Thanksgiving and Christmas already? It does seem as though time flies. Especially these days when everyone is so busy running from one place to the next. And now with the holidays coming, things will get even more hectic. Time meant to be spent in gratitude and celebration will inevitably be overshadowed by the ever-growing list of things to do, or things to get. Many people will sacrifice their time for their practice in order to check another box off the list. Although it may seem contradictory, it is crucial that when you feel like you have no time that you must make the time for your practices. This is the only way to create the space – both internally and externally. The more space you make through a dedicated practice of yoga and meditation, the more space you will have for everything else. It’s amazing how that works, really.
One way to cultivate the space necessary for wellbeing is to adopt an attitude of gratitude. That’s what the holidays are all about. But it’s easy to lose sight of that when the stresses of personal circumstances and situations become overwhelming. It happens to everyone. No one, not even the most advanced yogis, are immune to life’s difficulties; the main difference is that yogis have learned to use their practice as a means of navigating through them. And you can, too.
This month rededicate yourself to your practice. Both on and off your mat. Spend time in quiet contemplation before rushing into the day. You may find those things you thought were so important drop down the list a bit. Move through your asana practice with gratitude for your body and breath and all that you are capable of, rather than criticism or judgment. And bring that awareness with you into each challenging situation you find yourself in. Remember to observe yourself with kindness and compassion, and then extend that same gentleness to all those you come into contact with: the cashier at the grocery store; the other drivers in holiday traffic; your in-laws. Harder yet, but extremely profound, give thanks for those who challenge you. They are offering you an opportunity for learning and growth. How you respond in challenging situations is not about them. It is, and will only ever be, about you.
Consider your thoughts, words, and actions, and how they impact all beings, including yourself. Choosing to practice ahimsa and karuna (harmlessness and compassion) in all you think, say, and do, has immeasurable benefit on all of life. Take the time to really consider your food choices this season – and everyday. Open up honestly and compassionately to recognizing that celebration and gratitude cannot truly reach us when we are harming others. All others. No matter our distinctions. No matter if we walk on two legs or four. Your conscious decision to treat all living beings, including Mother Earth, with kindness, love and compassion – the way you want to be treated – will positively impact your life in more ways than you can imagine.
Though cultivating an attitude of gratitude seems like it should be an easy task, most of us struggle with this practice. So be gentle with yourself. The world is a challenging place. And by no means does gratitude replace the reality of our struggles. But it does offer the promise of light when all is dark. The promise of love when all you see is hate. And the promise of time when your life is passing you by.
The first thing you must do is breathe. See you on your mat …
Erica Settino is a long-time yoga teacher and animal activist. Through her teaching, writing, and non-profit organization, Karuna For Animals: Compassion In Action, Inc., she works to promote compassion, non-violence, and kindness for all living beings. www.karunaforanimals.com. Join Erica in any of her yoga classes at Huntington Yoga & Wellness Studio. www.huntingtonyogawellness.com.