When this time of year rolls around, I get very excited for eating a lot of food and sitting around the table with my family. It is not often enough that we are grateful for the sake of being grateful, it is more often that we count the many things we want but haven’t yet attained. In yoga, gratitude is a regular practice. It is something that brings us back to a place of contentedness and happiness with our lives as they exist in this very moment. It is an important lesson not to be taken for granted.
Lately I have been experiencing high peaks in stress and am running around like a nervous little anxiety robot. My students leave my class telling me how relaxed they feel, and this is puzzling to me because I am so tightly wound up inside I am surprised that this isn’t coming through into their practice. Of course, I am grateful for this. But outside my teaching, in my everyday life right now, I am more reactive than ever. I have found myself honking the horn while driving my car, nagging my roommates, and taking everything personally. It’s tiring, frustrating, and I am having a hard time breaking the cycle. I am at a point where I feel like I need to make a change but I am not exactly sure how.
I think it is important to be aware of your present state, good or bad. Don’t try to control it or get down on yourself for being or feeling a certain way. Just be present with it. While we can willfully make efforts toward change, it has to come from a genuine place inside. We have to be prepared for all of the things that come with that shift. If you have ever been a smoker, you understand fully what I mean. Quitting smoking or overeating, giving up sugar or meat are all things that we know would be good for us, but we have to be ready inside ourselves before we even attempt it. We have to have that genuine, honest, innate desire and drive to do so, otherwise we will fail.
Quite often our imbalances can serve as signals or clues that a shift needs to be made, and they can indirectly suggest what mode of action we must take. If you have a cold, perhaps you should try eating an orange and drinking some hot tea. If you blow up with anger and frustration every time you visit your family for the holidays, perhaps you should try learning anger management tactics like taking some deep breaths or counting to ten. Being ready to remedy our imbalances takes a lot of practice, certainly. But most importantly it requires the willingness to make an effort, a steadfast effort over time, and perhaps for the rest of our lives.
On Thanksgiving I am grateful for my healthy body and sound mind, my loving boyfriend, my cat, my roommates, my adoring mother, my beautiful friends, my safe apartment, my job, my students young and old, and above all, my Guru. But I am always thankful for these things. This year on Thanksgiving I am working to be grateful for my challenges. To be grateful for the stress, the anxiety, the crazy Boston drivers, the arguments, the nerves, the clammy palms and sweaty pits, the disrespectful neighbors, the short breath. It is these things that will propel me into action, into making a shift in myself and my life. I recall that I never would be a yoga teacher if I didn’t burn out in the business world. It took that horrible experience to bring me where I am today, to where I know I need to be. I am thankful for my challenges, and for the opportunity to make a change for the positive. For the opportunity to grow.
By Shanti Caiazzo