When I think of Thanksgiving, I always think of gratitude. I love practicing gratitude everyday. It’s how I make it through the day to day, noticing the little things and feeling that gratitude right in my heart. It helps me smile and make it to the next moment.

More and more, as I think about what I am grateful for, I also couple it with a little bit of hope. Being thankful for the present and hopeful for the future. If I feel like things will work out, then I tend to take the steps I need to make it happen. Even just a little HOPE goes a long way. Hope is what has lead me here, writing to you. I hope that I am having a positive impact on your life and helping to show you tools to help you through your day.

Yesterday, I took a walk with my son, Spencer. He’s 6 (he’ll be 7 in just over one month). We often take neighborhood walks to get exercise and fresh air. Usually, he chooses to ride his bike or scooter, and I walk/jog to keep up. But, yesterday he wanted to walk with me. The pace was slower. We didn’t rush. He picked up leaves and showed me the little differences in each one – one was a maple leaf (his favorite), one had changed from green to yellow, one was orange, one was dry and a bit crinkly – they were all essential additions to his leaf collection. We observed the trees we passed, stopping to notice the texture of their bark and if the trees seemed “happy.” We breathed the air with our masks on and looked up at the sky, noticing patches of clouds in the blue sky, and from which direction the sun was shining. We saw butterflies flying around, one small and white, and another larger and orange with dots on its wings. We noticed flowers of many colors and plants with different shapes of leaves… and resisted the temptation to pick them (it was hard!).

It was a peaceful walk, with good conversation, and when we were home again, we were both smiling. I had a calm and happy feeling inside, having experienced the little bits of nature that surround me in my neighborhood, and having shared the experience with my son. I was grateful that we slowed down to take it all in, finding magic in the little details.

During the time that I was walking with Spencer, I didn’t think about all the things that I had to do when I got home, the work I still had to tackle, or thoughts about how things are so different this year in the pandemic. Those things were set aside to enjoy the experience of being in nature with my kid.

It is wonderful to me that I could find so much happiness and peace in my own neighborhood. It also makes sense, scientifically speaking. I recently came upon a study in the journal Nature from June 2019 that found that spending time in nature is associated with good health and well-being. It is good not only for the health of the body, but also for the mind. Being in nature helps reduce the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. People in the study found that they were experiencing less stress and anxiety and felt more calm, balanced, and connected to the world around them.

This led me to think about my yoga practice. How, when I notice my breath and observe the feelings in my body, I feel more calm, balanced, and connected. I thought about how this practice of simply walking outside and noticing nature brought my yoga practice into my life off of my mat. I am so grateful to be able to take that with me. Especially, at a time when the holidays are coming and I am yearning for connection.

Many of you are choosing, like me, to stay home for the holidays. We will have to find new ways to make connections with each other and those that we love, especially as Covid-19 rates rise again. I am looking forward to my family Zoom on Thanksgiving where I’ll be able to see my mom, even if I won’t be able to hug her. I know that I’m keeping her safe. But, I’m also planning on taking a walk in my neighborhood, connecting with nature, my community, and the little bit of the world that surrounds me. I’ll take my favorite 6 year old sidekick with me so that I am certain to stop and truly take in all the little details.

For this I am grateful. It also gives me hope that this year, the holidays will be just as connected and meaningful, but just in a different way. Maybe a little bit of nature can help you soothe yourself during this Thanksgiving week. Take a moment to breathe, pause, and find your own sense of well-being and connection.

And for your Wednesday, your Thanksgiving, your week, your holidays, I wish for you this mantra of loving-kindness:

May you be happy.

May you be healthy.

May you be safe.

May you live with ease.

May you have peace within,

Julia anjali mudra hands

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