I don’t know many parents who had any formal training for this monumental endeavor of raising small humans to not only survive to adulthood but, hopefully, get there with a fair amount of knowledge, ambition, kindness, and character. I’m sure I’m not alone when I look back at hospital pictures of myself holding our oldest daughter and wonder how in the world I thought I was prepared to raise a child. For some perspective, at this time in my life I still lived on macaroni and cheese, bought my husband silly putty for Christmas, and assumed the play Don Quixote was about an actual donkey. But like so many other things that are deeply rewarding and fashion us into the people we want to be, it’s the unknowing leap that ultimately helps us develop the skills to succeed. That’s part of the magic of parenthood: when you think about it, you would never knowingly agree to eighteen-hour shifts every day for the rest of your life, or raise your hand to be chosen for the job of vacuuming upturned bags of all-purpose flour from every nook and cranny of the kitchen and living room, or listen to Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron in the car on repeat for two years running. That would be pure madness. Incidentally, that would also be the life of a parent.
It’s been nine years since I became a mother, and for most of it I had none of the answers. The majority has been a muddle, a dense fog of weariness, love, and care-giving; the process of losing the track of the woman I was and then finding her again is its own soundtrack set on repeat. We all find habits that bring us back to the well-worn path of meaningful goals and refocus our energy and connection to who we want to become. I first discovered yoga as a young mother, floundering to find purpose and peace in the midst of potty-training and colic. Much more than a place to stretch, my generic yoga mat soon became a haven and a safe space without obligation to take care of anyone but myself. I heard the sound of my own breath as though for the first time and absorbed wisdom from teachers who inspired me to be better—for myself first, and then for my tribe. The concept of taking this time for breath, for this form of self-care, felt like revelation and manifested as joyful strength. Years passed and along with all the other daily things, I filled them with yoga. Those hours spent on my mat—sans children—were anything but selfish because they refined me and brought a softness to my mothering that my frazzled, neglected self never knew. They taught me to give myself a break, that I wasn’t the only one who showed up to class wearing my pants inside out, and to laugh when I fell down again and again. They reminded me that I was stronger than I thought I was, that small actions made big ripples, and that letting go of comparisons and expectations brought incredible results.
The following are words that have encouraged me as both a woman and mother, thoughts shared by teachers I love and look up to and that I try to share with my own students and family. I know I am far from having all the answers to being a better parent, but fortunately I know an excellent place to look.
“In a gentle way, you can shake the world.” —Gandhi
“Peace begins with a smile. Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.”—Mother Teresa
“May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.” —Sanskrit invocational mantra
“If I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it even if I may not have it at the beginning.” —Gandhi
“Don’t move the way fear makes you move. Move the way love makes you move. Move the way joy makes you move.”—Osho
“Let’s build something solid and real instead of fast and shiny.”—Kathryn Budig
“Life is far too important to be taken seriously.” —Oscar Wilde
“So what if, instead of thinking about solving your whole life, you just think about adding additional good things. One at a time. Just let your pile of good things grow.” —Rainbow Rowell
“Be strong without losing your softness.” —Kino MacGregor
“Sorrow prepares you for joy. It violently sweeps everything out of your house so that new joy can find space to enter. It shakes the yellow leaves from the bough of your heart, so that fresh, green leaves can grow in their place. It pulls up the rotten roots, so that new roots hidden beneath have room to grow. Whatever sorrow shakes from your heart, far better things will take their place.” —Rumi
“Compassion is not a virtue—it is a commitment. It’s not something we have or don’t have, it’s something we choose to practice.” —Brene Brown
“Live today, not yesterday, not tomorrow. Just today. Inhabit your moments. Don’t rent them out to tomorrow.” —Jerry Spinelli
“You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result.”—Gandhi
“We are not trapped or locked up in these bones. No, no. We are free to change, and love changes us. And if we can love one another, we can break open the sky.” —Walter Mosley