Practicing Presence This Holiday Season

Sunday, November 18, 2018

For many people, the holiday season represents happy times spent with family and friends eating delicious food and exchanging gifts. For me, it’s an ongoing assignment of practicing presence. I’d be lying if I told you that seeing certain family members doesn’t flood back memories of less than tactful things said to me. One of my re-occurring assignments happens when my mother “parents” me in front of my child at family functions. For instance, my son tends to throw tantrums when he doesn’t get his way. Rather than supporting me in my loving yet firm parenting stance, my mother very swiftly and efficiently blurts out, “Manners begin at home, Stefania.”

The 20-year-old version of me would have internalized my mom’s words, cried, and then reactively blurted out a defensive retaliation. The 38-year-old version of me pauses, takes a calming breath, and states, “Thank you for your opinion.” Being the bigger person and taking the high road is not as easy as it seems. This response came through years of practicing mindfulness and presence.

Here are five techniques that will help you remain present this holiday season:

1) Other people’s words remain their opinions until you choose to believe them as facts. You have the power to internalize what they say just as much as you have the power to let it go. I chose not to internalize my mom’s words.

2) When I begin to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and tense, I like to repeat a mantra internally or aloud while talking calming breaths. One of my favorites is, “I am stronger than this moment.”

3) When feeling the urge to give a reactive verbal response, remember that like bonds with like. If negative energy is being spewed your way, don’t give negative energy back. Negative people become confused and quiet when positivity is given back to them.

4) Never underestimate the power of walking away. If it’s too overwhelming to be near the other person, move your body somewhere else. For example, when my dad told me that my son’s tantrums were a result of him not having a father at home, I responded with, “That’s a unique perspective,” and then walked away to talk with someone else.

5) Practice compassion for yourself. You will have non-presence moments. Remember that you are a human being, and as such you are always learning and growing. Forgive yourself and move forward. Dwelling on the past leads to a whole new set of emotional obstacles to overcome.

Stefania Maiale, e-RYT 200, Owner of Collegeville Yoga Bar, has been certified in Hatha and Vinyasa Yoga since 2010. In addition to teaching weekly classes, Stefania is the lead trainer of the studio’s 200 Hour Hatha and Vinyasa Teacher Training Program and is the lead trainer of the Kids Yoga Continuing Education Certification Program. She is looking forward to participating in Collegeville Yoga Bar’s Kundalini Yoga Teacher Training beginning in March 2019. Stefania is practicing living a life of presence. Over the past two years, she has thrived through a kidney transplant and the surgical removal of a pituitary brain tumor. She is the proud single mother of an 8-year-old son, a 15-year-old toy poodle, and an 11-year-old cat.

Monday, November 19, 2018 -- Here is the poem that I read during Savasana in yesterday's class

THE WAVE

18th Oct, 2016 by Steve Taylor

The ocean sighed with pleasure

as the wind caressed and stroked her

and soon the wave was born.

The wave came from the ocean

and was always a part of the ocean.

But shortly after he was created

the wave watched himself, as he began to rise and roll,

saw his own smooth and graceful motion,

the beautiful bubbling foam which sprayed around him

and fell in love with himself.

He started to believe that he was his own master

that it was his own strength that was propelling him

that he was directing his own flow

and could change direction if he wanted.

The wave forgot the ocean, and saw himself as separate –

a self-sufficient, sealess wave

who felt proud of his power, exhilarated by his autonomy

as he rolled faster and rose higher.

But then he looked around, and saw the other waves

who had already peaked and crashed

and were beginning to dip and to disperse

and the others who were already dissolving, disappearing.

And he felt afraid, realising that his form was temporary

that his speed and power would ebb away

and soon he would dissolve and disappear as well.

And he felt alone, as he sensed the empty space around him,

the distance between him and the other waves.

And he felt threatened by the ocean’s vastness,

now that he seemed to be separate from it.

The wave resisted and rebelled –

he tried to build up more momentum, to collect more water,

to roll more smoothly, to foam more spectacularly

to make himself so powerful that he would never dissolve away

to make his form so perfect that he could escape decay.

But soon the wave realised he had no choice

that he had less control than he thought, less strength than he thought

that he couldn’t interfere with the forces that had shaped him

so he stopped grasping and pushing

and felt the relief of letting go

and the freedom of no longer trying.

And so after the majestic foaming rush, the glorious crescendo of his breaking

he gave himself up to his ebbing, fading flow

to the ease of his descent

and he was filled with the joy of acceptance.

He allowed his boundaries to soften

and felt his connection to every other wave

and his oneness with the whole of the sea.

He felt the vast wholeness of the sea

within his own being

then as his own being.

And then the wave dipped, slowed down and began to dissipate.

Quietly and serenely, without fear or resistance

he gave himself to the tide, and became the sea again

knowing that he had never been anything else.

Sunday, November 26, 2018

Today during Savasana I read an excerpt from Forgiveness: 21 Days to Forgive Everyone for Everything by Iyanla Vanzant

During this holiday season, try to practice forgiveness. Negative thoughts or emotions cannot leave your body and mind until you release them. This book provides numerous tools to help you forgive and let go.