Sunday, December 26, 2010

What happened to the Niyamas

I honestly think the Christmas/New Years season brings out the worst in me.  I am trying to be non-judgemental about it and non-harming to myself about it but I can't help it. 

A bit of review for those who may not know - the Yamas and Niyamas come from the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali.  You can find many translations into english if you are more interested.  It basically outlines how a yogi can live.  The yamas and niyamas are more detailed "codes of conduct".  Kind of like the ten commandments in Christian religion.  The yamas are things to abstain from and the niyamas are things to observe.

For me during the holiday season I could do more of the observances and, honestly my practice seems to fall to the wayside a little bit.  The first Niyama - Shaucha: cleanliness of body & mind.  Would not say my inner body stays clean, I definately drink too much. I'm  not a lush or anything but my once in a while glass of wine is certainly more frequent.  I also find a Christmas time I am eating things I don't normally.  I am a vegetarian but Christmas day that goes out the window - I have bacon for breakfast that my dad cooks and then I have a small bit of turkey for dinner.  Not to forget the million pounds of sweets and chocolates that I consume.  The second - Santosha: satisfaction; satisfied with what one has.  At a time when people are giving I sometimes think "oh wouldn't it be nice if we could have that".  I am usually a very satisfied person.  I am thrilled that I have a wonderful family, lots of food to each, roof over our heads.  The third Tapas: austerity and associated observances for body discipline & thereby mental control.  My yoga practice of mediation and asana goes straight out the window.  It is like my vacation from work, having my family home and entertaining gives me some reason not to have time or not to take the time to practice.  The last two Svadhyaya: study of the Vedic scriptures to know about God and the soul, which leads to introspection on a greater awakening to the soul and God within, and Ishvarapranidhana: surrender to (or worship of) God.  One would think that on a very Christian holiday I would be reminded more to keep up on my readings and mediations.  But no, again I feel lethargic and would rather sit and each chocolate and watch TV, surf the internet and play board games with my family. 

I almost look at the Christmas season as a vacation from my real life.  The sad part is that the "yoga portion" of  my life, if you can seperate it, is the part that I love.  I guess in life even when it is something you love, it is OK to take a break.  I have a commitment to myself and my practice one that a week of laziness cannot break.  Going back to yoga is not a new years resolution for me but a way of life that I love and enjoy!  If it takes 40 days to create a new patern, it must take about that long to erase it from your life?  Right!?
Maybe I should go practice now...  yup...  I think I will!


Monday, December 20, 2010

Take a Compliment!

This past week-end I attended a Christmas Party that a friend and her partner were throwing at their house.  I decided that since we had spent the night before with our two sons at a hockey game that I would bring just my daughter and have a "girls night".

Since it was a party I had Holly dressed up in her party dress and her party shoes.  I put her hair up in a nice pony tail, she even let me brush it this time.  She had super cute tights with a little ruffle on her bottom.  With her party dress on she had a lovely pink sweater.  Holly was so excited to go to the party that she had her coat on and was ready to leave before I was even ready.

I got my self ready as well.  I wore a new shirt that I had bought for the occasion, put on some make up, painted my nails.  I did my hair, I almost always wear a pony tail.  I pull out my favorite Fluevogs, black Mary Jane shoes that I adore.  I looked great!

We got to the party and Holly was shy at first but soon she was the life of the party.  The older kids took very well to her and were happy to show her around, carry her and make sure she had food.  They brought her to me when she asked for me and took her away when she was ready to play.  The adults fussed over her, wanted to carry her and exlaimed how cute she was.  Of course I think she's cute, she's my baby!

I had a lovely time.  Much needed adult conversation - I spend my days with kids.  I laughed, ate and had a glass of wine which I milked all night long.  I saw some old friends and was very happy that I went.

As Holly and I were leaving.  The host was holding her and told her she was beautiful.  I said thank you for her.  Then he said "just like your mommy".  At that I said "well I think she looks a lot like her aunt".  He then said something to me that I have been thinking about for two days.  You are just like your friend (his partner) "can't take a compliment when it is deserved".  As I said I have been thinking about this since he said it and he is right.  I am thrilled when people compliment my children.  Whether it is how adorable they are, how smart they are, talented, funny, sweet or nice.  THRILLED to hear it.  When someone compliments me, I don't know how to take it.  I get embarassed and either deflect the conversation or put myself down.  I know I am not alone in this.

