Our adventure in self-study through reading Judith Lasater’s Living Your Yoga continues. How is reading going for you? What are you asking yourself? Finding any surprising answers?
If you’re not reading the book but just checking in with the blog….. perfect. That’s what this blog series is for. This effort is less about the book more about asking ourselves questions about what irks us and how can we limit those small and big irritations.
The first part of the book was about awareness within and addresses themes of discipline, letting go, faith, perspective and more. Part two is about how yoga helps with our relationships with others and the world. Judith Lasater talks about compassion, control, fear, and patience. One of the reasons I love her book is her constant reference to motherhood and stories related to her children. Using yoga principles to guide our role as moms, for me really resonates.
As a parent, I have often wrestled with what it means to be compassionate toward my children…………..I have learned that the most compassionate response I can have is to be willing not to judge their behavior, but to try to see the situation from their point of view. This does not mean that I forfeit my opinion on the most effective course of action they might choose. Rather I have the intention to truly feel the situation from their narrow views, thus stepping back from my own narrow views.
What! Not judge the behavior of my children! Isn’t that my job? My interpretation of what she is saying is this: really listen to what they are saying, repeat back to make sure I understand their perspective, “so you are saying that you really need to go the party because all your other friends will be there and your the acceptance of your friends is very important to you”….or something like that and then I offer my opinion about why that request or feeling has multiple considerations attached like, “Did you do your homework?” “Do you need a ride”, “is it on a school night?” and maybe “why is the acceptance of this group of friends so important”, etc. Compassion may not alter my expectations as a mom, but it can help me see the issue from my kid’s perspective. I’ll try.
Do you judge yourself if a yoga pose doesn’t look “perfect”? Can I be compassionate with my own body and its abilities? Allow my left knee to crunch without judgment?
Who among us hasn’t been accused of being controlling, particularly when it comes to our kids? Here is Lasater’s advice:
Dr. Rosenberg explained that if you coerce your child into doing something, you will pay a price. For example, even if you could exert enough control to make him take out the garbage, he would make you pay for getting your way…. If we try to control the behavior of others, we may get what we want but we won’t enjoy it. If we have the thought that we are making someone do what we want without eliciting their true cooperation, that control is the greatest of illusions.
What to do if the other’s behavior is self-destructive? If they are not invested in their own well-being, ultimately I, as a mom can’t sustain control over them. That is truly difficult to accept. She later addresses this issue by writing,
But where does letting go of control end and taking responsibility for my life begin? We must understand (and accept) what it is exactly that we can control and what we cannot control. In the final analysis, we can control only ourselves. But we are often dismayed at our inability to master even this. What prevents us? When we feel out of control, it is usually when there is a conflict between what we think and what we feel. Our feelings may scream one thing while our minds demand something else.
I try to be realistic and honest about what I can do and what I can’t in relation to my kids and others. I feel, if I hear and try to understand my kids, they, in turn, hear me better too. They may not like my preferences as I may not like theirs, but being open about what we can do individually helps us in being compassionate with each other. My beautiful and talented dancer daughter understands that loud noise and big crowds are overwhelming for me and doesn’t insist on my presence throughout all her dance competitions (of course she wants me to see her dance, as I do but she understands if I don’t stick around). I let go of the fear that my daughter might see my limitation as a lack of care. If we scratch deeper we always find either love or fear. Laster appropriately continues the next section on the topic of fear.
On the yoga mat, when I am overthinking a pose, I know I’m trying to control. Alignment cues are directions, not destinations. Yoga is not a “follow the leader” kind of activity. My role as a teacher is to stand a guide and demonstration with my body, my abilities, and limitations. I also have to accept however a student interprets and acts on my guidance, as long as he or she doesn’t hurt themselves. What is the difference between correction and control?
The most interesting thing that Lasater says about fear for me was that if you are really living the present moment there is no fear. And, if you say “I am afraid,” admit and name the emotion, fear loosens its grip. I’ve tried this when afraid to drive on icy roads and found it helped me find ease. About being present and unafraid she writes,
If you are involved in actually fighting for your life, there is no time to be afraid. The sympathetic nervous system is mobilizing you to run or attack, and your bodily functions are working full blast. For example, the eyes open wider to see the danger better, blood is shunted to the muscles so that you can use them in the fight, and the mind becomes completely focused in the immediate need at hand. Your nervous system is not distracted by thinking in the abstract about what may happen. Rather, it is dealing with what is happening. It is only when you think about what may happen or what could have happened that you feel afraid.
Fear is, unfortunately, a standard and inevitable mom-emotion. It is challenging to find the balance between fear and love. I try not use my fears as an emotional weapon to limit the growth of my children. There is a difference between saying “please lock the front door” and “never go out.” Caution and fear. Instead of hoping that nothing bad ever happens to them, I hope they cultivate the strength to recover from anything. This takes practice and trust.
When I practice crow pose, I’ll bring a bolster or block in front of me to allow my head to come down. Somehow that eases the fear that I’ll come tumbling forward.
Patience is another absolutely required parental skill. My favorite part was when she talked about our concept of “wasted time.” I am guilty of considering most of my day as “wasting time.” Lasater’s explanation struck a nerve for me when she talked about impatience arising out of a feeling of wasting time as associated with a fear of being devalued. The thought that – I could be doing better things than sitting in traffic, doing the laundry, waiting in line – etc is a symptom of feeling “I’m not doing enough.” Lasater explains it better:
What is really wasted? Nothing. All gives me the opportunity to live in the present moment. When I do, I am patient. This realization supports even the most mundane events of my daily life. I can wait in lines, sit in traffic jams, and understand when someone is late for an appointment. All of these times – waiting, sitting, and understanding – are valuable. I can choose not to experience them as wasted time by choosing to be present and actually live these precious moments. After all to reject them is to reject life itself………..
Beneath my “time-wasting” thoughts was the most startling realization of all. I was afraid. You see, my self-worth was so tied to how much I accomplished. I thought that if I could speed up things around me, then I could get more done. If I did that, then I would be more valued, therefore more loved, therefore happier.
The next time I’m waiting in the school parking lot for my daughter to emerge, I’ll try to think of it as a practice in patience, and self-value. Waiting as mothering.
Maybe I can practice patience when in a forward fold, standing, seated and wide instead of judging my tight hamstrings.
For me, this section tugged at my mommy heart. What stood out for you? Was it teaching and control? Dealing with difficult people with compassion? Fear and anxiety about what we can’t control? How to accept control as an illusion?
I hope it was a good read for you. Looking forward to hearing your comments.
Happy reading Community Yoga Bookclub!