Staying Consequences (Dec 2020)
Doreen writes about how applying the tools of yoga and seeking daily direction from Christ helped her family resolve the tension regarding where to live for the rest of their twelve year old daughter’s growing up years.
There were many times during our daughter, Sarah’s, growing up years that we struggled with the decision about where to live. My husband and I held side by side the desire to move to a place better suited to our needs and the protective parental instinct to gift her the stability of long term community and friends.
For a long time this indecision made me ill tempered and sad, as I felt I did not belong in Water Mill where I was raised. In my mid-30’s, after living overseas and in Vermont for a decade, I was headed to Virginia to join a spiritual training center. But while interviewing there, I got a very clear sign to ‘go back home’. To be honest, I had been ignoring the message for months. Clearly there was more for me to learn in the hamlet where my family has lived for nearly 400 years.
If you think you are enlightened, go and spend a week with your family. — Ram Daas
A few months later, I met my husband. As we settled into marriage and soon after to raise our daughter, my hometown grew exponentially from large swaths of potato fields and woods to enclaves of giant second houses for the wealthy, who I viewed as bringing disagreeable change, noise, crowding and speed. Already ill at ease, with unfinished family business these changes made it even more difficult to feel ‘at home’. There were benefits to this growth in the neighborhood, of course, but only hindsight revealed them.
We did try to move a few times to the Hudson Valley (upstate New York), an area that captured our hearts, but we kept experiencing what felt like divine blocks. The two times we scheduled trips to look at schools and housing, outer events - a hurricane and a funeral - sent us home. Just as I had been guided to return home (the REAL spiritual training!), I trustfully surrendered - believing there was a larger plan I could not see.
How I managed to come to peace with our decision to stay hovers around four techniques I learned from my two-decade study of yoga psychology and my self-reflective faith walk with Christ.
Journaling - Most early mornings curled up with a cozy fleece, a cup of tea, my colored pencils and my devoted dog Buddy, I would write about what was happening in my life, my concerns and my hopes. Journaling about living here revealed grippy unconscious thought patterns about my own unfinished business from growing up in Water Mill, and that prompted me to keep facing my fears about fitting in, about low self-esteem, about being made fun of for having different ideas. Writing helped me heal so that when we did move it would be with a fresh start and not running away (again).
Meditation - After writing, I usually made time to exercise or practice asana, but (and) I always made time to sit for 20-30 minutes in silence to listen and pray. Thankfully I could schedule my outer-work-in-the world-work to start later in the morning after getting Sarah off to school and doing my contemplative inner work. The systematic practice of quieting the busy mind to listen and experience a more intuitive, wise, and discriminating part of the mind, gave me space to process the emotions and to see more clearly. It also taught me patience.
Prayer - Each morning, I finished out my quiet time with prayer. Talking to the Holy One and asking for insight and support to be present in my life right here and now soothed my tension.
Guiding Principles for decision making - Yoga’s first two limbs, yama (restraints on behavior) and niyamas (observances for healthy spiritual growth) framed and filtered my decisions. For instance, the restraints helped me answer questions like: Is staying or going less harmful, (ahimsa|non-harming)? Whose truth gets priority, (satya|truth)? Am I stealing her childhood from her if we move? Are we stealing our own happiness by staying, (asteya |non-stealing)? Of the niyamas, santosha (contentment) encouraged me to be happy in my current circumstance like the apostle Paul who writes in his letter to the Philippians: “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want. I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (4:12). The last niyama, Ishvara Pranidhana, (trustful surrender) soothed my aching heart. Like Jesus, when he was nailed to a cross, unable to move (like me from this locale), he uttered: “Your will not mine be done.”
Combining these tools helped me apply both faith and rational thinking to our decision. I came to see that if we left before she graduated from high school, she may lose more than we gained. The stakes were higher to leave, and healthy parenting requires wise betting. So we stayed.
Fast forward six years Sarah benefited enormously from uninterrupted growth and long-term nourishment at an outstanding, dedicated, healthy school. She also integrated into the community by volunteering with the ambulance corp and occasionally singing at church. Despite my complaints about the crowds, it did provide the benefit of well-paying jobs among the vibrant economy of a tourist town. Best of all, she benefited from a diverse squad of friends from pre-k to 12 who shared so much laughter, joy, wonder, and kindness. I would not trade that gift for an earlier freedom.
The irony: She left for college a few months ago – in the exact area where we wanted to move upstate, and it is the perfect school for her. If we had moved, she probably would not have gone to college there.
Maybe God knew. Of course, God knew.
And for us?
“Staying” crystallized in us patience and fortitude. “Staying” forced me to heal my own unfinished business. Now, we are being led, replete with blessings, to purchase 40 acres in the country where we shall build a cottage, steward the land and gratefully continue applying the tools of yoga among our devotion to Christ.