This month we begin the journey into the holiday season: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. We begin the flurry of activities that lead us through the next month and a half of buying gifts, eating and drinking, rushing from holiday event to event, spending time with family and friends. It’s a series of events that may leave us feeling supercharged, or may leave us feeling tired and over-committed. So why do we do this every year to ourselves? We know what happens when we overindulge – whether it be in food and drink, in activities, or lack of sleep. We put this incredible amount of pressure on ourselves to be the perfect holiday host, buy the perfect gift, or just be the perfect person who can juggle a normally hectic schedule PLUS holiday madness.
I was thinking about the reasons we do this, and I think hidden within this is truly our need to express gratitude for our family and friends. I think our hearts are in the right place, but we may do it to such excess that we lose sight of what gratitude really means. We are constantly trying to seek out more ways to make people happy, to make ourselves happy, rather than sitting in our own contentment in the lives we do lead, and the people who are dear to us. These external items and events do not actually matter, but it’s the weight we put on them that becomes the driving force behind our need to be the best, the happiest, the most giving, that clouds our journey into finding contentment and gratitude in what we do have in our lives.
In yoga we turn to the yamas and niyamsa, or the ethical practices of yoga that can guide our lives. This idea of contentment, or gratitude, can been found in the niyama Santosha. It basically says that we can take responsibility for our own happiness, that outside influences only work to disturb this seeking of contentment in our lives. If we could be content with the moment, and not be constantly planning the next event in order to find that true happiness, what would our lives look like? What would our holiday season look like? We might find the peace and quiet and gratitude that is already present in our lives.
Take moments of stillness this season to reflect on gratitude for what you have. Find quiet time to just say “thank you” to yourself and to those you love. This beyond anything else – gifts, parties, holiday events – is the greatest way we can offer our gratitude for those around us. Let these simple words of “thank you” be your mantra for this month as you find contentment in your life!