Happy Thanksgiving Eve! My inbox is filled to the brim with "Black Friday" sale emails, the Tofurky is defrosting, my heart is bursting with more joy than usual -- yep, it's that time of year. It's also the time of year when people feel extra sad and lonely. We seem to have this vision of what the holidays should be or look like -- romantic love, happy family, close friends, people gathered around a table laughing and loving each other. What if it could be joy-filled and look nothing like that? [insert sound of needle dragging over vinyl record here] What?!?! Holidays not looking like how it's depicted in the media? No happy families, crackling fires, mouth-watering feasts, pets dressed in holiday costumes, laughing, singing, hand holding?
Yes. That's exactly what I'm saying. I'm talking about practicing some Ahimsa here. Being stuck in a belief of what the holidays should be like can harm you. So rather than force yourself into the holiday box (and feeling sorry for yourself when your holiday isn't shaping up to look like storybook perfection), I'm inviting you to revision what the holidays look like. My favorite way to do this is under the influence of love. Yep, right about now you're probably thinking, crazy yoga girl blogger has lost it. Hang in there with me for a second...
There are a lot of scenarios in which one could feel sad about the holidays -- having no one to spend the holidays with, being single, spending time with people who aren't supportive, fighting families, feeling financially strapped, having no family or few friends, etc. Sounds so sad...right? Maybe not. What if you changed your mind about what the holiday should look like and followed love instead? What if being "alone" turned into volunteering on the holiday or attending a MeetUp in which you could meet new friends? What if not having family (or being estranged from family) turned into celebrating with friends? What if being single turned into celebrating the holiday by going somewhere you've always wanted to go (road trip!)? What if feeling alone turned into reaching out to others? What if a "traditional Thanksgiving meal" turned into eating only your most favorite indulgences (which may not resemble a true meal) or getting takeout or skipping the meal part and meeting friends for coffee and snacks? What if being gathered around the table turned into taking an hours long hike in one of your favorite nature spots? What if buying gifts turned into devoting time to having an experience with another and giving presence rather than a present?
The point is, the holidays can look like whatever you desire them to look like. The only thing the scenarios need to have in common is love. Who do you love? What do you love? How do you love being? Figure that out and then build the holiday around it. There's no one way to celebrate a holiday. Life is messy so know that not everything (or anything, for that matter) needs to look "perfect," like in movies or magazines or TV. There's no right way. When you think there is, that's the opposite of Ahimsa. And, frankly, it feels awful because your brain is telling you that you're somehow missing out or not enough or wrong in some way.
Speaking from personal experience here -- I've spent the holidays in a variety of ways, including alone, with a romantic partner, with family, with people who I didn't like all that much, and plenty of scenarios in between. There's been the standard, "traditional" holiday scene and there's been the other end of the spectrum. Here's what I've discovered -- the traditional scene wasn't what made the holiday feel special or joy-full. In fact, I've felt more lonely in the traditional holiday scene than I have when I've been on my own. It's not about the shoulds or the media depictions of the "perfect" holiday. It's about how much love you bring to it. When you choose Ahimsa, you choose love. And you feel it whether you're volunteering at a soup kitchen, sitting at home in your PJs on your own, gathering with family, celebrating with friends, or however you choose to spend the holidays.
So whatever you're doing tomorrow -- even if it's sitting on your couch playing video games -- do it with love.
And if you're struggling to get to love, try a little gratitude. I know it's become one of those eye-roll inducing practices at this point, but gratitude is a wonderful way to get to love. There's always something to be grateful for. Always. Find it and sit with the feeling of gratitude.
If you want to step up your gratitude game, there's a Gratitude Challenge hosted by the producers of Awake kicking off on November 27. It's free to join in on the challenge and you can do so here.
So tomorrow, whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I wish you love. Ahimsa.