The gift of being present

Acknowledging that pleasant and unpleasant moments come and go in daily life, as well as during this festive season, can help us to let go of any preconceived notions of what Christmas ‘should’ be like and ease our acceptance of it as it unfolds. Despite this, I sometimes hear myself and others expressing quite ‘black and white’ thinking at this time of year, for example, repeating habitual statements like, “I hate Christmas” or “I love Christmas” and not allowing for any novel or distinguishing features between one year and the next.  

Mindfulness is defined by Ellen Langer as “the process of drawing novel distinctions”.  So, perhaps we can explore new ways of relating to Christmas and approach it gently and mindfully. Rather than being governed by old patterns of how Christmas has been in the past or attempting to predict or control how it will be in the future, we can try experiencing this new season as it actually is, by stepping out of autopilot mode and bringing moment to moment attention to our experience.

Letting go of expectations creates opportunities to notice this potentially magical season, as it unfolds, rather than how we think it should unfold.  When we clear space in the mind, and really see what is going on around us, we can practice taking joy in the many moments of real kindness and connection that seem to occur spontaneously at this time of year. No matter what our beliefs are, there is much to be savoured during this season of goodwill if we keep it simple and keep it human.  

Glimpses of magic can be experienced everywhere, often in sharing simple pleasures with people close to us or with groups we are connected to. There are many meaningful moments to share, like experiencing the sensory joy and awe of being in nature, savouring hot drinks, lighting a candle for yourself or someone else, writing a letter or a few words to express gratitude to someone who had been kind to you during the year, and better again, handing the words over in person. There is much joy to be felt both in giving or receiving a meaningful gift.  

I was very touched recently when I received a gift of poetry from a group in Clonakilty that I have had the pleasure of working with over the last two years. Both the intention and the time taken to write a poem about their experience of practicing mindfulness with me, was a heartfelt gift that I will treasure, and one for me that captures the true essence and meaning of Christmas.

So, connect with the people you care about. Take time to contemplate what is important and what you can let go of. Focus on the people in your life that you love. Maintain all the little acts of self-care that keep you well. If you have a nudge to go and see someone, make an effort to pay them a visit or give them a call. There is no gift more precious than your time and attention. Wishing us all a Christmas filled to the brim with moments of peace, calm and joy. 

A mindfulness workshop is happening on Saturday, December 7 from 10.30am – 1pm and Saturday, January 11, 2020 at Market Street Clinic Skibbereen. Booking is essential.  €30

For more information on courses planned for 2020 contact Susan on 087 2700572 or email:

Susan O Regan

Susan O'Regan teaches mindfulness and self-compassion courses and workshops in West Cork.

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