Sing Out, Clara.

Via Marylee Fairbanks
on Jan 28, 2011
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Clara walked onto the stage and took the microphone in hand. She glanced at her first grade teacher in the wings. The mike clunked, and scratched as it brushed up against her purple, pleated skirt.

“Smile” chirped her teacher and gestured for her to hold the mike to her mouth.

The pianist played the intro to Rogers and Hammerstein’s “Getting To Know You”, but Clara’s vocal cue was met with silence. The lyrics escaped her. She stood motionless.

Seven hundred students, teachers and parents filled the gymnasium. There was no snickering, eye rolling, or elbowing from her fellow students. They supported her with smiles and unwavering attention.

Her teacher came onstage. She got on one knee and put her arm around Clara. “Would you like to try it again next week?” Clara stood in the spotlight, white knuckles wrapped around the microphone and nodded.

Then, as if on cue, the student body yelled out “THAT’S O-KAY” and cheered for little Clara.

My son sat criss-cross on the floor clapping and looking around the room. He was learning, thanks to Clara, about success and the balance needed to realize it.

I overheard Clara’s teacher talking to her backstage. “It’s okay.” she said. “When we love to do something we have to stick with it and keep trying. You have a beautiful singing voice that’s for sure. Now we also know that you need to practice a little more before getting out there. See? Today wasn’t a failure. Today we learned how to be the best we can be. How great is that?” Clara smiled and hugged her.

Watching Clara made me think about the meaning of accomplishment on the mat and off. Too often we equate the merits of our work with a tangible outcome; money, praise, achieving a difficult asana or in the case of cyber-blogging, hits.

The struggle to keep a goal balanced with an intention can be challenging, but Yoga’s Niyamas and other basic principles are a powerful resource.

Collaborating with your Sangha (community) and asking for support is empowering. It takes humility to ask for help and you cannot underestimate what can be learned from others.

My husband taught me the rules of writing and more importantly how to think about writing. He says, “Don’t miss an opportunity to do what only writing can do.” He and my friend Elizabeth edit and give valued opinions.

Elizabeth knows a lot about search engines and how it all works so I ask her for help with every piece and then send her chocolates. I take another friend to dinner and recruit her to post for me for an hour the next day.

Other friends support me with social media, emails, and inspiring comments. My husband and son are my source of inspiration. I write about the many yogic experiences I have as a mother and each story is a lesson in Svadhyaya (self study)

A Sankalpa is an intention or prayer and is meant to lead us to our spiritual purpose, one that benefits all.

Salkalpa broadens perspective, takes us out of thinking small and cultivates faith. It opens the heart and mind to greater possibilities while non-attachment is practiced.

I send each piece off with an intention, which has less to do with “clicks” and is infused with the desire to leave something behind for my son. It is my wish that one day he will look back and understand the depths of his parent’s commitment and love for him. If in the process I get a high readership then naturally, I feel excited and proud but I endeavor not to become attached to the outcome.

Do The Work and Then Surrender.

I spend about 25 hours getting each piece out. Writing it is only half the work. I comb the Internet for anything remotely related to what I have written. I find every webpage that has something to do with, parenting, schools, yoga, spirituality, empathy, and children. I contact radio stations, schools, fellow authors and yoga teachers.

Facebook, twitter, and Google are my constant companions for two days. Then I practice Ishvara Pranidhana (surrender) and trust that it will reach those that it is meant to.

Clara got back up on the stage the following week. Her teacher walked her out, handed her the microphone and kissed her on the top of her head. Clara looked out at her fellow students, opened her mouth and sang right on key. The entire school jumped to their feet and gave that seven year old her first standing ovation.

When I lived in New York and was a performer, I believed that inspiration and talent were the only requirements for success. I dismissed my failures as someone else’s lack of awareness or imagination. I understand more clearly now the meaning of Tapas (self-discipline) and I apply it to my writing and my yoga practice.