I have been think alot about why people do this.  In my case it is not an issue of self esteem.  I know I am smart, funny, likeable, kind and great to be around.  Beautiful inside I know but outside I am working on.  It is the outside part that I have personal issues with.  Like a lot of us again, my hair is too straight,  my nose is to wide, I'm too short, my muscles are thick, my thumb is deformed (this is true), my breasts are too...  I dunno I'm working on that one, my feet are too wide and my cesarean scar is too crooked.  I am sure if I gave it time I could go on.  But why?  I could take all of those and switch it - my hair is soft and a beautiful natral colour, my nose is dignifying, I am a petite hight, I have a strong build, my thumb is original, my breasts have fed three babies, my feet are grounding and well the scar...  birthed my baby boy and saved his life!

If we could take all these negative things we think about ourselfs and practice ahimsa (non-harming) and be kind to ourselves and positive with ourselves.  If we took the word Namaste (the light within me recognizes the light within you) and believed it about others and ourselves, I think we might all be able to take a compliment a bit better.  So John if you are reading this... thanks for the compliment - I am working on it!


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Paying it Forward

I heard of a guy the other day who helped an elderly woman who had run out of gas. He drove to the gas store in his truck and filled a jerry can and put gas in her car. Paid for the gas too. The term I heard after was that he was "paying it forward".

The term "pay it forward" I think gained momentum with a movie in the '80's with Helen Hunt and Kevin Spacey and some little kid.  I have been hearing it an awful lot lately everytime someone does something nice for someone else.  I am however finding myself questioning the whole concept of "paying it forward".  I mean why can't we just be nice for the sake of being nice.  To me the idea of paying it forward is just the same as paying it back.  It almost seems like if you do something nice for someone else that eventually the expectation is there that you will get something nice done for you in return.

I personally just like to do nice things for people because I can and it feels good to do a "good deed".  I drove my neighbor to her church the other day after it snowed.  Not because I think someone is going to do something nice for me later or because I am going to get into heaven or find samadhi.  But because it was really cold, there was a lot of snow, she's in her 60's and doesn't drive! 

Don't get me wrong I don't think the idea of paying it forward is bad it is just the overlying concept that you might have something done nice for you in the future.  I think we would be better off if we were present in our actions and just did nice things for people.  Just "paying IT" not forward or back.  Being present in the nice things that we say or do.  Noticing how it makes us feel and how it makes the other person feel.  I think if we were nice to other people and gave more of ourselves and what we have because we accept that we are rich in our own hearts and lives then this over all would make us all better in the long run.

So next time you do something nice for someone else think about being present in your gift.  Don't do it because they did something nice for you or because eventually someone else might do something nice to you.  Just "pay IT".


Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Memories of Christmas

I struggle with Christmas in so many ways.  I am not a scrooge or anything like that.  I find Christmas stressful and frustrating.  I hate that my family insists on buying me things that I don't want or need.  Even though I tell them to just enjoy, get something extra for the kids or donate it - it never seems to work.  Then of course I feel bad either returning the item or sending it to charity, as my family has spent hard earned money on the said item that I didn't want or ask for in the first place.

I love the part about Christmas where we go and cut down a tree from a tree farm as a family.  Even the years where the kids are crying and not having a particularly awesome time.  I am still able to find the joy in these traditions.  We all know that at the end, once we have chosen our tree, taken a family photo, chopped it down and hauled the blessed thing out of the bush - there is hot chocolate and homemade cookies waiting at the end.  I know the kids will love and remember this part!

I also love that every year much to my partner's chagrin I invite a slew of people over to our house for some kind of Christmas cheer.  This year it seems that I have inlcuded a range of people all living in our neighborhood who don't have family in town.  They will be here for Christmas eve.  I have asked that they all bring a non perishable food item for the food bank.  My neighbor and her family rent a sleigh and ride through the area collecting food so out there we will be with our many guests enjoying the horse drawn sleigh through our urban neighborhood giving to those in need.

The family part is also a favorite.  Since I was little we have spent Christmas with my dad's family.  Even now that my grandmother has passed away almost 8 years ago now we still keep the tradition.  I don't know a lot of people who are still close to their cousins and aunts and uncles into adult hood but we are very close.  All together spouses and kids included we make a huge family of 14 people plus one dog and 4 cats.  We have a great time and really enjoy it.  We like it so much that the whole group of us get together again on New Year's day and do it all up again!

My children love Christmas.  We play into the make believe of Santa and have a lovely modest Christmas and Santa brings gifts and fills their stockings.  They always hear bells on the roof and Santa never disappointes by drinking his hot chocolate and eating his cookies.  I love the magic of Christmas that I witness in the eyes and spirit of my children. 

I am passing on to my children that Christmas is about the wonderful smells made by me for a month or so by the many treats I make a freeze, that it is about lots of family and friends about traditions and it is about magic.  I want them to realize when they become my age that it is not about all the stuff that you have to buy or that you want to get... 

Christmas for me seems to contradict my big attachement to non-attachement as well as to moderation.  It is a lot of overabundance and a lot of stuff all at once.  How do I balance it all...

Hari Om