Yoga Tip: Thanks-givings as way of life

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One of my most influential teachers Cynthia Barnard (whom many of you know as shamanic healer/teacher) has underscored the importance of giving lavishly the very qualities of life for which I most yearn. When I met Cynthia as part of a meditation group which met weekly in Boxford from ’94 – ’99, I was earning just enough money to pay for gas, food & rent share on a house in Richmond, MA. My idea of eating out was purchasing a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream at Mobil gas station in Stockbridge where I knew the price was 10 cents cheaper than anywhere else. By most people’s standards I lived an ascetic lifestyle. My clothes were gleaned from a give-away section at Kripalu Yoga Center and family gifts. My car was a junkbox Subaru in which the rusted-out doors where covered with aluminum panels riveted wherever there wasn’t rust. In the eyes of most people I was definitely living below the poverty line. Yet in my heart I felt a tremendous spiritual wealth.

In my mind I had rigged up my life as an either/or proposition. Either I would possess material wealth or I would possess spiritual wealth. Never both. Cynthia confronted me on this mental underpinning I’d acquired over many lifetimes as either an ecstatic monk with a begging bowl or a socially influential merchant with property and business assets. As a monk I pitied all merchants as souls who had lost themselves in the illusion of materialism (maya). As a merchant I sneered at monks as navel-gazing freeloaders. In this age of Aquarius, in which we now live, opportunities abound to dissolve old mental/emotional threads of confusion so we can leap into new levels of personal fulfillment and consciousness.

Naturally when I moved away from Kripalu one of my priorities was to shift from either/or thinking about prosperity and harness this spiritual wealth to serve people and be served. Cynthia guided me to send loving thoughts and make gifts to financially successful people. If I didn’t have money to give, I could give in other ways and learn to envision myself as someone capable of being financial abundant while still retaining my core spiritual values and lifestyle. Actually she taught me that it would be impossible for me to continue growing spiritually if I did not open myself to financial abundance. As a nightly ritual Annie (my girlfriend at that time) coached me to express gratitude by naming 6 things for which I felt grateful. Over time I built up enough confidence to start sharing my deepest passion by teaching yoga classes. Initially I did it as a favor to fill a vacancy at a friend’s holistic center. I was surprised that people liked my classes and wanted more. By the way, Cynthia attended those very first classes probably for 2 reasons. One, she wanted to practice yoga. Two, she saw the importance of this opportunity and wanted to support me. I am grateful to possess friends in my life who recognize opportunities for me when I fail to see them.

As the season of harvest & gift-giving approaches, I am writing to remind all of us (myself included) to express gratitude for the core values that make our lives meaningful & the people who embody them. I invite you to extend a smile or other simple gifts to strangers … to be playful or loving when you might normally be pragmatic and cold … to welcome the love of dear ones known & unknown. The spirit of Thanks-giving is something we create or it doesn’t happen. Why wait? The beauty of yoga is that infuses the practitioner with mysterious gifts of energy. And it lightens our psychic load so our hearts & minds can open more freely into receptivity & generosity. May the spirit of yoga pave the way to Thanks-giving as a way of life … for you & me and everyone we touch with our hearts & our love.