Monday, November 30, 2009

Letting Go

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of going trapezing in Williamsburg. I am the kind of person who loves to leap, who leads with my heart and lets my head follow, but I admit to being more than a little terrified when I got up there and suddenly it was my turn to swing. What I noticed was that the more concerned I got, the more my body tensed up. There was no way I was going to be able to reach for the bar, let alone grab it. I could barely move my arms from where they were stuck by my sides. It became very clear, very quickly, that I needed another strategy.

Thank god for my years with children who have taught me how to think on my feet! What I decided to do was to trust the man holding me. To breathe. To relax. To let go. My body slacked, loosened. My head cleared and all at once I was ready to leap, ready to fly. Are you getting the metaphor here?

I remember at the beginning of my career being so concerned about getting things right. Would the children be learning? Would I follow my lesson plan? Would I be able to be of service in some way? I remember fearing that the students in my care wouldn’t learn unless I did it the exact “correct” way. It took me perhaps a decade to learn what I want to share with you here…there is no correct way.

The years have allowed me a multitude of lessons, surely, but none as powerful as the ability to trust my own process, to let go and let be. Allow things to happen. You cannot steer your own game. When you try to force something it just doesn’t work. We are all, as human beings, in a constant dialogue with the world around us. It is our job to stay open and alert and communicate with what we are being given at every moment. If you are on the right path you will know because doors will open and hands will come out, ready to lift you higher. If you let go and trust the world, it just might let you fly.

Have a wonderful week!


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Getting on their Level

I have often spoken about the importance of play and being silly and on a similar note I wanted to write a bit today about how we, as adults, can contribute to that. Children model what we do, not what we say. It’s an old adage, but a good one. Which means if we tell them, “yes, go play” yet we are hunched over a computer, frowning miserably, odds are they aren’t going to be their happiest, either. Which is why “getting on their level” is so important with children. You must speak their language. One of my favorite things about my golf program is how accessible all the materials are for children. The snagazoo, now that’s a word they understand! We play a little game to work on foot rotation called, “squish the bug,” because the motion reminds them of squishing a bug on the sidewalk. We pretend we are giraffes who can’t bend their knees to work on posture. We draw targets and silly faces on the cement and we do it all together.
The children see me pretend I am a monkey or an elephant or the color blue right alongside them. They can relax because they are in their own company and when they learn, it is on their own terms. Learning becomes organic, a natural extension of the world they inhabit, and play in. It is not something impressed upon them but something they feel through and towards. When they do finally understand a concept they understand it completely…they have internalized it and it is now a part of their universe.
The thing I don’t have to pretend? That I am this joyful. Being in their company, hearing their squeals of delight and, yes, frustration, is the most rewarding thing on the planet. My kind friends and fellow professionals are often telling me how much their children get out of my program. My response? I get two-fold. The children teach me. If I just get on their level they show we a whole new world.

Have a wonderful week!


Monday, November 9, 2009

The Importance of Play

I was thinking the other day about beginnings and where my own journey with children originated. There are many things in life that cannot be pinpointed but if you’re very lucky you can recognize the start of something. Joan Didion speaks about this in her piece, “Goodbye to all That.” She says: “It is easy to see the beginnings of things, and harder to see the ends. I can remember now, with a clarity that makes the nerves in the back of my neck constrict, when New York began for me.”
Like Didion’s, my own journey has a recognizable start point that I wanted to share with you all here today.
It was about fourteen years ago. I remember walking by the Hudson Street playground. It was a chilly afternoon and I’m sure my mind was preoccupied with getting home, amongst other things. I didn’t notice him at first but as I got closer I saw there was a little boy there playing with a stick. It was just him and this wooden walking stick yet he was coming up with all sorts of games. He’d toss it up in the air, put it down on the ground. Hop over it, spin it around. He was having a blast. Pure joy. And all he had was this one little stick. I stopped dead in my tracks and realized something incredibly important: I had forgotten how to play.
Of course I had forgotten how to play. I was a grown-up. I had responsibilities and priorities. I had bills and an apartment. I had a life. But when I saw this child, I knew. I felt it down into my bones: play is an incredibly important aspect of life and you are forgetting it. When is it that a stick becomes just a stick and not a portal into a world of adventure? When is it that we stop seeing a jeweled sword and start seeing just a discarded branch?
What I am about to suggest may seem impossible and ridiculous, but bear with me: the state of imagination and play never has to end.
The only reason we stop seeing the sword is because we allow ourselves to. What if we saw play for what it really is? A vitally important aspect of life. The thing that fuels and fills us. Joy.
Play is creative. It is fun and it is improvisational. One of my favorite things about my job is how dynamic it is. Sure I have lesson plans and there are some things I want to get done but being with children never goes according to the rules. I am constantly on my toes, seeing what the children really need from me in any given moment. I am using my creativity and to me, that’s play.
Being silly, breaking the rules, telling stories, laughing, skipping, listening to music, MOVING. Have you played today?
Have a wonderful week!


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Life Doesn't Frighten Me

Life Doesn’t Frighten Me
Shadows on the wall
Noises down the hall
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Bad dogs barking loud
Big ghosts in a cloud
Life doesn’t frighten me at all

Mean old Mother Goose
Lions on the loose
They don’t frighten me at all

Dragons breathing flame
On my counterpane
That doesn’t frighten me at all.

I go boo
Make them shoo
I make fun
Way they run
I won’t cry
So they fly
I just smile
They go wild

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Tough guys fight
All alone at night
Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

Panthers in the park
Strangers in the dark
No, they don’t frighten me at all.

That new classroom where
Boys all pull my hair
(Kissy little girls
With their hair in curls)
They don’t frighten me at all.

Don’t show me frogs and snakes
And listen for my scream,
If I’m afraid at all
It’s only in my dreams.

I’ve got a magic charm
That I keep up my sleeve
I can walk the ocean floor
And never have to breathe.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all
Not at all
Not at all.

Life doesn’t frighten me at all.

- Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou’s words are so simple and profound. I love this poem and I use it with my children in creative movement class. It is a wonderful compliment to the willPower and Grace practice we have adopted. I especially love to use it around Halloween when I ask the children to make their “brave stance.” I beat the drum and say the words and they pose like warriors, ready to do battle with whatever daemons come their way. “If you ran into a ghost, what would you do?” I ask them, and they make their brave stance. It is a way for them to feel centered, stable and to know that they can take on life’s challenges. It’s not about tackling things that frighten us but about remaining strong in who we are, feeling rooted to the ground and knowing that we can weather any storm.
Just yesterday in fact one of my five year olds came up to me at the end of class. She told me she was scared when she went to bed the night before but she remembered to say to herself “life doesn’t frighten me at all” and it made her feel better. Poetry to my ears.
So much of life has to do with fear. Learning to work with it, through it and let it go. I know that children experience fear. They are sometimes frightened of the unknown, of all the things they still have yet to explore, of the ways the world will and will not be kind to them. I consider myself so lucky to be with them during this formative time and to give them some tools to deal with the emotions that arise. Having a “brave stance” is amazing for any stage of life. I hope my children carry their brave stance well into their adult lives. To be honest, I still use mine from time to time.

Have a wonderful week,