Toddlers are a yoga practice

If you didn’t know, yoga is a BIG part of my life.  What began as a simple idea of, “I should try every exercise class on this schedule,” at the Walla Walla YMCA turned into an obsession and eventually a way of life.  I didn’t know it then but I do now, yoga gave me a framework to relate to the world, a paradigm that I finally felt connected to with all my heart and soul.  I’m not sure if I found yoga or if it found me but either way, it saved me (physically, mentally, spiritually) and has continued to be the biggest teacher in my life.  Until I had kids.

Trace is now 3.  Izzy is 2.  [eyes bulging out of my head]  No, we did not “plan” on having two toddlers but clearly I needed this in my life for some reason.  Izzy, right on queue, began having tantrums (the reeeeeal ones) two days before her second birthday.  For a moment, I had forgotten about tantrums because Trace is now old enough and smart enough to just get angry and scream bloody murder rather than be two-year-old-irrational-crazy.  I hate tantrums (said every parent ever).  In my mind it is an ice pick cracking my soul in half, my brain in two, and every foul word out of my mouth before I can catch it.  No, I don’t swear at my children (not yet) but the things that come to my mind are not pretty.  I hate tantrums.  They suck my soul right out of me and leave a skeleton of hate cooking a meal (because for some reason tantrums happen when I’m trying to prepare a meal…or maybe I’m just in the kitchen a lot. So cliche.  I know.  But true.)

do not use or copy this photo without mother's permission

Being 2 is hard.

Since my yoga practice has been more focused on the meditation practices rather than the asana (postures) recently, I decided to “meditate” through some of Izzy’s tantrums over the past few days.  I didn’t sit in lotus pose, close my eyes, and “oooommmmm” it away, I simply took a few deep breaths when they began and really listened to what she was saying, how she was saying it, and how I was responding.  In doing this, I realized my response to her tantrums (typically irreverent, eye rolling, patience that quickly turns to yelling, or laughing) is just as much a “tantrum” as hers.  #TruthHurts

I knew I needed to flip a switch before I flipped-out-of-my-mind. Yoga reminds us to look within ourselves when external things are triggering, upsetting, emotional, reoccurring, hurtful, etc. One of these self-inquiry practices is to ask, “How is this [in this case Izzy’s tantrums] a reflection of my own life?”  While sitting with this question over the past 24 hours, as I watch and listen to Izzy maneuver through her world with mommia’s and daddia’s rules and expectations, I have begun to think that my toddlers (including their tantrums) are meant to be a direct reflection of the relationship I have with Universe and God—deeply loving, comforting, give me-give me-give me, no No NO, lots of unnecessary crying, and yet utterly devotional.

Before I go on you have to know that I am not a Bible-type and I am also not a religious person.  I didn’t grow up in a “church” and in fact, probably have entered a church more times for weddings than for a sermon—but I am deeply spiritual and have a very deep connection with God…thanks to Yoga.  This is probably worth a whole blog on to itself.  What I’m getting at is this: I know the word “God” can be off-putting to some. I was that person once.  I invite you to replace the G-word with something like “Love” and see if that resonates with your own life.  Back to my point about toddlers, tantrums, and God…

What really gets my blood boiling is when Izzy asks for help and then when I help she SCREAMS at me for helping her, “I do it!!!  I do it!!! I do it!!!!”  It makes me want to throw her out a window.  Of course, I won’t but her vacillating is the hardest on a daily basis.  When I stop to reflect I realize this is how I use to feel when adults would ask for help and guidance and then when I offered a solution or course of treatment they would tell me, “no thank youbut continue to complain about said challenge in their life. Either take the steps to fix it or shut-up would be my internal monologue. It used to drive me craaaaaazy. I eventually grew to understand that sometimes asking for guidance or help is part of the journey.  The actual work, treatments, or solutions are just another level of response, self-responsibility, and commitment that is difficult in our bandaid-make-it-go-away-now culture.

The other big trigger is when Izzy asks for something and then when she gets it flails into a storm of irrational hatred and disappointment, a.k.a a tantrum. So with my new attempt at looking at tantrums as a reflection of my own life, I pondered…do I ask for help (ehem, pray for things) and then when I am offered help, guidance, signs, direct outcomes do I pout about it? Scream about it?  Push it away?  Yikes, [swallow of truth] I think I do.  Maybe I don’t scream bloody murder and yell, “I’ll do it!!!” or throw it on the ground and stomp all over it but in more subtle adult ways I talk myself out of the signs, or tell others who are offering their support or advice “thank you, no thank you,” or even feel down in the dumps that my life isn’t the way I planned or the way I asked God to make it look like.  Again, [sigh] humbling.

