My son was a REAL pain in the ass when he was a toddler. When he was between the uncivilized ages of 1 and 2, I was frustrated constantly and pretty sure I wasn’t interested in any more kids if there was a chance those people would be like him. Let me put these altogether unloving statements in context by saying my then-husband and I lived far from family (he was active duty USMC and gone ALL the time), and I was young and admittedly impatient. My son, by the way, has grown into the most wonderful person I know. As a young mom, struggling mostly alone, I had no idea what a gem he would be when he was 18 months old.
My mother and I talked a lot by phone in those trying days, and she gave me the most logical advice. It was effective. “When he’s having a temper tantrum,” she said, “just pick him up and carry him to his crib. Shut the door. When he’s quiet, open the door and ask him if he’s done and would like to come out.”
I like to think myself superior to such babyishness. But really, I’m not. It’s easy to get rattled, wound up, frantic, or downright pissy when things don’t go my way.
I’ve been practicing yoga for around 8 years (after running for well over 20 years), but it was only a year ago I found my true time-out spot: Ashtanga yoga Mysore class. Students can come in and practice anytime between the hours of 6-11 am. The teacher is present to help each student, wherever he or she is in the sequence of postures.
I love 7 am during these winter months. It is dark when I arrive. Most of the time, there are few, if any, lights on in the shala (studio/school), and it feels like I have escaped time and space. I roll out my mat and let my mind fall into the rhythm of the audible breath of the students who arrived earlier. This is when the calm begins, even before I begin to move.
As the sun rises and light fills the shala, my fitful heart is simultaneously broken and restored in my breath.
I’m thinking about my little son alone in his crib. As he quiets down, does he know why he was upset? What was so important? What was it he wanted so badly that he wasn’t getting? He doesn’t remember. It’s all gone, and he sniffles and curls up with his blankie. I open the door and take him in my arms again.
Curling up with blankie is totally appropriate self-soothing if you happen to be 18 months old. We grown-ups need something more sophisticated and penetrating. Something that calms our turbulent minds and makes us a multiplying blessing to those around us.