Category Archives: Christmas

Conversations with a tween

The girls are both delighted to be posing with their dad for the Christmas photo!

The girls are both delighted to be posing with their dad for the Christmas photo!

I have a tendency, these days, to talk less. I really value quiet. I like the pauses in conversation to be with what was just said. I like to listen to where people go with their thoughts when given the time. I enjoy being around people and noticing what that feels like, seeing what they do and what I do– maybe listening to breathing.

Though this has been really nice in a lot of relationships, I’m starting to see that it may not be the best strategy with my tween daughter. Hazel doesn’t ask me what I think very often. She’ll tell me something about a friendship or something that makes her laugh, but it’s usually brief and it comes when her mind is there, still with her friend or connected to the funny thing she saw on pinterest. In these moments, I don’t get the feeling that she really wants to talk with me and that leaves me unsure of what to do. If I just sit there quietly, then she’ll eventually wander off. Though she’s not engaging me in conversation with her comments or passing thoughts, she is talking to me. In order to help get a conversation going, I have to push past my enjoyment of quiet and the awkwardness of not knowing exactly what to say and I need to make the effort to engage her. It seems so obvious now that I’m writing it down, which is good. There isn’t much that’s obvious in parenting a tween.

This weekend, I tried it out. Whenever Hazel said something, I thought of it as an invitation to connect. I’d ask her a question or talk about what I thought or a time I felt that way. It rained all weekend, so we spent a lot of time in the house together and I had many opportunities to practice. I’m pretty sure I talked more in one weekend than I average most weeks. It was a different way to be together. I felt closer to her and I could see that this way of connecting was working for her, too. On Sunday night at bedtime, I bent down to kiss her goodnight and give her a big squeeze. She didn’t let go right away, and so we stayed there, quietly hugging, feeling each other breathe. And then, she told me she’d had a really nice weekend. I don’t remember what I said, but I do know that my heart swelled and I felt grateful for her, for the time we spent talking and for all the quiet moments in between.

 


 

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Yoga Sutra I.38 – Dreams can give us insight

 

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Yoga Sūtra I.38 svapna-nidrā jñāna-ālambanaṁ vā

Inquiry into dreams and sleep and our experiences during our around these states can help to clarify some of our problems.

-T.K.V Desikachar, Heart of Yoga

 

If everyone is born with a central issue that they’ll live and work with throughout life, mine is loneliness. The feeling isn’t always acute, but every year, around Christmas, it comes up and I wonder why I’m sensitive and moodyuntil I remember, “Oh yeah. Me + loneliness… We have a thing.” Then I attempt to consider the experience as yet another opportunity to be with this feeling and to see how we are doing.

I’ve been feeling the loneliness over the last few weeks, but life continues and as you may know, our house has been home to rats since October. Though we have made a big dent in the local population, we know there is at least one hearty and resourceful survivor. We don’t see evidence of this rat every day, but then we’ll hear it running in the attic or see a nibbled piece of fruit and we are reminded that it isn’t going down without a fight.

Last night, I had this dream.

I went into my bathroom and though it was the middle of the day, it was really dark. I guess there was some sort of storm outside. As I walked in, I encountered a dozen rats just hanging out, like they were having a meeting. I freaked out because now I could see that this rat problem was so much worse than I thought. I had to capture and kill them. The rats ran out of the bathroom and I followed them into the sunny entryway of my childhood house. As the rats went along the 1970’s flecked marble-like tile, they morphed into these large, soft, docile, bunny creatures. I worried that I wouldn’t be able to capture them, but then they slowed and allowed me to pick them up.

I picked them up one-by-one and carefully put them into a paper grocery bag. Each one was so much softer and sweeter than I expected and I realized how hungry I was for gentle touch and connection. I spent a little time with each one before I put it into the bag. I had a change of heart. I knew these rat-bunnies couldn’t go on living in my house, but did they really need to be killed? I decided to call the Animal Shelter so they could be someone’s pet.

