Last week I learned that my child is in trouble. Big trouble. The kind that requires drastic measures, outside help, money, time, and perhaps most importantly, unconditional super-mama love. If you've ever had a child who has struggled, you know exactly how this feels. It creates incredible disruption in the home, fills you with fear and uncertainty, and often requires fundamental shifts in every aspect of your life. It CAN be devastating and all consuming. I'm happy to tell you that for me, it is not. I feel astonishingly calm. I feel fully present to the crisis at hand, capable of dealing with ANY way that it unfolds and able to appreciate the rest of the blessings in my life, and I must say, I'm pretty surprised and amazed by my own reaction. There was a time when I would have been destroyed by the chaos. I know beyond a doubt that what I'm seeing now is the result of 15 years of Yoga. My practice has given me four incredible tools to deal with the current crisis, and I want to share them, both as an homage to the power of Yoga (which surprises and amazes me all the time), and as an offering for those of you who might also be going through difficult times.
1. Witness Consciousness: The first gift of my yoga practice is the ability to be a full participant in my own experience while also witnessing it objectively and compassionately. For years on the mat I have learned to notice all of the sensations of my body, mind and breath in any given moment, and I have practiced stillness in some very uncomfortable and difficult postures. In some ways that practice has served as a sort of "boot camp" for real life. In the midst of the upheaval with my child, I can see clearly all of my own reactions. When the conversation is heated, when he becomes defensive, angry and indignant, I notice the waves of hurt, anger, and frustration that roll through, but rather than allowing them to control and direct my response, I am able to let them move by like passing storm clouds. I'm able to hold fast to equanimity and center, and that seems to carry both of us through the storm.
2. Letting Go of Control: The Bhagavad Gita, one of the most important yoga texts, teaches that we are not the "doers." In other words, the universe is driven by much larger and more infinite consciousness than what we see before us, and while we are an individual expression of that consciousness we are certainly not in control of the way it manifest in our egoic world. When we become attached to the world of shape and form, we tend to believe that we can determine and manipulate every outcome. Letting go of this idea and the need for control is incredibly liberating. I have a Karmic responsibility and a mother's desire to give my child absolutely everything he needs to navigate this difficult time. I can and must put tools in place for him, but I understand that in the end, I have no control. So much of our suffering comes from this delusion that we CAN control every outcome, even in another's life. We become attached to our idea of how something SHOULD be, rendering us incapable of accepting how it is. When we learn to accept even the darkest of moments with grace, we save ourselves from the heartbreak of endless disappointment.
3. Unconditional Love: Yoga classes often end with the salutation "Namaste" which is a perfect encapsulation of the main spritual presupposition in the practice. Ghandi defined the word this way: I honor the place within you where the entire Universe resides; I honor the place within you of love, of light, of truth, of peace; I honor the place within you that when you are in that place in you, and I am in that place in me, there is only one of us" Years of meditation and inner work have taught me to be acquainted with this place of infinite light and goodness that lies within, and more importantly, they have taught me to see that light in others even when they can't see it for themselves. My child has become lost in a world where this light is no longer visible to him. The gift of my practice is that I can still see it shining. This frees me from the anger and disappointment I might otherwise experience. It gives me the ability to truly love him unconditionally without expectations, exactly as he is in this moment.
4. Residing in the Now: Ram Dass' famous book Be Here Now reminds us that the present moment is the only one that matters. Suffering comes from attaching to the past, either longing for things as they were or reliving the pain of things that were hurtful. It also comes from attaching to the future with fear and endless worry or with hard and fast expectations about how things must unfold. True peace can only be found in the present moment. It is this awareness and ability to reside in the "now" that may be the most powerful tool of all in weathering a crisis. Practicing presence in the moment allows me to feel joy in the things that are still very "right" with my current circumstance, my friendships, my teaching, my yoga practice, etc. I can fully enjoy and appreciate the beautiful moments as they occur. Furthermore, I am able to know that each moment is temporary, and that even the most difficult ones will pass creating space for something new.
The combination of all of these tools allows me to welcome crisis as on old and familiar friend, here just for a moment, beyond my control, and perhaps even carrying gifts of wisdom and understanding. Hello Crisis, my old friend. Looks like we're going to be together for a while....