As a single mom and business owner, there aren’t many places where I can completely unplug. Thankfully, such a space does exist for me: my neighborhood yoga studio. There, my phone gets left in a cubby so I can surrender myself completely to the transformational magic of the heated space. Once inside, I roll out my mat, fold my towel in my ritualistic way and lie in the room that for almost a decade has represented a place where nothing and no one can bother me for the duration of my yoga practice.
There, I surrender to the heat, the initial silence, the music; when class begins, the sound of my instructor’s voice guides us through the flow. I follow the sequence of poses I’ve learned the names and shapes of. I engage in my moving meditation with intention, feeling grounded. In this sacred space I’m distracted by my mind’s chatter: my worries about my kids, my business, my many mental lists of things to-do, to-buy, to-organize, to-plan. I feel the guilt of not being in better touch with those I love, appreciate and think about a thousand times a day and still don’t call. I worry about my weight, my finances, my friendships. I acknowledge I might be overscheduled and daydream about ways to share the load. I sit with my loneliness for a nano-second before brushing off that nagging, annoying feeling by reminding myself with BOLDED emphasis that I am too busy juggling life to be lonely, asking myself why I’d even need a significant other in my life anyway.
Believe it or not, if I were tasked with writing a personal statement, I would share a lot of this internal “stuff” with my reader. My almost 50-year old self would get caught up in this narrative framework set in a yoga class. I would move from thought to thought as I do pose after pose to illustrate how much can go on in one’s head during a 60-90 minute yoga class. I would allow for the essay to reflect my struggle through movements while thoughts dart into and out of my mind; challenging me to be still and focus.
Yeah. Good luck with that. Does that mind-chatter ever stop?
Lately, I’ve managed to tap into that place of safe, chatter-free stillness, in resting poses like Child’s Pose or Savasana. During those moments, I’m moved by the nuggets of wisdom I receive, usually after a pretty intense practice. Whether it is a powerful quote that grounds my meditation in a thematic bowl that holds me, allowing me to reflect on the practice itself or, about the ways in which what I learn and reflect on while practicing on my mat is so applicable and true in my life as a mom, business owner and human. A couple of weeks ago, I lay in Savasana during a class feeling like I was rediscovering and being mindful of the way my muscles and bones felt in almost every pose in that class, as my teacher shared a T.S. Eliot quote from The Four Quartets that landed so perfectly for me, not just as a yogi but as a human:
“We shall not cease from exploration/ And the end of all our exploring/ Will be to arrive where we started/ And know the place for the first time.”
It is this powerful quote that offered me the chance to explore the intersection of that kernel of inspiration in yoga class and my own meditation about writing the all-personal narrative essay. The essay is an attempt, first and foremost, coming from the French word “essayer” meaning “to try.” Thinking about this, I thought I’d share my advice to parents guiding their students as they get ready to write their own personal narratives:
- You don’t learn to write the personal narrative in school. Students today are trained to write objective, analytical, critical and impersonal pieces. To write something personal and meaningful isn’t easy. Encourage your student to try stream-of-consciousness brain dumping as a starting point.
- When writing, encourage your students not to worry about word count. It’s easier to edit and cut away at the essay after having fully reflected on the moment and after taking all the time and space needed to fully explore it.
- Editing, recrafting and wordsmithing from braindumps are a lot of fun.
- Role model the art of active storytelling. It’s actually in practicing the art of narration, in the company of family and friends, that we begin to find freshness in recounting each familiar movement of life experience as if it’s happening for the first time.
- Share the experience of noticing those around you, sharing observations, being mindful of details like a tone of voice, an accent, one’s posture or facial expressions. These details can be crucial in narratives.
- When you talk to your children, reflect on the past, celebrate it, trace it forward to the present, dream a little about the future. It’s fun. It’s inspiring. It helps us all glean meaning and purpose and appreciation for the little things.
- Encourage your child to share his/her own narratives and to write personal reflections. Give the gift of a journal. Encourage your child to consistently document thoughts, feelings, impressions and stories.
- We try every single day to get up in the morning to be our best selves living our best lives. Help your student reflect daily on his/her truths and find opportunities for appreciation, gratitude and celebration.
Finding that T.S. Eliot quote in the context of the greater poem led me to these lines:
Through the unknown, remembered gate/ When the last of earth left to discover/ Is that which was the beginning;/ At the source of the longest river/ The voice of the hidden waterfall/ And the children in the apple-tree/ Not known, because not looked for/ But heard, half-heard, in the stillness/ Between two waves of the sea.
My yoga practice has been my gate to strength and empowerment. I am learning to push myself a little harder, harness the bits of confidence I am gaining after almost ten years. I’m embracing it as a (somewhat) regular practice. Initially, my commitment to yoga was about exercise and increasing physical strength. Lately, I’m realizing that my practice has actually been more about realizing the communion of my body and mind.
Doing yoga in that wonderful, heated studio brings me back to my own beginnings as an aspiring yogi, when I could barely follow a class without tripping, falling, or spending at least a third of my class in child’s pose, trying to catch my breath in what felt like stifling heat. The chatter in my head traces the progression of my life, helping me celebrate how far I’ve come, not only as an aspiring yogi, but as a mom, business owner and human being– human aspiring– feeling strong and grounded in the flow of a practice that’s helped me grow. My practice inspires me to find appreciation in the little things, like how it feels in the stillness, or to celebrate those occasions when my mind can be chatter-free and completely focused on the flow, and how comforting and wonderful the heat feels as I move from pose to pose, between the waves of ujjayi breath that remind me of the ocean.
Christine is an educational consultant, and co-founder of Personalized Educational Solutions, Inc (www.pesglobal.org) and Education Station (www.educationstationhopkinton.com)She is grateful to do meaningful work that supports and empowers students from all over the world in finding their best educational matches in private schools and universities. She is a team builder, community contributor and educational entrepreneur with almost 30 years of experience as a business owner involved in helping students develop and implement successful educational plans. She is a serial volunteer, lover of the arts, and committed to social and emotional wellness and youth empowerment. Christine is a musician, an aspiring yogi, lover of animals and committed single mother of two amazing children. As a committed, passionate college coach, Christine recently started a new nonprofit called The College Axis Project (www.thecollegeaxisproject.org) which she sees as the culmination of her life’s work. She is grateful to be pursuing her vision and passion to make educational enrichment and college counseling available to all.