To be honest, we got off easy on the April showers and most of us have dug right into the May flower-ing. Around here, we appreciate spring. No doubt. Her colors are nourishing for the eyes and her sounds are welcomed by our ears. She affords a deep breath of fresh. But I think I appreciate her the most for the sense of ‘awe’ that she inspires.
As the winter weather breaks and the clouds and mud of early spring clear, Mother Nature offers an opportunity for wonder and awe. It’s as if we’ve never before seen a green so green or a pink so pink. The trees go from their drab brown to the red bud tips to the evolving shades of green leaves. And even if we are noticing the changes, there’s always that surprise moment when we catch our breath with ‘Wow! Spring!’ And life is once again a miracle and a gift!
The sense of awe and wonderful flush warm sensations of vitality and gratitude through me. Every year I feel my mind clear and my body strengthen into the spring season and I ask myself, “How can I feel this way all year long? How can I capture this sense of awe and wonder and live from THAT 365?” And to get at it from another angle, I ask, “How does life go flat? How is the childlike wonder forgotten?” We say spring fever but why not winter fever or fall fever? Certainly, summer, fall and winter all present opportunities for wonder and awe.
When I consider the teachers that I most admire and respect…the teachers that inspire me and bring me to my inner ‘aha’, I realize that these folks are creating the fever. They deliver awe and wonder to their students. And they do it day after day, class after class. They reveal the potential and the freshness within even the most familiar experiences and potentially uninspiring circumstances.
One such teacher is my mother. She brings childlike wonder to life’s everyday moments. She has a knack for noticing life and bringing it to others for fresh consideration. And although this example is from winter, it’s one I’d like to share. It’s a memory from my childhood so full of awe and wonderment that it lives in my body to this day.
It’s hard for me to determine how old I was. I don’t recall my brother being with us so that might mark the time as 1969. I would have been four and a half. My sister two and a half. As I said it was winter. We were sleeping. My mom woke us with such excitement. “Hey!! Wake up!! We’re going to a movie!!” I remember the confusion. What could she mean? We grabbed our blankies and she put us in the car still wearing our pjs. (An aside: 1969; no car seats, no seat belts. We stood in the back with our arms hung over the front seat.) She backed out of the long driveway giggling with excitement. We were wide awake with expectation. This was certainly going to be good! As she began the drive down our country road, she exclaimed, “LOOK! Look at the movie!! It’s beautiful!! Do you see the snow on the trees? Look how the flakes are coming at the windshield!! It’s a movie!!” She laughed even louder at our confused faces. We opened our eyes wider to improve our vision. Sure enough, there it was….a beautiful, dark and snowy winter night. Inspired by her enthusiasm, we gazed at the scene with sincerity until confusion became wonderment.
Through the years, my sister and I have given her some serious grief for that night. “I mean who does that, Mom? And by the way, you said a movie! What a rip off!!” And later with adult laughter, “What was in your sippy cup that night, Mom?”
But I learned something pretty important from that experience. I learned that enthusiasm and awe and wonder could be given as gifts. I learned how to see through the eyes of another to share the simple beauty of this life. I became a mother who made worms seem like the most fascinating creature on the planet and every rock a special expression of art and every wind a lyrical song. I shared so many “movies” with my kids based on my mother’s gift that night.
What does this have to do with yoga? Likely you know. Especially those of you who practice or teach several times a week. It’s so easy to become disconnected, uninterested, in habit, ho hum. After all how many times have you practiced warrior II? Perhaps thousands. Why would there be any wonder or awe left in warrior II? And how many times have I taught Warrior II? Perhaps thousands. Exactly what is there left to say?
But that’s the practice, folks. And it doesn’t matter if you’re on your mat practicing or walking the room teaching. And it doesn’t matter if you’re teaching kindergarten or selling computer equipment. And it doesn’t matter if you’re hanging with your kids or your honey or your bestie. Take a lesson from my mom. Treat every experience as if it is the greatest movie you’ve ever seen. Sell your product like it’s the best thing since sliced bread (That expression’s Dad!) Teach every class as if your topic, your asana, your suggestion is an absolute miracle. Infuse wonder and awe into every season of your life via an enthusiastic attitude.
How? Here are three suggestions:
Use your five senses. Life is life because we FEEL it! Use your five senses to bring you to life in any moment. And trust me, this works on the most ordinary of moments. Look for details and colors and hidden shapes and unusual objects. Listen with attentive care and you will hear layers of sounds. Find your skin and feel for temperature, texture, shape of your body, movement of your breath. Taste the taste of your mouth, your lips, your food, your water. Smell is our most primal sense. Wake up your sense of smell by noticing the smell of the air, the car, the office. It’s natural to label and to judge so you will have to be very attentive and committed to a practice of ‘just noticing’.
Find eyes. Look at everyone. Really look at them. And to discipline yourself, take note of the color of their eyes. I often do this before class. I look at every single person in the room. Who is here today? Look at the gal ringing out your groceries. Do you see her? Look at your children, your honey, your pet when you speak to them. Really see them. What do their eyes reveal? What do their faces say? When we see someone’s eyes, we see their humanity. So enter this practice with a compassionate heart. It’s likely to enhance your connection to others.
Be a creature. Pretend you’ve just landed on this planet and in this skin. Pretend you want to figure out what kind of living creature you are. Be fascinated by everything you do and how everything works. Use a statement like “Isn’t it fascinating that…” to bring appreciation to the practice. “Isn’t it fascinating that I can sit in this contraption called a car and my body will be moved at 30 miles per hour across town?” “Isn’t it fascinating that I can tap this little contraption called a phone and hear my daughter’s voice even though she is twenty miles away from me?” "Isn't it fascinating that my body breathes all by itself?" Life is fascinating. Open yourself to being fascinated!
Sure living a life of wonder takes commitment and practice. But a little bit of awe and wonder is all it takes to turn the showers into flowers!