“It’s the most wonderful time of the year.”

 . . . Or, so we are so told.

Allow me to preface what I am about to write by saying that I, without a shadow of a doubt, come from a place of extreme privilege. While my life’s trajectory has surely been on the proverbial roller coaster ride that is life’s ups and downs, I have never gone without food or shelter, and I know how truly blessed and fortunate I am.

And yet, I don’t think I am alone in finding that the holidays can often manifest into a particularly stressful time of year.

I find myself equal parts discouraged by the overwhelmingly material-driven force of the holiday season, yet simultaneously excited to spoil my loved ones.

I find myself brooding in a headspace of “What can I afford to buy?” budgeting what I can spend with each paycheck, yet simultaneously understanding that if balancing a tighter budget than usual for a couple of months (and to buy holidays gifts, no less) is one of my life’s “stresses,” my life is pretty good.

I find myself worried that I cannot afford to give as much I am likely to receive, yet simultaneously knowing that it’s not the size, or spend, of the gifts I give this holiday season that matters as much as the time spent with friends and family.

This internal battle has kicked my otherwise positive ass straight into the depths of holiday scrooge hell that no amount of yoga, meditation, or mindfulness has been able to pull me out of.

I, as I think many of us have the tendency to do during the holiday season, quickly lose sight of what this time of year, arguably, should be about: Altruism. Reflection. Forgiveness. Gratitude. Humility. Community. Togetherness. All of these notions tend to quickly become replaced with their near polar opposites when we let the stress that can come with the holiday season bog us down: Consumerism. Materialism. Consumption. Comparison.

These dualities presented themselves to me in clear light as I feverishly wrapped presents one evening after work. Despite not being on any particular timeframe other than my own self-imposed rushed pace, I found myself hurriedly wrapping presents, pausing only to have a heated battle with my Ticketmaster account while attempting to purchase a gift card for my music-loving little brother.

Enter tantrum one: “Reset my password?! This is bull shit. I didn’t even get my password wrong. Oh, cool, and now the reset link expired. How many times am I going to have to do this?”

Enter tantrum two: “Okay, now that my password is reset, I see I can only buy gift cards in denominations of $250?! What hell is this all about? Seriously?!”

I glanced over at my partner looking for some validation in my frustration, or at the very least some ill-sought empathy to my plight. He was sitting quietly beside me on the floor, staring at our lit-up, ornament-clad Christmas tree.

“We are so blessed,” he said softly.

I didn’t get the validation or empathy I was looking for. Instead, I simply observed this human who was observing our bounty; who was so engrossed in a moment of reflection and gratitude that I am not sure he even heard my irreverent ramblings. Here was this human embodying what this season is about . . .  gratitude, peace, humility . . . while I was simultaneously embodying the polar opposite . . . entitlement, impatience, materialism.

It took one moment of stillness, one softly-uttered sentence, for me to become humbled for the holidays; for me to realize that the mindset of consumerism, materialism, and consumption had completely dominated my traditionally balanced approach to this time of year.

I was reminded that, at the end of the day, this time of year is not about giving gifts; it’s about recognizing the gifts, the bounty, we have, and sharing those with others.

I was reminded that, at the end of the day, this time of year is not about receiving gifts; it’s about humbly receiving the lessons learned from our triumphs and failures as one year winds down and another is set to begin, and reflecting on how we can be constantly evolving.

And I was reminded of one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies, American Beauty. The main character, excitedly recovering from the deep well of a mid-life crisis, attempts to do the same for his materialistic wife, saying to her the following:

“This isn’t life. This is just stuff. And it’s become more important to you than living. Well, honey, that’s just nuts.”

As hard as it may be, don’t let the holidays become centered around “stuff,” but do be gentle on yourself if the holiday stress creeps in. Let the holidays be about living; about loving your people; about celebrating your successes; about forgiving those who may have wronged you; about reflecting on being a perpetual work in progress; about reveling in the sheer beauty that is your existence.

While this is often easier said than done, this is one of elements of yoga that I find myself continually grateful for: the ability to engage in honest self-reflection, to separate the ego from the authentic self, to quiet the mind, and simply, to not only live in, but to revel in, the present moment.

For more holiday tips and tricks for the conflicted yogi, check out this article from Yoga Journal. I found it at once insightful, and comforting, to know I am not the only one who can feel conflict with the holiday season.

And know that, no matter what this holiday season throws your way, your mat and your breath are two constants that will always be there waiting for you, time and time again.

Happy Holidays to you and yours from all of us at Better Buzz Yoga.




Jamie MagyarComment