Friday, December 7, 2012

How can yoga help us as we prepare for Christmas?

So much for my plan of 2012 to write my blog again! One post in January and here I am back in December! But, anyway here is a little something for Christmas. I was about to spend some time ordering Christmas gifts on line with Amazon while my son is asleep. But I have decided to resist the rush and the simplicity of 'getting all my presents in one place' as the TV so desperately wants me to (besides, someone has just informed me that Amazon pay no tax). Instead I shall go to Hereford next week and spend a leisurely day - my son in tow - shopping the good old fashioned way, sharing chat and eye contact with shop owners and having a good old dig through the charity shops. So I will spend today's precious nap time sharing with you some yoga thoughts that have been preoccupying me lately - nothing very new or well-written below - but just a reflection on how yoga can help us in this run up to Christmas. As we prepare for the festive season, with the abundance of choice and special offers regarding gifts, food, decorations and Christmas activities, what can yoga & meditation bring us at this time? I hope it can help us slow down and prepare for Christmas mindfully, ethically and perhaps, more simply. And it can help us learn how to receive as well as give. Whether or not we celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus or just as a happy age-old tradition, or not at all, the essence of love and sharing can easily be lost in the madness of on-line shopping and 'getting it all over with', ticking off on our to-do lists. We have been bombarded with Christmas food and images since the day after Halloween after all, so by now it is easy to feel pressured that everything should be ready with as little expense or bother as possible. There is a sense of hurry, pressure and financial stress at this time of year, when actually shouldn't we be slowing down and going to earth for a winter rest? Or relaxing and rejoicing in time with loved ones if we are that fortunate? My children are already disillusioned with Santa Claus who keeps turning up on every corner even in sleepy Herefordshire! (The most convincingly real and old-fashioned one will be on the steam train at Titley Junction this weekend by the way - another opportunity to buy presents more personally and locally!) As yogis we work hard to elevate ourselves. By paying attention to our own physical, mental and spiritual health and growth we become more compassionate, loving and forgiving beings. The more we care for ourselves the more energy and open-heartedness we have for others. And the more aware and highly conscious we become the more we can positively affect the planet and its people and animals through the decisions we make, regarding how we live, act, where we invest our money and what we consume. And! … the more we open our hearts the more connected we become with others. (Tell that to anyone who snorts at meditation and talks about 'navel gazing'!) All this is relevant for me at this time of the year because my yoga and meditation practice help remind me that Christmas should be about indulgence of love, time spent with loved ones and sharing with those who are less fortunate than myself, rather than over indulgence of food, drink and gifts. This is not to say that we should not enjoy a feast with our friends and family, but let us rejoice and feel grateful for that feast, and shop for it, prepare it and eat it mindfully. When I do yoga and open up my heart I am reminded that real love is not in the size or price of the gift but the intention of giving something special to someone you love. The thought and care that goes into buying something - where does it come from, who made it and has it caused any harm to people or planet? - is hard to maintain at a time when purse strings are tight and the days are flying by. But when we meditate and feel connected and at one with the rest of humanity, and with our natural environment, we become more responsible and caring consumers. Yoga also helps us when it comes to receiving a gift. When was the last time we told someone who bought us a gift "Oh you shouldn't have bothered"? Yoga helps us to love and accept ourselves for who we are. If we love ourselves we are more likely to feel worthy of receiving a gift. And when we receive a gift with an open heart we bring joy to the giver. This Christmas - whether we struggle with self-esteem or not - let's practice the art of mindful receiving as well as giving! The words of Yogi Bhajan will inspire me this Christmas: "We are not humans here for a spiritual experience. We are spirits here for a human experience". I wish you all a very very Happy Christmas! May your every mince pie, glass of mulled wine and exciting gift be treasured and mindfully and joyfully consumed! If any of you are moved to dropping the odd bit of change from your Christmas shopping to help those whose Christmas will be very different to ours, Herefordshire's own international development charity Concern Universal, where my husband James works, spends its money very carefully and with wonderful results in poor countries in Africa and Latin America. Apologies if you already have your own favourite charity, but it never hurts to ask! Follow this link for more information about Concern Universal. love, light & peace Georgie

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