Focus on the Process

Yoga has become a huge part of my life in the past several months, and yesterday a yoga practitioner posed the following question on Facebook:

Why do you do yoga?

At first I started doing yoga for stress relief. Lately it has become so much more to me. I feel much more relaxed and balanced after I practice, and doing yoga is a way for me to reconnect with myself. I have talked a lot about how teachers give so much of themselves away, and yoga has become a way for me to check in with myself and really sense how I am feeling and how I am doing. I have begun adding in some meditation as a way to really focus myself and connect with myself on a deeper level. Meditation has been hard for me to do; I hear stories about how some people meditate for thirty minutes or even an hour and I can’t even imagine doing it for that long. But this morning while I was meditating a thought struck me: if I become uncomfortable or unfocused spending just five minutes being present with myself, how will I be when I have to be present for someone else? We are with ourselves all of the time, and it would make sense that our own selves should be who we are the most comfortable with, but I have found that it takes a lot for me to be comfortable with focusing on connecting with myself for even five minutes. That last sentence is a mouthful, but that is really what it is all about. Comfort, focus, and connection. With myself. And supposedly, what you get in is what you get out. Supposedly, when I connect more with myself I am supposed to better be able to connect with others. Which makes sense. I will see in others what I focus on in myself.

Which led to my other big epiphany for the day: it is all a process. I know what it is like to want everything now, now, now. I am one of the worst when it comes to that. I want it all fixed now. I want my business to grow now. I want to know whether I have the promotion now. I want to fix everything in my classroom and have it be perfect now. I am a now person. But that, at its core, is focusing on the product. The end result. It takes a process to get there. It takes a process to fix the classroom like I want it, just as writing this book is a process. Doing yoga is a process all on its own. I can’t do all of the poses that I want to be able to do, but I am in the process of getting there. I am in the process of being comfortable enough with myself that I can spend larger amounts of time focusing on connecting with myself. I am in the process of getting that promotion. Life is a process, and it is time to slow down and enjoy the process rather than waiting and stressing about the end product. It will come, but it will never be the end. There will always be something else to want now right behind it. Life itself is one big forest, but the process are those trees that make it up.

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Feeling Fall

Today I spent the day reflecting on “concentrating on the forest and forgetting the trees.” This phrase really spoke to me and I spent a lot of time trying to be present and with the children as they played.

Lately I have been spending a lot of time enjoying the beautiful fall colors around; driving has become a lot more difficult because the trees are so beautiful! When we went out to the playground today all I noticed was the leaves all over the ground! It was so beautiful, and it took me back to the days when I was a kid and we made huge leaf piles to jump in! Sometimes jumping in leaves was not the greatest idea in my yard, though, because our primary leaf tree was a black walnut tree. Have you ever jumped on walnuts? They don’t feel too good. This time I wasn’t going to be doing the jumping, though. I grabbed a rake tool that we had on the playground and began moving leaves into a big pile for the children to jump in. They were so happy about this new activity! They were throwing leaves up in the air and helping me gather more leaves into the huge pile. These kids are only three, though, so their attention span is not very long when it comes to piling up leaves without jumping in them. There was a LOT more jumping than there was piling.

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This is what it is all about. These moments are the trees. It didn’t take much for this moment to happen – just a little work from me, a rake, and the wonderful season of fall. And of course, all of the energy from the children that was used for all of that jumping and playing! More moments like this happen all the time. It just takes being present in the moment with the children, listening to them, and figuring out how to turn each moment into a magical one like this. Are all of the moments magical? No, they aren’t. Children have their moments, as do we. But if we really listen to the children we can find the magical moments that happen every day.

Later in the day a crowd of children were sitting in the art center playing with foam letters. They were peeling the paper off of the backs of the letters so that they could stick them on paper. One child had a hole punch and was working with it. I hadn’t seen the children working with the punch before and I was watching him. After a while I remembered that my director had let me borrow a flower punch and I hadn’t given it back to her yet. I got it down for the children and they took turns experimenting with the flower punch. It was another magical moment as I showed the children the flowers that they had made. They all wanted to take flowers home to their families. This activity can be expanded with other punch shapes, and the magic can continue.

These are the trees, and this is what it is all about.

My Yoga Journey

About a year ago I was in school, working full time in a stressful environment, and trying to keep my house in order. To say that I was completely stressed out was an understatement. I was stressed out, burnt out, and working hard just to keep my head above water. I needed some way to decompress.

When school ended for the semester I began to explore options for stress relief. I’ve tried to do yoga on and off throughout the years, but I’ve been intimidated by the skinny people doing poses designed for the mega-flexible. I wasn’t sure if I could get past that enough to try to do much yoga, but I was willing to give it a shot. I invested in a beginner’s yoga DVD and began my journey. I was glad I did. It didn’t take me long to realize that yoga is about letting go of where you want to be and accepting where you are, no matter where that is. So I learned that flexibility doesn’t matter so much as tuning in to myself.

That has been my big take-away from yoga: tuning in to myself. Yoga is about so much more than the poses. It is about connecting with yourself, whether it is the good parts or the bad, and accepting all of those pieces of yourself. Sure, there are parts of ourselves that we would all like to work on, and yoga doesn’t tell us that we can’t work on those pieces. It does tell me that I am okay despite those pieces, and it helps me focus on working on what needs to be worked on.

I needed that lesson because I was giving so much of myself away. I gave pieces of myself away in my job and in my school work. I gave pieces of myself away to my family and my small business. I kept giving pieces of myself away every day, and I did not stop to reconnect with that part of myself that needs to feel loved and accepted, that part of me that is so passionate about what I do and why I do it. Yoga is an important part of my life now because it helps me reconnect.

Writing this post became important to me a few weeks ago because I realized that, even though I was doing yoga to reconnect with myself, I wasn’t truly reconnecting with my passion to teach. My passion for teaching has been driving me for many years, and through the burnout and the stress I have lost my connection to that. Add to that the stress and uncertainty of changing jobs, and through changing jobs the loss of certainty of the direction of the company. I love my company and I love teaching, and I don’t want to lose those things simply because I haven’t slowed down enough to reconnect with that passion inside of me. It is time for me to reconnect, to slow down. All of my previous recent posts have been written in hopes of publishing a book. I believe in every word that I have published here, but in some ways I feel like I am concentrating on the forest and forgetting about the trees. The trees – the children and the relationships that we go back to day after day. The love and the curiosity and the creativity that is let loose every day in the classroom. Those are my passion, and while everything I am writing here is important, it is also important to not forget about these aspects of the classroom.

I have been struggling with writing about taking care of ourselves first, because as teachers we give so much of ourselves away. I have been trying to write about how to get that passion back once you hit burn-out, because that is what I am trying to do right now. Looking at the forest hasn’t helped. It is time to look at the trees.