Recently I read an opinion piece that ran in the NY Times. It truly inspired me and became my message for last week. I shared the article with my classes in small segments throughout our practice. (The article is attached below if you would like to read it)
The article is entitled; Let’s hear it for the Average Child; In this season of prizes and trophies, we salute all the students whose talents lie outside the arena.”. It highlights the gifts and qualities that children (and adults) develop that are not typically acknowledged with any formal recognition, however are in fact the true tools for “success” if you measure success as happiness. As we began our practice on our backs in Savasana, I shared the first gift; the gift of Practice. As Yogis we know what a gift the practice is. It is not about being perfect. It it not necessarily about getting “better” each time; the path is not a straight one and there are many twists and turns along the way. Conversely, in school we are usually not recognized for how hard we try, only how well we succeed. Yet, the gift of perseverance helps us stay focused through the windy, challenging, wonderful journey that leads us to realize our dreams and practice shows us how live a joyful life along the way. A trophy, an award or an A in a class does not necessarily teach the same.
As we moved through our Sun Salutes I shared the next gift; the gift of developing and maintaining true friendships. What we put out in the world is what we get back and recognizing the good qualities in others brings that right back. The beauty of growing and nurturing true friendships is something that is often not formally recognized. “But a gift for friendship that transcends circumstance, for recognizing kinship wherever it blooms? That gift will make the world your home.”
We continued to flow exploring Utkatasana and Eagle poses to access both the outer and inner hips and I shared another powerful gift; the gift of the having the right words. A love of reading as a child or as an adult is not usually formally recognized. If it contributes to measurable achievement then it is acknowledged. However the love of the written word in itself is its own achievement. It is through that love of the written word that we we can find the right words when we need them. There is nothing more powerful than those right words in the present moment. We know that to be true as one of the key tenants of Karma.
From there we began to work up to one of our “peak” poses; Eka Pada Koundinyasana (pictured above). As a group we went through each of the steps and supported each other in the practice there was a feeling of all being in the practice together. This was our next gift; the gift of working together towards a common goal. It is inspiring to be part of something bigger than ourselves without individual recognition. It is an amazing gift to be able to be selfless in the collaboration with others. In school, if you aren’t the star of the team you often do not get recognition, but the true reward comes from being part of something that positively contributes to the world.
As we slowed down and settled into pigeon pose, I shared the gift of empathy. Empathy begins within ourselves by taking care of our physical and mental self. From there we can connect to the beautiful space we hold when we support someone else’s pain and there is nothing more powerful or meaningful than that. I choked up each time I read this passage out loud last week “To the student who bombed the history final because you stayed up all night talking to a friend whose heart is breaking: There is honor in your choice. You can make up the history lessons, but compassion is not a subject we offer in summer school. We rejoice for the A you’ve earned in empathy.”
From there as we transitioned into Savasana I shared with them one final gift; the gift of being inspired. The opportunity to be inspired often happens when you least expect it. In those moments of space when the mind drifts and it opens to a stream of consciousness that is fully in the moment; that is mindfulness. As students, the mind “wandering” is looked upon as being distracted or daydreaming but those small everyday moments of mindfulness are when the magic happens. Savasana is an example of this process occurring and when it does, the inspiration in the moment is its own reward. Getting an A in mindfulness is getting an A in joyfulness. The journey is the joy.
As we came to a comfortable seated position for one final moment together I shared the final line from the article. “Life is not a contest, and the world is not an arena. Just by being here, unique among all others, offering contributions that no one else can give, you have already won the one prize that matters most.” Namaste