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