I actually wrote out this conversation I had with Izzy the other day as part of this process. It was EYE OPENING, to say the least.

Mommia: What would you like Izzy?
Izzy: I want a cookie.
Mommia: No cookie right now. [Izzy starts crying the second I say this.] Maybe later. What about a banana? Would you like a banana?
Izzy: [trying to stop crying] Yes, ba-ba-banana.
Mommia: Here you go. Would you like your water too?
Izzy: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a banana. No banana. [Throws it on the ground.]
Mommia: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no banana then. [I pick up the banana and put it on the counter, potentially for later]
Izzy: I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa! [crying and screaming] I want the baaaa-naaa-naaa!
Mommia: Izzy, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your banana.
Izzy: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. Baa-banana please.
Mommia: Here you go. [Eyes rolling behind a loooong blink] Thank you Izzy for using your big girl words and tone of voice. —-End Scene—–

I then decided to flip-the-script with my new insights. Mommia is now “Universe” or “God” and Izzy is now me, Haunani. [Note: in no way am I insinuating that I am equal to Universe or God, it is merely an exercise of reflection. Keep reading.] Cookie and banana are now name your desire: a car, husband, soul mate, new career, patience, health, freedom, abundance, etc. For the sake of this script, I’m going to use car for cookie and lasting relationship for banana.

Universe: What would you like Haunani?
Haunani: I want a ­car.
Universe: No car right now. [Haunani starts crying the minute Universe says this.] Maybe later. What about a lasting relationship? Would you like a lasting relationship?
Haunani: [trying to stop crying] Yes, lasting reeee-reeeelationshiiiii-shiiiip.
Universe: Here you go. Would you like Love in that relationship too?
Haunani: [Begins crying and screaming] I don’t want a lasting relationship. No lasting relationship. [Throws it on the ground.]
Universe: {note, internal monologue is screaming ‘wtf do you want then?’} OK, no lasting relationship then. [Universe picks up the lasting relationship and puts it on the counter, potentially for later]
Haunani: I want the laaaaa-laaasting re-re-relationship! [crying and screaming] I want the relationship!
Universe: Haunani, when you stop crying and use your big girl words and tone of voice you can ask for your lasting relationship.
Haunani: [begins to stop crying] ooooh—oooooh kay. La-lasting relationship please.
Universe: Here you go. [Eyes rolling] Thank you Haunani for using your big girl words and tone of voice. ——-End Scene——

This exercise rocked my Mommia world. I was immediately humbled. It’s become so obvious to me that my kids are reflecting my true expectations and relationship with Universe and God that I began to change how I relate to the laws of karma, God, and Universe overnight.

Not that I respond to life all the time like the above scenario, but neither does Izzy. She’s just being a two year old with no books, no guidance, figuring out a new language, figuring out everything—being a two year old is hard. What’s my excuse? OK, so I don’t have a book on being a mom but at least I know my language, know how to listen, understand responsibility, have some emotional awareness, know and use logic, etc. I have no excuse. Being so humbled by this newfound awareness, I then made a list of the other things Izzy does that make me “lose it” rather quickly.

  • Only use the word “please” if reminded to.
  • Only use the word “thank you” if reminded to.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you’re not going to get what you wanted.
  • Quickly scream and writhe when realizing you ARE getting what you asked for.
  • Purposefully do things after being told not to.
  • Purposefully doing the same thing after falling, getting hurt, or watching others (her brother) get hurt or in trouble.

Now I feel like a do a little better on some of these than Izzy and other adults I’ve encountered but woah, apparently, my expectations of God and life are a little unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  And now having this realization, I now see I react to Izzy’s two-year-old nature because I feel she is being unfair, imbalanced, and greedy.  Clearly, my expectations are too high.  How is she suppose to know?  [My heart softens and I take a long slow sigh]. I’m not proud of this realization but acknowledgment and acceptance is the first step in choosing to make a change or not.

It’s hard being a two year old.  It’s also hard being the mom of a two-year-old. Many days I wish I worked full-time just to escape the irrational tendencies. I didn’t like it with Trace and I definitely do not like it with Izzy.  And herein lies the teachings.  Izzy is my major teacher right now. Like all good teachers I’ve discovered she’s shining right back at me like a pure reflection.   I am humbled, embarrassed, and at the same time completely motivated to make a shift TODAY both in how I respond to Izzy and my relationship with life, the world around me, and God.

