- and everyone else.
Video: Women, Stress and Meditation: Candy Crowley and Pamela Peeke, M.D.
1.Dillbeck, M.C., and Orme-Johnson, D.W. (1987) Physiological differences between Transcendental Meditation and rest. American Psychologist, 42, 879- 881.
2. Eppley K.R. et al. (1989) Differential effects of relaxation techniques on trait anxiety: A meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology 45: 957-974.
3. Travis, F.T. and Arenander, A. (2006). Cross-Sectional and Longitudinal Study of Effects of Transcendental Meditation Practice on Frontal Power Asymmetry and Frontal Coherence, International Journal of Neuroscience, 116(11): 1519-1538.
4. John S. Hagelin, Maxwell V. Rainforth, Kenneth L. C. Cavanaugh, Charles N. Alexander, Susan F. Shatkin, John L. Davies, Anne O. Hughes, Emanuel Ross, David W. Orme-Johnson (1999), Effects of Group Practice of the Transcendental Meditation Program on Preventing Violent Crime in Washington, D.C.: Results of the National Demonstration Project, Social Indicators Research 47: 153-201;Dillbeck, M. C., Landrith III, G. S., & Orme-Johnson, D. W. (1981). The Transcendental Meditation program and crime rate change in a sample of forty-eight cities. Journal of Crime and Justice, 4, 25-45;Davies, J. L. and C. N. Alexander (2005). Alleviating political violence through reducing collective tension: Impact Assessment analysis of the Lebanon war. Journal of Social Behavior and Personality, 17(1), 285-338; Orme-Johnson, D.W. Dillbeck, and Alexander, C.N. (2003), Preventing terrorism and international conflict: Effects of large assemblies of participants in the Transcendental Meditation and TM-Sidhi programs, Journal of Offender Rehabilitation, 36, pp. 283-302.