Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. What is there not to like? It is a gathering with lots of food, family and friends. There are no gifts exchanged, which is an added bonus for me since I am not the best shopper for gifts. Don’t get me wrong, I love giving gifts. I love giving gifts that I know are thoughtful and needed in one’s life. I fear giving the gift that receives that awkward smile from auntie, you know the one, the one that goes after a long pause and the questioning look. The sheer pressure of trying to figure out everyone’s secret wish on the materialistic front is enough to send me spinning into sleepless nights. So Thanksgiving is perfect. I get to see all my loved ones and all I have to do is cook and/or show up. Oh, and of course eat, which has never been a problem. Eating is one activity that I always excelled in since childhood.
So Thanksgiving is great; friends, family and food. Oh yes, I know, there is also that football thing in the morning! Funny, I am just noticing it all starts with ‘f’. I guess good things start with ‘f’, oh don’t go there you dirty mind! So back to football, I still don’t understand the rules of the game other than a bunch of guys in tight pants diving on top of one and other to get a hold of an oblong ball. How the referee knows where the ball is under that tight-butt-pile is beyond me, but somehow if you were born in America you simply figure this out. I had a dear friend take me to an actual game a while back; apparently I asked so many annoying questions that he promised never to take me to another game ever again. Anyway, I digressed.
I believe I left it with the first three “f-s”: friends, family and food. Since football is not understandable to me I am left with these components. What could possibly go wrong with that you ask? Well, if I rely on my humble life experience, I must admit, apparently quite a bit… Holiday season is stressful. Yes, Thanksgiving is lovely, but it also places us face to face with some of the complex interpersonal issues within family and between friends. Most of us don’t have perfect relationships with everyone in the family unit. We all experienced the dialogue with ‘the distant relative’ or ‘the relative that we wish would be more distant’, or the ‘friend’ that we did not expect to see at the party. In most cases we try to keep the peace and well, in my case anyway, prepare an elevator speech that raises no possibility of a conflicting dialogue.
There is also added stress from expectations that stem from culture and society. To use the Hungarian expression: ‘you could open up your kitchen faucet’ and hear about how pleasant, wonderful and jolly-good the Holiday Season is for our spirit. Folks in the commercials are hugging, laughing and carelessly going about their business with just the right amount of blush and lip stick to make you feel they are naturally glowing. No problems exist in the world. The turkey is never dry, the eggnog always has brandy in it, nobody has a short paycheck and family harmony is unquestioned fact. Ayy-ve! Talk about pressure of living up to the expectation of the perfect holiday spirit! And now, don’t you dare not be happy or positive because they will make children’s book out of you! The Grinch that stole the holiday spirit. Oh yes, we do get an early education on just how to behave during the holidays. Even the yoga studios mostly talk of Gratitude Class…. Now don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of gratitude and also taught a fair share of gratitude classes, but gratitude only works its amazing wonder in the world if it is real. Gratitude has to be practiced daily, it has to come from your soul.
My family has a Thanksgiving tradition that I believe is quite common. Before we start to eat, my mom would ask us to go around the table and say one thing that we are grateful for that year. I love this tradition, but I have to be honest not just because it generally makes everyone feel happy and radiant. No, I hate to admit but my pleasures are mixed about this exercise. I love to study people’s non-verbal communication. My parents are professors and sometimes for the celebrations we have friends of family over who are also academicians. Now, needing to appear smart is not unique to the academic community, but I do think it is a necessary byproduct of being an academician, especially front of other academicians. By now, I am sure now you are starting to get the picture. It is great fun to watch. The pressure to say something unique and surprising goes up in a logarithmic fashion with every ‘presenter’. You see, those who go first will be the most likely forgotten by the end of the exercise, so if they want to stand out they have to say something really HUGE. But this sets subsequent difficulty to the next person in line. Middle children always struggle for attention right? So if you are in the middle of the circle your only hope is to ‘act up’, but if you are sitting toward the end of the circle then you have the pressure of ‘closing’ with an appropriate zing that would leave future conversations versatile and vibrant. Oh the crinkling of napkins, the twitching of noses, the quick eye moments… or my absolute favorite: my Mom’s “Oh that is a good one!” outcry soon followed by an appearance of two horizontal lines between her eyebrows as she clearly needing to think further or change strategies with her gratitude statement. Oh it is priceless fun! For a moment I do believe it causes joy and gratitude, but it has no lasting effect unless we truly feel grateful.
We too often practice gratitude as an intellectual exercise. We reason and compile data to feel grateful but that does not lead to gratitude. We don’t have to think about gratitude, gratitude is felt. It is simple and natural.
We cannot think our way into gratitude. But I think we can think our way into thanks-giving! After all isn’t what this holiday is all about, quite literally: Thanks Giving. Giving Thanks is an amazing tonic, a super highway that leads right into Gratitude. Just think about it. When you sincerely write a letter, buy a gift, acknowledge someone publicly, just think about how you feel when you see the smile from that person. Oh, it is sheer joy! I am never as happy or as grateful as when I get to give thanks, when I get to do something for someone else. In some ways it is a selfish activity because its byproduct is so much self-joy. But from all the selfish things that we could be doing, this is a good one.
It is in this spirit that I would like to Give Thanks to all the Spira students for keeping us in business. I love to teach, I cannot tell you the magnitude of gift that your attendance represents. To be able to do what I love for living is one of the greatest gifts from life and I could not do this without you. Thank YOU!
I also would like to thank all the Spira Teachers and Karmi-yogis for their relentless work and dedication. Spira is a loving space because people who work at Spira are some of the most amazing loving individuals in the world. Thank YOU!
Thank you all, and hope to see you Thanksgiving Day at 9:45am when I will teach a FREE class to the community as a way to show my gratitude.
– Dora /owner of Spira Power Yoga