A wise friend said something this week that landed in that part of my heart that registers “forever advice.” (You know it when you hear it, that thing that your brain knows will be serving your heart for years to come.) She said that she taught preschool and often had to remind herself to obey the same rules she offered to her young students. She knew that for the little ones, as well as herself, a list of “DON’T”s would likely be lost on the constantly active mind. And if the brain is trying to remember all of the DON’Ts, what can it DO?
In its place, she instructs (and uses) three simple questions when making a decision:
- Is it safe?
- Is it respectful?
- Is it kind?
If the decision in question violates any of the questions (as in the answer is no), then the action (or inaction) to take is more clear.
When moving my limbs around this world and attempting to keep the endorphins flowing, muscles limber, metabolism moving, and sleep steady, yoga so often answers all of these questions for me. Where running compromises my knees, the mat keeps my joints safe. Where dance asks me to make my body better or different in order to satisfy a certain standard, yoga respects me exactly as I arrive. Where sports can incite competition and aggression, yoga allows me to be deeply soft in my strength-building. I appreciate and even love those other named forms of movement, but so rarely do they answer all three of these tenets: safety, respect, and kindness.
Besides the simplicity of this equation and its immediate application to my yogic practice, I was deeply moved by the notion that what I needed to hear at three years old is what I still need to hear today. As I take on the daily challenges both on and off the mat, the basics remain that which my youngest self might have heard from my preschool teacher. Never will the practice of tending to my youngest self grow old, especially as I experience the adult emotions of craving, desire, and immediacy.
I offer to you at this time of colder weather, in the season of holidays which challenges the youngest and the oldest among us to examine our relationships in giving, receiving, tradition, and caring. What do you need to feel safe? How can you demand and practice respect? And what, ultimately, is the most kind action, not just for others but most importantly for yourself?