It is Canadian thanksgiving this weekend. It’s the time of year when families get together and eat too much food, and drink too much drink. I’m one of the lucky ones who has a family that can be in the same room together without a major blowout (usually).
I think something we’ve forgotten in Western society is the idea of actually giving thanks. If thanking God(s) is your practice, then you probably do it on a regular basis. But here I mean, truly being thankful for what we have. I was walking home the other day, and was reminded of the municipal election coming up by all the signs posted on front lawns with people’s names. “Hey,” I thought, “It’s pretty amazing that I live in a place where we can so publicly voice our opinion without fear. I’m really thankful for that.” Then I started thinking, what else do I take for granted? I’m thankful for the fact that I can go to a studio and practice hundreds of different lineages of yoga, Buddhism, or whatever other religion or path I chose. I’m thankful that I can have friends and coworkers that can invite me to their Sikh temple, and let me know that I’m welcome any time, regardless of my skin color, family name, or background. I’m thankful that I can choose the person I love, and life our lives together regardless of race, religion, sex, or caste. I’m thankful that I can choose what kind of food I want to eat: organic, raw, vegan, vegetarian, junk food, fast food, etc. because I live in a country that is wealthy enough to have those options. I’m thankful that I can wear the clothes I want regardless of time of day, what street I’m on, or what my sex is. I’m thankful that I can chose what radio and TV stations to watch, and that I have internet that allows me to connect with anyone in the world. I’m thankful that there are government programs in place if I lose my job that will give me money to feed and shelter my family until I find a new one. I’m thankful that, as a woman, I’m allowed to go to any school I choose for any degree I choose, and I can do it without consent. I’m thankful that I can vote and protest to any peaceful extent I’d like, and for whatever topic I’d like. I’m thankful for a lot of things. A lot of them I couldn’t fit on this page. These are just the things that come off the top of my head. I’m thankful that I have the ability to change the world, because each and every one of us has that power within us. I’m thankful to be alive.
The holidays are some combination of the niyana’s and the yamah’s from Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra.
The niyama’s are composed of:
- Sauca – purity, cleanliness
- Santosa – contentment, acceptance
- Tapah – austerity, penance, heat, discipline
- Svadhyaya – self study, study, study of scripture
- Isvara pranidhianani – to reflect or consider, surrender, surrender the Lord (God)
The yamah’s are composed of:
- Ahimsa – not harming, compassion for all life
- Satya – truthfulness in thoughts, words, and actions
- asteya – not stealing, overconsumption
- brahmacarya – sexual restraint, conserving creative energy
As you can see, the holidays are the *perfect* yoga practice. You can make sure you aren’t eating or drinking too much, saving some for others. You can try your best to not lie, gossip, or make commitments that even one cell in your body can’t keep. You may even go so far as to have a vegan thanksgiving to not harm any animals. You can help with the dishes, make sure you discipline yourself enough to not be rude and lend a helping hand. You can even try to love your family despite their differences and even sometimes, annoyances. You may even be able to remind yourself of a scripture or text you read recently talking about letting go of old habits and emotions. If it is in your practice, you can thank God or Gods, or Energy or Life Force, or whatever it is you thank. If that doesn’t jive for you just practice surrendering to the now. Rather than escaping into the past or future, or into a book or phone game, sit in peace and accept, or even be thankful, for the fact that you get to be in a warm house with people that love you (even if it doesn’t really seem like it) and let the time play out as the universe allows, since you can’t change it anyhow. And the easiest one of all to practice will be brahmacarya, or sexual restraint/conserving creative energy, because you’ll be too exhausted by the end of it all to even bother.
In essence, what I’m trying to say, is the holidays can be a time of joy, and they can be a time of suffering. Patanjali shows us that yoga isn’t just about your practice on the mat, that in fact it has purpose and opportunity in every moment. Who knows, maybe your positivity will be infectious.
Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and I do hope you have a peaceful and safe holiday. Namaste.