The pumpkins are out in all their orange glory. The leaves are losing their green and taking on new hues, new colors. The days are getting shorter. We are entering the holiday season, the “most wonderful time of the year.”
When you have a relationship ka-boom in your life, the traditions that became a part of your life are taken away, lost, changed. Instead of the holiday season being the most wonderful time of year, it is a very painful time of year, especially the first holiday season post ka-boom. For that season in my life, I gave myself permission to not participate in holiday traditions – no tree, no decorations, no presents, no cards, no cooking, no baking, no holiday music. I decided to stop celebrating Christmas until I had a reason to celebrate again.
This year I am going home for the holidays. For me, going “home for the holidays” is complicated. I often say that I have relatives but not a family. My family relationships are strained, weakened, non-existent. I do not feel emotionally supported by my family. Many of my immediate family members have passed. All of my grandparents, my father, and my brother have passed. There is no anchor that grounds my family or brings us together. And the family around which I became rooted in my previous life was broken, shattered…ka-boom. I’m going “home for the holidays,” but am I going HOME? Where is home, when I’ve so clearly described a home that is broken, a home that does not exist?
I am going to a new home I’ve created for myself, embracing new traditions, creating new memories. I am going to COSTA RICA!! I am returning to the place where I said good-bye to 2010 and welcomed in 2011, to the beach community of Nosara, a place I call a yoga mecca. And…I have a reason to celebrate again: ME! I am gifting myself with a holiday yoga retreat, with peace and relaxation, fun and adventure, with travel, with the promise of a new family.
Part of what makes Nosara feel like “home” is that it is a familiar place, with familiar faces. Tamika, of DevaTree, a familiar face and one of the nurturing yogis who took care of me last year, is organizing our holiday yoga retreat. She says that the gift actually begins the moment we start dreaming about it and preparing for the journey. So here I am, a few months before we are truly immersed in the holiday season, beginning my celebrations, beginning my holiday preparations, feeling the joy and excitement of what is to come.
In my joy and excitement I thought, “I’m going to write a blog about going home for the holidays.” This prompted me to reflect on the concept of HOME. What makes a place home? Where is home, the destination to which one can go for the holidays? Here is one way to think about this: the earth is our home; our bodies are our home; our spirits, our heart centers, are our home. If our bodies, our hearts, and our spirits are our home, then isn’t home with us everywhere and aren’t we always at home, so long as we are present? Wouldn’t this mean that we could take our home with us anywhere on this earth? And speaking of EARTH, isn’t the earth our mother? Isn’t she the giver and sustain-er of life? She holds us and supports us, she nurtures us, she grounds us. She is our anchor, she brings us together. We are her children. The bodies she gave us allow us to experience our lives, to breathe, to feel, to be present, to just BE.
We share this earth, our lives and our experiences, with many living beings, with other human souls. We all have the same earth mother, therefore we are one big giant family, right? Family units as we know them are microcosms, smaller community or relational networks, rather than a giant earthly family. A family is tied together by its bonds, relationships, intimate connections, and histories. So I’m taking my body to Costa Rica, a place I can call home because I’ll be present in body and spirit, experiencing richly and deeply in my heart, but what about a family? Well…I will be sharing the holiday season with my yoga family.
A yoga community, or Kula, is a family. In Sanskrit the word “Kula” means family, clan, or community of the heart. A yogi is always at home in the community of the heart – welcomed, embraced, accepted. The yoga community offers love, support, and encouragement. Yogis give and receive. If you are practicing Urdhva Dhanurasana, or wheel pose, your community is there to support you in body and spirit. You will feel the hands of your family holding and supporting your body as your back bends, as your heart lifts and opens, encouraging you in your efforts. If you are practicing your Pincha, or feathered peacock pose, your family will be there to hold or steady your hips, helping to stabilize your center. You will feel the OMs of your family vibrating, in unison, around you and in your heart.
Sharing a holiday retreat with a yoga Kula provides a special opportunity to create new relationships, to create new bonds, to start new histories. When members of the Kula show up to celebrate, to participate, to be present, each brings their most beautiful self. We give and receive many gifts. One of the most special and unique gifts is something I call mirroring. In your yoga family’s eyes, you see what others see, you see the best and most beautiful parts of you, what you yourself may have trouble seeing because of a cloudy lens or a blockage in your heart. How will you see? Your yoga family will give you a clear and vibrant picture of your beauty freely and without condition.
A yoga retreat experience is a gift that keeps on giving. Seeing and claiming your beauty will be one of many lasting gifts you receive. The peace and relaxation of a yoga retreat will live on and shine brightly in our hearts. We leave with new friendships, a new family, new memories, new experiences filled with joy, fun, and adventure. Our hearts and minds are opened, expanded. Our joy and growth continues. The gifts continue to be revealed to us after we return home, to the place we experience our day to day lives.
Last year in Costa Rica, on New Year’s Eve day, in a very spontaneous moment, I did something that became one of the most special and lasting gifts of my holiday retreat experience. I wrote in the sand the words that had been swirling around in my heart, my mind, my body. I wrote PEACE, JOY, HOPE, LOVE, HAPPINESS, and FREEDOM. These words were my heart’s deepest desires.
Writing these words in the sand was very profound and meaningful to me. It was the first time I had expressed or articulated these words. I discovered the word FREEDOM ends in OM, the sound and vibration of the universe. In our closing circle, I shared my words and my experience of writing them in the sand with my yoga family. This was the first time I said the words out loud. What I shared was so powerful and moving that it brought tears to a fellow yogi’s eyes.
A few weeks after I returned home, to the place I live, I wandered into a neighborhood art studio. On one of the walls were paintings of words and many of the words were my words. There were many other beautiful, thought provoking words, like “stretch,” though none of the art pieces felt like my own and some of the words, like “family,” did not resonate in my heart. The artist, Caitlin Dundon, was in the studio that day observing my fixation with these pieces. She approached me and told me she did custom work and that if I was interested, we could work together to come up with my own piece. After weeks of deliberating over words, thinking about colors and mood associated with words, the story I wanted my words to tell, after reviewing colors and fine-tuning hues, I “created” a painting entitled “Expressions of My Heart.”
These words are my desires, my intentions, the qualities I wish to cultivate in my life. The lasting gift is more than just a colorful art piece that rests on my living room wall. The real gift is the ways in which these desires and expressions of my heart are manifesting in my life.
This holiday season I will be coming home to the sands of Costa Rica where I wrote out the expressions of my heart, embracing a new tradition: celebrating ME. I will be home, I will be present in body and spirit, experiencing and absorbing deep within my core. I will exchange gifts with my yoga family. What gifts I will bring home with me and will discover in 2012 have yet to be revealed.