I went to yoga for the first time in a long time this morning… It was such a treat to make my way, barefoot, across the floor to set up my mat and settle in to the hour and fifteen minutes of bodywork. Today the class was all about the hips – I have crazy inflexible hips so this was really great for me, important and challenging work.
As I moved through the class, noticing how my body responded to stretches and poses that I don’t normally make a part of my daily routine, I couldn’t help but notice how much of the work I was doing in yoga related to the work I do as a parent.
At the very beginning of the class, the instructor challenged us to stay inside our body, that our body couldn’t help but live in the present, right now. She spoke about how our mind, our ego, likes to take trips into the future or the past, and moved us away from what is happening in the moment. Hmm, I thought, isn’t that exactly how it is with parenting?
As we moved into some really intense poses, stretching our hips and holding it for what felt like an hour, the instructor asked us to “think about putting out the other fires” so that we could just breathe into the stretch happening in our hips… It was then that I noticed how my toes were curled, and my teeth were clenched, my shoulders were up by my ears and my breathe was shallow. Put out the other fires…
This has stuck with me in the hours since the class – putting out the other fires. I immediately thought about how I talk about having a physical reactions when I am triggered by my children’s behavior. How my body feels when I am really angry, overwhelmed or stressed. What I don’t talk much about is the other stuff that comes up – the internal dialogue… It sound something like this -“He cant get away with that! Who does she think she is??? How dare he! They must think I want to be the maid… I will show him… OMG, my kid is going to grow up and be a slob/liar/theif/brat/perv/snob/bum/ungrateful little @%&*!!!”
I create stories about the situation that aren’t even true, not the reality of what is happening. These stories are like little fires, little distractions that move me away from the real work.
“Think about putting out the fires.”
Hmmm, what might happen if I remember this in overwhelming, challenging, parenting situations? What might happen if I smother the fire, quiet the voice that feeds the physical response my body has to stress, and instead, breathe into the stress???
Might I be more present, aware, and available?
I recently watched a TED talk about stress. To me, feeling stress is the same as feeling triggered emotionally. Kelly McGonigal makes some amazing points about how to change our beliefs about stress. Our physical reaction to stress - the increase heartbeat, the fast breath, the heat - could actually be used by us to meet the challenge that we are confronted by. She suggest, that instead of seeing this physical reaction as anxiety, we could see it as a sign that our body is prepared and ready to meet the challenge ahead of us.
Your fast heartbeat is preparing you for action. Your quick breath is getting more oxygen to your brain. If we can remember when we are triggered, that the physical sensation we get is actually our body preparing to help us rise to the challenge, then maybe we actually can rise to the challenge.
And it’s not about winning or losing… The challenge I am referring to is not a fight. The challenge is to put out the little fires, quiet our mind, and be present for the people who need us. The challenge is to let our physical reaction turn into courage to be our best self, rather than spin us down into the rabbit hole.
Today, I will put out the little fires and rise to the challenge. What about you?