by Shaila Saint, M.ED and Mollie Bennett
We are in the final days of September as this article is submitted. So let’s see…kids back to school?…check. Some sort of a system and schedule in place for extra curricular activities?…at least half a check. So can we take a breath and get to know our new driving routes, before being lured off the road to buy Halloween costumes, turkey roasters, and Hanukkah napkins?
Not likely. The unrelenting marketing madness has begun, and it can make us feel like we’ve fallen behind, we will never get it all done, and we will always be out of balance. Add the anticipation of out-of-town guests or long travel days, financial constraints, and family drama, and ho ho NO , the bells don’t sound quite so jingly. Ideally, this out-of-sorts feeling is not the way we want to start the season.
While we may never be totally immune to the pressures surrounding the holiday rush, if we remember 3 simple yogic principles for balancing in a tree pose, and apply them to checking in with ourselves this holiday season, we may be surprised at how clear and connected we may become to our own values and to what truly brings us joy this time of year.
1. ESTABLISHING OUR FOUNDATION (ROOTS):
In order to balance physically, we start by setting a strong foundation in our feet, rooting them in the ground, which establishes and supports the rest of our body from our legs, on up. To establish our foundation during the holiday season, start by asking yourself, “What are the foundations, roots, and traditions for the holidays that are firm and that I want to remain strong?” “Are there some simpler ways that I may have celebrated the holidays in my early life that I want to reestablish with my family now?” These types of questions can really help you stay grounded, mellow everything out, downplay the commercialization and “up” play the quality time and creativity. Plus, very often, children are fascinated by something they know mom or dad did as a child. So break out those felt and sequin ornaments from when you were the 3rd grader!
2. FINDING OUR CENTER (TRUNK):
To find our center to balance physically, we work to engage the strongest part of our body–our core- -for added strength and power. To find your center during the holiday season, ask yourself, “What do I know to be true for my life/my family at this time of year?” When focusing on our center or truth, it’s important to tap into the values and traditions you’d like to continue with your family, while gently letting go of the ones that don’t work. Taking time to reflect on your truths may bring up a variety of thoughts and feelings, because we know that not all family and holiday memories may be positive ones. Setting boundaries, while sometimes difficult, can be the difference between sanity and insanity at this time of year. Not every party needs to be attended, not every acquaintance needs to receive a perfectly wrapped gift, and not every need of your high maintenance cousin needs to be catered to! Remember that we are in charge of shaping this experience for our families now, and sometimes owning that can be difficult.
3. KEEPING OUR FOCUS (HIGHER BIRD):
Finding our focus when we balance physically, means finding an immovable point or spot beyond us in which to hold and steady our gaze. To find and keep our focus this holiday season, envision the end goal or big picture by asking, “What do I want my family to remember about their holiday seasons in our home? If you were a bird, flying over your holiday “tree”, what would you see now, and what would you like to see? Start making small changes based on that higher viewpoint. No rush or pressure, you’re just gradually creating what you envision for your family.
Finally, here are a few concrete ideas to think about for maintaining balance during the holidays:
If your children are chomping at the bit for the newest toys and video games they are already seeing advertised, then why not start that wish list nice and early? They can edit for a while, working out the urgency they feel for each thing they see, and deciding what they want the most. It will help you spend your hard-earned money as effectively as possible.
Eating, cooking together, sharing family recipes, and any activity surrounding food is such a great way to bridge the age gaps. A low tech and tactile experience like a cookie making party (with as many generations as possible in attendance) makes for wonderful memories and natural learning opportunities.
Forgo the impeccably wrapped presents. Choose one or two basic papers or gift bags, and one or two coordinating ribbons, and let your kids go at it. The perfectionist in us may cringe a bit at the results, but honestly, we all know Grandma will love their creations much more!
So when the holiday frenzy starts to bombard you, remember that you can always focus back on the three fundamental elements of balance – your roots, your trunk, and your higher view of your family holiday tree. We hope this will help you clarify and create what is most important to you this season.
Joyful balance to you and yours!