Family Gatherings: The Ultimate Mindfulness Training Ground

By Leo Babauta

This is the time of year when many families come together, for extended gatherings or just a get-together or three.

And as wonderful as that may be, it can be a trying time for many, for lots of reasons: old conflicts coming up, painful emotional patterns, people criticizing you, lots of people coming together to make for stressful chaos, loss of control of your daily routine, party planning and preparations adding stress, and more.

How do you deal with this?

Recently a reader asked me to write about “dealing with the emotional difficulties/potential conflict of joining family at the holidays and keeping your energy sustained, positive, without ‘faking it’.”

Here’s what I suggest: use family gatherings for mindfulness training.

It might seem like the best training ground for mindfulness is a peaceful Zen temple … and in many ways, it is. But just like target practice isn’t the same as actual combat, the zazen cushion is not the same as being in the middle of crazy family gatherings. It takes practice to a whole new level.

What and how can you practice? Try one of these practices at a time, when Uncle Rob is telling one of his boring stories:

You can’t do these all at once, but take one of the practices and work with it for a little bit, then try another.

One practice at a time, one moment at a time, you’ll become better at mindfulness in the midst of chaotic family gatherings. And then you’ll see the beauty that was there all the time.