Attachment, Creating Awareness, Excavating Authenticity, Imprints, Self-Study (Svadhyaya)

Coping with Holiday Stress on the Yogic Path


With Thanksgiving arriving next week, it is officially the holiday season (in the U.S.) and with that it’s also the season of obligation; to families, to social norms, and to religious rituals. To me, this time of year can be grueling and I find myself clinging to my yoga practice because so many powerful, external pressures seem to yank me from my center.

There’s the social expectation to have some sort of “plan” to gather somewhere, with either your family or someone else’s, and participate in a frenzy of planning, shopping, cooking, organizing, traveling, picture-taking, wrapping, and praying. That’s a lot of verbs for six weeks and two to three holidays (depending on your religious observances).

Or maybe you have more of a non-traditional family of close friends and transplants from other places and yet you feel a void for not having what’s “normal.”

Deep, unconscious imprints can run amuck as we participate in rituals that may have been established generations ago. Whether we’re clinging to pecan pie, watching “It’s a Wonderful Life,” or drinking too much to drown out your relative’s judgements and criticisms; the holidays can feel more painful than joyful.

Actually, I think this is a great time to practice svadhyaya (self-study) and really ask ourselves: Does this truly reflect my authenticity or is this society’s imprint? Does this situation really bring out the best in me? Why am I doing this? Is there a better way to establish a nourishing environment that is loving, compassionate, and kind?

Maybe it’s a chance to observe how you feel when you leave these people and places? Do you feel drained and empty or happy and uplifted? Or perhaps it’s time to challenge yourself with a new posture of accepting people for who they are and not wishing for what you would like for them to be with unwavering patience, emotional generosity, and empathetic listening.

The definition of mundane is, “lacking interest or excitement; dull.” This is why we practice yoga. To transcend the mundane.  To be indifferent and unenthusiastic is a sign that a certain level of genuineness is lacking.

Yoga Sutra 1.30 says, “Disease, dullness, doubt, carelessness, false perception, failure to reach firm ground and slipping from the ground gained – these distractions of the mind-stuff are the obstacles.” 

As the holidays approach, go forward knowing these obstacles are before you but that they are just distractions. I hope none of you will lose what you’ve gained…

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