I am an Auntie Allison to one beautiful little being in the world: my niece. She is the most incredible little human I’ve ever met. She plays, is creative, signs words, talks and has imagination. She laughs with her whole body (and sounds just like her Dad, my brother). She sees the world around her with curiosity and engagement. She pays attention – for better or worse – to absolutely everything that is happening around her. When I’m with her, I feel more present than at any other time. Perhaps this is how parents feel on the best of days.
Spending time with my niece last Fall when she was just learning how to walk was a stark reminder of how to be here now – in the present. She would pull herself up and wobble around on her little zebra walking cart or along a wall. She couldn’t yet let go of her support. But you saw in every single moment of her trying to pull herself up, in her simple steps – the fact that she was completely present just with that moment and nothing else. And if I was with her feeling that moment, I was so fully present as well. And time flew by. I had just a few days with her and it seemed like they were gone in the blink of an eye and suddenly I was back on the plane coming home.
This weekend I got to see her again for two long stretches of play time. She now runs around, talks, eats with silverware and closely watches everyone around her and imitates them. Hours become minutes when you are playing with her. This time around she was holding a teddy bear and pretend crying – then she would rock the bear and comfort him. She hears music wherever it is playing and dances to the beat. She tries to play every musical instrument she can find – or improvises one out of a table 🙂 It is amazing to be present to her learning emotions and more advanced movements, and expressing them through play. She saw her other cousins running and she went right after them. She saw how someone played with a wind-up race car and within moments she had mastered it herself. Through play she was completely present focused, albeit in different ways this time around. I was with her in each of those moments of play!
When we are in the moment of now it feels easier to delight and play. Time becomes timelessness and we merge with being awareness rather than doing something. I slept less in those few days last Fall than my regular schedule (my brother would drop my niece on my sleeping chest each morning when she woke up so I would wake up too), and yet I felt more rested than ever. This weekend I ran around a bit crazy driving here and there to make it to all the family functions, and yet I did not feel exhausted. There is something about being aware in the present moment that charges our human-being-ness like nothing else. I also felt a tremendous drive of creativity and insight upon coming back to my regular life.
In our current world that moves faster than ever before, it feels like we have very little time to “be here now.” Everyone I know is thinking about tomorrow, their 10 year plan, their life list and goals. I know that making plans and having dreams is such a great thing – I’ve written about it on this blog and I just taught a full weekend at Kripalu about moving from past through present into future Self with Forrest Yoga self-care practices. But I think sometimes we get so caught in our development and evolution that we forget to be here now and enjoy the simple moments – like walking our niece with her little shopping cart toy.
There’s nothing radical about this blog post. You’ve probably heard it a million times that being present is a gift. Heck if you were in class last week and over the weekend with me, we had the intention of being clear and present about eight different ways (and as one of your pointed out, with a lot of variations of splits thrown in). Perhaps you have felt the same present focus around a child or activity in your life that does bring you more fully into the moment. Take this as just a gentle reminder to get to those children, activities or triggers that bring you into your present moments more often. Use each one as a fuel for your soulfulness and your Being. As our news and world events these days keep reminding us, our time here is precious and unpredictable. May you delight in every moment. I’m not ready to share my niece, but maybe a yoga class playing around could be a good compromise 🙂
I’ve been gifted this life with a really great Mom. She has been there to support me through rough teenage years, grueling schedules as a competitive figure skater, changing majors from engineering to anthropology, changing careers to yoga teacher, and everything in between. She has navigated being a parent with such grace, and I have the best memories of our times together.
I’ve been reflecting a lot recently about some of the lessons she’s taught me over the course of my life, and today is the perfect day to share them!
1. Be Creative – find your outlet for creativity and make time for it
My Mom is a craft genius. She can sew, design things, and execute beautiful pieces of just about anything in the blink of an eye. This craft gene was lost on me (my sister got it!) but nonetheless my Mom encouraged in me what you are reading now – my creative streak rests in my reading and writing skills. She made sure I always had access to journals, books, and stories. Because of her I learned to read early, write early (sorry Aunties for writing my name all over your walls as a child), and to continually express myself creatively through writing. No matter how busy my Mom gets, she always has a side project going. And no matter how busy I got, she always encouraged me to find the time to write stories, poems, and journal entries.
2. Celebrate Birthdays
As a child I had the most epic birthday parties (so did my siblings): Luaus, Mexican themed Fiestas, Roller Rink parties and more. All our friends and family were invited to gather under the theme of the year, eat good food, play games, and revel in the beautiful gift of life we had been given for another year. To this day, I think birthdays are a big deal! My Mom instilled in me not only a love of creating and enacting theme parties, but more importantly of celebrating the lives of those important to us in incredible ways. Nowadays I like to celebrate birthdays for a whole week or month – mine and yours!
3. Get to Know Your Siblings Deeply
I’m blessed with a brother and a sister. My Mom has a lot more siblings! Growing up, she always instilled in us how important it was to get to know another for who we are and to respect our differences. She was always there for her sisters and brothers when they needed her. They bring each other, to this day, chicken soup when they have colds. They talk to one another all the time. She has been an incredible model for valuing family even when there are big differences of opinion or lifestyle. I am nothing like my brother or sister (except maybe our penchant for chit chat), but we find common ground and stay connected. I really dislike when even a week goes by without talking to them about their lives. We don’t get to choose our blood related siblings, life chooses them for us, but they are so important! Through thick and thin, these are the people by our sides no matter what. Knowing how to relate and talk to them builds strong bonds that support us. I learned from my Mom that there is nothing big enough to separate her from her siblings, they will always find a way back to each other – and I feel the same way about mine!
4. When in Doubt: Play Scrabble
When I was sick, my Mom and I played Scrabble. When I couldn’t sleep, my Mom and I played Scrabble. When I was angry/sad/upset, my Mom and I played Scrabble. When my sister and I had an argument, we played each other in Scrabble! In my memories, there is very little that could not be solved by a good game of Scrabble and a cup of tea. To this day, I love the game for so many reasons, but most of all because it reminds me of some of the best times with my Mom. I still go over to my Mom’s house, bust out the old tiled game and dusty pad of paper with scores on it, drink tea and play a good game. Only now, I don’t always lose!
My Mom used to get up before 4am to get me to the ice rink on time for practice. She worked full time and still made me a lunch every day of school until I graduated high school. She read my papers and gave me feedback. She looked over my math homework and chemistry work even if she didn’t know the material. She cheered me on when I felt I had no one else in my corner. These are only four of the incredibly profound messages I’ve received from my Mom over the course of my life, but tonight they stick out as important ones. And if you want in on the next crafting party, sibling outing, Scrabble game or birthday bash…let me know! My Mom is also mom to lots of others 🙂