Note to reader:  Overall, Izzy is an incredible child and I know this.  I am not complaining in this blog but merely attempting to share my process of coming to terms with tantrums through a mindful and humbling approach.

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My wish for the World

Many of you know I meditate, practice yoga, and think about the World and situations slightly different than the average gal.  Right when we moved to Bahrain, in fact, the same week we moved here, there was a slew of suicide bombings and mass shootings.  Reading the news was depressing, sad, frustrating, and for me, motivating.  Motivating because it made me really sit and meditate more, dig deep into my own fears, pray, send out more love, contemplate life, and question why we are all here together at this time.

Eventually, the big move, suicide bombings, missing my family, friends, and dogs, and trying to find a new home got to me and I lost it.  I just downright lost it.  Balling.  Crying.  And so sad for the World we live in.  Why?  How?  WTF? Can’t we all just get along?  I know it sounds so cliche but I know I was sobbing those words out loud.  Through years of a committed yoga sadhana practice, I now know when I start to feel like the external (environment, situation, reactions) is affecting my internal peace, it’s time for a little reflection exercise*.  With puffy eyes and little sob to my breath, I got paper and pen and wrote at the top “What I wish for the World.”  Then, I wrote.

I want people to wake up. To take responsibility for their life and footprint on this planet in this infinitesimal amount of time we are here. To realize they do make a difference and every action, word, though creates a ripple. To take responsibility for their physical health. Mental health. Emotional health. Spiritual health. To not fear but live. To stand tall in their physical body and be able to say in the mirror, “I love you.” To not get attached to the thoughts and monkey mind. To see others and other situations as a reflection of themselves. To not be beat down by challenge but to rise up and see it as an opportunity to learn, grow, and become wiser. To be okay with not knowing. To be okay with stillness. To love more than hate. To be aware. To stand up for your beliefs while being flexible enough to learn new things and change your beliefs. To create more smiles than frowns. To leave a place in a better mood than when you arrived. To not take anything for granted. To thank God for everything in your life. To let go of what people told you to think and believe and to think and believe for yourself. To share your passions with the World. To apologize when needed but to not give up your personal power. That’s it. My wish for the World.

I was so mad and angry when I first started writing but by the end, I felt like I had gotten something out.  My breath had calmed down and I felt more at peace.

Recently, while I was unpacking and settling into our new villa, I found this piece of paper.  I read it again.  I was both embarrassed and totally inspired.  Embarrassed because it reads as if I have this all figured out myself, which I don’t.  Inspired because it sounds like a calling from within, a call to action to step up my own game as a member of this human tribe and to really live this way too.  By theory, I totally 100% believe in everything I wrote.  In action, life is not always 100% of what I believe.  So, when I read this, I feel inspired to make my actions align with my beliefs.

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So why share this?  Because if you look at the external–the news, world politics, race relations–it’s easy to point the finger, to get upset, and feel helpless.  But remember, when you point the finger, there are three fingers pointing back at you.  It’s also the 15th anniversary memorial of 9/11.  For many people, this day represents a turning point in perspective.  The ripple effects of September 11, 2001 are still felt worldwide.  Indeed, it’s a day of reflection.   There are many ways to reflect.  I’m not biased to one way or another.  I do believe it’s beneficial for people to do self-reflection often though.  So if you’ve never done this type of self-reflection exercise, I encourage you to do it.  It is powerful.  Get a piece of paper, write “What I wish for the World” and just start writing without judgment or holding back.  Put it aside for a few hours or weeks.  Then read it and see how what you wrote reflects your own current life.  Are the theories and daily actions aligned?  In this reflection, hopefully, you will glean insight into how your external environment and internal beliefs are aligned or not.  Some of you may even be inspired to be your own change you wish to see in the World.

Life is messy and confusing sometimes.  It can seem like life can be happening to us and we have no control.  However, it’s an even playing field when it comes to how we respond to life.  We all have the same chance to live in accordance with how and what you truly believe.  What’s your wish for the World?

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Quote by Courtney A. Walsh

*In yoga, the personal practices toward uncovering one’s true nature, self inquiry (svadhyaya) is a very powerful tool for releasing anything that disturbs the mind, especially feelings of fear, frustration, worry, jealousy, hate, and attachment to name a few.  The practice of self inquiry and self reflection have been very powerful tools in my own life and have played a major role in my own physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual healing.