Sunday mornings are pretty special at our house. It’s the one day of the week that I absolutely don’t work or teach, I don’t do chores and I don’t run errands. Or at least I try really hard not to. I’ve even made up a rule that I don’t get on the computer on Sundays. Though I’ve only made it through two Sundays with zero computer time, it helps me to remember what I want Sunday to be about—spending unstructured time with the girls and following our interests wherever they may lead. Sometimes they lead to the pool, sometimes we paint, sometimes we cook. We almost always go dancing and to church.
Nora is the church-goer. She claims that she likes to go for the doughnuts they serve after the service, but my mom reports that whenever she’s in the sanctuary, she makes sure she has a line of sight to Father Bo because she likes to see him break bread. Hazel and I celebrate our spiritual side at ecstatic dance. I looooove dance and Hazel does, too. Not only is it great to move to music and see a whole room full of people doing the same, it’s also the only time all week that we have guaranteed one-on-one time.
Last Sunday, the three of us were sitting around the table finishing up with breakfast and Nora announced that she wanted to go to dance with us. Hazel didn’t like this one bit. She made a grouchy face and scrunched up her shoulders and said, “I don’t want Nora to come. I like it when it’s just us, Mom. Make her go to church.”
Hazel was operating from a particular perspective—“Nora is going to come along and then I’ll have to share Mom, and I don’t want to.” It was like Hazel could see the future—all three of us on the dance floor and Nora wanting to be carried around and then Hazel would have to be dancing beside us and she’d feel left out. I get it. It has happened before and I was a big sister, too.
Only a moment passed and Nora turned to Hazel. In the most earnest and endearing little-sister way, she said, “But Hazel, I want to go so I can spend time with you.” And just like that, this whole imaginary future was instantly transformed. Hazel’s body softened and her heart opened to what now seemed like a great idea. She and Nora would go to dance together and Hazel could be her big sister and show her the ropes. They grabbed hands and ran off to the bedroom so Hazel could dress Nora in some outrageous outfit of ruffles, sequins and hair ties.
We can’t know what’s going to happen in the future even if we do have a good idea of what tends to go down. I struggle with this. Well, such-and-such happened last time I did this and so I just know it’s going to happen again. This can happen with stuff that turned out well or stuff that didn’t. Making a prediction about how something is going to happen is so tricky. What is being realistic vs. shaping an outcome? Thinking that I know what is going to happen in a yet to be determined future experience has a way of making that prediction come true. And I’m not talking in some mind-control pre-destiny sort of way. I’m talking about how our attitude and perspective shape the interpretation of how information comes in. If we really think dance is going to be ruined because little sister is tagging along, guess what. It probably is.
So here’s what happened. We went to dance. Nora was a little nervous when we got there and insisted on being carried around the dance floor as Hazel and I did our best to move together. It actually happened just as Hazel predicted. But the difference is that it didn’t ruin her experience. Because Hazel saw dance time as a chance for her to be big sister to Nora and for the three of us to have an experience together, she was just fine with those first 20 minutes when at least two and sometimes all four of my limbs were engaged with keeping Nora close to me. Because of the openness Hazel found, she saw the dancing morning not from the place of, “Nora is ruining everything” but instead from a really different starting place: “Nora wants to be here because she loves me and wants to spend time with me.” Because Hazel could really feel this and take it in, her perspective was totally different and therefore, her experience at the dance was, too. After Nora settled in, the two of them took off dancing and playing and sharing time together. It was really sweet.
This is yoga. Yoga is noticing the lens through which we are operating and then seeing that we just might have access to a different lens. For Hazel, hearing, believing and choosing to see that Nora wanted to spend time with her helped her to come from a place that made dancing together about connecting instead of not getting something she wanted. This can happen. When we have these tools of yoga to help us to feel and choose openness as our perspective and starting place, we just might access the patience, love and kindness that helps us stay open to a beautiful outcome or to the possibility that it can turn out great.