More Gratitude

Aparigraha sthairye janma kathanta sambodhah. ~ Yoga Sutras of Patanjali 2.39

When one is without greed, the riddle of rebirth is revealed. ~ Translated by Barbara Stoler Miller in Yoga: Discipline of Freedom

Make this holiday season one of giving, receiving, and forgiving. Balance your wish list with three more lists.

The second list contains all the people in your life in the past year to thank. Holiday greeting cards make fabulous thank you notes. Some of my most memorable holiday cards are from students who wrote how much yoga changed their life for the better. Remember all the servants in your life with kindness. Thank the grocery store clerk who divides the food among the bags so that none are too heavy. Bake cookies for the neighbor who was there for you in a time of need. Tips and gift cards are always well received by people in the service industry, from doormen and hairdressers to masseurs and yoga teachers.

The third list consists of all the people to forgive. This is probably the hardest of the four lists. Evict the squatter taking up space in your mind by letting go of your grudge. You can either forgive someone in person and suggest starting over with a clean slate, or silently choose to forget about a wrong committed by someone who is no longer in your daily life – and if that person pops up one day, smile as if nothing bad happened between you two in the past. Or maybe write a letter to your transgressor. Send it. Or ceremoniously burn it, allowing your anger dissolve as the flames reduce the letter into smoke and ashes. Forgiving purifies your heart by letting go of what is no longer useful to you to clear space for more love and joy.

The fourth list contains acts of kindness. This is also known as karma yoga, the yoga of selfless or altruistic service as described in the Bhagavad Gita. Acts of kindness, performed without expectation of reward, purify the mind. Take a fourth piece of paper, or a copy of a blank December calendar. On this, note one action of goodwill, no matter how small, that you have performed each day. Perhaps commit to one big event and mark that day in advance. This could be helping in a soup kitchen, or hosting a fundraiser to benefit a friend or family coping with the financial strains of unemployment, the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, or a serious illness. Amidst planning for the big act of kindness, continue to perform the small ones. Hold the door open for the mother pushing a baby stroller. Give your energy bar or restaurant leftovers to the homeless person holding out a spare change cup. Write a good review online and praise the service provider or local small business. Check on a neighbor or friend who’s going through a rough patch. Cultivate these small actions into a good habit to carry over into 2013.

It’s all about practicing kindness and gratitude towards others, just as you would want others to do to you. Live in such a way that love informs every action. Your wish list may help the relative or friend who dreads the guesswork of finding just the right gift. Your thank you list expresses how much you value everyone in your life. Your forgiveness list clears space in your heart for new people to share the love. And your karma yoga list is your ongoing contribution to making our world a better place – one filled with less greed and more generosity.

Wishing you OM and peace this holiday season.

©2012 Amy Dara Hochberg. All Rights Reserved.