Hazel started sixth grade this week. Dave and I had plans to help her arrive extra-early on the first day of school so she could drop off school supplies into appropriate bins, find her locker, pick up her updated schedule and make it to her first class on time. Despite our hopes and dreams for a stress-free first morning, it didn’t work out like that. I think Hazel handled her side of things fairly well, but the moment I walked through the glass doors of the massive middle school, the most dysfunctional sixth grade version of myself emerged. I felt my anxiety spike and recognized the uniquely pre-teen feeling of equal parts fascination and aversion about all the people and happenings around me. It was so weird. When I think about the first day crazies in Hazel’s middle school, I have this picture in my head that all of us were scurrying, kind of like cockroaches running willy-nilly, trying to move out of the way but not knowing where, exactly, the massive shoe would come down.
Aaah. Middle school.
As Dave and I drove away from the school, I laughed off some of my old baggage and stress and reminded myself that this is only one of a whole series of days at this school. Gradually, all this stuff won’t feel so new. Hazel will learn her way around, get to know the teachers, the staff, and the kids, and she’ll come up with a rhythm for her week. So will I. Pretty soon, she’ll be carrying on a conversation with friends and she won’t have to think about how to get to her next class. She’ll be able to focus on friendships and learning and getting to know who she is and what she enjoys. All of these experiences will become a part of her.
Patanjali’s Yoga Sūtra I.17 vitarka vicāra ānanda asmitā rūpa anugamāt saṁprajñātaḥ
This process is the same one we all go through when something new begins and slowly becomes part of our lives. It can feel awkward and difficult at the start but after going through it again and again, it becomes second nature. Patañjali talks about this very process in yoga sūtra I.17. At first, we have a gross understanding of something (vitarka). With experience, we refine our understanding and our experience, and we know it in a more subtle way (vicāra). This process brings deep satisfaction or joy (ānanda). And as we continue in this way and follow these movements or processes (anugamāt) , the experience, knowledge, or object becomes a part of you (asmitā) and we know it deeply and take complete ownership* of the object (saṁprajñātaḥ)
We’ll continue to make efforts to help the school days go smoothly– getting up with plenty of time to make the bus, providing nourishing food, appropriate amounts of 11-year-old sleep, and preparing what we can the evening before. Establishing an efficient routine is just one way our family will go through vitarka vicāra ānanca asmitā rūpa anugamāt saṁprajñātaḥ. As we repeat the process again and again and continue to make efforts, it will be refined in subtle ways and our mornings will go more and more smoothly. Of course, these efforts aren’t for the mornings or the routines themselves. A smooth and low-stress start to the day means that Hazel can do the important work of being Hazel. As she develops and goes through middle school, what she experiences becomes a part of her. And I’m sure her special middle school years will become a part of me in significant and important ways, too.
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*From Liberating Isolation, Yogasutra of Patañjali by Franz Moors; Media Garuda 2012