We hold onto things for dear life.
And there is something super healing about letting that be okay. I believe that half the reason we hold onto things is because others don’t want us to.
Our things serve us in some way. Or they have served us in some way, and these things have now become a part of who we are. I mean, what would happen to us if we let go?
When others won’t accept, even when they mean well, even when they are only trying to save us from ourselves, when they think moving us would better serve us and make us a better person, it’s feels like they are not accepting us as we currently are. This acceptance is very important to us, because it makes us feel safe.
My daughter worries a lot about her academic and extra-curricular portfolio and getting into college. If I tell her not to worry, she doesn’t say, “Mom, thank you, now I won’t worry.” But we say stuff like that all the time, as if that is exactly what they will say. In fact, she worries even more. When I see how much she cares about doing well; when I see how much her desire for excellence is built into her sense of self, I share in her concern. I don’t worry with her. I just understand that she is in pain and I sit in that space with her without trying to fix it. Only when invited, I will brainstorm with her ideas and options without getting attached to any outcome and with honest respect for the process she is going through as a human being. With moral support on her side and nothing else to fight, she, herself, finds the balance she needs. Sometimes almost immediately.
When I was her age, I struggled with eating disorders. I eventually stopped, only to start back up again in my late twenties. After a few bouts, I told my doctor several times over two one hour sessions, and he did not respond to it. Why wasn’t he? Finally, I decided to get to the bottom of it with him. I said, “Look, I’m throwing up again.”
I mean, perhaps I expected him to tell me the harm I was doing to my body (which I already knew) and to tell me to stop. Isn’t that what any good doctor would do?
Sometimes we just need to purge. In fact, purging is a part of some detox programs. It sounds like… you just need to purge.
Took me completely off guard.
I threw up one more time after that. Then I let it go.
I agreed to go to a yoga class with my sister back in 1999 because, to be honest, I knew Madonna was into it. I liked what she represented to me- an unapologetic woman who owned who she was and transcended her own brand. She reinvented herself over and over again without fear of losing her fanbase.
The moment I stepped into class, however, she no longer held the reason for being there. The teacher did. He introduced me to my body in a way that I, a workout rat who once chiseled down to 14% body fat, never understood. He also introduced me to questions that I never delved into.
The teacher then no longer became the reason. I became the reason.
Unbelievably, this attention to my body and my thoughts expanded my perspective beyond the smallness of my life and into the vastness of my life. It was minutiae and greatness at once. This experience was awesome and challenging at the same time. It changed how I related to the conversations I had with myself and with others. It was a prompt to find new support systems. It became a journey of new friendships and mourning the loss of past ones, which felt both like a relief and tragic at the same time. This didn’t happen overnight as personal growth doesn’t happen overnight. Looking back, I was transcending my own “brand”.
My reason no longer became about me. It became about my practice.
What a relief! No longer fully run by my neurosis, I had a new boss: my discipline. For many years, I kept up. Being more in tune with my body, I ate meals made predominantly from my own hands, and I became protective of my mind and body against the many forms of external input that can be consumed in a normal day. I was by now fully aware of how they impacted my will, health and acuity. To list a few: news, certain movies and books, gossip and certain types of conversation, certain foods, certain people, certain venues. I must have been successful at this: random people came up to me to say I exuded peace; that they wanted some of that.
Over time though, I started to feel insulated.
My practice became about integration with the world…
…which is stressful as all hell. I understand why some spiritual seekers and practitioners choose to move into ashrams… less conflicts to manage (in theory). But it wasn’t for me. Integration feels sort of like getting sober and then deciding to go back to the drinking world and trying to figure out how to honor the new me as well as the world in which I am participating. It is not easy. I can’t judge; I remember those days fondly, all the while remembering how much better I feel now, and I tell myself, it’s okay if I “take a sip” here and there…
Starting a business in this context is code for raising the stakes, and no turning back. No indulging the temptation to hide out in practice. While it can be stressful, and while I no longer exude peace (because I’m pretty sure I look tired.. because I often am), the underlying trust and feeling of peace still resides in me. My yoga and meditation practice is now happening in my day. Yes, I still practice on the mat daily; it carries me. My practice continues on all day though, as I learn to integrate my practice into my daily life of responsibility and relationships.
