#8 - The temptations of the season
What tempts you during the holiday season? Whatever it is probably starts with the words too much. Too much food, too much drink, too much spending, or too much partying. Or maybe it's not enough. Not enough exercise, not enough discipline, not enough control. Usually the temptations are related to your decisions about your health and lifestyle choices and whether you can or want to be a good bunny and eat wisely, maintain your exercise routine and eat properly. Or just let 'er rip and eat, drink and be merry.
The decision usually feels as if your choice is one that is mutually exclusive: to be good or to have fun. It's as if healthy choices are not fun and doing what ultimately makes you feel better is just a bore. When you look at how you feel relative to self-control or discipline during the holidays, do you feel restricted or oppressed in some way? Do you feel like you're giving up your freedom when everyone else is having fun?
Isn't it interesting that when you make choices that are better for your health and well being any other time during the year, you feel like a champ, a hero, strong and in control? And it's usually easy to make that better choice because you associate the positive choice with positive results. But when someone offers you the Godiva chocolates on December 22nd, you look both ways, then look back at the box of chocolates, and swiftly pop one in your mouth. It wouldn't occur to you to do that on August 15th, but here you are in the thick of the holiday season, sneaking Godivas. What is it about the holiday season that makes you change the way you normally act?
The difference in your behavior may be related to your holiday memories and associations. Old world societies often used food as an expression of hospitality and refusal of this food was an insult. Okay, maybe that is the problem. But how does that explain those extra two pieces of pumpkin pie you ate last night before going to bed? Is the too much behavior a reward for being so good for so long? Or is the not enough behavior just an expression of letting go for a while? No matter what the reason, when these too little/not enough behaviors tempt you, it is probably a good signal that you have not fully incorporated the healthy habits you want to adhere to on a regular basis. Rather, you are exerting efforts to maintain these decisions and they are not yet part of your lifestyle and psyche.
This meditation is designed to use this wonderful opportunity of conflicting choices to help you internalize your health decisions in such a way that you are no longer tempted to make less positive choices when faced with a decision on better health or lifestyle. Not to polarize your choices into good and bad, but at some point you would have determined what the best thing to do for yourself is relative to long term health benefits. Otherwise, you wouldn't feel conflicted by the temptations of richer, sweeter foods and drink during the holidays, for example. As with earlier meditations, the issue is attitude.
To begin, find a comfortable sitting position where you can release your body tension and focus on your breath for a few minutes while you go deeper into your relaxation. As you follow the breath in and the breath out, you lose body sense and are able to visualize how you relate to a temptation that seems more difficult to resist during the holiday season.
Pick one temptation that seems the most difficult to resist and look at that temptation from a distance. Take your feelings out of the equation for right now. When you look at your temptation alone, without the influence of others or time or memories, you see that it carries no power over you. It is nothing more than a thing. When you touch it, it is hard or liquid or soft, but still nothing more than a thing. It doesn't own you or stir feelings in you when you look at it objectively. Note how colorless it seems even though you can see color. And it isn't calling you like you thought it did.
Now surround your temptation with a little bit of yearning, a small amount of longing. Maybe you want it a little. Maybe you can see yourself enjoying it a little. Look at it for another moment or two and then reach out. Just as your hand gets near your temptation, the color fades to shades of gray. The size shrinks. The texture melts into a puddle and as you watch it, the image fades away.
Step back and look at the spot where it was. Using your imagination again, rebuild your temptation bringing it up in full color, texture and smell. There it is again, created by you. As you look at it this time, infuse it with those feelings you thought you had about it. That yearning I-want-to-have feeling. Notice that you almost have to force the feeling and, in fact, you can't bring back the feeling in its fullest expression again. As you see it in its lesser form, you begin to look at the logic of its attraction. You explore all the healthy reasons to avoid this temptation and how the decision not to indulge has very positive consequences. As you look at the consequences of not taking part in the temptation, you feel the strength of your decision. Moreover, your decision is not like an act of discipline but rather just an easy choice.
The point here is that you realize that you control your feelings toward anything and when you have accepted a decision and its value, it is easy to adhere to that decision without feeling deprived because the payoff is positive outcome. Continue with this visualization until you feel you have come to a place of acceptance of the appropriate place in your life for your temptation. Understand that you may still want to dip your fingers into the Godiva box occasionally, but the feelings associated with this former temptation are casual and without longing.
When it comes to temptation, the issue always involves partaking in moderation not extremes. One chocolate is not going to send you over the edge. The whole box, however, can be a disaster. Now that you have identified your feelings associated with this former temptation, control is no longer an effort. You simply indulge or not but always within the bounds of good health and appropriate limits. Use this meditation for any temptation that causes you anxiety and frustration. Simply fade the feelings by recognizing the power of your decisions.
Imagine going through the holiday season enjoying the festivities without looking ahead to January and getting back to the hard work of recouping your healthy habits through effort. Instead, you enjoy all the parties, dinners and fun feeling in perfect, comfortable control as you exercise moderation. A different kind of eat, drink and be merry. Now go forth and enjoy!
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Chesa Keane has taught meditation and self-help for more than 30 years. To learn how to meditate the right way, using guided meditations, go to: www.meditationwarrior.com.