Um...warning: You might not want to read this if you are new to yoga.
For nine years I was a yoga teacher, co-owning and co-directing yoga centers in New York City’s East Village and New England with my ex-husband. For a variety of reasons, I came to dislike that world. My neurology leans toward the literal -- and black and white distinctions -- and I was chronically unable to reconcile what I saw as rampant hypocrisy by yogis, especially yoga teachers (not to mention yoga studio owners!), with the practice and philosophy of yoga. I came to feel that people in the “yoga community” – most egregiously those in positions of authority -- often used what they knew of yoga philosophy to justify their actions: cruel actions were “awakening people to their own egos,” greed was “removing other people’s attachments,” stuff like that...
But in terms of the teaching itself, I think my biggest obstacle came down to this: while I would be saying the first part of the instruction in a sweetypoo way, I would be thinking the second part (in italics), like so:
“Feeeeeeeel the bliss of being in the present moment…because we are all going to die.”
Sometimes it got worse. Even though I liked and even loved most of my students, there would be pairs like this:
“Let gratitude suffuse every fiber of your being…You know what? You are so totally privileged to be here at 9am in the morning when everybody else is working or worse, and yet you still complain!”
“Be kind to yourself. Lift the corners of your mouth. Give yourself a hug….we all know that as soon as you leave this room you’ll pretty instantly turn right back into the total beyotch [bastahd] you were before class.”
When I got divorced, I left everything but the kids behind, including the yoga center my ex and I had run together for almost ten years. I haven’t had the time or money to attend yoga classes since becoming a single then working (of the non-running yoga center and teaching yoga variety) mother. Instead, I’ve been practicing at home, which I very much enjoy on those rare occasions when I am able to make the time for it.
The big news for me is I’ve just started back to taking public yoga classes -- on a super-limited basis (two classes in three months)…Guess what? I am having a very hard time with it! Every sweetypoo thing the sweet, sweet teacher says sounds inherently vapid to me, and I keep adding those dreadful non-sweet codas to the sweet sentences the teacher utters: “Now, just let go of all those thoughts…[Oh...Really? Do you think we should just be able to do that so easily? Have you ever actually truly suffered? Been worried about putting food on the table? Worried about being harassed just for the color of your white skin?...Do your children, if they are lucky enough to have enough to eat, get bullied???]”
I know this is totally unfair. I probably even sound bitter and evil! The funny thing is, the rest of the time – when I am not in a yoga class -- I am usually thinking pretty kind thoughts. TRULY! Also, I know the teacher is probably sincere.
Yet the thoughts keep popping up. It’s like when someone tells you not to think about something and you Just. Can’t. Stop.
So, even though I always secretly criticized people for viewing yoga as a physical thing, I’ve decided to try to just focus on the physical for now -- the breathing and the movement and precise alignment of the body -- since I am clearly still disillusioned with the spiritual side of the yoga world after so many years of seeing people not “live their yoga.”
There’s a tradition of practicing silence in yoga known as Mauna. With Mauna, one practices clearing the brain and mouth of chatter, bringing clarity and peace and spaciousness to life. I’ve actually gone on Mauna retreats (back in a very different reality) and loved them. But for now, I am just trying to be as mentally and philosophically silent as I can in my practice.
What does this have to do with the Full Spectrums? Recently G has been getting up to no good at school. Being sneaky and lying about assignments to avoid the whole new academic success program we have him on. So that he doesn’t fail out of 7th grade? (That’s another post). And Z has been up to some of her old RAD* tricks too.
As I revisit the whole sweetypoo yoga thing, it occurs to me that I am a talkative, and, yes, sweetypoo mom. Despite my ramblings herein and my scoldings to them, I always think my kids are fundamentally perfect and am prone to telling them so. And G’s teachers and the ex, even Pardner, are sometimes incredulous about my inability to really see and accept the more trifling aspects of G’s behavior and/or character. Z is better at “passing” for healthy outside of the home, and hiding her behaviors, but she, too, could improve her act at school and at home.
It occurs to me that the kids are – consciously or not – adding on to the exchanges we have. Clearly, I am not always getting through to them, as evinced by their actions, eye rolls, &c. -- and perhaps it’s because there’s too much sweetypoo talk! Here, the italics are their add-ins:
Me to G: “Wonderful Junior, I just can’t believe how much I love you!...Mmm hmm, that’s because you’re my mother.”
Me to Z: “My very own darling daughter! You are so fun to have special time with!...Give me more sugary treats now!”
Here, too, it gets worse, especially with my “famous” advice:
Me: “[G], make sure you remember that if someone is mean to you it is because they are hurting inside...blah blah blah. Heard this before.”
G: Yes, Mom...yeah right”
Me: “[Z], always, always listen to your teacher!”
Z: “Sure Mom...except when you’re not around...”
If it’s my fifteenth philosophical exhortation or admonishment for the day, what should I expect?
OTOH both children truly are happy most of the time, and seem to be on the right track in most areas. They’ve been told enough times which fork to use, and when to say please and thank you, and to wipe, wipe, wipe....At a certain point the ball is in their court, right? So I’ve decided it’s time for me to can it a little bit with the yapping. Dare I say...Let go a little?
You see, the second halves of my yoga sentences above are true. People who get into yoga are usually looking for healing on some level, and they are flawed and broken just like the rest of humanity. Perhaps many yogis are seeking because they are more hurt, broken and flawed than the average person. And then yogic practices can take some time – not hours or days, but years, even lifetimes - to be effective. So teachers and students alike aim with their sweetypoo words toward what they hope is true...yet we do not necessarily live that truth in all our thoughts and actions.
The first parts of my yoga sentences above are sweet...and potentially insipid; the second parts are ugly...and real. Same with what’s going on with my children’s sentences. And I want to change that. Call it Parental Mauna: I want to try to be more mentally/philosophically/verbally frugal (silence being impossible for the obvious reasons) as I can in my practice of parenting.
So here’s my PLAN:
Less talking, more showing.
Ideally, less thinking.
In place of lavish praise - more hugging.
Keep it simple.
Let’s see if they notice.
Full Spectrum Mama
P.S. Dear readers, feel free to share your own such sentences in the comments section below! I would LOVE to hear them.
*RAD=Reactive Attachment Disorder