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Doing the Splits (and Other Ways to Grow)

The other day, I did full splits in yoga class. My outfit wasn’t as snazzy as the woman’s in the picture above and I didn’t have the benefit of a pagoda to pose on but….I felt like that picture. Yes. Yoga is all kinds of awesome.

However, this particular brand of awesome came as a complete surprise. It wasn’t like I thought I’d never do full splits. The idea simply never occurred to me. In hindsight, however, I’ve been preparing for them for over six months – I just didn’t realize they were right around the corner.

I‘ve been doing deep stretches for quite a while. These are the same poses that, when I first started yoga, made my mental demons rage. I don’t know if this happens to everyone, but the intense physical discomfort seemed to trigger some sort of fight or flight response in me. It took everything in my power to stay on my mat and in the poses. Often every part of me wanted to quit except a brave voice inside that said “you can do this.” I don’t know where that voice came from because in the past it always tried to get me to go eat some ice cream and run away from scary things. But every time I showed up on my mat, the brave voice got a little braver and the crowd of scared voices seemed to thin. 

Can I tell you a secret? The poses still feel really uncomfortable, but I have a smile on my face while I do them. I’ve talked about thresholds before. But I love how yoga pushes not only my physical boundaries, but my emotional and mental ones, too. It allows me to “stretch” in all areas of my life. It reminds me of how life works, how you don’t even realize you’re setting yourself up for a breakthrough, building the stamina or insight or sheer strength to push forward towards the next Big Thing. Until you’ve done it. 

Then you find the next threshold. 

That’s the most important thing I’ve learned in all of this: there are always new ways to grow and learn and love the world. The minute you say “I can’t go any further,” you can’t. But when you say, “this is difficult and confusing and I’m not going to run away,” you will surprise yourself at how far you can grow.

You’ll be doing something you never even thought was possible, caught up in all kinds of awesome.

Namaste

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personal growth

What The Children Have Taught Me

It might sound strange, but as a teacher I’ve “learned” more than I’ve “taught.” The children at my preschool have taught me about respect and curiosity and beauty. They’ve shown me how to love big and embrace each day for its own sake. They instruct, through their very essence, the inexplicable dance of being vulnerable and strong all at the same time. These are just a few of the things I’ve learned from the children. But there is one lesson I want to share in depth, because it has changed my life.

It’s called: Use your words. We ask children to “use their words” all the time, as if it’s the easiest thing in the world. Their problems seem so simple to us: Who had the spoon first? Who gets to be which character in the game? What game are we going to play? As adults we think “How simple. I wish my problems were this easy.” We wonder what the hair pulling, name calling, and pushing people out of line is all about and how long it will be until they grow out of it.

The formula for “using your words” at our school is pretty straightforward:
1.Each person gets a chance to say what they want.
2.Each person gets to say how they’re feeling about the situation.
3.Everyone involved works together to find a resolution to which they can all agree.

I wish I could tell you that once I learned how to help children resolve their arguments, I immediately saw how applicable the system was to my own life. That would have been the adult thing to do. I’m sorry to tell you that it took many years of encouraging children to “use their words” before I found the courage to use my own. The awareness took me by surprise, one day, when I felt upset with another adult in my life. My mind started spinning about how wrong they were and it began scheming ways to make sure the other person knew how upset I was without, you know, actually having to tell them how upset I was.

Then, an idea hit me like a hula hoop hurtling back to earth: “What if I just tell them what I’m upset about?” On the surface it sounds good. It makes perfect sense. But pretty soon another voice sprang to mind, warning against those words I wanted to use: What if I say what I think and the other person thinks I’m stupid? What if I tell them how I’m feeling and they get angry? The “what ifs” of fear spiraled toward the horizon and I suddenly realized how hard “using your words” actually is in practice. Telling your truth can be terrifying, especially when it causes you to disagree with other people. How many of us try to “suck it up” or keep to ourselves just to make our lives easier? How often do you tell the truth about little things, but hide the things that are really bothering you behind a wall? Do you ever hide those truths from yourself?

It’s not so simple at all. Once I started “using my words” as a practice, not just as a teacher but also as a mother and partner and daughter and friend, I found a new kind of courage. I saw the beauty of people speaking from their unique place. I understood the importance of each person becoming vulnerable enough to reveal their truth so we could all be a little stronger together.

Whenever possible, (i.e. when I find my courage instead of fear) I use my words now. But I’ll never again think “using your words” is a simple activity. It is brave. It is important. And every day I see a child practicing, a little person who just found words a year ago and is already speaking their truth, I grow a little along with them.

And I would like to say “Thank you”.

(This post was excerpted from an article written for the Open Door School newsletter “Open Doorways.”)

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birds

What The Owls Talk About When You’re Talking To Owls

The owls came again last night, talking. Do you want to hear about it? You’ll say yes, but truly, you wish they were talking to you instead of me. I’m here to tell you, dear friend, that they were. Did you hear them?

How do you talk to owls” is a fine question to ask at the start. How don’t you? Find those places, all those civilized bits, and push them as far away as you can, to the periphery of yourself. Only let the wild you free, to roam, to listen. Wild speaks to wild and when you find that part of yourself that understands the birds and the trees and the things that go bump in the night…..then you will hear the message and you will never unhear it again.

You are one of us.

You are wild of us.

You are bigger and smaller than you ever imagined.

They will guide you home.

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