I have oodles of stuff. Hand-drawn cards and jewelry and this house (if you count it, which we do, since we didn’t get each other anything else for Christmas this year). But the best gift isn’t stuff. Haven’t you heard? The best things in life are free.

The best thing isn’t even the wonderful people I have in my life. It goes without saying that my children and husband and the rest of my family and friends are all precious to me.

The best gift I have ever received has been given to me hundreds of times over the years. But I was finally ready recently. It is this: “That is not mine.”

During yoga teacher training most moments were ‘blow-your-mind’ ‘ah-hah!’ moments. It was like trying to drink from a fire hydrant. But then they talked about self-criticism, guilt and obligation:

Someone tells me I’m flighty and I agonize about how they see me as one of those unreliable free spirits. I analyze my behavior, wondering if I seem too spacey or detached.

I miss a play date or a birthday because one of those inevitable last-minute things get in the way. I feel tremendously guilty, I said I would be there, they may have counted on me. They feel put out or annoyed that I missed the event.

Someone asks for my help and I know to say yes would be taking on too much. By I can’t help but feel I have to say yes. They must be asking because they really need the help…

The way others feel, or we assume they feel, is not ours. It’s not mine to carry around and obsess over throughout my day. When I start to worry about something I can’t control I stop put my hands up, palm face out in front of my chest and push gently away saying “That is not mine.” At first it was awkward, and it didn’t seem to work. It certainly wasn’t instantly curing me of my worries. But if I was really frustrated or worked up being able to physically push away at the things bothering me felt maybe, almost, empowering.

I stuck with it and slowly the realization that “that is not mine” would come faster. The need to literally push away disappeared and eventually the worry whittled away.

Even when my children are acting like little sociopaths or daredevils in public (which is always the true test of calm and sanity) I am sometimes (it’s harder when it’s about my kids) able to breathe and say, “It’s not mine to worry that other adults in this grocery store think my children are rude or I’m overwhelmed”. Sometimes both are true, sometimes neither.

So the next time your brain starts to go “oh…my…God…” do my homework with me: take a breath and say “Nope, I’m good here. That is not mine.”