Wise Little One
By Laura Mills
I turned around at the sink and locked eyes with my two-year-old. She sat straight up at the kitchen table, pointing to my empty chair, glaring at me. It was one of those mornings where I had hustled her out of bed and down to breakfast, my plan being to grocery shop and run a few additional errands and then make it home in time to take advantage of her naptime window. I had eaten my breakfast and now, while she scooped the last pieces of cereal up from her bowl, buzzed around the kitchen washing dirty dishes and sorting clean ones.
That morning she had told me to sit a few times before, but not quite so emphatically. Each previous time I had answered her with something like, “I can’t right now, I have to finish cleaning the kitchen.” This time, though, I just stopped. Manners, Honey. We don’t talk to other people like that, I thought, and the words were nearly on my lips when I stopped again….
How many times while teaching yoga had I instructed my students to slow down, to pause, to just breathe? How many times had I preached that what seems important in a frazzled moment may not really matter? How many times had I reminded my students to cherish the blessings of everyday life, to tune in to what’s right in front of them, to remember the spaces between the lines on their to-do lists?
Holding my daughter’s eyes another moment, now I took a deep breath. I took my teacup from the counter, pulled out my chair, and sat next to her at the table. She held her sippy cup out to me, and I clinked my teacup against it in salute. Never having trained to teach yoga, never having even attended one yoga class…she still knew, still possessed the inherent wisdom I had lost with the years.
“You’re right, Honey,” I said. “Thank you for reminding me.”
Help for the Holidays
By Laura Mills
I’m sure I’m not the only person who shudders at seeing winter holiday merchandise in stores even before Halloween. I understand that, in the retail world, this is the year’s most lucrative season. But aside from the benefit of “early bird” sales, I wonder why so much of the rest of the world and I usually run with such great speed into the final fraction of the year. So many of us claim these months as our favorites, why do we rush so anxiously to their culmination?
I would really like to wake up January 2nd, 2013, NOT as disorganized and disheveled as if I just staggered off a two-month-long roller coaster. So today, as October nears its end, I am setting the intention (and I enthusiastically invite you to join me) to take my time through 2012’s last months, to experience each day as a special entity. The holiday season and all its trappings, both genuinely festive and truthfully un-festive, is just about here whether I like it or not…. But this year I want to experience it differently. I want to choose, every day, not to relapse into the usual frazzling, over-committed, exhausted state of being that the season brings.
No, I don’t expect this to be easy, and I don’t have any great strategy for accomplishing it, but I’m definitely up for the challenge. By now, I’ve learned I’m worth it. And just in case you haven’t: so are you.
"No Sitting" Syndrome
By Laura Mills
One Saturday, finding myself with a few hours free before dinner, I walked in the door looking forward to reading. But before my legs touched the couch, I thought of the folder in the kitchen drawer, the one storing the take-out menus, and how I had been meaning to reorganize it but hadn’t yet done so. So I put down my book, pulled out the folder, and weeded out the oldest menus. Then, I figured as long as I was standing at the kitchen counter, I would put away the dishes that had been drying beside the sink. After that—I was already in the kitchen, anyway—I thought I might as well get a head start on dinner….
In the end, before dinner, I read for about 5 minutes.
This is not unusual for me. Looking back at that afternoon as an example, I wonder why I carve my days into the tiniest increments of productive time. Is my goal to be able to sit—SOMEDAY—and congratulate myself on how good it feels to finally have everything just perfect? The more I think about that, the more futile it seems. I’m not sure such a point even exists, and if it does, I don’t think I would recognize it when I arrived there anyway.
Maybe that’s the trick: learning how not to struggle with perfecting life at the expense of life itself.
By Laura Mills
Those who know me best know the size of my sweet tooth, particularly my fondness for anything heavily frosted. Most cakes (especially corner pieces with lots of flowers) and giant frosted cookies hold special places in my heart. My closest friends readily joke about my gargantuan smile at spotting a bakery, and in delicious fun I laugh with them because, trust me, me plus frosting equals pure bliss.
While the idea is tempting, I don’t keep emergency cake in my car or cookies in my purse. Yet I often wish I could transfer my “frosting bliss” to other parts of life. Of course, I don’t spend all day eating desserts; however, why can’t I experience the same delight, or even something close to it, when I do laundry? What about when I grocery shop? And when I clean the house? What if I could somehow figure out how to infuse more contentment into those activities and make them as blissful as enjoying my favorite desserts?
And so, my quest has become to bring something close to “blissfully happy” to as many moments as possible. Practicing yoga is a great start because it continuously reminds me that a lot of life—more than I ever thought possible, in fact—can actually be pretty sweet. But among the secrets, I think, and something I desperately need to work on, is slowing down and allowing myself to actually taste it. From there…who knows?
May the moments of your life be “Cookie Moments,” too.
DO OVER BY GUEST BLOGGER LAURA MILLS
Do Over By Laura Mills
Whether writing a yoga class or an essay, I never erase. Not that I don’t make mistakes, but when I do I scratch them out, content with the messier route in my urgency to shape what I feel is better work. People who glimpse my notes and journals don’t believe I make sense of them, littered as they are with scribbles and swirls. But somehow I do, moving forward after difficult moments to produce something that satisfies me.
I wish moving forward were that easy for me off-paper.
In eight months of teaching yoga, I’ve frequently finished a class feeling less-than-100%. Maybe the sequence didn’t flow as smoothly as I intended, maybe I left too little time for Savasana, maybe the music didn’t compliment the flow, maybe I philosophized too much. And immediately after such a class, I‘ve struggled not to say to my students, “No, wait! Come back! I can do better!” I want to try again, to produce a better version, and I want to do it right away—but of course, I can only hope the same students attend my next class and see me in what I vow will be better form.
I don’t believe this feeling is unique to new yoga teachers, but I do hope it occurs less frequently with time. I wonder how long I will teach before I rarely second-guess myself. I wonder how long I will teach before the chance is excellent that at the end of my next class I’ll be satisfied. For now, while I grapple with my confidence, I remind myself that when challenged on the mat we slow down, breathe and re-center. It's a familiar, easier-said-than-done practice, one that my own yoga teachers have taught me over and over and one that I now teach my students. Instead of pushing ahead in a hurry, we pause and tune back in, return to our natural rhythm, and then move forward refreshed. This lesson impacted me hugely when I first started practicing, a few years ago at a time when I was urgently—and unsuccessfully—attempting to push my way through the effects of a personal tragedy. Like so many yogis before me, the patience and self-care I met on the mat flowed into the rest of my life, and with time and practice, eventually I was able to gently start again and progress towards the future with a newly-centered spirit.
Now, in my role as yoga teacher, after any less-than-100% class I experience that same initial urgency. I want so badly to serve my students in the best way possible, to live up to the credentials I now possess. When I feel a class falls short, I want to go back and improve it immediately…but instead, like I do on the mat, I know I must remember to slow down and re-center, tapping into that patience and self-care that has served me so well in yoga practice and elsewhere.
I know I have everything I need to teach yoga well; I also know I judge myself more critically than anyone else ever could. As 2011 begins, I will work on tending my confidence and encouraging it to thrive. I will also remind myself with love that every yoga teacher, new or otherwise, experiences difficult moments now and then. Unlike in writing, we can’t erase those moments even if we want to—but if we slow down and re-center we can, at least in a way, scratch them out and make them not matter so much. Then we can move forward, refreshed, into our next class, onto a fresh page.