“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “The smallest things take up the most space in your heart.”
I like those guided meditations or yoga nidras that prompt you to listen to the sounds far away from you, then those closer to you, and finally to the sounds within yourself. Sometimes I find that I’m not listening to the sounds around me at all because I’m too busy thinking about something in the past or future. Momlife is loud and busy.
I think of the yogic practice of pratyahara - sense withdrawal - and it makes me think of how as yogis, it’s like we’re trying to be super heroes, striving for feats that we can only strive for, but fall just short of. I mean, how many people can actually fully withdraw their senses? And anyways, what good does that do for moms? That would be disastrous! The kids would tear the house apart while we sat blissfully absorbed in some mythic state of bliss.
But I do think that some amount of control over the senses is good. Just enough to see the harmony in the chaos, instead of letting the stimuli of everyday life randomly rain down upon our nervous systems like a tropical storm. Toys everywhere and a sink full of dishes? Your kids calling “MommyMommyMommy” for you for 10 minutes straight? No big deal...there are worse things, right? But these things build up…
In the last post in June, I talked about drishti and how in reality our attention dances between the drishti and the periphery of our attention. On the new moon post earlier this month, I touched upon drishti again, and another similar practice called trataka. In these practices, we focus on something little and ordinary so that during meditation or yoga, or minds aren’t empty, but focused. There is a goal and the goal is always right there in front of us (Plus, kids can do these practices too, and even have fun with it).
As we zone in on that one thing, we notice how complex the simplest things are. Not only do our lungs breathe, our attention breathes - it expands and contracts between innermost and outermost. If you’re doing a yoga sequence, then there’s also a rhythm and harmony as you move through a sequence: inhale reach up, exhale stretch down; inhale, backbend, exhale forward bend. There’s the sound and the silence: that hushed sound of ujjayi breath, the light sounds of hands and feet moving around the mat, and the unheard sounds of the thoughts in the mind.
It’s crazy to realize that when you slow down and move with attention on your yoga mat, you discover so much going on inside! You begin to notice more around you, as well. You might not sprout eyes on the back of your head or super sonic hearing so that you can catch your kids before they draw on the walls with crayons, but you will slowly feel more present and calm. You’ll notice the little things more, and you know what they say. It’s all little things.
I remember when I was about to take the exam to get my certification to teach English as Foreign Language (TEFL) at a language academy in Barcelona, when one of my fellow trainees said, “Don’t sweat the small stuff - it’s all small stuff.” I know, though, that when I forget that it’s all small, then the smallest things get to me.
So when I get easily annoyed and stressed out by the silly things, and all I have time for is a few deep, conscious breaths, I remind myself: it’s always the little things that bring me back to my body and breath, and to what really matters. That’s when I get down on the ground to take a break to play with my daughter, or do an easy yoga posture, or step into the next room and have a few minutes to myself while my daughter screams about how she doesn’t want to get her clothes on. A few moments of conscious relaxation can definitely send ripples into the rest of the day. Try it - it’s too easy not to try.