Holidays are a time for family, friends and — let’s not kid ourselves — food. I love to go away for a few days and eat things I normally don’t in amounts that would shock a Sumo wrestler. Hence, it may be the season to be jolly, but it’s also a time when it’s all too easy to pack on the pounds along with the cheer.
Around Thanksgiving, I’m drawn to the subject of gratitude and how to put it into practice on a daily basis. I have to admit, I’m not ready for the typical stress of the holiday season and am on a mission to keep the season as stress-free as possible with a mixture of appreciation for all that I have and awareness of all I can give.
Thinking about Thanksgiving prompted me to write this blog. I saved it to my computer, planning to post it online as soon as I got a chance. Then coincidentally I heard a radio interview with psychologist Robert Emmons, author of a book called Thanks. Emmons has spent years studying positive psychology, and in the interview he pointed out that gratitude is more than a tool for self-improvement. “Gratitude is a way of life,” he said, noting how being grateful can improve your health physically as well as mentally.
I love good food and celebrations with family and friends. Which makes Thanksgiving one of my favorite holidays — it serves up both in spades!
But this Thanksgiving, I did something a little different. Rather than filling my belly with the usual feast, I decided to observe a day of fasting, which I followed up with a donation to our local food bank.
That’s right: a no-food Thanksgiving!
In 2006, Rodney and I had the privilege of taking a few classes with Mr. Iyengar. When it came time for Headstand, I informed the yoga master that I didn’t do them — I have a seizure disorder that I always felt was aggravated by Headstands. He told me, in no uncertain terms, to stand on my head now! And I did. I stayed up, and only came down when he said it was time.
By then, the rest of the class had moved on to Supta Virasana (Reclining Hero Pose), and, trying to be a good student, I came down from Headstand and sat right up to join the rest of the class. That’s the point at which he slapped my back and said, “That is your problem, not Headstand: You transition too quickly and mindlessly. I am sure that you do this in your life as well. You never let anything settle in.” Wow, what an acute teaching for a chronic issue!
This has been an amazing month. There have been incredible gifts that have poured into me in surprising and glorious ways. There have also been challenges, upheavals and upsetting experiences. As I moved into meditation and contemplation on my experiences I had the thought, “There is a gift in everything.”
Now, that was not surprising, since I believe that everything that happens has a purpose. However, when thoughts come in like that, I pay attention. What I discovered is that I have been allowing little thoughts of concern to creep into my consciousness. I have a strong spiritual practice, but still I noticed that parts of my body felt constricted. That is always a powerful sign to pause.
By The FIRM Master Instructor Marguerite O’Brien
While I try to be mindful of the blessings in my life and give thanks on a daily basis, there are times when I am humbled by life’s circumstances and my gratefulness is magnified. I’ve had several experiences recently that I wanted to share with you, in hopes that they will inspire you to take a moment to be present to what is going on around you and give silent thanks for every blessing.
The holiday season is upon us, with many of our thoughts turning to food. The popular adage “you are what you eat” is literally true, according to new research that claims a person’s diet has a profound influence on their brain function and overall health.
Just as our eating style reflects and affects who we are, I believe how and where we live reflect ‘us’ even more. Our homes are intimate expressions of ourselves. Similar to the correlation between poor diet and disease, living in a toxic environment — in any sense, physical or emotional — also impacts our health in a negative way. Luckily, the opposite is also true. By creating an environment that supports our well-being, health and happiness, our bodies and minds will respond in positive ways.
The holiday season inundates us with recipes galore (as well as stress and temptations to overindulge). To balance that, choose an ingredient (or two, or three!) from my “healthy-self’ holiday recipe below, and treat yourself to a generous helping of grounding — whatever that means to you.
“This food comes from the earth and the sky. It is a gift of the entire universe and the fruit of much hard work; I vow to live a life which is worthy to receive it.” — Grace of the Bodhisattva Buddhists
At the beginning of every yoga class, while we’re sitting in sukhasana, my yoga teacher always says to “give silent gratitude for all the blessings in our lives.” And, even though I am mentally not quite “there” yet — I’m still trying to find my “sit bones” and thinking about my grocery list and how I forgot my daughter’s gym shoes and did I shut the garage door? — usually, I do it. Images of my kids’ faces and my cozy brick house flash through my mind, and if I take time to really think about it (and not about the location of my cute new flats that I hope the dog isn’t eating right now), I realize I have so much to be grateful for: my close, loving family, my friends, my health, my readers, my Dutch oven, fire-roasted Hatch green chilies, pasture butter and the fact that I am rarely hungry.
Thanksgiving week is here, and I’d like to take this chance to express my sincere gratitude.
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