Thursday, November 28, 2013
A Moment of Thanks
Every year, I teach a yoga class on Thanksgiving morning. The class is usually small, but the group is always grateful for the time we spend relaxing and focusing on what is really important in life. We take a moment to give thanks. We work on gratitude by giving thanks for our health, our prosperity and our families. I remind my students that although this is a day for giving thanks for all our blessings, every day we should take a moment and give thanks for all that comes into our lives. For everything has an element of good and an opportunity for growth. Sometimes, however, gratitude gets lost in the stress of the Holidays.
Thanksgiving is a time when Americans give thanks for family, food, safety and health. It is time of gathering for the sole purpose of giving thanks and celebrating with family and friends. It is about breaking bread and sharing a meal. But it can also be a time of strife, anger and confusion. Families after all can and sometimes do, bring out the worst in all of us. Stress becomes the watchword of the day.
Stress affects us all. One of the things I learned early on in my studies was that stress is a perceived notion. This simply means that what may be stressful to me may not be stressful to you because the level of stress is measured by the perceiver. Yes, illness, divorce, money problems, work problems and family can bring on stress; but it is how we view these events and how we react to them that will determine the level of our stress. One of the best ways to manage stress is through the practice of yoga. Why? Yoga teaches us to quiet our minds and when we quiet our minds things take on a level of clarity. Clarity reduces stress.
When the mind becomes quiet the autonomic nervous system gets a moment of balance. Somewhere between passivity and agitation we experience an opportunity to observe without judgment. It is known as the middle way.
The middle way means to not become identified with anything; love or hate, happiness or depression, attachment or detachment, but simply to come back to the present moment putting aside all attachments to any position. When we take a hard and fast position we slip from the sharp edge of the moment and risk hurting or getting hurt. Right now one thing may be important, but circumstances will change and in a moment what seemed important may lose its significance. Stay present and in the moment – that’s the middle way.
Sit quietly, close your eyes and take in three deep breathes. Then sit for a moment and observe what happens to your body-mind. There is stillness and a balance. This is the middle way.
So when that weird relative shows up uninvited, the dinner is so, so, someone is in bad mood, the turkey is dry, your sister and her husband are fighting, dinner is late or whatever, the family drama might be, remember to take a breath, step back into the middle way, observe without judgment and smile as you give a moment of thanks for the opportunity to be a part of something bigger than yourself…gratitude.
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