Sunday, August 21, 2011

Out of Control

   On the rare occasion that I feel I have it all together I can almost always count on my kids to remind me otherwise. I must also confess that despite having some free spirited, relaxed and go with the flow qualities, I am a closet control freak. I thirst for order, simplicity, and peace. Achieving those ideals comes down to focusing on making those the qualities of the inner world even when the outer world is anything but. Life hands us all challenges and frustrations, we live in the mess of it all. My messiness just happens to be delivered to me, quite often, by the very nearest and dearest loves of my life, my kids.
  My experiences as a parent have taught me volumes on the subjects of patience, acceptance, and conflict resolution. My kids showed me early on that these are areas where I have been almost completely lacking, well, until they came along to train me.  All three of my children also inherited my, and their dad's, fierce independence and stubborn nature and, like us, not nearly the same amount of patience.
     So recently, on a day where I was on the go, getting loads of things checked off as accomplished, I felt in control, handling life with ease, and then the kids intervened.  Fighting with each other is a very common, and in my opinion, the most grating and nerve splitting activity.  I was so in my cool and in control zone, but that instantly evaporated when I heard the first tones of yelling, crying and accusations flying. "He hit me!" "She pinched me!" "It is all his/her fault!" This falls upon me like nails on a chalkboard, I recoil from the chaos, I try to stay calm, try to find my yoga breath. My first request that they stop is calm, but drowned out by the continued conflict. My second request a louder "Please stop!",  still ignored.  Finally I lose any patience I once had and at great volume say " STOP NOW, PLEASE!!!!" At this, they all pause to look at me and then attack me with finger pointing and blame directing intensity. The power I do have,  is to send them to time out, or take away privileges, but on occasion that is met with sharp and stubborn answers of no. In the end, punishments are served and apologies always come (from kids and parents alike), peace returns, but not because I have total control. In reality, I have little more control over them than I do the weather. OK yes, I provide a healthy and nurturing environment, set limits and guide them. I give them love and structure, and in the world of nature versus nurture I think both are very important, but they are their own people and have been from the beginning.  If I have molded them at all they have equally molded me and the illusion of control gets shattered over and over again. What a gift!
    I have learned that the only thing I really control is my own thoughts, feelings and actions. The more I focus on my responses and inner environment the more I am able to have that sense of order, simplicity and peace. Opening with compassion and unconditional love to people is difficult, and then when our own identity and sense of self is wrapped into it, that can make it nearly impossible at times. Everyone comes into this life with unique gifts as well as flaws. Everyone has a journey to go through and lessons to learn and my children are part of my journey and I am part of theirs. One of my wisest teachers talks about how we make soul agreements with others, especially immediate family, before we come into this world. We make these partnerships to achieve the learning and evolution we are intended to in this life. I have not quite wrapped my mind around that concept, but it is very intriguing. What I do know, is that in any relationship, when we are trying to control the other person because of fear or desire, unconditional love is lost. To even try to love unconditionally might be the most challenging spiritual practice a person can aspire to. I, for one, think it is well worth it to try and fail, and then try and fail again. Giving up control, in the end, is the doorway to true freedom and true love.   

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

End of Vacation Blues

   My family just enjoyed a wonderful people and fun filled vacation. The days swirled around us as we made our way from place to place visiting and playing, and just having a grand time. The days quickly came and went and suddenly we were at the airport heading home. It certainly is true that time flies when you are having fun and I could have used a couple more weeks at least to enjoy the pure leisure and adventure of vacation. But here I am back at home and the first day home is a transitional experience and transitions quite often can be bumpy and bring on the blues.
  My transitional experience today brought up some resistance in me. I want to visit with people and go to fun places, laugh at the kids, soak up the sun. Having to unpack, start laundry, grocery shop, and other menial and boring chores was not shining with appeal. The realities of daily life with it's responsibilities and endless "to dos" is enough to make me put on dark shades and take up the harmonica. I know in a few days I will find my stride and the blues will fade. The fact is it is not the situation of transition that brings on these blues but rather my mental and energetic reaction to it. Transitions are happening all the time, everyday, and the ability to handle them with ease is a skill that probably few possess and all desire.
   Transitions remind us that life is impermanent and when things shift or a great time comes to an end, well, it taps into the deeper fear of the bigger impermanence of this life itself. The gift of these kind of blues is a reminder to cherish each day and make them all lively as well as productive, to put fun and hugs and lounging on our to do lists, to put a little vacation in each day, making time for what fills us up and simplifying the rest. Live in the moment, yeah, even if the moment is one of dusting, or yard work, do it fully and transition well. And here it is, another ending, what's next? Let it be something that makes you smile, maybe get out a harmonica and dance the blues. 

