As December 1st fast approaches I know that Christmas is just around the corner. As I prepare for my children by getting those little items on their list that they know Santa will bring and some special treats that I know they will just love my mind is distracted.
The next part of my Christmas preparation is the incredible amount of baking that I am normally well into by the beginning of November. This is the part of the Christmas tradition that I have not started yet. It just dawned on me why. In my family my grandmother was the baker. I would spend summers in Truro, Nova Scotia with her and my Papa and she would bake. If she wasn't in the midst of it she would be pulling treats out of her freezer for me. She thought nothing of feeding me one of her delicious home made Christmas Puddings in the middle of August just because I asked for it.
The treats my Nanny would pull out would be shortbread cookies, touched with icing and a candied cherry, she would have TV rolls (marshmallows rolled with chocolate, nuts and coconut), thimble cookies, pork pies (no pork in them) raisin cookies, ginger cookies soft and hard, brownies, nanaimo bars, cherry loaf and fruit cakes. Her two full size deep freezers always over flowing. Mum swore each summer I would return 20 pounds happier! As my Nanny got older she could no longer bake the way she used to. Her hands sore with arthritis and her mind not so clear with Alzheimers.
We were lucky to have her close to us the last two Christmases and I have been given her gift to bake. So I would spend two months filling my much smaller deep freeze with all of the items listed above as well as some of my husbands favorites from Newfloundland. Peanut butter balls, 5 star bars, Queen Elisabeth squares, date squares and many others. A week or so before Christmas I would go and visit with my Nan as I did almost every week and this time I would have a tin of her favorite treats and some new ones. This made her think of how much she loved to bake and how she couldn't do it. She did tell me a few times how happy it made her that I would bring her these treats and maybe next time I could bring her something new.... always with a suggestion of something she had a hankering for. I was more than happy to do it for her as she did for me. Of course Christmas day would come and I would visit carrying another tin (larger this time) full of her favorites and whatever else she had requested. I know she loved it but I think I loved to watch her eat them even more.
So now as Christmas gets closer and closer again and my Nanny has passed on I feel as if my heart is not in my baking as it has been in years past. I know my family loves it when I put together all of these little treats and delicacies. But I miss my teacher the one who enjoyed them more than most. Maybe as the weeks pass and we get closer I will pull out my old stained and dogeared cook books and arrange my ingredients and bake. I am sure it will make me feel better. I will taste the treats I grew up with and think of you. I will pass the joy of watching others enjoy as you did with me. This I am sure will heal my hurting heart! I hope that wherever you are now that you put a little bit of your Nanny magic into the most delicio
For any of you who were in any of my classes this week the recurring theme was joy. Finding joy in your practice and bringing that joy to life.
Last week while surfing the MLS listings (local real estate listings) I found the house of my dreams. The house was built in 1912, had three stories and was blue. It backed on to a river and had a huge back yard. In front was an old cemetery. Some would find that a bit creepy but I personally find comfort in cemeteries, not sure why. The pictures on the MLS listing were amazing. High ceilings amazing wood floors and three full bathrooms, two soaking tubs and a beautiful kitchen. The front porch had huge concrete pillars and was again large and inviting. The location was a quiet small town just outside of Ottawa, perfect for my kids.
So off we went to check it out. My dream house started to crash before my eyes. The beautiful blue colour of the exterior showed to be massively peeling and in need of a paint job. The "new" windows were in fact exterior storm windows and many of the interior windows had been painted shut. The well maintained floors had holes in them, so big in fact that my realtor put her foot through one that was covered up by a carpet. The fully renovated kitchen was fully renovated about 15 years ago and the bathrooms a do it your self job that would need some careful inspection and repair. The closets were crumbling from the inside out and the ceilings were badly patched. The electrical looked to be a nightmare as well. The small porch off the side and large deck off the back were partially finished and in need of repair already. The graveyard was quiet and quaint but I wouldn't be living in there and the river was green. When all was said in done, my dream house in a small little town needed about $150K more in renovations and the asking price was already top of budget.
When I came home it made me realize that my house is pretty good. It needs some work and will eventually need some updating but it is fine for now. All of this made me start to question what people want. I honestly thought that this "dream" house would make me happy. If I could only live there in the very inexpensive 5 bedroom home I would be happy. I started to question what do people want.
My classes this last week started just like that. What do people want? I think when it all comes down to it we all just want to be happy. We need to find joy. The sad part is that most of us are looking in the wrong places. We think that more money, a bigger house, a better job, nicer clothes, a fancier car or a different partner will make us happy. The reality is that happiness comes from the inside out. If we find what brings us joy. If we practice doing the things that make us truly happy then the rest will just come. In some forms of physical practice we practice letting go. This letting go is not instant gratification. For example you can just say "I want to let go of this hurt feeling" and it's gone for good. You will sometimes need to do it over and over and then one day you might look for it and it is gone. If we practice letting go of negativities on the mat it becomes easier to let go off the mat. Things in your life that don't give you joy become easier to "get rid of" because you do it from a place of joy and not a place of anger. At least that's what I think. For the most part I am one of the happiest people I know so I do know a little bit about it.
