Loving Your Family Through The Holidays (Even If They Don't Recycle)
Ah, the holidays. Another year where you travel great distances to be with your family. Another year where, after arriving there, you may wonder if you come from a different planet than them. How can you be so different, one asks oneself? Many living a life full of yoga find themselves living an entirely different lifestyle than the clan from which they belong, replete with local organic food and energy efficient light bulbs. For me, I'm almost spoiled in my green lifestyle opportunities--I have curbside compost, live within a mile of two huge organic grocery stores, have five farmer's markets a week at my disposal, and the local biodiesel station is conveniently located in my neighborhood where I can fuel up with ease.
Don't all families live this way?
So you can imagine the challenge of then leaving my little bubble and traveling across country and getting together with family who don't do yoga and barely know what composting is. Oh sure, my family has come a long way over the years and my mother is willing to drive to another state ensure the fridge is stocked with organic food and the tea I like (she's the best). Society in general has come a long way as well, and hopefully it has trickled down into your family, so that you understand how you may be related.
So if you are someone who struggles at the lack of green in your extended family, turning your holiday get-together into an anxiety attack, perhaps remembering a few yogic lessons can help you practice compassion and, dare I say, enjoy yourself:
Breathe. Take a moment to center and remember that ultimately, you love these people. And they love you back.
Gratitude. Remember first and foremost, if you are with family, that you are lucky to have such a thing. Many folks don't have the luxury of relatives to gather with, so take a minute to acknowledge that gift. Then, be grateful for the choices and opportunities you have had that have allowed you to learn about your conscious lifestyle, and that you have a community of people that have help you cultivate it. Even be grateful for any flagrant unconscious acts (OMG, styrofoam cups at dinner??), for it is a great reminder of why the mindful steps you labor to take in your life are so important.
Practice Non-Judgment. Take a moment to consider that your family may not have had the same experiences or opportunities. They may be busy practicing what their belief of living a good and righteous life is, even if it isn't what you think it should be. And many folks don't have access to certain things like organic food or even recycling. As I said, I have curbside compost --I simply put a green bin out with my food scraps and each week it's whisked away for me. My family's jaw drops when hearing about such a thing, and composting without this luxury does require not only work, but a bit of a learning curve.
Teach by Example (and keep it positive). Let's face it, no one likes to be preached to, or told they are wrong. If there's something you'd like to see your family practicing, encourage them by practicing it yourself. Perhaps help them set up a system of recycling, or bring a reusable option to the dinner table if they like disposables. Maybe bring something delicious and organic (dispelling the myth that organic and healthy foods are not tasty), or help them start a compost pile in their yard. Ultimately, show them that living this way is a life enhancement--many believe that making green choices requires sacrifice. If they are shown that it contributes to quality of life, who knows what choices they'll begin to make.
Stephanie Bernstein is the Founder and CEO of To-Go Ware. She has been practicing and teaching yoga for 12 years and currently resides in Oakland, CA.