I’ve had the honor this year teaching mindfulness in schools. When I look out at a classroom of students I notice how they are in a phase of finding their identity. I notice how they want to find what makes them unique and different. I also notice how they want to belong and connect. I notice awkwardness and insecurity and I notice the yearning to please and to blend in. Beneath all of what I perceive from a classroom full of young people is unknown to me. I can only reflect on my own years as a high school student and the barrage of emotions, sensations, reactions and thoughts that passed through me like a cacophony of weather patterns all in one day. Now that I am raising teens I suppose I have an insiders guide as to what is going on in the minds and hearts of young people. And I’m sure you have heard the latest data on youth today; stressed out, anxious and depressed.
But here’s what I know and understand to be true from my heart. Inside of the awkwardness of teenagedom and freed from the stressors there is a relaxed and joyful human being. I tell the students that the reason why I practice mindfulness and yoga is to remember who I am — content and at ease. I ask the students, “Have you been around a baby lately? When a baby has her needs met what is she like? They all say “happy and relaxed.” When you look at a baby and smile he lights up and smiles back with bright eyes. When a baby comes in to a roomful of people everyone wants to hold the baby. And, the baby is at ease and relaxed moving from one person to the next. I call that baby essence.
Remember what it was like when your ego wasn’t so hard wired to be better than someone else or less than someone else. Is the stress that we feel a result of a culture that compares, competes and relentlessly pushes us to such a hyper-individualized state that we longer feel a genuine connection to our true essence and to our common humanity?
Yoga and mindfulness works on us like a chisel — chipping away the conditioning, the barriers, the old thought patterns to reveal the light inside. I have great hope in youth today. They are learning techniques to help with mental clarity, to pay attention, to regulate emotions. They are empathic, compassionate and courageous. There’s a yearning to evolve and to engage. I’m inspired by their voices to take action on social justice issues, mental health and the environment.
Perhaps when we return to our baby essence — joyful and at ease– we feel a sense of deep belonging and connection that is both freeing and lovely. And don’t we then want this for everyone?
Spring is a time of renewal and remembering. The flowers color our gardens, the birds and frogs sing at dusk and dawn and the light is present. It is a time of rebirth and remembering the essence of who we really are — joyful, easeful and whole.
With deep gratitude for your essence at the yoga house