Being joyful or being happy is a practice in itself. I was once told that I was one of those people who could find themselves stuck living in a cardboard box and I would still be happy. I am not sure if that's true but I've been in some pretty impoverish situations and was still able to make the best of it. Still able to find joy. It's all about perspective. Why hold on to negativity - what does it serve, it certainly doesn't make you happy. The happier I get, the happier I feel but it does take work sometimes. That's not to say I don't get grumpy, frustrated or want more I do, but these periods are few and far between. Basically I am still happy.
Coming back to the want. I wanted the dream house I craved the dream house and when I got there it was no longer my dream. Be careful what you wish for. The things that you look to to make you happy or happier might not actually do what you think they will. So find that place of joy first and the rest is just gravy. Be happy with what you already have, who you already are, then if there are things you notice that don't make you happy change them - there is always a way. But find the joy inside first, let it radiate out.
Decisions, decisions. I sometimes make decisions a little to dramatic for my own liking. I'm not sure if it is just part of who I am, or if I like the dramatic? I know that deep down inside I always know the best answer. As do we all, I think! For the most part we are afraid or we just aren't listening. If we decide on one thing or the other, who knows what could happen. When it comes to making decisions if we could be more present in the process and allow our breath and our bodies to listen for us everything could be much easier. This starts with the basic decision of what to eat or not to the big life decisions.
Let's take purchasing items for example. Some people buy, buy, buy without giving a thought to what they already have. They buy because of want, because of desire, not because of necessity. I used to be like that. Closets (yes closets) full of clothes I never wore and shoes that weren't comfortable. Now I find shopping is a chore. I struggle before buying something a simple as a t-shirt. I think the struggle for random items is a good thing for me. It makes me more conscious about need vs. want. Doesn't mean that I don't buy something just because I like it. It just means that I am more present in the process rather than impulsively bringing things home that I don't love or don't need. I don't succumb to sales as much, it's not a deal if you don't need it! I think if we were all more conscious about our decisions to consume people wouldn't be in debt and we would value what we have more. I take the same approach to things I already own, going through my closet (now one closet) and home about once a month and discarding things that I no longer need or use. I find that this extra space in my home makes my breathing space bigger and my body happier.
Food is another thing that causes huge anxiety in the decision making process for a lot of people, including me. Maybe this too is more about being present in our choices as to what we put into our bodies. The decision making starts at the store as well as in our homes. It is about being more active in what you buy. Taking the time to consider what ingredients are in the foods that you purchase and put in your mouth. I could probably use a bit more discipline in this area. I don't always pay attention to what I am eating. I will sit at my computer or curl up with a book and before I know it I have eaten half a bag of chips - not good for my body. I am not saying you should deny yourselves the treats. But when the not so healthy food becomes a regular habit and not a special indulgence one has to ask "is it still a treat?" Using this example when going out for dinner or visiting friends. If I am about to eat a large piece of chocolate cake for example I have a few choices; one is that I can have a small piece instead of a great big huge one, the second is that after eating the small piece I can check in with my body and ask if it needs more. Not feel guilty about the amount, just enjoy and trust that I listened to my body. Asking your body when you've had enough and actually listening when it says yes or no.
When situations present themselves I often over think them. Rather than just deciding what to do or what not to do I spend hours and sometimes sleepless nights over analyzing simple decisions. I take into consideration other people in my life I often even consult those people or friends who will not be affected. I always know deep down what the right decision is, but I often ignore it or I look for other options. I know many people in my life do this same thing. Wondering and asking what the right thing is to do in any given situation be that big or small. The thing to consider here is that we won't know what will happen either way so decide one way or another and accept what happens given that decision. Trust your heart, mind and body to decide to do the right thing. Play with it, decide one moment to chose option A and see how your breath and your body feel, then for a moment chose option B and check in again. Ultimately we always know the right answer but are we brave enough to just decide?
How do we take the decision in our life onto the mat, or the decisions we make on the mat into our life? On the mat for example we can decide to push ourselves further than our body will like. The decision to push further can depend on many things, trying to impress your teacher, other students or your own ego getting in the way. One decides to take the pose or shape you are in an listen to your body when it tells you that enough is enough. The signs are always there. Sometimes obvious sensation of pain, either slight or deep. Other less obvious signs like the breath becoming more difficult or the body twisting in a way that puts you out of alignment. Often these signs present themselves and we either don't notice or we ignore them - which is sometimes the same thing.
When we do things like over eat, over shop or over think are we not ignoring our body. When presented with too many things that I think I want to buy or with unhealthy food choices or even over doing it in my yoga practice could I not check in with my body and my breath first? With decisions in my life I could stop consulting every possible angle and just go with my first initial feeling, after all that's usually what I end up doing anyways. With postures, taking it one small step at a time being where I am today and not yesterday and not thinking about where I'll be tomorrow. Trusting my body and my breath in everything I do. This I think is what it truly means to have a daily practice and to connect the body and the mind.
How does your decision process work? Are you mind/body conscious in your daily life and practice?
Jennifer is an RMT, long time yoga practitioner and teacher. Follow her musings as an RMT, yoga teacher, prenatal educator and mother of three.