As the burning and shaking in my standing leg is about to cause me to crumble to the ground, I suddenly hear my teacher’s voice coming through the haze of sweaty faces and sitar music… “Remember your Center during this moment of struggle.”
My Center? My Center during this struggling moment is the last thing I can remember! I’ve been holding my breath, blowing soggy strands of hair off my eyes, and internally cursing the teacher for not releasing us from this torture! But strangely, after hearing her reminder, I begin to engage my core, which in turn, gets me to breathe a little deeper, which then allows me to stand in the pose a few seconds longer.
Same Saturday, I’m back at home a few hours later, where Kiki and Conor are setting up for their weekly Madden Wii game. Suddenly I hear loud shouts and cries coming from Kiki, who’s begging Conor to let him play first, even though it’s Conor’s turn, and he’s in no mood to negotiate. So Kiki runs upstairs to find me, and pleads for me to intervene and change their rules.
I’m so tempted to just give in and agree, as it will allow me a few free moments to peacefully compile my holiday shopping lists, and I know that reinforcing what’s fair will mean a long saga that can easily be avoided if I talk with Conor (who will probably agree to wait).
But then my teacher’s words come back to me… Remember our Center during times of struggle.
Just as it would have been easier for me to let go of my yoga pose as soon as it felt difficult, it definitely would be easier to let Kiki avoid this moment when he doesn’t get his way.
But what will that teach him about the importance and value of struggle? So I don’t ask Conor. Instead I try to validate and empathize with Kiki (which is quite challenging in the face of a slamming door and loud laments about how we are “the meanest family in the world!”). And it was a long process; probably a good 45 minutes of anger, frustration and tears. Yet the longer it went on, the clearer it became to me that however messy and difficult, this struggle was worth it.
During those 45 minutes, I realized that the bigger lesson for Kiki to learn, is that not getting what you want all the time is part of life (and an important reminder during this consumption-focused time of year) as well as waiting your turn, following the rules, and working through your feelings in a safe way. Those were all the lessons that would have been lost if I had given in and taken the easier path. Not to mention the message I would be sending to both Conor and Kiki that yelling the loudest is the way to get what you want, whether it’s fair or not.
It also helped remind me how important it is for our children to experience safe and appropriate struggle, no matter how difficult it is for us to watch or how tempted we are to save them.
Whether it’s an infant who can’t quite reach an object, an 11 year-old who experiences a buzzer beater loss in his basketball playoffs, or a teenager who has to navigate the social and academic pressures of high school, it is in these moments that children can experience both the emotional growth, and pride in accomplishment that come from overcoming adversity.It is also another opportunity to practice how to keep our bearings, or our Center, during the biggest challenges we face.
And inevitably, just like my half moon pose and everything else in life, Kiki’s feelings (and Conor’s Madden game) didn’t last forever. He eventually stopped yelling, eventually asked me for a hug, and eventually got his turn to play. And I have to hope that both of us gained a little more clarity about our Center that Saturday, and how we can work towards finding it, even in the most difficult moments of struggle.
So here’s a toast and wish for this holiday season to be filled with a little more clarity and centeredness and a little less struggle and adversity.