This past weekend, we had another sweet family yoga and kirtan class. We listened to a story about Lord Krishna as a child. Krishna (or Gopala), the beautiful blue god-child, and his brother Balaram are caught eating dirt in the back yard. Their mother, usually sweet and nurturing, yells “STOP EATING DIRT. I’VE TOLD YOU 1000 TIMES NOT TO EAT DIRT!!!” Gopala, bewildered by his dear mother’s ferocity, opens his mouth and begins to cry. At that moment, his mother looks into his mouth, and there, the entire universe reveals itself to her. She sees universes, animals, and 1000’s of Gopalas being created and destroyed and created again. She is shocked into a trance, a “samadhi,” by what she sees within her child. Gopala, seeing this, becomes a little worried that he has gone too far with his behavior. He waves his little god-hand in front of her face, like a feather, and she forgets everything that has happened. She smiles at him and says, “You’re dirty. Let’s go in and clean you up!”
The story always help to open me to the divine connection between my child and myself- between all of us really. Jai Uttal tells the above story, and sings a wonderful song about it. The words include “Gopala, Gopala! Everything is in you! Everything is in me!” At family yoga, we listened to the story, danced to the song, and let the message settle into our hearts and bodies.
Babaji Shambhavananda teaches that meditation is a process of learning to let go, a process of surrender. What happens when you deeply let go? You FORGET EVERYTHING, just like Gopala’s mother. You forget your desires and schemes, your grudges and anxieties, your small self. Regular practice helps me to be more present and open to my life because I don’t hold on so much to my daily tensions. And, every now and then, my practice reminds me, just like the story, that “everything is in me.” If you want to search for happiness, take a breath, and begin to look inside.
“Lokah Samastah Sukhinoh Bhavantu.” My 5 year old daughter spent Sunday afternoon singing this mantra. It had been the “lesson” at family yoga that day. I smiled to myself because she had not seemed to be paying attention during a lot of the family yoga class, and so I was a little surprised when I heard her chanting this somewhat complicated mantra. It means “May all beings everywhere be happy and free. And may the thoughts and actions of our own lives contribute in some way to that happiness and freedom for all.”
I am reminded that my daughter is paying attention to everything. She is a sponge. Often at night, I will whisper “May you be happy and safe and may all beings everywhere be happy and free.” I love the ritual of blessing her and thinking of others. Tonight I grew impatient with her slowness at moving through the bedtime routine (aka intentional stalling to avoid bedtime when mommy is already extremely tired and increasingly grumpy). She said I was “being mean,” and she had a point. I thought about arguing with her some more (yes, sometimes I engage in arguments with my 5 year old). Instead, I took a breath, and I deeply let go of my mounting tension. It is a precious gift to have been taught how to do this. I felt my heart relax, and I settled into the next moment. We read a book. I tucked her in. She reminded me (as she often does) that it’s not fair that she has to sleep by herself. And then she said “you forgot to say May All Beings Be Happy and Free. Say it in the other language.” And so we said it again together, “Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu.” It was a very nice way to end the day.
It is both amusing and frustrating that my daughter does not really like to do yoga with me. When she was a baby, before she had a say, we practiced “Itsy Bitsy Yoga” together. When she was about 2 years old, we went to a toddler yoga class. She spent the whole time wanting to nurse or running around. I tried to breathe and relax, knowing quite well that yoga was much more that a cute downward dog pose, but feeling disappointed just the same. We didn’t last long in the class. I took a breath and tried to let it go. At 2.5 I took her to Yoga kids’ camp. She cried a lot and barely participated. We didn’t finish the series. I took a breath, and tried to let it go. Even this past summer, at age 5, she did not seem to like yoga camp very much. On the other hand, since she was old enough to walk, she has been wandering into my meditation room as I do my practice. Before that, I practiced with her in my arms. Before that, in the womb. Not downward dog, but the simple practice of being present, saying mantras, letting go of everything except the present moment. If I could transmit anything to my daughter, it would be this: the practice of taking a breath and letting everything go and the courage to keep trying even when it doesn’t seem to be working. And the unending blessing of mantra. So, this is what I try to do when I am leading family yoga and she does not SEEM to be participating: I breathe and let go and do a little silent mantra. Sometimes I forget and get frustrated, but I can always try again. And I do keep trying. And sometimes through a simple breath or a silent mantra, I can let go and feel myself truly open to the beauty of accepting things just as they are. And this is the bliss of family yoga.