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Being Truly Thankful

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The cold weather has come in and with seasons things change. It is quite normal to hang on to what was and when faced with challenging times think it is permanent; when in fact it isn’t.

I’m being gently reminded of this as we go into Thanksgiving Holidays. Besides the marketing and sales, that seems to start earlier each year, we end up being sold a bag of goods to compete, keep up and of course – be prepared. Just like the changing moments of the seasons if we can pause more, we can experience them more fully.

For me I like to remind myself “this too will pass”. I use these words to myself in every day moments as it helps me to observe when I’m tensing up, holding my breath and letting my thoughts take me on stressful journeys.

Thoughts are quite powerful. We all have them and can have thousands of thoughts and conversations within ourselves each day. The Buddha said that ‘with your thoughts you create your world’.  We end up rehearsing stories over and over that start to shape our belief of the experience with those thoughts.

Easy way to understand what I’m referring too here is practicing yoga postures. I have been postures and found myself thinking about where I wanted my heals to be in down-dog, working over and over to get into a headstand to see ‘progress’ and getting very upset when it wasn’t happening. Suddenly one day I realized that even though my thoughts weren’t on outside influences, that I was still quite distracted. My mind was still floating to the past and future of the postures. Then I started to stop and just bear witness to the pose just as it was; it allowed me to cultivate further awareness.

All this is of course is easier said than done and I have to remind myself to come to this each moment – each day. I do incorporate this thought process in yoga classes I teach. Yesterday as I taught yoga there were a few who were groaning and making statements how impossible something was. It was a flow that was moving and challenging especially for the first 45 minutes. Then we cooled that down and restored, meditated and after class so many said how refreshing and calm that was. I guess they forgot their struggles and groans. We all do this though – we have stories and start believing them vs the true experience. We sit in yoga and think about what we will tell others over dinner and at dinner we are off thinking of yoga.

More than just concentration or awareness though is taking that thought process to the next step. What I’m talking about is one of the limbs of yoga called Pratyahara or sense withdrawal. The eight limbs, that I’ve written about earlier, which are a classic form of yoga and lists steps or actions to achieve bliss. (The steps don’t have to be followed in order though.) This crucial step transitions us from the purely physical aspect of yoga and moves into mediation and then finally bliss. It is something that can’t be seen in videos or pictures. It ends up being felt and experienced from the inside.

Have you ever played the game “telephone”? You pass a message to one and they pass the message to another and it goes around till it arrives back to you. Yet the message is never the one you started with. We each have different ways of processing what we hear, sense, experience and feel.

With Thanksgiving coming soon it is easy to reflect on the past and get stressed way in advance of the upcoming event. If you grew up as I did watching Charlie Brown Thanksgiving I know the message has changed for me each time I watch it. What I see now from the story is the expectations we have or put on ourselves. Yet are the material items or food really the part that is memorable? Of course not. But our thoughts can take us on this route. But don’t give up! Start by noticing it, become aware and then Pratyahara becomes easier.

Practicing Yoga Postures or not, each of us can do this and benefit from this kind of mindfulness. We could consider shifting our thought process and relationship to our views especially this holiday, and de-stress, be peaceful and slow down. For example, don’t just eat but chew, taste and experience the food. Think about all those that made the food possible, from the farmers, shippers and stores. How does the food smell? Can we take in all the senses of the moment? Become a better listener to those around us who have stories to share? Grow even more compassion to those who are hurting, hungry or alone?

If you consider trying this even for a moment you take words into action and become “Thankful”.

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