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January 23, 2012

The Day I Lost My Beginner’s Mind: Motherhood & Yoga.

I think if the award for crappiest mom in the Northern hemisphere was given out this past Thursday I might have been the top candidate. To say I am not proud of how I behaved is an understatement.

The elves, my lovely children who are 8 and 6, woke me up before six, which is generally verboten in my house. They also woke up our 6-month-old puppy that arose in a particularly spunky mood. As the morning proceeded each elf began to push my inner mom buttons. My daughter refused to wear the pants I picked for her because they were “too shaky” in the legs. My son threw away a perfectly good Wii game he loves because it frustrated him to tears. Oh, and the dog? She refused to go to the bathroom outside after a thirty-minute attempt in 12-degree weather on my part. Did I mention I was tired, had no breakfast and had still not combed my hair by the time we had to go to the school bus? Gorgeous, calm and well fed I was not. Raging, exhausted and looking like I was Gilda Radnor’s hair double I was.

To put it mildly, I lost it.

I screamed at the dog to pee. “PEE!!!!”  She did not. I screamed at my kids to stop being so spoiled and get ready to go to school. “PUT YOUR COATS ON NOW!” They did. I madly opened the door to let the dog out again and slammed my forehead so hard I got a goose egg. I made the dog quiver. I made my son cry. I made myself cry. I was pathetic, embarrassing and if you looked in the window you might have actually seen me stomp my feet on the ground. Oh yea, it was ugly.

But here’s the thing. I am a yoga teacher and a yoga practitioner. I have many tools in my yoga mat bag that teach me how to be calm and present.  I know what it is like to be successful one day, fail the next while celebrating both. This past Thursday morning I briefly forgot where my inner cache of yoga wisdom could be found.

On the mat and off, my yoga stems from a new place. I may have slept funny and my body may hurt in a different way. I may feel refreshed and energized. I may have had a morning from hell and be ashamed at the way my anger took over my rational mind. I may have a new approach to my practice, but I am always reminded that I am human: equally flawed and perfect.

Yoga teachers and students approach the mat with a beginners mind. We move through poses as if they are our first experience with wonder and freshness. This fact is true because each day we are different, and each day our practice is new.

Parenthood is like yoga in that you never know what the same experience will be from one day to the next. Shaky pants can be the bane of an elf’s existence on Monday and by Friday the most important thing she owns. Yogurt can go from being a sole source of sustenance to one that is met with “oh disgusting” exclamations. Most of all, these shifts can happen within hours or even moments.

To be a mom you must have a beginner’s mind just like the yogis: you are always doing something for the first time even if you have done it a thousand times before because it is never the same. Ever. I forgot this past Thursday that I was a yogi and a mom and momentarily thought I knew how it would go. I approached my kids as an expert rather than embracing the fresh new way the morning unfolded. I said a lot of “you KNOW how to do this” instead of “what way would work for you today.”

After my morning of maternal failure I ran off in tears to teach one of two yoga classes I had back to back that day. I would have given anything to find subs and to instead whisk my elves off to ice cream or the zoo or anywhere to show that I was sorry. Instead I had a moment to hug them, reassure them I was mildly crazy but human, remind them I love them and let them go to school. I walked into my classes and taught my students about balance. Or rather I taught them to embrace the lack of balance we all have in our lives and in our bodies. We fell out of poses, we moved in new ways and we breathed. We felt like beginners and we gave ourselves permission to both accept and embrace our flaws.

I will never be a perfect mother or a perfect yogi. I will still periodically lose my mind and yell and I will have moments of ego and judgment on my mat. I will drink wine and curse and struggle with reading the Bhagavad Gita. But I will use deep breaths and self-reflection in both of my roles.

I will be a mom and a yogi with a beginner’s mind. Rather than fight the challenges I will embrace them and laugh when I wobble on one leg or two. I am thankful that I can welcome the flaws and the perfection equally and see the worth in both.

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Nancy Alder  |  Contribution: 2,600