On Thursday afternoon, I experienced one of those instances in which time briefly seems to still in order to show you the cumulative effect of many small moments.
I was rushing through my schedule with two kids in the back of the car, feeling agitated and sharp, my mind already on the rest of my to-do list. Out of nowhere, I heard the sweet voices of my 10- and 11-year-old girls as they began chanting:
“Om buhr bhuvah svah…”
It was the Gayatri Mantra, the ancient call for transformation and growth, and one of my family’s favorite chants to share together. Tears filled my eyes and I immediately softened, overwhelmed that my girls were using tools that I had taught them to help center and calm me.
As a longtime yogini, the role of motherhood naturally folded into my practice. When my kids were babies, instead of lullabies at bedtime, I sang the chants that I had learned from my teachers. I added my voice to sacred melodies already imbued with the voices of many generations, so that my children may feel the same well-being that these traditions offered me.
As they grew, I began inviting them to share in my personal practice by asking them to join me for the beginning of my meditations. I really want to meditate, I tell them, but I am feeling unmotivated. Can you sit with me for a minute and then sneak away while I continue? We call it a “mindful minute,” and they usually end up staying far longer. It’s just like teaching them by asking them to help bake a cake or clear the table, and they generously offer me their energy and concentration.
It’s important to me that whenever we practice mindfulness together it feels light instead of being structured or forced, so in addition to sitting quietly together, we incorporate kid-friendly techniques that they enjoy. One of their favorite things to do is practice visualizations, like a guided meditation on the chakras in which we breathe colors into each wheel of the body. On occasion, we observe our breath by counting our inhalations and exhalations, and, of course, they love singing the chants.
Sometimes before school I have them choose an affirmation for the day. My middle daughter is highly academic and can put a lot of pressure on herself to get good grades. On days when she has a big test, she might choose, “I am focused and prepared.” Repeating this to herself provides an anchor for her nervous energy and helps to ease tension. My youngest child, on the other hand, finds her anxiety within the social aspect of school, in the sometimes-uncertain world of her friends. She may choose a phrase like, “I am soft as I walk through the day,” to remind herself to stay open and calm. What’s especially sweet about this practice is that when I pick them up in the afternoon, I can use it as a talking point to connect with them about their day.
The truth is, we all need techniques to deal with the fluctuations of daily life, and it took me many years to find my own. It doesn’t matter that I am a yoga teacher, I experience the same stresses of modern life and motherhood as anyone else. My wish is to show my kids that it’s possible to ride the waves of energy that we encounter and keep the connection to your true, inner self. Every day I strive to develop deeper skills and to be a good role model. I share these tools with them now in hopes that they will continue to rely on them in the future.
On that hectic day in the car, when their chanting voices filled the air, it was an expression of love from my children to me. I was reminded that even as I am blessed to teach my incredible children, I am even more blessed to be taught by them as we travel this path together.
Grateful to my practice for enriching the lives of myself and my family, I let my stress fall away as I added my voice to theirs: “Om buhr, bhuvah, svah…”
Author: Lainie Devina
Image: Kevin Dooley/Flickr
Editors: Emily Bartran; Caitlin Oriel