Fun and a little stressful. Many of us know the work of Marie Kondo, the queen of tidying up. Keep what “sparks joy” and rid your space of the rest. There is wisdom in this philosophy, for sure. But instead of getting rid of stuff, what if we don’t buy it in the first place?
I grew up in Oklahoma and Holiday time was buy a bunch of stuff time. Decorations, stuff for parties, random things to give people, disposable plates and utensils and cups for easy-to-clean-up parties. I was just there last week and it pains me to say, from what I saw, things haven’t changed much.
I want to do better.
Buying things that end up in landfills, or the ocean, is something that bothers me now. Until I committed to a more mindful and intentional life, with a vow to minimize the harm I do in the world as much as I can, I didn’t really think about it. As we would say in Yoga, it wasn’t in my awareness. But it is now, and once it is in there, you can’t just ignore it.
So, for Holiday gifts, why not a gift of wellness instead of stuff? Cooking classes, studio or gym memberships, a weekend away, meditation coaching, and online wellness courses are all examples. If you have a Partner or loved one who would like to participate in a wellness activity but struggles to find time due to kids or other obligations, maybe buy a package of classes and include a promise to do what it takes to free up the other to have time to do the activity. A dual gift!
Such and fun and uniquely challenging time of year. Last year, I skipped the whole thing. I went to India to study Yoga before Thanksgiving and I came back after Christmas and literally missed the entire season.
This year, I am here and looking forward to this special time we have, even with the overindulgence and “too-muchness” in our culture. As I talk with members of our tribe before and after class, I hear some angst and stress. I hear stories of trips planned due to family obligations and guilt, and gatherings that will be stressful, and unease about spending time with certain people who cause tension. I have some of that too. This is how I navigate:
My first tool is a gratitude practice. I love how November, gratitude month, is also the month we really need this in our toolbox to get through issues and triggers. When you are feeling internal tension, step right into a gratitude practice. If you don’t have one, get googling, find one, and start now. Here is the next one:
Step into your power.
You, and only you, can choose how you feel and react in any given moment. No one makes you feel a certain way. This can seem radical, but it’s the truth. I experience this with my Partner, Berk. "When you do X it makes me feel Y so stop doing it!" But that’s ridiculous. The way I feel is inside me. It is not his fault I have a stuck emotion. It is my work to identify and transcend the emotion, or urge, or anxiety, or whatever it is. It is not his job to change and tiptoe around me. It is my job to identify my internal issues and do the work to not let this thing inside me have power over me anymore. This is what I do:
When I feel the stress, that anxious tightening inside me, I become present and connect to my breath. Then I resist the temptation to complain (internally or externally). That is a hard one, resist complaining. Then I feel what is happening inside and label it. Over time I see the patterns. Then I can stop the cycle.
When we identify an emotion, or urge, or anxiety, and name it. It stops having power over us.
This is an all-the-time practice, but one we get to use a lot over the next couple of months.
And, lastly, meditate each day. It will help you be calm and grounded as you walk into any gatherings. Even a few conscious breaths in the car before you walk in the door will provide a centered mind and loving heart.
How are you doing with the end of daylight savings time last Sunday? I know, as I teach in the studio during the evening, it is very noticeably dark. And we had 3 snow storms in October!
As I am currently sitting in Whitefish, Montana (here to teach a 200 hour Yoga Teacher Training weekend at sister studio Yoga Hive Montana) it is dark and cold.
Not that long ago, it was extremely difficult for our ancestors to get through the winter. Winter was survival time! So we, the resourceful humans, started to create rituals with light. Leaves off the trees? No problem, we will string them with lights. Time for holiday celebration? Lights on the house, candles in each window. Winter holiday time? Bake! Have friends over for meals and parties. Everyone gathers in the kitchen, the heart of the home, for warm food and love. These rituals offered hope and light in the middle of the darkest season.
As I stare out into the darkness, I light a candle (yes, I bring a candle when I travel as part of my daily meditation ritual) and that brings me to my top tips to get through the darker, colder months. One of my favorite Anne Frank quotes:
Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness.
Blaine Wilkes is the owner of Yoga Hive Colorado, and writes inspirational musings for our newsletter, which we post here, along with upcoming trainings and workshops. To filter, navigate using the links above to see the category you're interested in. If you have questions, or wish to get in touch with Blaine, drop in to a class, or connect online: