I inadvertently summed up the mission behind much of my yoga teaching in passing earlier this week, in the middle of a conversation that had nothing (but apparently everything) to do with yoga. I was discussing some parenting decisions with a friend – rationalizing and rethinking, and I found myself saying, “I don’t want to spend my time and energy trying to create situations and circumstances that make things easy for my children. I want them to have the skills and resources to find a sense of ease regardless of the circumstances.”
Let me be clear that I have no intention of putting either kid through a “Boy Named Sue”-style childhood experience, but so much parenting these days is about making everything as perfect as possible for our children, and I don’t think that it really serves them. Love, support and guidance are all essential to a child’s growth and development, but the longer it takes someone to realize that the universe doesn’t organize itself around their desires, the more painful that lesson tends to be.
I’ve taught yoga for over 11 years now, and I often encourage students to notice their responses to the discomfort in a pose, the awkwardness, the wobbles in transition and the falls and fails. I believe this to be so much more important than the poses themselves: how do we respond when things seem less than ideal? When our sense of identity and value is attached to some set of external circumstances, when we only feel okay when the situation we find ourselves in aligns with the way we think things should be, then we hand over our power, making internal space to fertilize a breeding ground for frustration and disappointment.
Yoga teachers often remind their students that we need to practice the poses we are averse to, those that we’d rather pretend aren’t there. We remind our students this because we need to hear it ourselves. As teachers we are exponentially more likely than the average yogi to become attached to “our way” of doing things. It’s easy to feel that things “should be” this way or that, especially in our heavily edited yoga lives.
I believe that while the universe doesn’t organize itself around our desires, it manifests magical moments to remind us that it will save us from our own well intentioned but misdirected navigation. The longer I live the more I understand how every mistake was a masterful move. As I lost my focus and grip in the stumbling and fumbling, through that softness and spinning the universe is able to nudge me back into alignment with myself, my dharma, maybe even my destiny (if such a thing exists). So many simple quotes point us in the direction of internal alignment and trust: “it’s happening FOR you not TO you,” and “you are the perfect person for the situation you find yourself in.” It can be easy to question in these “WTF”, “why me” moments, but that’s always just an opportunity to remember where and how we grow.
When my kids are unhappy with me because they feel I’m standing in the way of their wants, I always say, “When it’s possible, I’m happy to do what I can to make you happy. But my first responsibility is what?” And they know the answer: to keep you healthy and safe. The universe wants us to be whole and healthy and breathing and heart-beating in rhythm and harmony with the world around us. I think it keeps trying to encourage us to remember that everything we’ve ever looked around for is hidden in plain sight, right under our noses. Align with what’s within and you’ll never be without. I’ll be forgetting that sometime soon I’m sure, so thanks in advance for the reminder. Namaste.