I was so happy to be hanging out with Nora, my 4 year old, today. We didn’t get any time together over the weekend because I was in a wonderful yoga training about Pranayama and Meditation. Chase Bossart, longtime student of Mr. Desikachar and teacher extrordinaire, defines yoga as the ability to direct one’s attention (YS 1.2). And what happens when you direct your attention? Different depths of meditation or connection with your chosen object. I was so into it and that’s exactly what I wanted for my morning with Nora – connection and bonding. So, after dropping her big sis off at camp, she and I went in search of some quality time. We found it on the big, red plastic slide at the YMCA.
It’s a classic playground scenario. Nora climbs up a (very wet) slide, I open my eyes really wide and lean on back and say something cleverly mom-ish, as if I were witness to my 4-year-old summiting Mt. Everest, and then she does a 180 and slides down that slide with incredible speed. This happens over and over again. She needs and wants my help and attention through the whole process and I am eager to participate. I stare at her adorable-ness and appreciate how big and sweet and funny she is, and she feels independent and supported at the same time. It is just what I want for our morning.
So there we were. Perfect bonding moment, right? Nora + Me + slide = seratonin pulsing through my system. But after about six rounds of this, I was a little bored. I was done with the game and I wanted to do something else. (There’s rumor that a 4-year old has a much shorter attention span than adults, but I’m not so sure about that.) What was, moments ago, a beautiful mother-daughter bonding experience swirled with a death-defying feat was now unable to hold my attention and I felt myself wondering if we were going to be able to make it to the store before my yoga class and if maybe I could convince Nora to go to the childcare at the Y so I could get a work out in. (Please don’t judge me.) Nora could sense that she was losing me so she started running and hiding in the play structure, being most adorable. We were at the the ol’ cat-and-mouse game for a whopping cinco minutos when I walked past my purse. I reached for my phone because I spend a lot of quality time bonding with my phone. I really had to know what the Facebook happenings were at that exact moment. Turns out, not much. So Nora and I made our way to the gravel area/icecream shop and I got to sit down while she prepared scoops of hotdog and blueberry flavored icecream in the form of handfuls of gravel. I sat there and devoured 5 or 6 delicious servings. My acting was so convincing that Nora looked concerned and reminded me that it was pretend and I couldn’t really eat it. I gave her a wink, then I looked down and noticed a perfectly round little piece of gravel in my hand. I immediately started sifting through the individual gravel stones looking for more perfectly round ones. Bonding with the gravel…great.
It was at this moment that I remembered what I had spent the weekend studying, and realized what I was doing. I intended to bond with Nora but I was connecting more with gravel than with her. All of my senses, my attention and my interest were zeroing in on a handful of rocks. I had to laugh. Yoga is about sustained attention on a chosen object, not the random thing that happens to catch your interest. The practice of yoga in everyday life can make your relationships better because you are able to stay connected to the things, the activities and the people that you are intending to bond with, like your kid who you haven’t seen all weekend.
Through the practice of yoga, we are able to observe the mind– Am I maintaining my attention on sweet Nora or are my senses (oooh! What pretty rocks) and my habits (constantly checking my phone) distracting me from this intention? If I could stay connected to Nora for an extended period of time… say 10 minutes instead of 5, how much would we both learn and enjoy and delight in the experience? How could I change my patterns so that I have a better chance of succeeding in this bonding pursuit? I’ve got a ways to go. I don’t think I’ll give up yoga just yet.