By Anita Stoll, LCSW, E-RYT. Recently, my children were arguing and crying in the car on the way home one night. It was the end of a long day, a long week, a long year. After I survived the car ride, and we entered the house, I impatiently ordered the children (ages 9 and 3) out of the kitchen. I had had enough of the whining and tension, and I was trying to cook dinner.
“You’re screaming at us!” my 9 year old daughter yelled. Then she ran out of the room.
“That wasn’t screaming!” I responded.
About 5 minutes later, my daughter returned to the kitchen with a look of conviction on her face and said, “I challenge you to a wrestling match!”
I was still irritable, and at the same time I recognized her bid for reconnection. I have tried hard to instill in her the importance of standing up for herself yet staying connected. Playful wrestling has long been an important means of discharging feelings and finding connection within our family.
I paused. “I don’t feel like it” I said at first. I felt resistant, tired, annoyed. Yet, a part of me knew that these feelings had little or nothing to do with her.
I paused again and took a few breaths. Breathing in slowly. Breathing out completely. I simply felt my (tired) body and my breath. Nothing fancy, just a little breathing space. It would have been ok to say no or delay the wrestling, but just those few moments of mindful breathing had shifted my energy.
An essential teaching from the yoga tradition is “in order to change the mind, change the breath.”
“Ok, but not on the kitchen floor because it’s too hard and I don’t like how that feels,” I responded.
“OK mom. Let’s go to your bed!” Off we headed to the bedroom.
After a few minutes of energetic wrestling, she lay across my body. We rested. I loved feeling her weight on me. I noticed that her little sister had watched all of this with interest.
“You shouldn’t scream at us, mama!” the 3 year old now piped up, wanting to be included, mimicking her sister’s assertiveness.
“Yeah!” agreed her big sister.
I really don’t think I was screaming.
I paused and sensed us all breathing together.
I noticed my human urge to again defend my tone of voice. Instead, from my own newly relaxed state, I found the energy to connect. Attempting to match their tone, I responded “You don’t like screaming!”
“That’s right,” they both said.
Then we all rested on the bed close together — our bodies, hearts and breath feeling at ease for a little while.
Anita Stoll, LCSW, E-RYT is an experienced psychotherapist and yoga/meditation instructor who has been working with children, adults, families and groups for over 20 years. She offers psychotherapy, parenting education, hatha yoga and meditation classes in Austin, Texas. You can learn more about her clinical work at www.yogaandtalk.com and more about her yoga and meditation class offerings at www.austinbigheartyoga.com.
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