The indigenous people of Norway, Sweden, Finland and Russia – the Sami – possess approximately 180 different words for ice and snow. This is not surprising being a culture steeped in winter weather with peoples’ livelihoods and pastimes built around trapping, hunting, and fishing. It makes sense that they would have different words for new snow (“vahca”), fresh powder snow (“habllek”) and the icy shell that forms on snow (“tjarvva”). Having so many words to describe something displays a more intimate knowing of that object.
As I mature, the more I realize the value of “holding lightly.” Different from “letting go,” which indicates an effort or an action that often requires more energy than I can muster; holding lightly allows me to simply open my hand (or my heart, or my mind). This tender action creates room for possibility rather than the vacuum often created by pushing something aside.
It’s no mystery that I, a massage therapist and yoga teacher, think that the best gift you can give during a time of unparalleled stress and unpleasant surprises is a gift certificate for massage or yoga classes. But even if I wasn’t in the business of helping people calm down and recenter, I would still encourage everyone I know to find ways to get away from lining their homes with more things (or toilet paper) they don’t need in the name of the holiday spirit. I intentionally saved this last yama, or yogic moral tenet for how to treat ourselves with respect, for last because I wanted to talk about it during peak consumption season- the holidays.
The crown jewel of the yamas, or moral tenets of yogic philosophy, is that of ahimsa, or non-violence. All other yamas and niyamas find their roots in the soil of ahimsa, since nonviolence informs the ways in which those guidelines manifest. For example, satya, or truth-telling, could easily become a way to kick people when they are down if not applied with a heavy dose of ahimsa through consideration of timing, and whether or not your truthful words need to be said aloud at all.
In my late-night stumblings around the internet, I came across a short documentary about the men who have been to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. For the uninitiated, the Mariana Trench is the deepest point of the ocean- sitting at over 11000 feet deep. To give you an idea of just how deep that is, if Mount Everest was placed at the bottom of the Mariana, the very peak of the mountain would still be submerged by over 2 kilometers of water.