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Family Ties

  We are getting ready today to head out on vacation back to Wisconsin and Minnesota respectively to have fun with the kids, take a break and visit family. When we moved out East a few years ago it meant going off and for the first time not having family around. Until that move we were as tight with my immediate family as one can probably be. Sunday dinner at my Mom's was a given and we usually saw each other at least one other time during a week. Then in a short period of time we all seemed to scatter, we moved out here, my parents moved to Tennessee as they retired, my brother ended up in Minneapolis, my sister stayed in Milwaukee and it was kind of the end of an era.
   I do believe that all things happen for a reason and I see now that the changing geography of our family has brought growth and strength in some way, shape, or form to us all. I have learned to be more independent and to stand on my own. I have also learned that in relationship it is quality not quantity that makes it what it is. I am grateful to have places to go now that are about fun, family and making special memories. On this trip we get to meet a new nephew and new baby girl of a cousin, see friends and siblings, aunts and grandma. It is sure to be a rich and joyful week which we will remember and cherish for a long time to come.    

Thursday, August 4, 2011

The Ant and the Tree: A Mystical Metaphor

    On the surface I am someone who comes across self assured and confident, confident in my thoughts, my actions, my life and choices. The truth is, well, the title of this blog says it all. I struggle daily with big questions, small questions and quite often find myself in a state of insecurity, perplexed by every facet of experience and afraid. One of my struggles in growing a relationship with God has been around the classic question of suffering. How can God let innocents be slaughtered, young girls be trafficked as sex slaves, let people starve while others like me have more than we need? One day after sitting outside in meditation this metaphor occurred to me.  I don't claim it to be entirely original, few things these days are and with years of studying yoga I am sure it has it's roots in those teachings.

  We are all like an ant crawling on a tree. The ant can only perceive what it's senses allow in the small space it occupies. It can only take in what happens on the piece of bark or the leaf upon which it crawls. However there is a larger reality, the tree. The ant cannot conceive of this larger structure, has no knowledge of roots or it's beautiful network of branches and how the two mirror each other in perfect synchronicity. The ant does not know that the bark covers a complex system of wood and vascular networks, it can't know the full scope of reality and yet the tree is real. The ant may not understand many things that happen because of it's limited vision but that does not mean that the larger reality does not exist. It does.

So until I have more experience that might refine or evolve this concept,  I will accept that I am like an ant on a tree and that if things I experience in this world don't make sense or fill me with fear and doubt, that just because I can't see the fullness of the universe or the face of God, does not mean they aren't there. Faith.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ride the Roller Coaster

"Peace does not mean no trouble, noise, or hard work. It is being in the midst of all of that and still remaining calm in your heart"

  If there is one thing I have learned over and over in life, it is to expect the unexpected. Each day is like getting up and climbing onto a roller coaster ride while wearing a semi transparent blindfold, so you can sort of make out where you are going, but nothing is for certain. Some days roll along with only a few dips and curves and others rise and fall with great intensity and loop de loop until it is not clear which way is up.
  My day yesterday was in the second category. It went like this. I got up did my yoga and meditation, had breakfast and then got kids up and ready for camp, going good. Go to leave for camp with neighbor kids in tow and low and behold my battery is dead. This happened as a result of my kids helping to clean the car to prepare it to be traded in later in the day yesterday. I go from calm and serene to total panic in about two seconds flat, since not only am I driving kids to camp, I have to teach yoga in less than an hour. I call the neighbor, she takes the kids, and her husband, thank goodness, can come jump my car. Heart rate slows, anxiety recedes.
   I get to the yoga studio and have a nice class with a few more students than usual, which is good, and I am feeling much more myself. Things were seeming to shift back to more of an easy ride. I left the studio smiling. Driving home, all is well and I see a teen girl near the road with a cute little Jack Russell on a leash. Suddenly the dog is loose and running right in front of my car. I do my best to swerve, but there is oncoming traffic, and I hear and feel a sickening thud. I immediately begin to sob uncontrollably. I pull over and jump out of the car, I run to the girl and I am a shrieking, sobbing disaster. This girl is upset of course, but more together than me, and goes into the road and picks up the dog. I am astounded when I realize the dog is alive! I sit with the dog while she fetches her brother, and off they go to rush to the vet, leaving me a more mangled mess than the dog.
  I manage to get it together to finish my drive home, and Mason, who had no camp yesterday, finds himself having to reassure a still shaken and blubbering version of mom that everything is OK. I called the vet where I thought they had gone and found out the dog was going to make it. Once again I settled down and rode the wave. The day continued with a great meeting with yoga teachers, a rumbling thunderstorm that made Harper and our dog Evan cry, a trip to leave one car behind and take home a  shiny new (to us) one, an ice cold beer and finally sleep. Today has been a different ride, less intense so far, but who knows?  Gotta ride the roller coaster.

The quote at the beginning is in the bathroom at the yoga studio where I teach and I really took notice of it before class yesterday. Hmmmmm..... will keep that one close.