As it is holiday season it might be a good idea to consider expanding your idea of practice so that it includes some skillful means – whether you are with friends, framily, work colleagues, family of origin or even alone.All too often we hold a rigid idea of what practice is and isn’t, and completely forget about the very meaningful and practical skillful means category of practice. A skillful means is something that aids us when navigating a tricky situation, or that can used as an antidote to something unskilful (strong anger for instance), and can, if with the right view and intention, become a beautiful way to self -style a practice to work with exactly what is happening in the moment.For instance, when you are surrounded by family and they are not the easiest to be around, or your time is so completely consumed with one person or another that you can’t find time to sneak away and meditate or practice some mindful asana, a skillful means could be to practice walking loving kindness meditation.  As you move from one place to the next, noticing the sensations in your feet touching the ground you can silently recite some Metta (loving kindness) phrases “May I be at ease, may all beings be at ease”, “May I be happy, may all beings be happy”. No one needs to know that you are reciting silently, but you will feel a huge shift in attitude and view. It just could make a day with lot’s of people and no private down time, a lot more pleasant and easier to be in.
Pausing to feel your breath can also be a skillful tool when navigating the holidays. Maybe at an office party, when all you want to do is go home, you can focus your attention on where you feel your breath as you are listening to someone talk to you. It’s totally possible to be aware of what’s going on inside ourselves as we listen to a conversation. Try it next time your in a conversation with someone unpleasant. If you can manage to be aware of your breath (which means that you won’t hold it, or will breath again once you register that you might have been holding it) you won’t be as likely to rush into your thoughts and feelings about the person, which saves a lot of unpleasantness. Staying in the body, feeling the breath, will automatically keep you much more calm, centered and out of the danger zone of discursive thoughts and feelings.These are just a few examples – there are many!