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Giving Thanks

Posted on November 21, 2016 at 6:30 PM

By, Diana Scharf

I'm hearing a lot of "No Fairs!" these days. They come at me from every direction.


From my kid: "No Fair! My friend has an American Girl doll, I want one!"


From other kids: "No Fair! She lost a tooth. I want to lose a tooth!"


From Facebook: "No Fair! I wanted MY candidate to win the election!"


From the president-elect: "No Fair!" on just about everything else.


And that's not even scratching the surface of things that actually are "No Fair," such as the hatred and violence that's running rampant across the country these days. (I promise, this is not a political post).


Well. None of this is very yogic, not at all. So, like we do in yoga, let's all take a collective deep breath and bring our focus back to what matters. In meditation, we always come back to our breath. But I think we can use this as a metaphor in our daily lives as well.


As we approach Thanksgiving this year, let's stop letting our focus wander towards things that we can't really control (whatever is on the news) or things that don't really matter (who has better stuff than we do), and bring our focus back to what's really important: family, friends, and all of the blessings that we are lucky enough to have in our lives. Thanksgiving is a day to express gratitude for all of our blessings.


Around this time of year, we start asking the kids in our classes what they are thankful for. We do get a few who say they are grateful for their parents or new baby siblings, but the majority of them are grateful for their toys. As is just and proper in the world of 4-year-olds, right? But I always try to make my young students dig just a little deeper: who bought you that toy? Grandma did? You are so lucky that you have a grandma! Where do you keep all of your toys? You are so lucky to have a home that's big enough for all those toys!


It is so difficult, but also so important to teach our kids how to be grateful. Grateful for their mommies and daddies, who love them and make them feel special. Grateful that they live in a house with heat in the winter. And yes, grateful for their toys. I find that you really can't convince a preschooler not to be materialistic, so I think it's better to just embrace that aspect of their personality and remind them how lucky they are to have toys when other kids have nothing. Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate the things that we do have, rather than want for the things that we don't. This is also a very yogic principle.


In yoga we sometimes talk about the principle of "non-hoarding," called Aparigraha in Sanskrit. I have always thought this was the most interesting Yama, or personal discipline that we practice in yoga. Taken literally, it means that we should strive not to be materialistic, that possessions are not as important as the values that we learn (in yoga or in life). As I mention above, teaching this lesson to our children will be an on-going process for most of us as our children grow and mature. (I.e., your tots will not have mastered this concept by this Thursday!)


But in the more figurative sense, Aparigraha means simply "letting go." Letting go of negativity, letting go of grudges, letting go of fear, letting go of really any emotion that does not serve us in a positive way.


This is a lesson that can benefit us all, adults and kids alike. For very young kids it can be as simple as giving them a choice: do they want to stay angry and sulk on the couch, or would they rather move on and play with their cousins whom they don't see very often? (They usually come around, little kids are awesomely resilient). For the rest of us, it's pretty much an age-appropriate variation of that choice. We can choose to put our grudges, anger or fear aside and enjoy this special time that only comes around once a year.


So this Thanksgiving, let's take all of these "No Fairs," strike our best Elsa Pose and just Let It Go. Even if it's just for a day. Without all this negativity weighing us down, we can be free to appreciate all the good in our lives and be truly thankful.


Happy Thanksgiving from Topsy Turvy Yogi!


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