Wednesday, 21 October 2015

To simply drink your tea


I realize I haven't been around much. Going from the full and crazy busy days of seven years homeschooling five children to an almost empty house during the day has left me a little dazed and bemused. I thought I'd be knee deep in all those projects I never had time for but I find myself wanting to just do simple things, wanting to fully take in the little things.
There's the late afternoon sunlight after rain, grooming the cat and actually drinking a cup of tea while it's still hot. Bliss.

"To be mindful is to be fully present with whatever we are doing. If you are drinking tea, just drink your tea. Do not drink your worries, your projects, your regrets. When you hold your cup, you may like to breathe in, to bring your mind back to your body, stop your thinking, and become fully present. In that moment, you become real and the cup of tea becomes real. In this state of true presence and freedom you enjoy simply drinking your tea."

 Thich Nhat Hanh

Last night I dreamt that I was little again. 
One thing you forget about being little is how much your body wants to move and feel the elements. Water, air, earth and even fire have an irresistible appeal. You want to feel the weight of things. You want to move against their resistance and harness their power. 
The first thing I did in my dream of course, was jump into a really big puddle. A feet first, full on splash bomb. I could feel the mud writhing under my boots and it was delicious! 
There was an itch in my legs to run and climb. I stretched out my arms, feeling the width of their span like a sail against the wind as I ran down a hill. My arms felt like wings. If I lifted them up the thermals would carry me, I could feel it.  At one point I began swimming like a fish in strong tidal waters. Water scares me and am not a strong swimmer so this was especially liberating. Then as the itch spread up through my arms and I found myself standing on a boat. A paddle in my hand shovelled the heavy water with satisfying ease. I watched  the ripples ebb away silently. Finally I found myself on the back of a horse galloping fast and free. 

This dream  surprised me. I have always thought of myself as a homebody. Although I enjoy walking in the countryside, I have never been keen on sports. And yet, as I dwelt on the dream I realised how much I actually did love to feel the elements on my skin. It made me remember how, when I was little I loved to move and dance and play in water. I loved to feel the bracing aliveness of testing my limitations by climbing, tumbling and rolling down hills. 
I began to wonder when this love and freedom of my own body ended

 I remember constantly being told to sit still at school. I fidgeted a lot. I'd rock on my chair, tap my fingers on the desk, or kick my legs. Which must have driven my poor teachers to distraction in all truthfulness. 

Thinking on these memories I remember a sense of shame being attached to movement quite early on. Sit still, line up, don't wiggle, stay put! 
At the age of 5 or 6 I didn't question this of course. 
I also remember that it was at school that I first really realised that I was clumsy. I couldn't catch a ball and threw poorly. I was less coordinated as some other kids and me and the other ones labelled not good at sports were always last to be chosen for teams. Slowly but surely I began to mistrust my own body. Instead of enjoying my physicality, I became self conscious and more sedentary. It happened, slowly, incrementally and almost intangibly.  
I wonder, in hindsight, if that the part of me that loved the tactile experiential side of life was channelled into art.
 I loved the feel of clay, think paint and pastels, indeed any medium that I could feel in the fibres of my body as well as I could see it on the fabric of my canvas. 

Now that I have my own children I see with great joy, that they are confident and strong in their bodies. They climb, swim, cartwheel and run with abandon and trust. 
Matilda has always been similar to me in regard to coordination, and clumsiness, yet, she has never noticed a problem with it. She loves to play catch, dance, kick a football and throw a netball just as much as her sisters do.
However, last week she came to me rather sadly, saying she didn't want to do PE anymore because she isn't good at it. This really broke my heart. I don't want her to feel betrayed by her body. I don't want her to feel the social pressure to conform to one, particular, narrow standard. I want her to feel centred and strong in her skin. I wonder if  by overly structuring and measuring movement in the form of formal lessons we undermine some children's natural love of it particularly those children who may not measure up to the standard imposed.

I wonder also, whether this issue effects girls in particular. As women we often feel that we have to control our bodies, natural need for movement and play. We need to be lady like after all, right? From societies repulsion over women's natural body hair to the way female celebrities get in and out of a car, we are constantly judged, shamed, nipped and tucked into stillness and silence.
Through the media we are  pressured to contort our beautiful, strong, flexible feet into high heeled shoes, and make sure we look elegant in clothes that often inhibit our  natural movement, comfort and freedom.

