What really hooked me into yoga when I started was the overwhelming realization that how I felt mattered. It mattered that I was kind of exhausted and felt that off-pitch hum of anxiety in my belly and my ears, all the time. It mattered how I slept and was digesting food, just because. It didn’t matter so that I could be a better pastor (which I was at the time of this revelation), a more productive human, or to negotiate myself along whatever path I hoped I was moving. It mattered because I mattered; that’s it & that’s enough. There didn’t have to be any other reasons.
My parents were and are exceptionally loving & expressive of their love. I have been shown & told that I am loved in countless ways by my family and friends throughout my life. When I had this surprising realization of my own worth I was not lacking in self-confidence nor external affirmation of being a fine human who was loved, liked, and appreciated. AND YET…I somehow missed the memo-to-self that how I felt in mind-body-spirit mattered, in and of itself, and not only as it impacted my ability to serve others.
The obvious consequence of this awareness was that I realized that I did not feel well at all. I had no idea how crappy and depressed I felt until I started doing yoga. How’s that for a selling point? Do Yoga; you have no idea how crappy you feel until you try it. But it was yoga where I learned how to actually soften, shift, breathe, rest, move, reach, expand, and exhale. I figured out what healing, growth, grace, and new life felt like in my body (first) and then my brain was able to recognize it and make language to what I was feeling. I realized how crappy I was feeling because I felt so distinctly different (grounded, lighter, stable, flexible, softer, stronger, etc…) after a yoga class.
Last weekend I had the wonderful fortune of experiencing the Well-Bean Kids Yoga & Mindfulness Teacher Training, in Rockford, MI. I learned LOTS. Over & over I was reminded of the importance of supporting children (and other growing adults) in paying attention to how they feel; not because anything is “wrong” with how they feel, but because how they feel matters.
I had immediate opportunity to practice what I learned as I picked up my kindergartner & 2nd grade daughters from school the day I arrived home. As we were walking home my kindergartner (M) shared, with slumped shoulders and head hung, that a boy in her class had punched her in her “private parts” while they were waiting in line for lunch. When I asked if she told the teacher she said, “no, because I don’t want him to get even more mad at me”. Yes, my heart simultaneously sank and jumped out of my limbs as I wanted to shake her & say YOU DID NOTHING WRONG. He didn’t punch you because he is mad at you. What he did was Not Ok, and someone must be hurting him & doing horrible violence in front of him for him to act out like this in kindergarten! I didn’t say all that. But, we did talk a little more about what happened and how she felt. And then we arrived home, had a snack, and the two girls went upstairs to play.
In a little while I heard my kindergartner yell some uncharacteristically mean things and also heard the after-effect of her pushing her sister. My older daughter came crying down the stairs, repeating the horrible thing said & done to her. And at the top of the stairs was M with her head hung low & shoulders slumped. She slowly walked downstairs and said “Mommy, my body feels so full of mean words”. ugh. That makes total sense. Someone was mean to you and now you feel so full of mean words that you want to get them out of your body.
So, we laid on the floor and did some of partner yoga poses I had just learned to help kids (and myself) breathe, calm down, and shift some of those big feelings. Lying on our backs with our legs resting on the couch we talked about the text I would write to her teacher, letting her know what happened because it mattered how M felt. And we talked about it mattering that someone connect with this little boy who is obviously feeling so full of mean things.
The Meditation Mantra of the Month is the Loving Kindness Meditation. I use the version from the Prison Yoga Project practice book I have (and recommend to everyone). It goes like this; May you be filled with loving kindness. May you be healthy in mind, body, spirit. May you be peaceful and at ease. May you be truly happy and free.
The first phrase of this meditation became visceral — a physical sensation – for my not even 6 year old daughter this week. She knew in her body what it felt like to be full of mean words. And if we can feel full of mean, we can also FEEL full of loving-kindness.
What does it FEEL like to be filled with loving kindness? I imagine a pitcher full of loving kindness being poured into me. Just to say, if we start to become more aware of that sensation, the natural consequence might be that we become aware of some other feelings too, like disappointment, resentment, or grief. I’m not suggesting we become more of our feelings because there is something “wrong” or to be fixed, but because it matters how we feel. It matters how you feel, no matter what.
May you be filled with loving kindness & peace right on your head.