For the first time in years, I went to a tree lighting ceremony in Santana Row to kick off the holiday season: 500,000 lights to be lit around the complex, Santa arriving on his sleigh, and carolers and theatrical performances going on throughout the evening. It was a sight to see so many people crowding together to share the illumination of the holiday. However, what made it special was the sea of children everywhere jumping up and down to see Santa, crying if they didn’t get a balloon or hugging tight to mom watching with fascination at the lights sparkling from the trees. I had intended to spend time talking with my friend; but instead, I found myself involved in the wonder and excitement experienced by her small child. I got caught up in the emotion of it all.
We are living in a very interesting period of time right now. From making history with a man of color in the White House to the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression are experiences that affect our daily routines. Some of the experiences are worrisome – like how to deal with pay cuts and layoffs – and some are more hopeful – new opportunities to create a long-awaited change. In either case, emotions arise. Like sharing the enthusiasm of my friend’s child at the tree lighting ceremony or feeling anxious in traffic trying to make it in time for a Bikram Yoga class, these emotions are fleeting, impermanent. What is permanent if these emotions and situations are so vulnerable to change?
Situations in our world today are intense, however, we know that life ebbs and flows and there is always a higher level of learning available if we are present to note it. The areas we usually turn to for stability may no longer be as reliable and we may need to discover new ways to keep us balanced and strong during volatile times. Actions as simple as where you spend your money, to connections to your neighbors and community, to gift giving, can be subtle but relevant shifts in your personal world that hold great value. This year, a gift may be as simple as making the time to have coffee with friends. The circumstances du jour have required us to make decisions that focus on character building-an area within ourselves that is ever growing and strengthens our faith to endure the rough periods.
One of my most favorite books, May I Have This Dance, by Joyce Rupp suggests that the holiday season is a time to address our own “inner homelessness.” Reflecting on this, I can see how each of us, with our suffering, is being called to our own homecoming. It is now, in this period of time, to ask yourself if you have used the tools given to you to make the difference in your life that you’ve asked for. Have you translated your yoga practice into more useful forms of interpretation making peace with those areas of your life that have given you anxiety or despair? Whether you are a beginner or an advanced practitioner, you endure 90 minutes of stretching in a room that is intensely hot with a body that is different everyday. It takes huge doses of patience to stay the course despite how frustrated you might feel. Imagine how this exercise in patience transcends into other areas of your life that give you frustration.
Recently, I had the opportunity to see an amazing performance, Sounds of the Ocean, from the U-Theatre based just outside Taipei. Five segments using drums, tai chi and meditation to simulate sounds from raindrops to oceans roaring. Incredible. One scene had eight drummers tapping together in unison on small deeply resonant drums creating the sounds of a subtle rain storm, and then slowly building to a loud thunderstorm. The audience was completely captivated and enthralled and then suddenly, the drumming stopped. With the performers’ hands in the air, there was not a sound to be heard, except pure stillness.
I often hear from students how a good Bikram Yoga class can really change how you feel about something that has been on your mind. Within those 90 minutes, perspectives shift and somehow you come out with a better feeling about a once overwhelming issue. Stillness is the necessary component in making this shift happen. It’s the place where mental chatter stops leaving you in a neutral space. This is the soil from which blossoms an open mind, emotionless and detached – providing you the opportunity to see and act from a different point of view.
Wayne Dyer often states in his lectures, that we need to return to the place from which we came and know it for the first time. Or, stated in another way, he claims, “If you didn’t have anyone tell you who you are, who would you be?”
And, my favorite meditation from renowned business consultant, motivational speaker and author of E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber, states:
“I have thoughts, but I am not my thoughts, I will not be taken by my thoughts. I have feelings, but I am not my feelings, I will not be taken by my feelings. I have a body, but I am not my body, I will not be taken by my body. I have a business, but I am not my business, I will not be taken by my business. Then, who am I?”
Such questions test our identities challenging the attachments on which we so comfortably rely on. Allow these challenging times and all they bring to fuel you in pursuing a holiday season that shifts from a busy routine into one that invites a stiller presence creating deeper relationships, spontaneous laughter, a forgiving heart, and more meaningful discussions. Develop your own Beingness. There is great permanence in this practice and a gift especially when change swirls without warning.