Cultivating Holiday Joy and Presence

This week, I kicked off the holiday season with my grandson, Aiden. On Saturday, we walked through the Celebration of Lights at Morris Park with friends, and yesterday we went ice skating at PPG Place. Aiden is eight years old, and it was only his second time on ice skates. Watching him get his bearings and learn how to move himself (faster and faster) along the ice reminded me very much of watching him walk when he was very new to walking. His mind was totally absorbed in the process. For a brief period of time, he wasn’t thinking about video games. He was only thinking about how to stay upright on his skates. It was the perfect beginning to my holiday season, especially because I’ve set an intention to be more present, more in-the-moment, more mindful this year during the holidays.

I have a confession: During the last couple of years, I haven’t looked forward to the holidays. In fact, last year, not only did I not put up a tree, but I didn’t decorate at all. Looking back, I can see now that part of the reason for my malaise was that I was in a complete state of overwhelm. In that state, I was closed off; I felt distant and separate; “joy” felt like an illusion. The only time I was in the present moment was when I was teaching yoga.  

But this year is different. I’ve done a lot of “work” on myself this past year. I’m eating better and sleeping better. My self care has become my top priority. And I’ve done a lot of “interior” work with meditation and reiki (most of which is thanks to Jen Sunderlin). I’ve let go of a lot of old baggage, resentments, and hang-ups. I’m letting go of the belief that the weight of the world rests on my shoulders. I’m letting go of the belief that I have to have it all together and get it all right all of the time. The result is more joy, more playfulness, more connection, more love.

All of this started with my time on my yoga mat. I think a lot of us come to yoga looking for more flexible bodies, but eventually (hopefully) our minds become more flexible as well. What we do on the mat is simply a warm up for what we do in our daily lives. As a case in point, my yoga practice has changed dramatically in the last year. Rather than focusing on nailing the next inversion or arm balance, my focus has become more mindful, breath-centered movement. (If you’ve been coming to my classes for a while, you might have noticed this.) I’m way more interested in my depth of practice than in my breadth of practice. I’m curious about and ready to face whatever comes up for me. I’m learning to be patient and not force whatever outcome I think “should” happen.

But it’s not easy. Just like Aiden, who at first was happy just to stay upright on his skates but soon became frustrated because he couldn’t skate as fast as another kid on the ice and couldn’t turn in a circle or skate backwards like me, I sometimes get impatient – with myself and with others. During those times, I have to remind myself to come back to my breath, to move with my breath, to let things unfold with the perfect timing of the universe. I feel as though I’m in a constant state of becoming.

So this year, if you feel like it’s time to stop “shoulding” on yourself and be more present, more mindful, more joyful, and start “becoming,” I invite you to spend more time on your yoga mat, more time on the meditation cushion, more time practicing self care. And if you’re not sure where to start, come to Sam’s yoga class on Thanksgiving morning, register for Pure Bliss Restorative Yoga, request my holiday tip sheet or holiday intentions worksheet, or contact me to schedule a strategy session.

As for me, I’m going to put up my Christmas tree!

See you at the studio.