I’m an only child that was raised in a one-parent home out in the country. To say that I was left to my own devices on more than one occasion would be an understatement. I was fortunate enough to have horses, and they were on our property, so I rode often across the desert by myself beginning at the age of about 7 or 8. I rode in gymkanas, and since the arena was only a couple of miles away, I would ride, sometimes by myself, to the arena, where my mother would drive to meet me. Then I’d ride home again, sometimes late at night, by myself. I’m guessing several of you may have opinions of my mother for letting me do so much on my own at such a young age, but back then there wasn’t as much of a threat of “something bad” happening. There were fewer people about, and it was still relatively safe to hitchhike. During the summer between 4th and 5th grade, I rode my bike, carrying my clarinet, about four miles to another school where I participated in a band camp. My mom gave me a dollar every day, so on the way home I could stop at the only convenience store around and get a slushy to help me cool off. I had jobs training horses beginning at the age of 15 (I was grooming and cleaning stalls before then), as well as various others in restaurants and babysitting/house sitting. To say that my mother raised an independent, strong-willed child would be obvious.
I’ve taken that independence, what, on some occasions, I’ve termed “control”, and have used it to conduct a successful teaching career with high school kids who are emotionally disturbed and learning disabled. I’ve been an instrument of change within my district, and backed away when I began to realized that no matter how hard I worked, I couldn’t force/encourage some teachers to change their practice. And in my opinion, they really needed to change! But that’s all it was, my idea. Or rather, my ego’s agenda of how things should be.
I’m still in the classroom, and sometimes, even daily, I struggle with allowing teachers and students and parents to be who and what they are. On the days that I can let go of wanting to change others, even if I think it is for their own good, are the times when I’m content. And being in that space of contentment, of peace and ease, is what our connection to Source/God/I Am is all about. I admit that before I went through yoga teacher training, I would bring my work home with me, cry in the evenings for all that I could not change, for all that I thought was wrong and needed to be fixed. Granted, there are occasional times when I’m overwhelmed and I forget, and then I do feel sad and helpless and frustrated. And it is when I experience these emotions that I am reminded how far from center I have traveled.
So, what does any of this have to do with the yogic practice of allowing? If I remind myself that my students are who they are (and yes, my counseling background helps me to understand the environmental influences), and that it is not my job to judge them or to “fix” them, but instead to do my best effort to offer a safe environment and provide information in a variety of ways for them to learn. The more I attach to wanting things to turn out a certain way (all of them passing their State tests, improving by grade levels each year, taking responsibility for their behavior), the more misery I create for myself. Understanding that things cannot be any different than how they are occurring at that moment, releases me from the monster of control that believes saving every student that walks through my door, having an answer for every teacher that comes to me, and possessing herculean talent and stamina are what everyone expects of me (when in reality it is my own expectations). Allowing for people to be who they are, to arrive in my room how they are showing up that day, to engage with them at the ability level (or effort level) that they choose to employ, alleviates all sorts of suffering from my life. And I can’t do anything to assist anyone else if I’m so far from center that I can’t tell which end is up, or in this case, of who or what I’m in control of, which isn’t everyone and everything.
If we can adopt the philosophy that people are who they are (by whichever means they are “made”) and that we are not in control of them, it frees us to be more of who we are. And that can be the love that fills your heart or all the assets that your ego provides you. However, that doesn’t mean that I allow my students to run amok, but it does ease that sense of tight control, and instead offers me the opportunity to observe and enjoy who my students and fellow teachers are, just as they are showing up in that moment. Throughout my teacher training, I wrote 25 poems about the transformation process that took place within me (and is still evolving) that I didn’t notice until the end of the program. That project, Yogis All: A Journey of Transformation Volume I is available for sale on my web site, but you can read three of the poems for free by going here: www.myjoyenterprises.com The more I practice yoga’s suggestion of allowing, the more ease I find in my life. That observation and learning will be reflected in my next project of poems. Namaste.