With the holidays upon us and the end of the year approaching, I wanted to set an intention for this holiday season. Over the past few days, I have had a few experiences that have reminded me to embrace joy. While Thanksgiving last week encouraged me to pause, reflect, and express gratitude next to family and friends, the Christmas season is inspiring me to embrace joy.
Source: The Dill Loop
On Monday, I had dinner with my university’s director of corporate and foundation relations, who is like the brand ambassador for joy. She lights up every room she enters, finds connections with those who surround her, and shares joyful stories that express her love and hope for the world. With the life experience that she has, it could be easy to be cynical and pessimistic, but she has reminded me that a joyful attitude can surpass any life circumstance at any age. She has become one of my role models and mentors who I aspire to be like now and into the future.
Last night, I attended my favorite hot yoga class in Columbia, SC, and my yoga instructor encouraged me and the other yogis to find joy in our daily lives. She reminded us that the first step in finding joy is letting go of what doesn’t serve us or what brings us down, and then to be grateful for everything we have. She invited us to set an intention for a yoga practice, which inspired me to set an intention not only for the class, but also for the coming weeks. My intention is to embrace joy. Thinking about the past few decades of Christmases, I have found that this season reminds me each year that magic exists. I think back to my childhood days of making a Christmas list for Santa Claus, singing Christmas carols at school, decorating Christmas cookies, and spending the holidays with loved ones. While many of the traditions have changed, the feeling of magic and joy still remains. So far, I have embraced joy by decorating my apartment for Christmas to help brighten the gloom of taking final exams over the next couple weeks. I look forward to attending a Cookies and Kegs party this weekend for a study break with my classmates. I am trying to find little ways to embrace joy each day to help me get through the daily grind of the student lifestyle before my holiday break begins.
As we all face our daily routines over the next few weeks, I hope that we can make an effort to embrace joy and let the holiday season be as magical as it was when we were children. Regardless of whether we celebrate any of the December holidays, the festivals and decorations can remind us to take the time to find joy in the world around us.
How can you show you appreciate your loved ones and friends this holiday season? Here are a few inspirNational ideas:
- Give the gift of exploration. Plan a trip to explore a new place, near or far, with your loved ones. LivingSocial and GroupOn consistently post great excursions and adventures near you. Hotels often offer holiday packagaes and airBnB provides affordable lodging options throughout the world. Exploring will bring you new insights and memories you will never forget!
- Give the gift of creativity. Especially if you have been craving arts and crafts, make an art creation for your loved ones. Paint a picture, design a scrapbook (Apple has great digital scrapbooks you can make!), or make a blanket! I enjoyed painting wine glasses-turned-candle holders for my family this year. You can also purchase art class subscriptions, such as wine and painting classes, to encourage your loved ones to be creative as well.
- Give the gift of homemade cuisine. I have loved the trend of recipes and ingredients sent to your door, making home-cooked meals much easier than ever before! There are also great custom wine deliveries, snack deliveries, and pet food deliveries, that make a “staycation” possible, customizable, and fun!
- Give the gift of reflection. Purchase yoga or meditation classes to help your loved ones relax and reflect as they enter the new year. There are also reflection books, such as The Five Book, which help you think about your vision for your future that will make you that happiest version of yourself.
What other inspirNational gift ideas do you have?
Today I woke up to stormy skies, rain trickling down my window, and cool temperatures. My first reaction, especially because it was a Sunday, was disappointment as I felt held back from going outside and exploring Cleveland.
My mindset quickly changed when I received a reminder that my community yoga class at Edgewater Beach was still happening (despite the rain!). I arrived to Edgewater Park and followed a trail of hopeful yogis and their colorful yoga mats walking through the moist sand to a pavilion. I was surprised to find dozens of yogis spread throughout the pavilion, eager to begin practice with the friendly instructor.
The yoga practice was very relaxing and nourishing, with rain sprinkling around me as I overlooked a forest with Lake Erie in the distance. I felt one with nature, appreciating the fresh air, birds chirping, and beautiful green scenery.
Our yoga pavilion. Photo from Yoga for Every BODY, the community yoga organization that provides free outdoor yoga opportunities for Clevelanders.
I was reminded of an important message in life: Don’t let the storms of life hold you back from enjoying your days and pursuing your dreams. This message was further emphasized when I walked back from the class and passed Lake Erie beach again. Scattered throughout the shores were surfers appreciating the rough waters for the thrill of surfing. In their minds, a stormy day is the ideal time to go surfing in Lake Erie, as the waves are large enough to create an exhilarating experience. Whereas most of us would think of a storm as something negative, and interfering with our plans, others view storms as opportunities. The storms in this case demonstrate that the storms of life, or challenges and obstacles, can be turned into something positive. It all depends on our mindset and perception of the storms that come our way.
