April 28, 2015

On your Mark, get set, Slow Down!



Everyone knows that sprinters cannot win marathons.

At five, six, 12, and throughout my teenage years—I was a kid abounding with much energy and running up and down the streets of my neighborhood was done with ease.

I was the kid who was always on the move.  I always had something going; bike races and stickball games in the alley ways, dodging cars and bouncing around with other kids growing up on my block. In Catholic school I was perpetually in trouble because sitting still and listening to the lessons of the day was like being imprisoned and every part of my body screamed—loudly—to move around.

My childhood was filled with challenges—an absentee father and exposure to people and ideas that were anything but calm—and I responded by being constantly on the move. I spent a lot of time in the proverbial “time out chair” or “corner” being told by often less than well-meaning adults that I didn’t meet their expectations. Not one adult I came into contact with ever asked why I couldn’t be still.

I spent the entire first couple decades of my life never even knowing that there was a gift to be found in stillness or that I couldn’t outrun the disappointments that caused me pain.

A few decades later, I understand that the frenetic nature of my childhood is not so unique. Between smart phones and the growing reserve of electronic devices, people are more and more able to disconnect from their own thoughts and ideas and are being directed by corporations who tell them how and what to play and to always tune out.

Children are growing up without problem-solving skills and are developing without awareness of being part of a global community even while playing with opponents from all over the world in video games and other electronic engagement activities. Stickball may not have been a sophisticated game but when we played it we learned how to solve the interpersonal problems that arose, we looked each other in the eyes and we valued the competition and camaraderie simultaneously.

The streets of my neighborhood  gave me a place where I could connect with my natural habitat and simply be. It wasn’t an exploration into stillness but it gave me that sense of ownership whereby I could direct myself to reach new levels of success and experiences.

As an adult, yoga has become the playground for my mind and body, allowing me to reach new levels of physical achievement, while simultaneously allowing me to experience the joy of practice. Yoga has also allowed me to experience the gifts of stillness—to face the disappointments that kept me on the move for the first two decades of my life and to gain new perspectives about how disappointments can at times become our greatest teachers.

I often imagine a world where yoga is brought to the people who need it most—into our classrooms, our most challenged communities, juvenile justice systems and into our homes where its value and practice can be normalized and an expected part of daily life.

I’ve learned that when your mind can’t keep pace with your body you are moving forward, but towards an unconscious existence.  It takes slow, intentional pacing to win this marathon we call life and to meet the tremendous gifts that await at the purpose-filled, karmic finish line.


Relephant Read:

A Prescription for Life—Slow Down, Sit & Breathe.


Author: Jairo Sanin

Apprentice Editor: Keeley Milne / Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photos: Cosmo 71/Flickr, sunchild123/Flickr

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