Being present and loving during the holidays is not always easy. But Susan Apollon, author of Touched by the Extraordinary, Book Two: Healing Stories of Love, Loss & Hope says there are steps you can take to find inner peace that can help you survive and even enjoy the hectic holiday season. The practice of visualization and meditation can help you reclaim control of your mind and emotions during this time of year.

These methods will not only help you stay centered during holiday events, they will allow you to achieve your intention to show unconditional love to your family and friends. But perhaps most importantly, these techniques will help you forgive yourself and others and move past negative emotion. When you learn to let go of painful memories and release the power other people hold over you, the holiday season will brighten considerably. Read on to learn how to find inner balance and be present throughout the holidays.

· Set the stage. Choose a room that feels good and that has a chair or a comfortable place to sit: peaceful, safe, and inviting. If possible, use the same location and sitting position every time. You want to create a sense of strong association. This scene will become a trigger in your mind’s eye. With enough practice, you will be able to immediately quiet and center yourself just by thinking of the space.

· Play quiet, gentle music. Apollon recommends Pachelbel or Native American flute music. However, anything that helps you relax and get centered is fine.

· Assume the “meditative or intuition posture.” Sit comfortably with spine straight, feet flat on the floor, palms up. This will help you visualize. With your feet on the ground, you can visualize that you are connected to the earth. With palms up, you will feel more inviting and that the universe is open to your energy and you are open to the energy of the universe.

· Count to ten as you begin to quiet and center yourself. Hold your breath to a fast count to ten and release your breath to a count to ten. While you are exhaling, visualize the breath moving through the body, as it moves through every cell in your body. (The next two tips provide more details on how to do this. Understand that these tips are not necessarily sequential; some of them will happen simultaneously.)

· Give your breath color and shape. Feel the warmth of your breath as you breathe in. Visualize that your breath has a shape and color. You might find it helpful to choose a color that symbolizes your intent. For instance:
Green = Healing
Blue = Peace
White = Divine energy
Pink = Compassion
Research with imagery has validated the importance of visualizing your breath. As you consciously breathe deep, relaxing breaths, chemicals in the brain much like an elixir are released to help you feel greater warmth and relaxation.

· Follow your breath on its travels. See the breath actually entering the crown and watch it start the journey through the body. You want to see it to feel it in your mind’s eye. Visualize it going through every organ, limb, vertebrae, muscle, and tissue. Picture it flowing through your bloodstream. Envision every cell delighting in the breath. See yourself feeling the warmth and see yourself feeling good. This facilitates progressive relaxation. “While doing the breathing, you will experience an increased sense of heaviness,” notes Apollon. “The paradox is that you will notice a feeling of lightness.”

· Find your mantra. I’m feeling more peaceful. I’m becoming pure love. I am grateful for my loved ones. These are just a few suggestions. Your mantra can be a favorite expression, the first line of your favorite prayer (e.g., “The Lord is my Shepherd”), or something that just helps you relax, like “Shalom.” Whatever you choose, associate the tone of your mantra with finding peace. Whatever your mantra is, say it over and over in your mind. This creates your “mind’s ear” connection.

· Make a connection with something greater than yourself. It doesn’t matter whether your “something greater” is God, Jesus, Mary, Buddha, Universal Energy, or Mind. Just imagine breathing in Its divine energy. Ask your Higher Power for help and guidance.

·Begin with gratitude. Be certain to give thanks for your blessings, which include your family and friends that you may be seeing over the holidays. The vibration of thank you, the vibration of blessings, is very powerful. It brings to us what we secretly desire. Gratitude is a higher state of consciousness. So be very generous in reminding yourself of your life’s blessings.

· Love is the Key. Fill your body with love. Imagine your whole body being filled up with love. Not romantic love, but pure, unconditional love—the kind you would feel for a baby, a puppy, or a kitten. Make love your intention. Give it a color and a shape. See yourself feeling it and becoming love. If you are intuiting specifically “for” another person—perhaps someone you would like to forgive, consciously fill your heart with feelings of love and warmth for him or her. Visualize yourself becoming loving energy and put that energy to good use in your life.

· After you’ve made the shift, state your intention. After about ten or fifteen minutes of breathing, you will feel an inner shift of consciousness. (The shift may be very subtle, and the time required to reach it will shorten with practice.) You will know this subtle shift when it happens; it means you have established a connection with your higher wisdom. This is the time to state your intention of loving and forgiving. (You may also state your intention at the beginning of the process, before you begin your breathing.) I want to love myself unconditionally. Or I want to forgive and love my mother. Or even I want to be joyful and at peace at Aunt Eunice’s holiday dinner.

About the Author:  As a psychologist and an author, Susan Apollon empowers and heals the body, mind, and soul; as an educator, she informs; as a speaker, she inspires and touches the heart.

For more than twenty-five years, Susan has been in private practice in Yardley, PA, evaluating and counseling adults, families, and children who are dealing with difficult life situations similar to what she has personally experienced, researched, and written about, including cancer, other health issues, trauma, and grief.