The best yoga is just being together. From my house to yours…four elements that will, hopefully, help your holiday shine brighter. No baking necessary.
Gather wood and build a fire on the beach, in your wood stove, out in the backyard. Gather your friends and family and get comfortable. If you’re under the stars, it will be cold, that’s for sure, so bundle up. Gloves, scarves, mugs of hot chocolate. Someone bring a guitar. I’ll bring a tambourine, or maybe some maracas, because that’s the extent of my musical talent. Gather your stories and begin to share. No cell phones or texting allowed. Don’t record this moment for Instagram. Just be with your tribe and reinvent what it means to spend time together while so many forces are trying to pull us apart. Agree to disagree, if you must. But be gentle with each other. Look into the flames and tap your ancient, bone-weary wisdom. Breathe in the smell of wool and heart ache and peace and savor the silence as much as the words. Oh and Santa, please bring me a flamethrower. I promise to use it wisely.
The empty chair, the loved ones missing…take note. Shed tears, alone or in the arms of someone you trust. When I lay out childhood photos of my brothers, myself and my parents, I’m struck by the fact that half of us are already dead. What was six is now three. But my wine glass is half full. In fact, it’s more than that. In my trek from there to here, I’ve gathered brothers and sisters along the way, elders who help guide me as honorary parents and grandparents, mentors who still push and dogs who make me a better human. Years ago, while traveling through China with the Hsi family, a waiter asked our table of ten in Mandarin, “What’s with the white girl?” Mrs. Hsi pressed a fist to her chest, “She is Caucasian, but her heart is Chinese. She is my daughter.” I remember this so keenly because it was my first taste of how a big world makes for big family.
So use both hands to count your blessings. But take time to honor your dead because, of course, they still have a piece of your heart. Light a candle. Say a prayer. Make an altar. Next to my dad’s photo…a Bombay Sapphire martini, two olives please, extra dry. Shaken, not stirred.
Take a hike. In the snow if you’re lucky enough to be in the mountains, or on the beach if you live near the edges like the Ranger and me. Look behind and relish your footprints, a gentle nod to having passed this way. And then keep going. There is still so much to do. To experience. To care for. I really can’t say it better than Carl Sagan:
“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity — in all this vastness — there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand…To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”
Sing like it’s your last song. The Ranger and I make an annual visit to St. Luke’s for the Christmas carol mass because…well, I love, love, love to sing. Really loud. And with lots of enthusiasm and toe tapping. Like Pavoratti, but not. So we get dressed up and go to church. We check our self-consciousness at the door, share songbooks with our neighbors, and then Hark The Hell Out of Those Angels. The scientist in me will tell you that singing stimulates your vagus nerve and triggers a parasympathetic response from your nervous system, pulsing calm “rest and digest” signals throughout your body. But the kid in me just wants to whip my head back like the Breck girl and howl like a banshee. The first time…the Ranger was astonished. He’d never seen that side of me. His expression said, “what the hell?” but smart man that he is, he knows exactly how to channel all that raw happiness.
On that note…Happy Holidays everyone. Peace on Earth. And to all a good night.