Clara’s teacher is showing her, at seven years old, something I didn’t understand until I was forty; you must find your passion, share it with your friends and family, who will always be your most fervent collaborators, do your work, face your fears, understand your intentions, and sing out!

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Read Marylee’s other pieces:  The Princess Of Garbage DayWhere Sleigh Bells Ring, Letter From A Bully, Kids These Days,  and I Hate Handstands.


About Marylee Fairbanks

Marylee Fairbanks is a columnist for Gaiam, elephant journal, My Life Yoga, and, Her essays explore Motherhood and yoga, but mainly focus on her experiences with her young son and the many ways he helps her grow. She is a registered yoga teacher and founder of Chakras Yoga and The 24 Things. She teaches Chakras Balancing workshops and yoga classes. Prior to having her son, she performed in Broadway musicals across the country. Marylee lives in Massachusetts with her husband, son, and dogs. Find her on her website and follow her on twitter.


30 Responses to “Sing Out, Clara.”

  1. Wonderful, Marylee. What a touching story and great advice for writers and bloggers. It's not an accident that you have such a large devoted following.

    Bob W.
    Yoga Editor

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by theyogatrap, Red Fox. Red Fox said: Sing Out, Clara […]

  3. marylee says:

    in case anyone is wondering the school is called Brookwood. It's in massachusetts.. what a FANTASTIC place. here is a comment by a fellow mother and friend at the school

    "Love this!!!Beautiful piece and thanking the universe to be able to share in that school's community with you and our boys! Imagine if we had been able to walk those halls for most of our youth?"

  4. omjen says:

    Marylee that was a beautiful piece! We all need a little help from our friends. As one who has always had difficulty asking for help, it was pointed out to me by a dear friend that sometimes we give others a gift by allowing them to help us. Always, your prana princess. . .

  5. chakras yoga says:

    It took me so many years to understand that! allowing others to help us really is a gift to them. It's hard to do at first but its a great feeling for both parties..

    thanks for reading prana princess!

  6. iderah says:

    Thank you so much for this. Beautiful story. Namaste and om shanti shanti om to you and yours.

  7. YesuDas says:

    Beautiful, Marylee; the very things istruggle with at 46!

  8. Joana Smith says:

    Marylee, you express yourself so well with words! You inspire me.

  9. chakras yoga says:

    Thanks Joana… you are too kind

  10. chakras yoga says:

    No struggle.. just accept! thanks for reading!

  11. chakras yoga says:

    Namaste to you iderah.. thanks for reading

  12. Marylee says:

    Marylee Graffeo Fairbanks
    How do you define success as a yogi?
    about a week ago

    Singh Bidhya Bhusan
    yogi is above success and failure.sense of success fattens ego.
    3 hours ago · Report

    Marylee Graffeo Fairbanks
    A yogi can strive to rise above the ego but in the world we have bills, children who need us, and lifes every day obligations. You can be a yogi and still BE in the everyday world to the best of your ability. We are not all able to live in the mountains and practice living without all things. The real test is being in the world that requires work, money and yes, success while still holding onto as many basic yogic values as we can.
    about a minute ago · Edit Post · Delete Post

  13. MRylee says:

    Above is a discussion on facebook. What do you think?

  14. I"m with you, Marylee. The Bhagavad Gita tells us not to be attached to success, not to avoid success. How could a warrior like Arjuna go into battle without trying to win?

    It seems to me this is exactly the lesson you were teaching Clara. Strive for success, but if you fail, don't be attached to the failure, and if you succeed, don't be overly attached to the success.

    Success is not the enemy. Honestly, I wouldn't be surprised if that's not what Singh meant as well. But I don't have the whole conversation.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
    (Join Elephant Yoga on Facebook)

  15. chakras yoga says:

    Thanks for the insight Bob!

  16. […] Marylee’s other pieces; Sing Out, Clara, Letter From A Bully, I Hate Handstands, The Apprentices Gift, and Where Sleigh Bells Ring. […]