Written by: Katherine Dreyer, Co-founder of ChiRunning, ChiWalking & ChiLiving
Although the darkest time of the year, when the natural world shows us that it is time to rest, the holiday season seems to be primarily about doing, accomplishing, producing, and attending to the myriad of things that call for our attention. If you’re not hosting or attending a party, you may be going to your children’s school program, bedecking your home in holiday decorations, writing cards, buying gifts, or shopping and cooking special meals.
That doesn’t even include work, which also may have pressing, year-end deadlines.
Who has time to care for yourself with extra sleep, nourishing exercise and some much needed quiet time to listen to your heart’s desires for the New Year?
Another underlying issue is not just the quantity of activities, but our perception that it all has to be perfect. TV shows and movies show a holiday season that has been staged with a lot of money and many hands to make it so, yet somehow we feel we have to live up to that staged set created by the media. It is an impossible standard to meet and can leave you feeling bad about yourself, despite all your well-intentioned efforts.
In ChiRunning and ChiWalking we focus on conserving chi or energy. It is a mindful practice to optimize your energy management. These same principles can be applied to everyday living.
Here are some suggestions that are not about changing what you’re doing, but how you approach all activities with your energy in mind:
1. Issue less energy
In T’ai Chi one of the prime energy management concepts is called Gathering and Issuing. To issue less energy, you literally make less effort, regulating how much energy you exert and practice using only the amount necessary to accomplish the task at hand. That also means relaxing about the outcome.
When you start becoming more mindful of your energy one of the first things you might notice is that you expend a lot of energy when you really don’t need to. It’s all about conserving your energy.
When I teach posture in a ChiRunning and ChiWalking workshop I tell everyone to reduce their effort by 50% while maintaining the intention and the feeling of being aligned. And it really works. My students are able to maintain great posture while also relaxing. It’s one of the great ”aha!” moments in class.
We tend to overexert when we have expectations that we should perform without flaw. Issuing less energy means accepting less than perfection and discovering the perfection in our supposed flaws.
Relax and set aside your idea of the perfect holiday meal, gift, or party, and really focus on the true intention behind the holiday season, so that your energy is rightfully focused and expended instead of wasted and overextended.
2. Gather more energy
It seems counterintuitive that we can gather energy while doing so much during the holiday season, but it is simply a mindset to cultivate. The key to gathering energy is to appreciate the moment. It is not the kind of appreciation you have to express, but a quiet, inward recognition of the value of what is all around you. Appreciation connects you with the people, animals and things in your life and that connection is like food for your body, mind, and soul, a true, deep source of nourishment.
A good place to start is appreciating yourself, taking stock of all that you do accomplish. Take time to give yourself a quiet compliment (no one has to know).
You can also gather the energy of nature around you with the Window Exercise. When outside imagine your chest is an open window and allow all the energy of the sky, the trees, and all of nature into that window. Allow that energy to flow down into your dantien which is below your navel and in towards your spine. It is the deep, quiet center of your body and your being and the best place to store energy for when it is needed.
3. Keep your energy flowing
In Chinese medicine, stagnant, blocked energy is the source of pain and discomfort. Most of the time we’re not aware of how much energy is frozen in our neck and shoulders. The main culprit is planning, analyzing, and overthinking. The activity literally draws your energy up to your head where it gets stuck in the muck of over-stimulation.
The answer is to turn to the “brain” in your gut more frequently. Drop your focus into your belly and feel for your gut response. The brain in your gut is more holistic, creative, and intuitive, which yields more balanced and comprehensive solutions.
When you focus on the brain in your gut your energy flows into your body and into your dantien, a place where energy is meant to be stored and from where it can easily be sourced. It’s no wonder that your gut and your dantien are in the same place!
You can also keep your chi flowing with bite-sized but regular body movements. Stretch, take a walk, shake out your whole body whenever you can. Keep your energy flowing, open and fluid!
4. Prevent energy leaks
While energy leaks are always present, they become especially prominent during the holiday season. Some causes of energy leaks may include over-dramatization, worry, high-stress family situations, poor planning, self-criticism, poor diet choices, overconsumption of holiday treats, and too much “yes”. These will all consume large amounts of your available energy, which you need now more than any other time of the year.
It’s important to be constantly aware of lessening or preventing these energy leaks. Mindfully plan your holiday events with strong consideration for your overall health. Practice saying “no” when you have too much on your plate, figuratively and literally! And when you sense any of these happening in you, just step back and take a deep breath to reset.
As you develop your energy management skills, you’ll see that there is much you can accomplish while still maintaining your center. Learning to manage the in-and-out flow of chi, your life force, you realize its value.
This mindful practice gives back more than it takes and builds a reserve of energy so you can enjoy the holidays and your life to the fullest.
Want the personal support you need to create lasting change in your life?
Katherine Dreyer offers ChiLife Coaching to guide you in living your truth every day!