Wednesday, March 04, 2009

It's the little things that are so humbling, and a story about monkeys and horses

Monday's snowstorm threw a wrench into some plans, and being snowbound in my small condo with all four of my children tested my creativity and patience. Plus all of the activity of the last few weeks, months and today found me pretty tired. At about 10 AM yesterday, I was thinking that what I'd rather do more than anything was take a nap.

I got to the center where I teach kids yoga. As I went to get water, someone pulled me aside to tell me something. Sadly, two of the students at the center had to be separated from their parent last week. The person I spoke to needed to manage the children as the appropriate agencies processed the necessary changes, and late into the evening the younger child was still going strong. The adult suggested that they use some breathing to calm down, and shortly thereafter the child spontaneously began the sa ta na ma meditation I had taught in my classes. The older child followed suit, and it seemed to calm them both.

As you might imagine, I was both humbled and touched when my friend told me this. Of course we want to use yoga to help our children increase their physical fitness, and of course we want them to grow up to be healthier- healthier than we, their parents, are. But health has many different parts, and the mental/emotional is just as important as the physical. I hope that these children are alright in the next few months- the center I work in is very warm and supportive, but I know first hand how heart-breaking it is to be separated from your siblings when you are young- but I am so pleased that they were able to use something so simple and powerful to calm themselves in a time of great turmoil. I hope they can again.

With this in mind, I approached one of my harder to control groups a little bit differently than before. My thinking has been that they are an active group that has trouble settling down, so therefore we should go with something physical first before we jump into the meditation and relaxation. And sure enough, after about seven minutes of activity, the kids are begging to lie down. Today, however, I decided to give the people they wanted and we started with the meditation/chanting and then went into the relaxation while I told them my story about the Horse and the Monkey (some of that below). And amazingly, or maybe not so much, they were the calmest and most focused I have ever seen them be. We did some kundalini arm movements, then went back for the relaxation. It was great- we'll do more of that again.

At the Qigong workshop a few weeks ago, Dr. Yang talked about the Monkey Brain and the Horse Brain. I am oversimplifying, but the monkey brain is the emotional mind and the horse brain is the rational mind. Almost always, our monkey side takes over as soon as we let it talk. Three to five year olds probably will understand that, but I made up a story around it anyway. As far as I know, I created this story yesterday; I have never heard it before.

One day, a monkey leapt into the deep forest. The monkey was pleased- there were many trees to jump through, and it could take as much fruit as it needed. So it leapt and jumped all through the vast forest, stopping here and there to grab something to eat, and chattering away. Sometimes it would go for hours, sometimes days, before it would take a break.

Sometime later, as the monkey was jumping, the monkey noticed that a horse had trotted into the forest. Briefly, the monkey wondered why such a creature with its strong, powerful legs was standing still when it could be running and galloping, but it didn't think much of it as it continued its journey around the forest.

Sometime later, the monkey started to slow down- not because it wanted to, but because it couldn't keep up its previous pace. Sometime after that, it stopped, panting, dangling by its tail on a branch. It looked around and felt for a moment like everything was still moving, but then realized that everything, including itself, was still. Then it looked around more and realized that it had already been everywhere in the forest, many times over.

The monkey suddenly noticed that the horse had trotted up to it. The horse looked at the monkey with its big, beautiful eyes, then spoke softly. "Is there somewhere you need to go, monkey? Why don't you hop on my back and I'll take you there?"

Where would you go? I'll let you know my destination next time,
Deb in the City