Too Much: A yogi’s reflections on the Christmas season and the art of happiness

We are now entering a season of the year that emphasizes the having and not emphasizing. Those who have big families, big houses, and money for the typical vacation, and those who don’t. We are approaching winter every day. The days are short, the nights long. It’s cold in the northern hemisphere. We have less light. And we have the holidays ahead – which in the Euro-centered Christian influence have turned into consumerism at worst.

We hoard food for Thanksgiving.

We buy unnecessary gifts for our friends and family at Christmas.

We drink too much.

Some of us are easily triggered by an unhealed family dynamic, and amid the overeating and drinking caused by alcohol, that time often ends in tears and deeper cuts from before.

We lose our focus.

We tell ourselves that we are “taking a break”, “taking a vacation”, slowing down. But we don’t.

We do not mate as winter demands.

We swallow. Our gluttony exposes itself to it at the worst time of the year.

We cut down trees, cover them with plastic ornaments, artificial snow and tinsel just to throw them away. To throw them out where? Oh right, the dump … the imaginary place where we think we can “get rid of” things, but now we find that nothing can be “thrown away”. It washes up on our shores and on the roads and in the forests, in the air and in the water and in our fruits and vegetables. You can’t really throw something out. It stays here, in our house, on earth.

We think we feel good wrapping things in paper just to fill the trash cans. We think that makes our children happy, that a good parent makes that, and that we succeed in the holiday season. Then we can afford it.

Everything – our gifts, our food, our clothes – is covered in packaging, plastic, and tape.

Shipping in trucks and airplanes.

What do we do? I ask myself that every year.

I am not about it. I also buy into this whole holiday show.

I’ve spent most of my life keeping up with it. I also want the big family, the biggest tree, the massive Thanksgiving table, the best-wrapped gifts. I even go so far as to think I want to spend Christmas in Espe and fly to St. Barths for the New Years.

I want everything and I don’t agree. I have this split within me, this internal debate. And you know who wins every year

Ear? The consumer-oriented voice. The one to remind me that if I don’t keep up, I’ll feel lonely and isolated, like I don’t belong. If I had kids, I might feel guilty about raising them without Thanksgiving and Christmas. So many of my friends who have kids say about the holidays, “I don’t want to do it, but I have to do it for the kids.”

When the family is disjointed, when you are poor, when you lost your job this year, when you are homeless, when you are alone, when you can’t afford it, all these expressions of the outward consumer culture of, “I’m happy “Enjoy how do you feel?

What does culture tell you about how you can feel?

It’s another reminder of what you don’t have.

People say feel better and go to a soup kitchen or homeless shelter and serve. That is nice advice and I agree with it. It shows us that in the end we will only have our service – each other, the planet, the future people who walk this earth and breathe this air and drink this water.

No matter how beautiful that is, something in our culture still says, “You didn’t make it, keep trying, maybe you will have it next year, and somehow you’re less of a person if you don’t have it.”

The holiday season has become another opportunity to compare yourself to someone else and feel awful.

Another opportunity to rehearse the lack of mentality that drives capitalism and consumerism, a culture and mindset that destroys our connection to our greatest assets (gratitude, service, imagination, satisfaction, simplicity) and through the narrow-minded obsession with buying and Having replaced consumption, adapting and allowing is an expression of our state of happiness.

How can we break free from these chains?

The earth cannot sustain this misuse of resources.

Our collective psyche cannot sustain the obsession with consumption, comparison, belongings.

I have a lot of friends who have.

I have a lot of friends who don’t have.

We are all the same in our humanity, our desire to be happy, our need to be loved, held, cherished, rested, fed, quiet and full of our communities, to laugh and share.

It begins with us all breaking free of this addiction to gluttony and destructive abundance.

It begins with breaking away from the incessant glorification of witnessing. It starts with using this time of year to celebrate the reduction in our consumption and the popularization of excess.

It starts with re-evaluating these holidays as a collective.

It starts with sharing.

It starts with entire communities ending and unsubscribing from this nonsense.

It starts with logic. Eco logic. What the economy is really based on in the end, on ecology.

Whether you have money or not, family or not, these holidays hurt the soul of humanity and they hurt the earth.

Be honest. Are more of us feeling good or awful during this time?

I’m both scared this time and doing everything I can to keep up with whatever makes me feel accepted, as if I belong, successful, abundant and “in the game”. I want to feel abundant and not be left behind.

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Many of us experience this deep sadness because we cannot be freely with our loved ones. I also sense that this sadness comes from the fact that Covid is severing our ties to the glorification of a voracious event that makes us feel like we are competing well on the consumer-centric vacation. We’re both really sad not to be together and really uncomfortable without all the shebang of the vacation.

I don’t have a solution to this vacation problem. I’ll start by outlining some of my personal responses to the holiday season, what I see in others, what feels right about the earth, and the true art of happiness.

The art of happiness is one that we have not yet understood well in a capitalist society.

There is a collective soul beneath the surface that, although you may have managed to have the grandiose vacation with money in the bank and a big happy family, something happens deep in the soul of humanity when this happens the case is so many others are left out. You can feel it deep down, something is wrong.

If we leave others behind, if happiness in a culture is defined by something not everyone has access to, then we have lost understanding of the true art of happiness.

For those of you struggling over the vacation, I hope that reading will make you feel less alone.

For those who have no problems during the vacation, I hope that you can take a moment to realize that not everyone experiences this time as you do and that our culture and society need help to redefine, what this time of year is really about. I also encourage you to ask yourself, does it really make you happy? And if so, WHY?

We always have the opportunity to reevaluate and do something.

Who will be brave enough to break the link with the old, destructive forms of vacation?

Will you? Can we together

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heather_LHeather Lilleston is originally from Northern California, Heather was Teaching yoga since 2003.

She lived in NYC from 2000 to 2015 and now lives in Venice Beach, California.

She started teaching yoga after completing this Jivamukti teacher training with Sharon Gannon and David Life while studying for a bachelor’s degree at New York University. In 2008, she completed the 800 hours Advanced certification with Jivamukti. More recently, she has added a more Iyengar-based approach to yoga based on her studies with Colleen Saidman and Rodney Yee In the Yoga Shanti 2010 300-hour teacher training, which she later supported as a mentor and taught as the main teacher.

She has mentored numerous teachers at Pure Yoga, The Shala, Yoga Vida, and Yoga Shanti and has been a contributing member of their respective teacher training programs. From 2012 to 2015, she revised the 200-hour curriculum for the training and supervision of Yoga Vida teachers and, as yoga director, developed the 300-hour program for the advanced training of Yoga Vida teachers. She continues to advise and contribute to the curriculum in various studios.

She is registered with the Yoga Alliance as 500 hours of E-RYT.

She was recognized by Yoga diary as one of the 50 innovators changing the game of the wellness industry, and kept their cover for January / February 2017 Problem.

Your classes integrate aligned vinyasa sequences with meditation, singing, good music, and spiritual philosophy. She is known for her sweetness, humor, passion, sincerity and enthusiasm.

In 2012 she was a co-founder Yoga for bad people with Katelin Sisson, a yoga company focused on the world’s leading retreats. She primarily focuses on YFBP and leads retreats, training, and courses in NYC and LA.

She is also a senior teacher of The class developed by Taryn Toomey.

In 2019 she became a PhD student and pursued a Ph.D. in clinical psychology at the Pacifica Graduate Institute.

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