The holiday season is one of mixed emotions for many. We are bombarded by commercial images of happy families and a joy-filled times. Reconnecting with friends and family; enjoying peace, love and goodwill towards man; saccharin-sweet themed movies; and getting into the spirit of giving are some themes of the season that are foisted upon us, like it or not.
These external images aren't always congruent with our inner-landscapes. The season brings many face-to-face with unresolved issues and very real internal pain. This conflict has the double bind of burdening us with guilt and confusion for not being able to let go of heaviness and just enjoy like everyone else.
Inner conflict is the stuff that yoga helps us to resolve, with practice.
Historically, the holiday season was a stressful and challenging time for me. As a boy living in rural western Canada I was a bit of an odd-duck. I never did quite fit in with the rough-and-tumble farm-boy culture. Extended family events, such as Christmastime, often left me feeling very "different" and even though there were lots of loving people around, an ever-present loneliness prevailed.
Living away from home as a young adult made it easier for me to avoid the inner turmoil of the holidays. Many Christmases were spent away from family, sometimes with other "Christmas orphans", sometimes not. Outsiders often look upon this with pity, but that would reflect a lack of understanding. For some, rightly or wrongly, choosing to stay away is a means of looking after themselves.
The journey of facing my inner demons is what helped me begin to appreciate and even enjoy the holiday season more, alone or with my family. The journey of healing takes on many forms: some may find themselves working with therapists using talk therapy; others may find solace in their faith; and some may delve into new and modern modalities to find themselves. There are many paths to the same destination - the wholeness which we are all seeking on some level.
Yoga has helped me to heal. It started in my first yoga training program where I found myself crying a lot during certain practices or lectures. My first spiritual experience happened when we were collectively chanting Om Namah Shivya - this catapulted me into deeper inquiry. Later I happened upon a local yogi who was also a powerful Reiki healer. He helped me to recognize that the stuff of our past is still inside of us, unless we've actively healed it. After two years of profound work with this healer I was well on my way to moving out of my darkness.
The universe aligned me with my current teacher, Yogarupa Rod Stryker, and the Himalayan Tradition (Sri Vidya lineage). Our lineage offers teachings and myriad techniques to move us from darkness regardless of the events in this and previous lifetimes that have us stuck in it. The more I immerse myself in the tradition the brighter I shine. I am now in the place where I can help others, family included, in moving through some of their "stuff". This is a gift for which I am truly grateful.
Some of us believe that we are given our families to resolve unfinished business, or to start new business. Karma plays a role. With this in mind, when we are operating from a place of light rather than darkness, it becomes easier (and this is relative, believe me!) to see the roles that family members play in our own growth. And we can (and must!) learn from these experiences.
Over the last few years I've had some touching exchanges with the father and learn to understand him more - something I would not have previously believed possible. I've tried to support my sister as she struggles with transitions. I've admired my brother in his steadiness as he moved through the ending of his marriage and being a single father. And I consciously work with compassion in my interactions with my mother.
Christmas is in Edmonton this year. An intimate gathering of my mother, my father and his wife, my sister and her husband, my brother and his daughters. These people who previously were the source of so much of my inner turmoil - or so I thought - are now a source of love and inspiration. There are warts and wrinkles, bumps and roadblocks, and old patterns of behaviour that pop-up and then fade away, all of which inform our interactions. We learn from each other. We love each other despite all the drama of the past. We become each others' teachers and source of inspiration.
This Christmas has also been about reconnecting with friends from years past. What a treat that has been.
I'm grateful for these experiences. I'm grateful to all who inspire me to grow. And to those who have accepted me with all my issues and baggage over the years, I'm incredibly thankful for your patience. To those who push my buttons and make me reflect on why, thank you!
Happiness is our birthright. My teacher asks, "Why wait?" And of course he is right. If you are struggling, look to heal. Facing our stuff can be hard initially, but the rewards are worth it. Maybe with more healing the holidays will be filled with more authentic joy and happiness.
But joy and happiness is not only the purview of holidays. Make these part of your daily life. Being in the moment and recognizing the perfection of now can be achieved. If you want some tips on how, look me up. I'd love to provide you with some input.
Much love and light to you for the remaining days of holiday celebrations. And may your intentions for the new year fill you with wholeness and awakening.