Yes, Garrison Keillor, every child IS above average -- but no child, no teenager, no adult is going to be above average in all areas and I think it's important that we help each other to find where each of our lights can shine most brightly. What lights you up? What lights your child up? Do that!!
The Sanskrit word "Aparigraha" is often translated to mean "non-possessiveness" or "non-grasping". I generally tend to think about applying this concept when I really WANT something and I just need to chill out a bit, but lately I've been thinking about how this tool has served me when it comes to my attachment to certain IDEAS.
When I was young I was consumed (i.e., grasping, big time) with figuring out “who I was” and what was “right” and what was “wrong” – once I had all of those answers nailed down I thought I’d be able to get down to the business of living in perpetual bliss and self-satisfaction (and, of course, fixing all that was wrong with all the other people, places and things in the world!) But the reality for me is that my ideas are continuously changing as my perspective changes and my experience broadens.
It’s good for me to have beliefs and convictions and to act from a place of wanting to be a continual positive force in the world, but it is also good for me to hold onto those beliefs and convictions somewhat loosely to allow space for new ideas to present themselves. To allow for the possibility that what I believe strongly today may not be what I believe strongly tomorrow. This for me has been the difference between living my life fully and openheartedly versus building walls around myself in order to ensure that nothing tries to chisel away at the beliefs and ideas that I think are absolutely right and inarguable. Practicing Aparigraha in this way helps me to feel more at ease in the world and with the people around me who are also living their best lives given their current background of experiences and perspectives.
It always comes down to balance, right? The balance between embracing my beliefs and living and acting in accordance with them but also allowing room for "who I am" to change and evolve. And as always, we can find lots of philosophical answers in the words of 1980's pop songs -- I'll leave you today with these words from .38 Special:
Hold on loosely, but don't let go -- if you cling too tightly, you're gonna lose control.
Peace and love,
In this Sunday's Kids Yoga class we are reading "Howard B. Wigglebottom Listens to His Heart". Howard has learned in earlier books the importance of listening to parents and teachers, but this book focuses on the importance of being our authentic awesome selves (whether anyone thinks it's "cool" or not!)
I'm not sure there has EVER been a time in my life when anyone would have called me "cool", but there were certainly times when it was all I could think about! Before yoga (which I came to in my 30s), I thought the only time I could really be myself was when I was alone -- otherwise people would certainly be horrified by what they saw. And THEN what would happen?? I don't think I ever thought it through that far, but certainly something catastrophic.
And how was that working out for me?? Of course, I wound up feeling alone ALL the time since I never felt like the person I presented in public was really me.
Satya is the Sanskrit word for the yogic principle of "truthfulness". This principle tells me that the more my thoughts and actions come from a place of truth and authenticity, rather than fear of what people will think, the more at peace I will be in my own body and in this world. And the more FUN life is!
Kids get this! It's my belief and hope that the more they are taught to consciously embrace and nurture this natural propensity, the more likely they are to grow into teens and adults who value themselves and can also value others who are being their own authentic selves.
“Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.”
-- Carl Jung
With so many expectations felt by parents these days -- some external, many internal -- there is always a temptation to think that anything we do that is not blatantly child-centered can be categorized as bad or neglectful parenting. What the quote above says to me is that even as I balance life as a wife, mother, employee, community member, etc. it is my responsibility to continue to be true to myself and to grow and evolve as my own path leads me. To find things that "light me up" so that I have energy, love and light to bring to all of my other life roles.
The quote also tells me that it is my responsibility to experience life as it comes. Even as I try to teach my child the value of mindfulness, it is sometimes my tendency to want to bat away feelings that don't feel particularly convenient to me at any given point in time. If I feel sad, or mad, or frustrated about something, it is my responsibility to allow myself the awareness of the feeling and to accept it as reality so that I can make a mindful choice about how to act or not act (I've heard this described as practicing the Three A's: Awareness, Acceptance, and Action). I can only choose to take deep breaths, or go for a walk, or call a friend, or hug my child if I'm aware that there is something going on that could benefit from a conscious response on my part (rather than an unconscious reaction). The power of the pause.
New Year's resolutions aren't really my thing but I was reminded in a conversation with a friend yesterday of a conscious commitment I made over the summer toward "Openheartedness". As I walked and meditated this morning, I felt like starting this blog (that I've been THINKING about doing for awhile) might be a good step in this direction -- I have no idea where it will go but I can practice openheartedness just for today but putting my first attempt out there.
Happy new year!
Michele Nettesheim has been teaching “grown-up” yoga since 2003. After the birth of her daughter Ava in 2008, Michele sought training specifically in "Kids Yoga" and teaching mindfulness to children and teens. She has been teaching kids' classes since 2009 and feels blessed to experience the joy and special energy that these young yogis bring to their practice.