Recently I attended a Kid’s Yoga Teacher Training at Asheville Yoga Center in Asheville, North Carolina. A lot of topics were discussed over the course of the training, but one topic that continued to make an appearance in our conversations was about the pressure that children feel from being ever connected to the world of social media, how they believe they must respond immediately when their phone buzzes, and how as a whole, they spend most of their daylight hours in front of a screen and less and less time outdoors. JaneAnne Tager, led the discussions and emphasized the importance of using nature themes in our classes as a way for children to disconnect, leave the world of technology behind, and become more grounded using tools found in nature.
One morning at the beginning of class, we were instructed to go on a short walk, find a leaf and bring it back to class. I believe the point of the exercise was to help us get out of our heads and find a connection with the universe, returning to class more grounded than when we left. As I walked out the door of the studio, I imagined being on a treasure hunt, looking for the perfect leaf—the one that spoke to me; the one that calmed and soothed me. Being early September in North Carolina, however, the temperature was still peaking in the eighties and nineties during the day. The leaves had not yet started to change color and the only leaves on the ground were small and lifeless. Feeling uninspired, I continued to walk further and further away from the studio. I began to feel desperate.
“Finding a leaf should not be this difficult, I thought. Why do you always make everything so complicated? Just pick up a damn leaf and be done with it!” And just as I was about to listen to that little voice inside my head, another voice spoke. This one said, “Why are you only looking at the ground? Look up!” Obediently, I turned my gaze toward the sky and that’s when I saw it.
With it’s long, slender, bean-like fruit, I recognized it right away. Magnificent in size and stature, it dwarfed all the trees around it, offering a canopy of protection with it’s abundance of large, over-sized leaves. It was the exact same tree that stood in my front yard as a child!
As I approached the tree, I noticed two shopping carts full of possessions parked under it’s shelter. The owners were not home so I carefully proceeded to the tree and plucked a single leaf from a low hanging branch, being mindful not to disturb the refuge the tree provided for it’s occupants.
As I walked back to the classroom, I felt humbled. I have not seen a tree like that since the day my dad had it removed, deeming it undesirable, along with all the mulberry trees that dropped their gifts in the yard staining our feet as we played in the grass. What are the odds that just as I was about to give up on finding a leaf that I felt a personal connection to, that a Catalpa tree would appear before me?
I was the last person to return to the classroom and felt a tad bit conscientious knowing all eyes were on me. The room was silent except for an audible *gasp* that could be heard as I laid my elephantine leaf to rest alongside the treasures that everyone else had gathered on their journey. In the center of the space with our mats spread like spokes on a wheel, the flora and fauna resembled and offering on an alter.
I’ve been thinking about that moment a lot since it happened and wondering how much of my life I’ve spent looking at the ground, not making a connection with anyone or anything around me, when what I was looking for was right in front of me all along.
If you can’t find what you're looking for…CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE!
At the beginning of the training, Jane Anne stated that one of the goals of the weekend was to help us become reacquainted with our inner child. With each exercise, I found myself being transported back to my childhood, a time in my life that was filled with happy memories, uncomplicated and innocent. While this was not intentional, I also do not think it was a coincidence. I finished the training feeling more grounded than I have in several months and freshly inspired to be the best mom, wife, and yoga teacher I can be, to make a difference in the lives of children who may not have as happy a childhood as me, and to write. This is the third of a three-part blog post.