With Christmas bearing down on us like an express train, I’m looking towards the holiday festivities with excitement and trepidation. As sure as the sky is blue, there will be moments over the next two weeks when I feel like I’m going to lose my mind. And since the lessons I learn on the yoga mat are a continual source of inspiration for my life off the mat, I thought I’d turn to my yoga practice for some tips on getting through the holidays with as much joy and peace I can muster.
Here are three elements of my yoga practice that I intend to put to good use:
There are many ways we can “let go” during the holidays. By letting go I’m not talking about drinking that extra rum and egg nog or indulging in that extra slice of fruit cake. I’m talking about letting go of expectations.
I’ve learned from experience that whenever I expect a family event to be a certain way, it’s more than certain that it will go any other way than the way I “expected”. Having young kids means embracing the unexpected. Because when we look at the excitement of the holidays, the upending our regular schedules, and extended time in close quarters with lots of family members, it is a perfect storm of unexpected events.
By repeating the mantra, “let go,” I plan to remind myself to let go of the unimportant stuff, of the stuff beyond my control. I figure, the more I’m able to let go of my expectations over the holidays, the easier it will be on my stress levels.
Have you ever noticed that during a time of year when we’re supposed to be celebrating the spirit of giving, while spreading kindness and good cheer, tensions seem to be at their highest?
Fights over parking spaces at the mall or snarky comments made over Christmas dinner don’t just happen in the movies. I’m sure we’ve all experienced moments of stress or have been in uncomfortable situations at some point in our holiday history.
If I can simply take a few deep breaths, I’m less likely to react emotionally to highly charged situations. Breathing deeply gives us a chance to gain perspective, and sometimes even walk away. It’s really hard to be angry when I’m breathing deeply. By reminding myself to breathe, I’m hoping to remain calm and steady even amidst the chaos.
Practice Gratitude and Compassion
Let’s face it. There will be moments of pure happiness throughout the holidays and there will be moments when our patience and/or tempers are put to the ultimate test.
Through these extremes, a practice of gratitude and compassion allows us to approach all situations with an open and kind heart. Whether we’re dealing with a strained relationship, a ridiculously inappropriate gift or a toddler’s tantrum over Christmas brunch, being conscious of what we have to be thankful for is a great way to stay grounded.
By acknowledging all that I have to be thankful for, and cultivating compassion, I hope to remain conscious of the “bigger picture” and maintain a generous heart.
As I head into the Christmas celebrations, I’m hoping that letting go, breathing and practicing gratitude and compassion will help keep the true spirit of Christmas alive in our household. Or, at the very least, provide me with a little inner peace.
What are your tips for keeping calm throughout the holidays?
Lordy, lordy, look who’s turning 40.
*I am now raising my hand*
Yes, this week is the big week. On Saturday, my life odometer rolls over from the 30s into the 40s. When people hear I’m turning 40, they have one of two reactions: 1) “Ohmygod, you’re turning 40?!?” (said with excitement and enthusiasm) or 2) “Ohmygod, you’re turning 40?!?” (said with pity, commiseration or a hint of "better-you-than-me").
With each reaction from someone else, I check my own. Am I excited? Am I sad? I’ve thought a lot in the past few months about turning 40: How do I really feel about it? Have I achieved what I thought I would achieve? Have I overcome obstacles and fears? How different is my life since the big 3-0? Do I care?
And lordy, lordy, here’s what I’ve realized:
I never had a picture in my mind of where I thought I’d be when I reached age 40. I had a very clear picture of where I thought I would be when I was 30, and yet when I turned 30 my life looked nothing like that picture. But the year I turned 30 was one of the most fabulous years I could have imagined.
I don’t know why I never pictured my life at age 40, but I don’t have any regrets or disappointments because there is no picture against which to measure my actual existence.
What I do know is that I am content. Deeply content. I and the people in my life have experienced a series of events this year that has taught me a lot about the fragility of life, that has deepened the significance of knowing and staying true to what is really important, that has shown me that our everyday (and sometimes mundane) lives can change within moments or overnight, with the result that we may suddenly find ourselves living a far different life than we could ever have hoped or feared.
And when I say, "I’m content," I don’t mean that I jump out of bed every morning shouting “Woot woot!” and raring to go and with a smile on my face (my husband will attest to this). I don’t mean, "I’m happy all of the time!" or that I am able to remark at the end of each day that "I lived today with meaning and fulfillment and joy!" (Come on, I have two kids under age five.) And I don’t mean that I am proud of my every thought, daily decision or parenting choice (uhm, did I mention that I have two kids under age five?). But when I have a quiet moment to reflect on the beauty / pain / frustrations / joys of parenthood, the depth of profound love in my marriage, the satisfactions and disappointments of building a career I love, the daily hurdles and successes—however small or large—when I survey all of these aspects of my life, I know that I would not change a single thing. And when I take a deep breath and ask myself how I feel, my answer is "content".
I am more comfortable and happy in my body than I have ever been, even after having two kids.
I now know that a loving marriage is not the stuff of fairytales (uhm, again my husband will attest to this), but it is far more rewarding than the stuff of fairytales.
Having children has changed my entire being and shown me that we all have in us a limitless capacity to love.
My family (immediate and extended) and friends (new and old) are some of the most exceptional people I know.
More than ever, I recognize how much I have to be thankful for.
And I know that the slow accumulation of each experience of my life has brought me to this moment—now. To this place in my life.
So, yes, lordy, lordy, look who’s turning 40. And I’m celebrating. Every breath.