With this refreshed insight I am challenging myself and inspirNational readers to change our mindset about the storms and challenges that come our way. With each storm, let’s find ways to create our own version of surfing and appreciate each day as it comes!
Check out my #NewEyesTravel feature on Melibee Global!
As I described in my previous post, New Eyes: Travel Changing Perspectives in Seville, Spain, Melibee Global launched a series that encourages us to share how travel has changed our perspectives. Given that the premise of inspirNational is the new mindset we develop from living like a traveler, I was excited to contribute. Every trip and every destination I have visited has contributed to how I view the world. Below is my story on Melibee Global about how yoga has changed my perspective.
While traveling, I have gained a #NewEyesTravel perspective through yoga. I have learned that no matter where we practice yoga in the world, we will experience similar (if not the same) yoga poses. I was comforted by this realization when I took a floating yoga class in Hawaii for the first time on a paddle board. I was also comforted while doing yoga on the rooftop of the Cariari Bed and Breakfast in Costa Rica, which was my first experience taking a yoga class in Spanish. While I was in a completely different country and communicating in my second language, the course provided the same physical and spiritual benefits. Yoga reminds us that we can all be united in spirituality.
Interested in participating in the #NewEyesTravel conversation? As Melibee Global says, “simply share an image on social media and write a few words about how that image of your travels changed your perspective. Please use #NewEyesTravel so that we can find your incredible images and stories!”
Much more than you may think!
As a relatively new yoga practitioner, I have grown to love yoga. Over the past year, I have practiced yoga in more places than I ever would have imagined: a traditional yoga studio (Cleveland Yoga), an old ballroom at the Cleveland House of Blues (East 4th and Yoga), Summer Solstice at Edgewater Beach (ZENworks Yoga), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (BelieveInCLE), an apartment rooftop overlooking Downtown Cleveland and Lake Erie (Harness Cycle and Innerbliss Yoga), a Costa Rican bed and breakfast rooftop (Cariari Bed & Breakfast), and on a paddle board on the Kohala Coast (Fairmont Orchid Hawaii). At each location and with each new instructor, I have learned different yoga poses and inspirational messages, and have appreciated my surroundings from new angles (literally and figuratively). When you think about it, how often do we spend looking at the sky while posing upside down?! Yoga encourages us to do just that!
Paddle Board Yoga on the Kohala Coast, Hawaii
I have always heard about the physical and spiritual benefits of yoga, but it wasn’t until I started practicing regularly that I really understood the benefits. On Friday, my understanding expanded to a whole new level. I attended the MIX at the Cleveland Museum of Art (occurs the “first Friday evening of each month for an ever-changing mix of art, music, and mingling”), which featured Yoga: The Art of Transformation, the world’s first exhibition about yoga’s visual history. This opened my eyes to the incredible history of “yoga’s meaning and transformations over time, including its entry into the global arena; yoga’s goals of spiritual enlightenment, worldly power and health and well-being; and the beauty and profundity of Indian art.” I was fascinated to learn how the practice has transcended continental borders and has been passed on generation after generation, becoming a globally respected form of art and spirituality.
Exploring the exhibit about yoga’s history, I couldn’t help but reflect on the power of yoga and all I have learned by practicing yoga over the past year. Besides yoga’s more obvious benefits of increased flexibility, core strength, and meditation, I have found there to be three key lessons. Yoga teaches us:
- Mindfulness. By practicing yoga, we are better able to understand ourselves and think internally. The meditative breathing and balancing poses encourage us to be aware of our senses and to live in the present. In a world of distractions and constant stimulation from connectivity (cell phones, Internet, social media, etc.), it is easy to forget about ourselves and how we truly feel. Yoga helps us slow down and spend time reflecting on who we are.
- Unity. No matter where we practice yoga in the world, we will experience similar (if not the same) yoga poses. I was comforted by this realization when I took a yoga class in Costa Rica. This was my first experience taking a class in Spanish–and while I was in a completely different country and communicating in my second language, the course provided the same benefits. Yoga reminds us that we can all be united in spirituality
- Empowerment. Yoga reminds us that we are capable of much more than we think, if we just focus and breathe. I have never felt more inspired from yoga until I attended Power Yoga classes at Cleveland Yoga. Yoga balances challenge and relaxation, allowing us to create our own practice and modify poses whenever we would like. Listening to uplifting music, hearing inspiring words from an instructor, and pushing our limits through new poses leaves us feeling empowered after each practice.
With each yoga practice, I leave with a new mindset and more inspiring life lessons. If you haven’t already, I encourage you try to yoga, as you will be able to learn more about yourself and a practice that has inspired others to find peace in their lives for hundreds of years.