Try as we might, hope against hope, it is often a struggle to bring our yoga practice into the world, and to share it with our family during times when tradition and our old habits cling fast. Going home or spending time with our families can be a reminder of how much we've grown, but also a chance to realize how much more growth there is in front of us. It can help us discern what is actually important, vital to us.
Now, I'm very, very fortunate to have a family that "gets" me. Even if they don't totally understand everything, they accept me and love me whole-heartedly. And it's mutual, I truly love getting to see everyone over the holidays. What's most important to me, especially since I don't live in my hometown any longer, is getting to spend that time, face to face with them. Whether it's playing a board game or all heading out to watch a movie together - it's what I value most about this season.
Last year, Rich and I got to have some extra time with one particular Aunt and Uncle who we always see each year, but it's at a big dinner, and they are busy being the hosts. We met them for lunch at a beautiful vegetarian cafe, Cafe Flora, (for the record, they are not vegetarian but that is how awesome my family is - willing to go to a veggie restaurant with us!), drove around the city through parks, looking at beautiful grand houses and finished our afternoon together with a stop a Theo's Chocolate, a local, fair trade and organic chocolate company in Seattle. It was so much more meaningful than any of the material gifts we received. I enjoyed it so much, that the day, the details are still clear in my head and heart.
We live in a world of rush and hustle, busy and bustle. We keep in touch with people via text and Facebook, email and Twitter. It seems that even having a phone conversation with someone is a slowly dying art form. In this world of hasty and often thoughtless virtual social exchange, spending time face to face, gathered with one another in person, has fast become some type of luxury, a rarity, and it is something to be treasured. This time and the real benefits of being "in relation" with other humans is so much more valuable to me than any commodity.
Now don't get me wrong, I enjoy giving and receiving gifts too. Not because of what the gifts themselves are but because of what they represent - my appreciation for someone, my desire to treat them to something special, a way to let them know I'm thinking of them. Still, there's a part of me, much like Charlie Brown, that wonders at the commercialism of the season and struggles to find a way to connect with the "realness" of the holidays.
When I encourage myself to look deeper, I realize that the deafening mantra of Christmas consumption is one that is literally chanted year round in our society. Everywhere we turn we're confronted with billboards, advertisements, the next latest, greatest, shiny object. And that is where my yoga practice comes in, giving me a time, place and space, to detach from the barrage of marketing and connect to that light within me and others.
My yoga practice can happen on my mat, with one of my favorite teachers. It can happen on a snowy mountaintop, while skiing with a friend. It can happen when I'm stuck in traffic with my husband, watching the rain fall and Christmas lights twinkle. It can even happen when you find yourself frustrated or forlorn in the midst of a family soiree: breathe, look around you, and consider each person and their life experience as well as that person's influence in your life. Tat Twam Assi - You are that - We are all connected.
Open your eyes and really look, really see the beauty around you. Share that moment with the person you're with, or with a total stranger. Put your phone down. Smile at someone on the street, a gesture of namaste if ever there was one.
Your time, and your loving attention are THE hottest present this holiday season, so please, give them generously and with abandon!
Love and Namaste,