In the midst of shopping list writing, reservation making, card mailing, errand running, menu planning, party outfit deciding, house decorating, calendar sorting and cookie baking last weekend, I was given the gift of perspective. Because my son took part in a special program at our church called A Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols (a service of music and selected scripture designed to share the true meaning of Christmas), I found myself rather exhausted and entirely pleased to be sitting still in our pew rather than in our car dashing around town on Sunday evening.
As I listened to the readings and the beautifully performed carols that evening, a sense of clarity settled upon me. All of the “doing” – the making, the running, the planning, the mailing, the deciding, the decorating, the baking – that had, moments before, felt overwhelming, settled into their proper place. I felt a little like Dr. Seuss’s Grinch on Christmas morning as he looked down upon the Whos in Whoville singing in town square:
[mk_blockquote style=”quote-style” font_family=”none” text_size=”14″ align=”left”]And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled ’till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?[/mk_blockquote]
“All of that doing is not the point at all,” I thought as I sat in my pew. “This is the point.” All the rest is trappings, ritual and decoration meant to help me better notice, more keenly remember and more joyfully celebrate Christmas.
The gift of perspective that I received that evening was not limited to the holiday hubbub surrounding me. As I unrolled my mat on Monday morning and began to move, I realized that I sometimes get distracted by the trappings of my yoga practice as well. The lure of a new posture, the tantalizing sense of progress in a challenging pose, the determination to complete a full practice even on busy days are no less glittery and exciting as the lights, trees, cookies and gifts of Christmas. But – as exciting as these are – they are not the point at all. As I bent and breathed that morning, I thought, like the Grinch, “What if yoga, perhaps, means a little bit more?”
Because I know that it does mean more. It is much more than its rich and rewarding physical gifts that feel so very good. Yoga doesn’t wait until you can slip your leg behind your head or fold yourself into a neat knot to deliver its most transformative gifts. The physical work of moving on a yoga mat is simply a way for us to practice yoga’s much more profound gifts – focus, awareness and perspective; surrender and acceptance; hope and faith; a belief in our own possibility mixed with an abiding contentment with ourselves and our lives; and a deep sense of connectedness to the world around us. All of these gifts are ours to receive whether we’re stiff or flexible, strong or weak, inexperienced or seasoned practitioners. These gifts – not achieving all the crazy things we do on our mats – are why we do all the crazy things we do on our mats.
This sense of perspective has stayed with me all week on and off my mat. As I’ve moved through my days, I’ve noticed other glittery trappings that sometimes obscure my view of the what’s really important. Angst I might feel over the quality of the meal my family is sharing rather than a feeling of gratitude that we’re together around the table. A cramped feeling when I glance at my full calendar rather than a sense of joy at the fullness of my life. A harried feeling at the sheer volume of envelopes I need to address rather than a sense of thankfulness at the number of clients with whom I am blessed to be able to share yoga.
The tantalizing trappings of our lives are not to be sneezed at! The excitement you feel as you walk – all dressed up – into a holiday party. The empowered feeling of finding your way into a yoga posture you never thought you would be able to do. The pleasure of eating a crisp sugar cookie. All of these make a day a little special and a little out of the ordinary. Enjoy them! But I invite you also to take a moment (or two!) to shift your perspective to the meaning behind these wonderful trappings. When you do so, I suspect you’ll find you’ll enjoy them even more.