My dance with duality.
What a dance! It’s a long one too. I love it though. I think mainly because I have the tools to navigate the rough terrain. My body, who is now well versed in practice, screams out what it needs to do, and all I need to do is listen. I understand that this journey is Life. I understand that the rest of my day is one big meditation practice: where I manage expectations and meet agitation, where my mind sometimes works against me, where I remind myself to breath fully and completely, where I sometimes lose focus and wander, where I learn to hold concentration, where I let go of self judgment, where I pay attention to what is happening now, and where sometimes things really flow. And when I work through all that, the results are astounding.
Our children are like sponges. They soak in everything around them. It’s scary sometimes. They reflect back what undeniably came from us, and we are not so proud of it. At other times, we are relieved to know that we got something right. Or maybe we are outright patting ourselves on the back!
Children, in theory, do not need to learn meditation. They are present and fully engaged. That’s how they are so spontaneously smart, witty and able to find the loop-holes and dance circles around their adult counterparts. They give their full attention to what is in front of them. They are unlimited and resourceful, and, until they are taught otherwise, all things are possible. They are truly a reminder of how we can be.
We, on the other hand, have a lot on our minds. We worry. We process. We spend a lot of our creative energy on imagining all of the things that can go wrong than on enjoying the present moment and allowing ourselves to build on the perfection of it.
We are overwhelmed and distracted by the many different directions from which we are pulled. We do the best we can to manage our emotions and the physical tension that comes with it, and often our efforts fall short.
And like a sponge, our children absorb. They absorb our energy.
If we don’t know how to manage the overwhelm that we are experiencing; if we are stressed out, frustrated and anxious, how can we expect our children to know what to do with that energy that they so readily absorb into their little bodies? How can we expect them to “calm down, sit still and behave?”
Once they become of school age, they absorb additional energies from the teachers and staff. It is common knowledge how overworked, stressed and under-nourished our teachers are; they have put everyone else first. Add to that the pressures of homework, different learning styles, disciplinary actions in the classrooms and the peer experience. They get a daily cocktail of frazzled and ungrounded energy which works against the child’s ability to stay present, grounded and connected to his calm, his inner voice and highest Self. Cooperation and creative inquiry can become a pipe dream.
Meditation is a powerful tool that helps to elevate sense of self, increase calm, clarity and focus and better manage emotional disarray. With regular practice, it becomes a transformative tool that reaches beyond overcoming the next emotional crisis and into a re-creation of one’s total life experience built on purpose and alignment of one’s true essence.
A child can learn to meditate on his own at the age of 7, when she is more naturally and developmentally ready to take a journey into her intellect; as she shifts mentally from wants to shoulds. With an abundance of unbalanced, competitive energy out there that works to degrade an individual’s self-esteem, meditation is a powerful anecdote that, once learned, is easily accessible anywhere. No mats, instruments or special tools necessary.
Prior to that age, a child learns through imitation. A parent can show by example. Meditation benefits the parent(s)! And thereby benefits the child who now has access to calm, grounded and purposeful energy to absorb and imitate. While you meditate, they may sit next to you, or on you, to copy what you do. This is your opportunity to count your lucky stars, take this as a gift, not an intrusion, nor an opportunity to stop meditating and teach your child how to “do it right.” Just to allow the sponging to happen.
Sacred Playground: Meditation for Children ages 7-14
Yoga & Meditation for adults: see class schedule.
Kundalini Yoga Quotes:
“I’d never felt anything like it; it was just an opening of energy and a feeling of such liberation.” -Marika Bethel, owner, Glowing House