This is a story of thanks giving (not just Thanksgiving).
A young man with a dream sells his live-aboard sailboat, packs all of his belongings into a maroon Ford Contour, and drives. As he watches the fog-shrouded hills of San Francisco recede in his rearview mirror, he contemplates his new life in Phoenix, Arizona. Having just traded one life-long dream for another—his dream of sailing around the world has been exchanged for a dream of healing the world with yoga—he wonders if he has made the right decision. (spoiler alert: he has)
Nine months later (seriously), the doors of Yoga Pura would open.
That was 20 years ago. That young man was me. And today that dream is more alive and vibrant than ever.
Not only is Yoga Pura still serving our community, despite innumerable and monumental challenges over the years, the four walls of this sacred space have seen over 600,000 students unroll their yoga mats and have watched as nearly a thousand yoga and meditation teachers have been minted and sent out into the world.
And now, with the BrightLife Yoga Collective, we are helping people all around the globe bring the life-changing power of real yoga into their everyday lives.
So, what does this have to do with thanks giving?
Quite simply it’s this, more than anything else, it has been my active practice of gratitude, appreciation, and thanks that has carried me these last 20 years.
Through the financial challenges and staff changes, and the burglaries and the betrayals, and roofs leaking and toilets overflowing…it has been my practice of gratitude and appreciation for the blessings, both seen and unseen, that has, for me, made all the difference. It has literally been my thanks giving; giving me the inspiration and strength to do all of the things our community needs to survive and to thrive.
I share this with you because I want you too to be sustained in the same way. And there’s a power inherent in the deliberate practice of giving thanks that is not often understood. And it has to do with your brain. You see, there’s a reason that so many of us sometimes feel desperate and anxious, even while we swim about in a vast sea of blessings. It’s something we can thank Mother Nature for. While not a lot of people are aware of it, our nervous systems were programmed since birth to be constantly on the alert for threats and dangers and obstacles. It’s a bit of installed code designed to keep us alive (back in the caveman days, think how important focusing on the saber-toothed tiger instead of the lovely sunset was and you’ll get the idea).
Psychologists call this Negativity Bias and it basically means that our attention naturally gravitates toward focusing on the bad more strongly than it is pulled toward the good in our lives.
As you can imagine, this has some rather untidy consequences. Because more of our attention is drawn to the troubling things in our lives, it can skew our perspective and leave us feeling like things are much worse than they really are.
And this is where thankfulness comes in.
You see the act of being thankful neatly interrupts the harmful effects of Negativity Bias and our obsession with problems to connect us with the many blessings in our lives that are too often overlooked.
Thanksgiving, for me, is largely a celebration of the power of this amazing practice. And it’s why it holds a special place in my heart. Since this practice has been so transformative for me personally, I wanted to leave you with three tips to help you get the most from it this holiday season and beyond.
Be Regular: Simply put, don’t wait until Thanksgiving or some other special event to practice giving thanks. Make it a habit that permeates your every day. Even better, look for opportunities to give thanks several times throughout your days. It’s this regularity that trains the nervous system to disengage from the unhealthy obsession with problems and instead to seek out the blessings in our lives, as if on autopilot.
Be Deliberate: Don’t just allow yourself to be grateful for those things that automatically inspire you to appreciation; but seek out unexpected or overlooked things to be grateful for as well. Think of yourself on a treasure hunt uncovering blessings and gifts that will lift you and all those around you to new heights of happiness and health.
Be Engaged: Instead of simply being passively thankful, be a gratitude evangelist. Actively share your appreciation for things with others, tell friends and family how thankful you are for them and the other blessings in your life, and inspire others to pick up the mantle of thanks and gratitude. Together, we can literally change the face of the planet.
So, once again on this special day, please know that my own heart is filled with thanks for you and the important part you play in making sure that Yoga Pura and the BrightLife Yoga Collective are able to continue to serve so many.
The world needs the healing power of yoga and community now more than ever and I am overflowing with gratitude that together we are making such a difference in so many lives.
I’m wishing you the most wonderful of holidays and hope you’ll join me in bringing more thanks and joy and celebration into our world through the simple act of giving thanks.
So much love,