Recently at Easton Yoga – the theme we have been talking about in class is Gratitude. There is so much to be said about the feeling of gratitude, especially around this time of year. In planning my classes, I have found over 31 health benefits to a gratitude practice to convince those who may be a bit skeptical, as well as numerous research to support the changes to the brain when one practices continuously. It is not a quick fix that transforms you overnight. It is just like your yoga practice – it needs to be maintained or it gets lost in the shuffle.
Now some would argue that it’s easy to be grateful when you have a roof over your head or your bills paid whilst others are struggling and then someone else could argue it’s easy to be grateful when you don’t have a family member dying, etc etc. Perception of one’s life, one’s problems, and one’s “richness” is so very individual and that is why we continuously learn from each other. We add perspective to each other as long as we are willing to explore and connect and let our guards down. If you are alive & reading this – you have something to be grateful for and something to share. And the more you focus on that small seed, whatever it may be, there is more that can come from that.
For me, this practice of gratitude came to a head the second I was told at 31 that I had colon cancer. I remember specifically as if it was yesterday standing in front of my bathroom mirror and looking at myself differently for the first time. I used to look in that mirror and say things like “I wish I was prettier” or “I wish my thighs were a little slimmer” or “I have a huge zit – to pop or not to pop- that is the question?”. My mind automatically went to what I needed to fix, improve, change, or modify in order to feel good or so I thought. After the diagnosis, I looked in that mirror more out of contemplation like hum, I wonder if I will lose my eyelashes because I really do like them. And as I started to stare at myself – my mind thought about my incredible family and friends and the good times not the bad, and all that I have gotten to do in those 31 years and my inner world shifted to one of light. My life wasn’t so bad. I didn’t want my life to be over.
I wasn’t done yet. And as I went inward – things on the outside had less significance to my health and to my well-being.
Fast forward to my healing process which yoga was a HUGE part of – I remember after having Kira taking her out on the back porch each morning and saying “this is the day the Lord has made- let us rejoice and be glad”. I cherished those morning moments like little pennies I was collecting in a piggy bank, or little photos for my memory wheel of life. As you build a gratitude practice, you find small moments of joy admist all the craziness and stress that life can sometimes be. And the more you practice doing this – the more mindful you become. When stress hits, you are able to take that pause, fill up again on what fuels you, and continue your life in a more manageable way. You stop blaming or shaming those around you and maybe start having some difficult conversations at times but realizing that’s okay. The days that it feels like nothing works, nothing can turn your mood around, you are stuck – I find that it’s still okay to have the occasional pity party and the disappointment and to honor the grieving process because it is part of life or part of being human.
So as we approach this holiday – some already have feelings of angst towards seeing family members, hurt feelings, lack of money to buy presents, crowds, not wanting to be around everyone joyful when they don’t feel joyful….Know that you don’t have to be joyful – but if you show up to these gatherings with some crumb of gratitude and openness – I wonder if your experience can be a little bit different this year. A little bit more magical. Because you are here. You are alive. You are a part of something bigger and that is quite magical.
And if you need ideas – start with a yoga class! Challenge yourself during that class to be thankful for the arms that hold you, the feet that support you, the movement of your spine, the engagement of your core, the way your breath and body can dance together beautifully if/when you find those moments where you are able to let go.