Moments where it is easy. They’re hard to come by. I can honestly say I’ve not had but a few. There are stories there – about how people make their own struggle. Sometimes. But other times, it’s just that things are hard.
I’ve been doing something new. It’s scary. Well, actually, the new thing isn’t scary at all, but leaving the old things, or just making them a smaller part of my life, has been terrifying. The new thing – teaching the Yoga Calm curriculum to children, and thereby supporting healthy development of the whole child and family – has been an excellent tool, feeding my heart and allowing me to then pour that out onto others.
Last night, I led about fifty preschoolers, a flurry of almost 3 – almost 6 year olds, in a yoga ceremony for our school’s annual Animal Spirit Celebration. Animal Spirit is an experiential lesson with its roots in Native American culture, the Dalai Lama Foundation’s Missing Peace Project, and art and movement as powerful tools of self-expression. It is our way of helping connect even the youngest people to art, peace, and ecology through appreciation of our Native American people and their homage to the ways of animals. It is a celebration of collective wisdom, both worldly and symbolic.
In the hot sun. On concrete and hot yoga mats. Surrounded by cigarette butts and a nearby community of homeless youth. (One of whom I overhead explaining to his friend how to properly kill someone with a knife.) On a Friday. At 5 pm. (What?) Yes. And in the midst of all that, the children were happy, like a throng of hummingbirds, and their parents were there, and supportive, and it was community.
It was short and sweet. I blew the train whistle exactly as a pile of boys in the hub of the circle tipped from playfulness into the frenzy of aggression. We called on the four directions, to create “Ceremony!” We thanked the sun, the wind, the water, and earth – the Medicine Wheel, the fullness of life. We did a few gentle poses. And then, their imaginations took over, as they manifested the glorious yoga poses they’d created and practiced for several weeks now. They curled into child’s pose. They joined with their animal – What covers the body of their chosen animal? How does their animal move on this Earth? Then, putting those onto their own mighty bodies, they came out of child’s pose as their animals.
Each child was dismissed by animal name, with a bow or curtsey, to view the art. In this school, each child is supported to paint an animal or two for the show. After they have learned about the ways of their animal, or animals, they lock in that learning with not only the yoga poses, but their own sweet paintings. The ceremony takes place during Bend’s first Friday art walk each June. Their paintings are viewed not only by families and teachers, but the general public, whose smiling affection for these works of ART! float down, settling nicely onto the children.
Yesterday, after everything was cleaned up – and done by 6 pm so tired families could move into the weekend smoothly – and my own children were fast asleep – I unpacked my thoughts.
This is something I’ve never done. It was big. It was hot, messy, crowded, and, you know, knives and killing instructions going on nearby. But, it was easy anyway. Something inside of me has shifted. I no longer care if *I do five simple yoga poses exactly right* while being watched. I no longer care if *I make a mistake in front of a crowd,* which I did. I no longer care if *it looks shiny and perfect,* and no knife killing talk is happening near the magic and beauty of children. (OK, I did think about calling the police to just sort of hover around. Then they sort of showed up on their own. Win/win.) I no longer care about any measures of my *success.*
What is remarkable, is that it was entirely about the children, feeling safe and proud. It was about the parents, having a chance to see their children practicing the arts of creativity, peace, and individuality through this excellent vessel. *Shout out to the young man who chose HOT LAVA pose. It was about generosity, and synchronicity of so many people. It was about life being sort of weird and wild and sweet all at once, and being able to humbly sit in the middle and play with all of that.