Give Thanks. Let Go. Be Happier.

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Open up and drop in to some warm and fuzzy gratitude this week with our Double Blocks or Bolsters Restorative Practice. This single pose can help us open our chest and breathing structures, improve our breathing patterns, boost our posture, soothe our nervous system, and inevitably drop us into a place of conscious relaxation. It’s in that space where we can really be present and find genuine gratitude for all that comes our way. Practice this pose with us here on the blog this week, and ever after in the MOJO Member Space.

On the blog...

Sthira sukham asanam (Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, 2.46). This sutra reminds us that our poses should represent a receptive strength, putting forth a steady effort, yet creating enough space to be receptive. That last part has become very important for me lately. I go through cycles of including more and more restorative yoga and meditation in my practice, the aim of which is conscious relaxation and mindfulness when the strength part of the equation has started to take more than its fair share.

You see, everything in our culture tends to define relaxation as checking out, turning off, or tuning out. As much fun as that can be, where does it really get us? If I sit in front of the television for a couple of hours, I tend to feel more tired than when I first sat down. In many ways, simply checking out is not relaxing at all. Rather, it constitutes ignoring the stresses that reside in our bodies and minds, allowing them to linger and fester. If I'm honest with myself, I'm most successful at deep relaxation when I give it conscious attention. To me, relaxation means letting go of tensions and worries to soften myself as completely as possible. I suspect you might agree. So how do we do this? How do we practice letting go?

In order to open we must learn to consciously let go of areas of stored tension, stress, tightness, injury, or even emotions. We must learn to peel back the layers we've built up over years of unconscious activity. Working with meditation and restorative yoga as integral parts of my practice has helped me progress with this tremendously. These practices teach me to sit in stillness, while remaining wide awake. I focus attention on my breath, as it moves through me, expanding and softening the fibers of my being. Conscious relaxation is meditation in action.

As the holidays approach, and everyone begins talking of gratitude, I've begun to wonder what role gratitude plays in letting go. Usually, when we think of what we're grateful for, it is for things we possess. We think of being grateful for what we have. Yet, as I explore consciously letting go, I've seen that if I approach tensions with an attitude of gratitude, they melt away. Think about it, if towards those things we want to let go of we feel anger or displeasure, they have this strange tendency to root themselves more firmly in our being. Maybe you’ve noticed this?

Instead, perhaps we can attempt to change our approach to stresses, injuries, challenging relationships, or pain to one of searching for some sense of true gratitude for the lessons they teach us and the role they play in shaping our path. It is then that we can let go of them. When we can be honestly grateful for every moment we encounter, and in turn let go of the harmful things that might otherwise eat away at us, we will inevitably discover deeper happiness in everything we do. Greater happiness leads to greater gratitude, and thus the mental cycle is set: Give thanks, let go, be happier. Repeat.

Now, I know just as well as you do that finding an honest feeling of gratitude for our problems can be incredibly difficult. But I have found that regular practice in conscious relaxation is a key that can open that door. Start small. It’s always better to knock on a door or open it with a key, than to kick it down Chuck Norris style. So do little things that can help you grow into a master of conscious relaxation: try a restorative yoga class, sit quietly for 10 minutes in the morning or before sleep, pause at random intervals in your day for a few smooth, deep breaths, or apply Brother David Steindl-Rast’s approach from the video below of Stop-Look-Go. As we move into a time of year that is often a paradox of stressful worry amid celebrations of gratitude and giving, consider giving yourself the ultimate gift of greater happiness by taking some time, in whatever form it may be, to give thanks for what’s come your way, let go of the crap, and discover more of your innate happiness.

In the spirit of gratitude, I’ll leave you with this nugget of beauty and appreciation from one of my favorite visual artists, Louie Schwartzberg, that sets some of Brother Steindl-Rast’s inspiring words to Louie’s truly awesome Moving Art. As you watch this, know that any sense of gratitude it inspires in you is multiplied many times over for us here at MOJO headquarters when we think of all of you. Thank you for working with us to create more mojo in this world for you, for us, and for everyone we meet.

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