In the past, I’ve shrugged off dreams, but since studying the yoga sūtras, and seeing how Patañjali is pretty much right about everything he says, I’ve taken I.38 to heart and look for insight from the dreams I can remember. I’m pretty sure this dream has a lot to offer me in the way of better understanding myself and these feelings of the season.

These themes of connection and alone-ness, of fear and love, of avidyā (misperception) and awareness are familiar ones to me, but having this dream and it’s weird sequence, associated emotions, and rich imagery is something more tangible to work with than mere concepts and ideas. It isn’t unlike what happens after meditation. Something else takes over in meditative state and what I see or experience isn’t exactly of my own conscious creation. My self takes a back seat while something else drives the experience. At the end of meditation, there can be a feeling of “coming out” or “coming back” from somewhere kind of like when I wake from dreaming. Sometimes, the impressions from that place stay with me.  These impressions provide another little window into my being which can enrich my practice of svādhyāya, self-reflection, so I know myself better. They can show me another way of looking at a situation. Each year that comes around and I check in with this central relationship, the one of me+loneliness, my perspective is a little different and my appreciation for what it means grows.

 

 

 

Who knew middle school choir concerts were such a good place to practice yoga?

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Last night, I attended Hazel’s middle school choir concert. I got there a little later than I’d hoped. A class I attended went long and then I had to fight some gnarly traffic on the way to the school performance hall. When I arrived, I found Dave and Nora in the auditorium easily but then I saw how far away we were from the stage and I almost cried. I snapped at Dave, “You’ve been here for 45 minutes and couldn’t get better seats?”  What a horrible thing to say. Let the traffic and the expectations go… apologize to Dave. I felt a little better and then the show began.

There’s a lot going on at school performances. There’s the very impressive stuff happening on stage and there’s also an impressive amount of stuff happening in the audience.  Younger siblings wiggle and talk, people move through the aisles a lot, and parents stick their phones up in the air to snap photos or take videos throughout the show.  I attempted to harness some yogi powers to focus on the performance and not the rest of the stuff.

With all the possible distractions and in my ragged emotional state, I did pretty well, but there was one thing that had the potential to derail my best intentions. It wasn’t the toddler bouncing on the chair next to me or being awash in light each time the door to the auditorium opened. Instead, I was sucked in by the quiet activity of the grandmother in the row ahead of me. She was on her phone compulsively scrolling through facebook the entire time.

I was unreasonably upset and irritated by this. “You come all the way here and these kids are singing beautifully and you’d rather be on your phone?” I’ll spare you the rest of the rant that was in my head. My own facebook usage has been under self-scrutiny lately. I’m on there way more than I want to be so it felt good to direct that criticism elsewhere for a little while. I interrupted my rant to point out to myself that she may be on fb, but I’m thinking about her being on fb so I’m not really here either. I knew that my attitude was more about me than her. I pulled my eyes off of her screen and back to the show.

This happened at least six times.

Each time I brought my attention back to the show, I made the effort to listen to the kids and the piano and it got a little easier to avoid that screen. When I tried to imagine how much courage it took for those soloists to be there, singing in front of a huge audience, a little more time passed without fretting about facebook-grandma. When the boy choir sang Oh Holy Night, one of my favorite Christmas carols, I was moved to tears. I was far from a state of samādhi, but I did leave the concert happy that I had been there, happy that I could pay attention to the wonderful music, the kids (all dressed up), the accompanying musicians, and the teachers on stage. Who knew middle school choir concerts were a good place to practice yoga?

As I think about the show today, I feel so much appreciation for the performers who gave it their all and the teachers and staff that made it possible. My heart swells with pride and gratitude to know that these kids get to have this kind of experiences. Hazel was exhausted and delighted when it was all over. I know because when she got home, she gave me one of those extra-long hugs where she closes her eyes and sinks into me. I’m grateful for that, too. I’m really glad I went to the concert and even happier that I could really be there.