Kendra Thornton Guest Post

Yoga enthusiast Kendra Thornton has requested to post as a guest on my blog, on the theme of Thanksgiving. I am actually located in Canada and Thanksgiving is past, but it is still a theme that is current at any time, and of course in Canada we can relate to her discussion of pilgrims facing hard times, where part of that had to do, also in Nova Scotia, with pilgrims swallowing their pride and asking for help from the natives—that they provided that help is something to be grateful for.

Recently a friend of mine posted a link on Facebook, to a video by the head of the Halifax (and of the Shambhala international) Buddhist community, Sakyong Mipham, son of its founder, Chogyam Trungpa. The brief talk also addresses ‘Thanksgiving’/appreciation. I find it to be an unusually pithy and gentle presentation of Buddhism in keeping with that sense of gratitude or appreciation, by someone who understands the western mind from having grown up in the west, and yet who is thoroughly educated in the Tibetan Buddhist ways, so I am including the link here, after which Kendra’s article follows: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VnzAUZM8w-o

Prayer Hands

Life Lessons from the Pilgrims and Yoga

Every year, I look forward to Thanksgiving because this holiday represents all of the ideas that I hold close to my heart. While everyone begins to think about giving back to others while being thankful for what they have, I always think of how much my family and friends play a role in my health and happiness. Yoga also contributes to my well-being, and that is why these two things are so connected in my thoughts this time of year.

While Thanksgiving is a time for bringing together the community and a sense of sharing, yoga is also about finding greater awareness within the body while appreciating one’s self. For this reason, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what I have learned from both yoga and the Pilgrims.

1. Maintaining Strength in Your Faith: When the Pilgrims came to America, they left everything behind so they could establish and enjoy the freedom to practice their religious beliefs. When I practice yoga, I also am reminded of my ability to stay strong and true to myself. Life can get hectic as a busy mom of three kids; however, all of the stress melts away when I stay strong in my faith and find myself while practicing yoga.

2. Be Willing to Travel to Find Freedom: The Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower with uncertainty regarding what events the rest of their voyage may bring. However, 102 passengers were willing to take a chance of choppy waters just for the chance to enjoy freedom. During my former career with Orbitz, I have always enjoyed traveling. I also learned that no matter where I stay, I could take my yoga practice with me as well. Once while I was in Orlando, I was able to join the hotel’s complimentary yoga class that took place on their rooftop at sunrise – it was incredible!

3. Conquer Fear: The Pilgrim’s first winter here was devastating. With harsh cold and little food and water, many of the first explorers succumbed to death and illness. Yoga is all about-facing your challenges head-on. When I first started yoga, I had my own fears regarding my ability to learn new poses because I was afraid of injuries. Learning how to listen to my body and trust my abilities through practice has led to much personal growth.

4. Learning through Community: Upon setting up their colony, it was the natives who first taught the Pilgrims how to survive in the new land by catching fish, planting crops and hunting for animals such as beaver so they could have enough to eat. I love my yoga classes where I can learn from other people who also recognize the importance of yoga for gaining peace and self-understanding. Every time I attend a class, I learn something new that I can share with others.

5. Thankfulness: In 1621, the Pilgrims sat down with the Pokanokets to express gratitude for survival during the first Thanksgiving dinner. The lessons in gratitude I learn are not left behind on the mat after class. Instead, I carry thoughts of gratitude with me as I interact with my family and friends. For me, Thanksgiving is an opportunity to celebrate the feelings of thankfulness and community that I enjoy all year through my yoga practice.
What special feelings do you have about Thanksgiving and yoga?

Kendra Thornton

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