Today marks the beginning of a remarkable Holiday Season in the United States, Thanksgiving... the official kickoff - such a special and unique time.
A few years ago, I had the privilege of attending a 14-day Vipassana Retreat in British Columbia. While there, I immersed with a group of about 30 others, each of us adopting principles of noble silence (no speaking, reading, writing, little eye contact) - a sacred practice which holds the structure for cultivating deep mindfulness in the safe container of a retreat.
During our first week, our teachers guided our intention and focus on four specific practices, Buddhist Virtues known as the Brahama-Vihara's.
Essentially, we spent seven full dayscultivating thoughts & feelings of loving-kindness, compassion, appreciative or empathetic joy & equanimity.
Imagine... upwards of 30 people inhabiting this small retreat space, each holding mindful attention, direct focus on cultivating these virtues for others, for self - for nearly 200 consecutive hours. Talk about ripples... It was one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had, the resonance significantly palpable, an outcome that whether you've engaged in this type of work before or not, you might imagine, did not arise in absence of its challenges.
Today, on this Thanksgiving Holiday I share this story with you as we travel near and far to gather with family, friends - loved ones. Our entire country carving out time and space from the day-to-day happenings of life to bask in thanks, gratitude, appreciation, community...
It is for all of these reasons that the celebration of Thanksgiving is one of my most favorite days. To think of the thoughts & intentions that are flowing through the minds and hearts of all Americans, (not to mention others who have been touched by our country), one can't help but feel into the available resonance of thanksgiving, happiness & bliss.
Amongst all the positivity and beauty that is available to us today and over the course of the Holiday Season, it can also come with its fair share of challenges - despite the best of intentions... We may come to find ourselves challenged by old patterns or habits that creep in despite our best efforts for it to be otherwise this time around. There can be financial stressors related to travel or gifts. And so, even within a beloved holiday that offers so much opportunity there can be disappointment, conflict (internal/external) and unwanted strain.
This is one of our critical tasks as humans, to hold space for the whole of this: the ebbs - the flows, the joys - the pains. Because it's all here isn't it?
Whether or not it feels "best" to admit...
Amongst the beauty lies the challenge. And I assure you, this has nothing to do with deserving or not deserving, worthy or not being worthy... This has to do with being human and how even amongst the waves we must learn to anchor our ships...
This Holiday Season, as you hold space for the ever changing waves flowing both inside & out - I remind you of the strength of your anchor, your ability to remain present, responsive and true to self is ever present - available to you through intentional focus & mindful presence.
Through the practice of cultivating presence we strengthen our innate ability bask in Thanksgiving while staying true to our loved ones through, what I've come to see as one of the most honorable acts, staying true to ourselves.
Tips for Cultivating Presence
Tune into the felt sensations of your physical body: feel the sensations of your hands on the silverware, your feet on the ground, your breath flowing in and out of the lungs.
Tune into the meaning of this holiday for you, trust that knowing this within yourself is, fully and completely, enough.
Set your focus for how you intend to show up before you transition fully into a gathering with family or friends.
I'd love to hear from you... What are your best practices for staying true to your intentions for giving thanks on this special day?
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With Thanks - Giving,