A Minimalist Approach To The Holidays
In Michigan, it is currently 15 degrees. My son has holiday parties, and I have a lot of gifts to buy, and special vegan cuisine to prepare. In one of my blogs, I discussed ways to beat the winter blues. Now, with the holidays, there are more variables and obstacles to defeat.
It makes me wonder, should we start viewing the holidays as a way to change tradition? Instead of tangible gifts, should we buy experiences? Instead of checking in our phones, why not take a digital detox? And finally, instead of overdoing it, why not give ourselves the luxurious treat of doing nothing after a year of working? As a yogi, here are some ways I plan to stay mindful over the next three weeks.
Silence is a luxury in this day in age. Too much noise can be toxic. According to Ayurveda, one should turn off all devices during meals and two hours before bed to avoid excess vrittis. Vrittis are disturbances in consciousness.
We are creatures of habit and checking our phones is a habit that tends to get worse towards the end of the year. Why not start breaking tradition and New Year’s Resolutions early by logging off the cyber world, checking out of all applications, and checking in to the now? I’m going to try to do this on Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day to stay present with my family and friends and experience gratitude without feeling the pull of obligations. In other words, enjoy the gift of the present, here and now.
Experience over gifts
My son is still at an age where he plays with toys, but I am teaching him by showing him the best gifts in life are the gifts of traveling, scenery, and meeting and immersing themselves in different cultures. In Ashtanga Yoga, there is a limb called Aparigraph, which essentially means non-hoarding. The more stuff we accumulate inside our heads and outside of them, the more prone we are to stress.
Therefore, I try to collect stuff that doesn’t stick: experiences. Experiences dissolve into nothing like dreams and only leave an imprint on our consciousness. Either a learning experience or something new and interesting has been discovered. A virtual experience on Netflix or on the phone can’t compare to the sensory experience of tasting new food, walking on territory, and hearing accents.
Give to the less fortunate
Being a humanitarian doesn’t mean one has to join the peace corps. There are many ways one give locally. There are local food pantries, adopt a child program, and other ways to give to the homeless. I find that when working to give to others outside my inner circle, that the true holiday spirit is achieved.
At the end of the year, my family collects all old items and gives them to the local Salvation Army. My ego and sense of self become less and somebody directly benefits from my actions; thus, the true meaning of Seva.
There is a magic to the holidays: a sense of closure and new beginnings packaged up in a metaphorical bow. I’ve always been a dreamer and a lot of my dreams have come true due to a steadfast work ethic and mapping out my ideas and intentions for the new year. Of course, dreaming requires one to do some soul searching and pondering on questions such as, “Where do I want to be at this time next year?” “What new hobbies do I want to try?” “What seeds can I plant on the new moon of December 26 to bring my intentions into fruition once the clock turns to 2020?”
Letting go of all that doesn’t serve you in 2019 may seem very easy, but it actually takes practice and intention and work to shake those old habits and transmute the habits to dreams.
Compassion is shown and displayed once we have compassion for ourselves. Taking time to recharge may seem like a no-brainer but with all these new variables previously mentioned, sleeping and eating may not take precedence. Practicing self-care allows us to be more attentive to others during the holiday. Don’t beat yourself up over every perceived mistake you’ve made. Be aware of your 2019 lessons and let these serve as learning tools. The more you forgive yourself, the more you will be able to forgive others.
Compassion for self is one way to reach out to be kinder to others and share the true holiday spirit. Also, practice, the “Power of No.” Years ago a fellow Argentinian Ashtangi published a book called “The Power of No.” One can still be kind and say no sometimes. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, keep life (it) simple and sweet (KISS) and don’t feel obligated to do everything.
Eliminate (release), relax, and renew
Once you find yourself in the midst of the holidays, check-in with the spectrum of your emotions and the emotions of others. It’s okay to not be happy all the time. Love yourself anyway. In Ashtanga, we want to remain in a state of Santosha, or of being content ideally. However, if that doesn’t happen, observe your emotions, being mindful of what comes up (anger, envy, greed, desire, sloth, and delusion).
These poisons are more likely to present themselves during the holidays due to stress, alcohol, and being with family. These are known as the six poisons of yoga. Once the six poisons are released, the yoga texts say that our true light shines from our hearts. Eliminate and release what you don’t need to hold on to anymore and relax and renew into the new you, and into the new year.
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