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Lions Roar : May 2008
SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2008 33 ILLUSTRATIONBYKATHERINESTREETER MY MOM CAN’T MOVE HER FOOT. She tells it to move. She looks at it. Nothing happens. She’s been slowing down for some years now, but this is not slow. This is stop. The reason for this suddenly becomes so obvious that it’s like the stun-gun effect of the Dallas air-conditioning, or the wake-up slap of heat when you walk back outside. A click of in- sight reminds me that life is a Rube Goldberg machine, a game of Mousetrap. A rolling marble travels through a tilted chute, plops down a stairway, and lands in a pool of water, which splashes up, tipping a match, which strikes and lights a candle. Aha! A certain set of causes and conditions have ripened. Looking back, I can see how things have been developing this way for awhile, and who knows what karma or genetics— are they the same thing?—are at play. But in the meantime, I am grateful that I can help my mom. Over the years of teaching yoga I’ve developed a deep, wide bag of tools for helping people connect their minds and bod- ies—to align intention with exertion and positively affect their momentum in the direction of health and joy. So when I say to my mom, “Move your right foot toward me” and nothing happens, I try something else because words aren’t working. First, I demonstrate by lifting my right foot up high and firmly stomping it forward. Sometimes that clicks with her and she can mimic that action. If that doesn’t work, I tap her right leg lightly and say, “Can you move this leg?” We try shift- ing weight back and forth, wiggling toes inside shoes, bending knees, looking at her leg and looking at where we want it to go—whatever I can come up with to access the ability avail- able to her in that precise moment. This all takes so much longer than you would think. In the slowness, space opens in my mind and I remember all my teachers who are right now helping me to help my mom. I feel all my teachers are with me, as if they were right here holding my mom’s arm, leading her through a relaxing breath sequence, teaching her that pushing down with the arms cre- ates a lift in the chest, and that’s how she can use her walker. My gratitude extends to all my students who have given me the opportunity to develop my teaching skills: a keen eye, sensitive hands, a firm and encouraging voice, and an un- derstanding of how the body and mind work together. I’ve always thought of teaching yoga not as a job but as a prac- tice, just as “doing” yoga is a practice. Teaching is a method of cultivating wakefulness, with the students as the dots of awareness that tell me what to do when and how—if I can only pay close enough attention to them and remember to apply kindness to all that I see. What better gift have I re- ceived from my students than the ability right now to help my mom when she needs me? My other practices are also helping me in new and un- expected ways. Years of meditation and pranayama are giv- ing me the patience I need to go through this process on my mom’s timing, not mine. Once we do get going, we go together very, very slowly. Not my usual zooming-around- Manhattan pace, but literally one step at a time and “It’s OK to rest whenever you need to.” I’m not known to be a naturally slow or particularly pa- tient person. I’m ambitious and driven and I like to move! But things are different now. I would do anything to help my mom, and I would never want her to feel that she is a burden to me in any way. So I am patient, and those years of walking meditation are coming in handy. Honestly, it’s easy and natural for me to help my mom. I don’t need to do compassion meditation to try to open my heart to her, because she is my heart. My mom taught me how Love Is the Measure of Our Practice As the children of aging parents do, CYNDI LEE returns the love and care her mother showed to her. She finds teaching yoga has given her the tools to help. MAY 18-41.indd 33 MAY 18-41.indd 33 3/6/08 11:17:26 AM 3/6/08 11:17:26 AM