THE GIFT OF GIVING = Nov + Dec 2018 / Focus of the Month

Our bi-monthly focus for November + December is the Gift and Spirit of Giving.

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As always, I encourage this to inspire and fuel our yoga, meditation and mindfulness practices, to come into our classes, workshops and sessions, and I will certainly keep this focus in mind over the coming months for my own personal practices and life.

Happy November, Happy December – the last two months of 2018 are upon us!

As the end of the year and the holiday season approaches we can often feel the pressure mounting - Christmas (here in Dublin) seems to come earlier and earlier each year! 

Each of us has our own traditions and unique ways of celebrating or marking this time of year (whether practicing a specific religion or not).

Often this means time spent gathering with friends and family. This social time can be full of fun, love and laughter – but it can also be stressful, have us feeling on edge and exhausted.

It may mean spending time on your own over the holiday season (and many people do). This solo time can be peaceful, contemplative, and nurturing - but can be also be lonely, have us feeling down and agitated.

I personally have done the holidays many ways (and for me the holidays means celebrating Christmas and New Years’). I have shared this time with loved ones and I have also spent it on my own due to various life circumstances, as well as by my own choice, travel or deciding to go on retreat. 

The one thing this season has in common for us all, no matter how it’s spent,  is it presents us with both blessings and challenges! 

 

It’s easy to get lost in the fun, frenzy and  feelings and to forget the insights that this time of year and the season of giving can offer to us.

 

It is important to remind ourselves that in giving (to others, as well as to ourselves!) there is a beautiful gift… Giving evokes a spirit of Gratitude.

We naturally express gratitude and thanks when receiving, but there is gratitude in the giving too!

  • Gratitude for having that person to in our life to give to.

  • Gratitude when giving to ourself, being thankful for the ability to nurture and care for ourself.

This Gratitude is the Gift of Giving!

 

An article published by The Greater Good Science Centre at UC Berkley notes the following:

In a 2006 study, Jorge Moll and colleagues at the National Institutes of Health found that when people give, it activates regions of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, creating a “warm glow” effect.

Other research has found that gratitude is integral to happiness, health, and social bonds. And I would add that gratitude is also integral to connection to ourselves.

Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, co-directors of the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, found that teaching college students to “count their blessings” and cultivate gratitude caused them to exercise more, be more optimistic, and feel better about their lives overall. 

A study led by Nathaniel Lambert at Florida State University found that expressing gratitude to a close friend or romantic partner strengthens our sense of connection to that person. 

I would propose that it would also come to reason that expressing self-gratitude also strengthens our sense of connection to ourselves.

Barbara Fredrickson, a pioneering happiness researcher, suggests that cultivating gratitude in everyday life is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness. “When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but [other people’s] as well,” she writes in her book Positivity. “And in the process you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.”

So, it seems that science agrees with what ancient wisdom has said for millennia, The Gift of Giving is Gratitude!

 

We can look to Pantajali’s Yoga Sutras on how to bring this spirit and gift into our practice and ultimately into our life. 

On the yoga mat in our posture practice and in our meditation and mindful practices we can look to one of the five Niyamas (internal observances) of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, called Santosha.

Santosha is considered an essential and fundamental foundation of yogic practice. 

Often translated as ‘contentment’- Santosha can also be translated, perhaps in a deeper and more useful way, to mean ‘Equanimity.’ 

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Equanimity is a state of psychological mind/soul stability and composure which is balanced and undisturbed by experience of or exposure to emotions, discomfort, or other phenomena that may cause others to lose the balance of their mind/soul.

In essence, from a yogic perspective, Equanimity is the ability to be with what is.

We can practice Santosha (equanimity) in Yoga posture practice by letting go of the desire to attain the perfect looking pose, by working within our current ability and feeling and accepting the experience of the pose as it is without wanting to force or to change it.  

We can apply Santosha  (equanimity) in our Mediation and Mindful practices by noticing our thoughts, feelings, emotions in a given moment, by observing without judging, without criticising or analysis and by acknowledging and accepting whatever arises.

Through cultivating Santosha (equanimity) in our practices we become present in our life to what is actually happening, we become aware of what experience is being given and of what we are giving.

This allows us to take space for the beautiful Gift of Giving and for Gratitude. 

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Wishing you Joy, Fun & Laughter and many moments of Gratitude.

And I look forward to sharing space and cultivating Santosha together over the coming months.

With Love & Blessings