Gratitude and Giving Back

With friends/students at the John Friend
workshop in College Park, MD

Well, I think the holiday season is officially here. I, personally, am definitely in the holiday spirit. My brain is whirling with gift giving ideas and I'm paying close attention to managing stress and making sure I prioritize the activities and people with whom I truly want to share my holiday.

With the shift from Thanksgiving into December we see the coming off the one time of year when most everyone turns to giving gifts in some way. I workshopped with John on the Sunday before Thanksgiving -- so naturally his themes revolved around Gratitude. But he also gave some focus to this idea of giving gifts. His thought was that the desire to give back arises from feeling deep gratitude towards a person or group.

Going a step further, he mentioned those people in his life that have truly made an influence: his teachers, his parents, his students - even those who have past on. How do you truly give to a person who has made a profound shift in your life? To the person you hold in the absolute Highest? He said a monetary gift, or material gift just doesn't do justice to them. I mean, how could I possibly give John a gift for bringing Anusara to me and all his students around the world... a pair of socks isn't really going to do it.

Instead he offers the suggestion that we offer ourselves to them. That we live our lives in a way that deeply honors and celebrates all that they have taught us. It is a subtle and deep giving back. He says, stand at the end of your mat and imagine that person is right before you. Practice with him/her in your heart. Dedicate your practice back to them and practice as if they were there to see you. To take it a step further, live your life with that person in mind. He says it is the best way to give back to his teachers to have them see the way he lives and shares with us... and then to see us, inspired by him, then go out and change the world is a huge honor to his own teachers.

I've been exploring this lately with my coaching too as Hildie's been nudging me to pay attention to my life. I've been living more and more in a way that honors the ideals I hold myself to, you know, trying to be the Woman I Want to Be. I started with imagining that John Friend was watching my every move (in a "What would Jesus Do?" sort of way). But I've found that holding my teachers, and my teachers teachers in mind - while powerful and inspiring - doesn't hold a candle to holding the remembrance that my daughter is watching. And so in gratitude to my parents, my teachers, my students I offer my practices and my life with great hopes that I will inspire (and not totally screw up) my daughter to live her life to the fullest.

I find this work a powerful practice in dedication and offering. I'm so grateful to John for bringing it to the forefront of my mind at this time of year. May I focus not so much on the material and consumption. May I instead offer at this holiday season the love, gratitude, joy, and peace that my parents, teachers, friends, and students bring to me each year. May this inspire my daughter and any others who look to me to live life to the fullest, brightest, and most beautiful!

Contemplation: I invite you to share who is most inspiring and instrumental to your life in a comment below. Let's celebrate them at this time of year!