November 1st marks the unofficial beginning of the holiday season. Already department stores are rolling out their Christmas deals, families are wrangling with travel plans, and wish lists are being emailed left and right. Even in Wilmington, NC temperatures are cooling and the days are getting shorter. And while we have Thanksgiving to pause and celebrate the bounty in our lives, at Longwave Yoga we strive to practice the art of gratitude every single day, both on and off the mat.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is the ability to be thankful, show appreciation for kindness, and be kind in return. It’s a simple concept, which makes it easy to take for granted. Despite our best intentions, we’re often distracted from gratitude by small annoyances, minor inconveniences, and tiny disappointments. Sure, they’re mostly first world problems, but that doesn’t mean they don’t effect us.
The challenge is to let go of those small things, and focus instead on the bigger picture. Gratitude is a gift, but it’s also a practice, and the only way to get better at it is to make it a habit. Smile at the person who cuts you off on College Road, let the harried mother with two young children check out before you, take a friend out for coffee, write a thank you note or a positive review. These acts of kindness may be small, but they add up quickly.
Gratitude where you least expect it
Whenever I think about gratitude, I’m reminded of handstand. Like many people, it’s a pose I’d love to master. And yet, no matter how often I practice, I always falter and fail. Every few months, usually after landing flat on my back, I give up. I tell myself that handstand isn’t the point of yoga, that one pose doesn’t have the power to make or break my practice. A few weeks later I’m back at it, kicking my legs up until my shoulders are sore, starting the cycle again.
Even though handstand frustrates and foils me, I’m grateful for the lesson I’ve learned from this tiny failure. It reminds me a saying I often repeat to myself when things aren’t coming as easily as I’d like. “Thank you for this opportunity to practice patience.”
Grateful for the journey
“Thank you for this opportunity.” That’s the whole point of gratitude, isn’t it? To be thankful, not just for the good things in our lives, but for the challenges, the failures, the hard stuff that makes us strong and wiser. In yoga, that thing could be handstand. In life, it could be almost anything. By choosing to be grateful, we begin to see every experience as an opportunity, as part of the journey.
At Longwave Yoga we’re grateful for many things. The opportunity to try a new pose, even when it ends in failure. The time and energy to return to our mats, again and again. The teachers who guide us, and the students who show us what it means to learn.
This holiday season, as we get caught up in holiday parties, family dinners, and gift giving, let’s strive to make gratitude a part of our practice, and be grateful for whatever opportunities the journey offers.