Earlier this month, I was a chaperone for a number of children in my son’s second grade class. It reminded me of a saying I had heard a while back: “It is a bit like herding cats.” I had to account for them, occasionally reel them in, and yet allow them enough freedom to enjoy their experience. I wanted to watch out for these little people as carefully as I would want someone to watch over my little one, if the roles were reversed. This is a daunting responsibility. I was exhausted at the end of the day.
The following week, I received an envelope. The envelope contained four meticulously written letters by some of the children I had in my group, thanking me for attending their field trip with them. Thanking me for keeping them safe. One little girl wrote: “I think you are the best shaperoen in the world.” These little notes, and the words contained within them, warmed my heart and brightened my whole day.
As I was gathering and generating some inspiration for my class that evening, I was reviewing the book “After the Ecstasy, the Laundry” by Jack Kornfield. I have adorned my copy with a rainbow of highlighters, a multitude of post-it flags, and the random note in the margin. On one of the bookmarked pages, I found the following quote highlighted:
“Suppose a person who was not blind beheld the many bubbles of the Ganges as they floated along, and after careful examination, saw how each appeared empty, unreal, insubstantial. In exactly the same way we can carefully examine sense impressions, perceptions, feelings, and thought, all that we experience, and discover them to be empty, void, and without a self.”
It all of a sudden occurred to me that my meditation practice is “a bit like herding cats”. It is my job to witness the thoughts that are racing around, however, it is not my job to contain them. I should visualize them dissolving like a bubble on the Ganges. I must let them go along, on their merry way, so that my experience is as it should be. If I pause too long to attempt to restrict my thinking, I will spend unnecessary time and energy becoming frustrated and distracted.
All of this also applies to my work on my mat. My practice involves fastidious attention to detail. It is necessary for me to draw my awareness to my breath and to the details of my alignment. Reeling in my thoughts from the external to the internal in order to keep my body safe can sometimes feel like a daunting and exhausting responsibility. Ultimately, the whole process is worth the investment. I receive thank you notes from my body, mind, and spirit. The quality of my interactions with those in my sphere improves dramatically and I notice a shift in my relationship to self.
This week, I was practicing with Noah Maze via YogaGlo in a class called Kneessentials. He began the class with a quote from Douglas Brooks: “Clear Boundaries, No Limits.” If we define very clear parameters for the children in our care, they can be free. If we delineate very precise boundaries for our bodies during our yoga practice and our minds during our meditation practice, we can be free! Where are you feeling as though your work is “a bit like herding cats”? Where are you feeling so free you can fly?