Ultimately I want my girls to question the things that effect them. I want them to feel awake in their minds and strong in their bodies. I want them to be able to simply drink their tea without the pressures, conflicted interests and agendas of our competitive, consumer driven world taint the flavour.

Photos by Matilda


  1. I love the part about the tea, such a good reminder. I love reading your posts, but wanted to mention that the smaller font in a lighter color - is incredibly hard to read. It might just be me, but wanted to mention it. I'm really glad you are enjoying this new part of your life.

    1. Thank you for the heads up Carlin :) I've changed the text colour, hope it's more readable now :)

  2. Oh my dear you are so wise and I love what you want for your girls. I was also one of those who grew up clumsy, was terrible at sports, still am, but I can do a somersault, and had a poor body image. I wish I could
    go and hug my younger self and tell her it's all okay, now I know. :)
    Much love.

    1. I know what you mean about wanting to hug your younger self and tell her it's okay. It's okay to be different, it's okay to be unique :) xx

  3. I grew to hate PE class over time. My family was never into sports and since my father was physically handicapped we didn't do many physical things so I never learned to play organized games. Still, I loved to dance, swim, ride my bike. I can't help but feel the same way about formal classes and set standards. Our educational system (at least in the US) is really based upon comparison and competition. Kids are always compared to some "average" in each subject and are expected to perform a certain way. It effects us in ways we don't even realize, I believe...all of this comparison. We aren't meant to be just like one another. We are each made as a unique gift to the world. No comparison :)

    1. I agree with you Ravenna. If only our uniqueness was celebrated more. It is our gift :) xx

  4. I was one of those children who was good at sports at school however as it was a compulsory subject I loathed the way the teachers belittled the students who were not good at it. It didn't happen in any other subject. The teachers were constantly trying to get me to compete for the school, I told them I would when all the students were treated the same in PE lessons, I was always met with a bemused look, I am not convinced they even knew they were doing it. We wonder why we have a nation of people who are not active enough and/or have a poor self body image. I realise that that is not entirely the root of it but I am sure it is a huge contributing factor.

    I too love the idea of focusing on drinking my tea, wise words :)

    1. It's interesting to know that this kind of structure and competitiveness around PE effects all kinds of students (both those who excel and those who don't) Thank you for your comment sustainable mum :)

    2. I happen to agree 100%. My negative experiences in high school PE left a bad taste in my mouth for sports in general. Thinking back on it, the sports I am most inclined to try/play/enjoy are the ones that left me with the most positive (least negative?) experiences in adolescence.

  5. Oh what a deep and wisdom filled post!

    Full to the brim, with things to ponder.

    And to sadly remember. I "wasn't good at sports"... Last to be picked for a kid's team... Etc. And I have never willingly participated in any sports. If I did once, I learned I was "not good at it." Wonder what I missed??????????? -sigh-

    Oh what formal education pounds out of children!!!!!!!! There are molds, for each child. And they will each be pushed and prodded and bullied into fitting into the mold, assigned them. How horrible, when we let ourselves contemplate it. How horrible, and cruel, and child-abusive. -sigh-

    Hugs and magic,

    1. I'm so sorry to hear that you also felt the struggle of formal PE lessons. I also feel sad that I missed out on really enjoying sports at school. Without the judgment involved I'm sure I would have had a lot more fun. Hugs :) xx

  6. Love the drinking tea quote, i must pin it so that i don't forget it. I know what you mean about teen girls nowadays, i'm a mental health nurse and every girl i see has body issues. They are eating weirdly from such a young age and so body conscious. Where is that freedom that we were thinking our girls would get in addition to our gains in how we can live our lives. It seems to be so restrictive for them, all that body shaming and stuff. You are so right to be thinking and acting hard to give your girls strong minds and body love.

    1. It must be so heartbreaking to see how bad body image effects young girls. I suffered from an eating disorder as a teen so I think that has made me even more sensitive to watching for the preliminary signs in my own girls. Thank you so much for stopping by :)


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