Monday, April 7, 2014

Astavakra and Zuri: At Any Given Moment You Can Change Your Story


Astavakra and Zuri:
At Any Given Moment You Can Change Your Story

The Yoga Bag
Cook-Cottone

What it Takes:

In order to be in embodied self-regulation- (i.e., (a) a state of being true to your longer term goals and (b) in creation of a life that you want to be present in) you need to do these FIVE things- over and over and over again:

1.     Be here (or never leave yourself)
2.     Notice when you have gotten off track
3.     As soon as you know better, do better
4.     Re-state your long-term goals and the qualities of the life that you want to be present in.
5.     Begin again….

Zuri’s Story

Zuri has been making the best of things. She has always been good at that, maybe due to necessity. She had volunteered to help tutor some of the younger kids at school. It helps her to give back. So far, she has been assigned first grade kids that are having a little trouble reading. None of them have officially had disabilities or anything like that. They seem to be mostly regular kids who needed a little extra help. The reading coach, Mrs. Rocco, told Zuri that she has been doing so well that she thought she was ready for a challenge.

Zuri headed over to the elementary school to do her tutoring. When she walked into  the reading room to help, Mrs. Rocco introduced Zuri to Sammy. Sammy was a 6 year old, little boy who had Down syndrome.

What is Down Syndrome?

“In every cell in the human body there is a nucleus, where genetic material is stored in genes.  Genes carry the codes responsible for all of our inherited traits and are grouped along rod-like structures called chromosomes.  Typically, the nucleus of each cell contains 23 pairs of chromosomes, half of which are inherited from each parent. Down syndrome occurs when an individual has a full or partial extra copy of chromosome 21.
This additional genetic material alters the course of development and causes the characteristics associated with Down syndrome. A few of the common physical traits of Down syndrome are low muscle tone, small stature, an upward slant to the eyes, and a single deep crease across the center of the palm - although each person with Down syndrome is a unique individual and may possess these characteristics to different degrees, or not at all.


Zuri was happy to help. Two kids in her grade have Down syndrome. She has seen them at lunch and in the hallways. She felt like this was going to be okay. When Mrs. Rocco introduced Zuri to Sammy he ran over and threw his arms around her. Feeling overwhelmed, she pulled back, fast. Sammy was startled by her actions and stumbled, lost his balance and fell. He started to cry, pulled himself to stand, and ran to Mrs. Rocco. Zuri sat, surprised by her own actions. She sat for a few moments, sort of frozen, not able to do anything. Mrs. Rocco brought Sammy back over and asked Zuri if everything was okay.

Zuri rallied, “Yes, Miss Rocco, sorry I was surprised when Sammy hugged me. Sorry, I hope I did not scare him.”

Mrs. Rocco said, “Oh, I see, yes, we are working on that. Sammy likes to hug everyone. He is working on saying ‘hello’ and offering to shake hands. Still, when he gets excited he forgets. He has been looking forward to meeting you since I told him about it on Friday.”

Zuri smiled, she told Mrs. Rocco that it was totally fine. She reached out her hand and shook Sammy’s hand and introduced herself. Sammy shook her hand with a big smile and told her that his name is Sammy. They sat down to practice reading.

That night Zuri was feeling horrible about herself. She could not believe her reaction to Sammy. She felt ashamed. She wondered if it meant that she was a bad person. She thought that she would immediately accept and help anyone. She didn’t understand her reaction.

She remembered a story she read in The Yoga Bag. She pulled the bag out from her closet and found the notebook with the story about Astavakra. He is the sage that the 8-angle pose is named after.








She read my notes that told the sage’s story. Astavakra was born with 8 angles, or bends throughout his body. He struggled to walk and often people reacted to his appearance, not accepting him, even laughing at him because of his disability.





Photo of Astavakra from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ashtavakra

Zuri remembered reading the story of how Astavakra walked far, despite his disability, to be able to take hear the great philosophical discussions in the court. She read about how wise and kind Astavakra was. Zuri remembered that when she read about how the court greeted Astavakra, she thought she would never do such a thing. She knew she would never judge anyone for his or her appearance. You see, the people at Kind Janaka’s court laughed at Astavakra’s appearance.

Zuri knows that people have judged her because of her mother, her skin color, and because of her brother Eric’s troubles. She has sworn on all that is good that she would never do that to anyone.

How come she pulled away from Sammy?

Zuri decided to ask Miss Amanda, her yoga teacher about what she thinks. If you try to be good, want to be good, why then do you do bad things? Does this mean Zuri is bad, like her mom? Zuri was scared.

The next day, she helped Sammy read. She was distracted the whole time because she could hardly wait to talk to Miss Amanda about Astavakra and her own missteps.

In afterschool, Zuri told Miss Amanda about what she did to Sammy. Miss Amanda smiled and pulled Zuri into her arms and gave her a big hug.

“Ah Zuri, we are all a bit afraid of anything that is different from us. It is sort of an ego thing. We define ourselves by who we are, what we look like, and all that-- and it helps is feel safe, knowing who we are. Ego, however, can lead us to fear what is not like us. Zuri, your soul is deeper than your ego. You told me you’ve read about all that in your Yoga Bag, in your books your Aunt gave you. Didn’t you honey?”

Ugh! Zuri cringed. She was bad. She forgot that she told Miss Amanda that her Aunt Jasmine gave her The Yoga Bag. She was afraid what Miss Amanda would think of her if she knew that Eric and his friends had stolen The Yoga Bag out of a truck by the church. It was time to come clean.

“Miss Amanda, my aunt didn’t give me the yoga bag. Eric, Eric and his friend broke into a truck by the church. They took a bunch of stuff. The Yoga Bag was with all of the stuff. They didn’t care about it and left it on the floor. I found it and started reading it. I can’t figure out whose bag it is. She didn’t write her name anywhere. She wrote lots of notes, and journal entries, and yoga classes. She had books in there and wrote noted in the books. I know is sounds strange, but somehow I feel like she is glad I have the bag.”

Miss Amanda did not know what to say at first. She asked Zuri if she was sure there were no names in the books or on the bag. Zuri assured her there was not.

Zuri told Miss Amanda that she did remember reading about the ego and the soul. She remembered that the ego was driven by fear and a need for safety and that the soul was driven by love and a passion for experience.

“Yes, Miss Amanda said. When Sammy hugged you your ego reacted and once you got a hold of your self, your soul kicked in and you worked with Sammy with a big open heart. Don’t you worry Zuri, so long as you stay present and stick with your soul, you will be up to big and beautiful things.”

Later that night, Zuri read the rest of the story of Astavakra. Turns out, King Janaka saw  more than Astavakra’s disability. King Janaka saw the atma, the soul in Astavakra. King Janaka bowed down to Astavakra and became his student. And Astavakra then gave King Janaka lessons in the science of the soul (i.e., Astavakra Gita). To read more about Astavakra and other sages read The Myths of the Asanas: The Stories at the Heart of the Yoga Tradition by Kaivayla and ven der Kooij (see link below).

Zuri thought that maybe Miss Amanda was like King Janaka is this way. Miss Amanda was able to see beyond Zuri’s ego-reactions and see her real, true self-- her soul.

Zuri remembered something else she remembered reading in The Yoga Bag, “At any given moment you can change your story.” Zuri wanted to be the author of her own story She wanted to let go of her fear of being linked to her mom’s mistakes, and Eric’s mistakes. She wanted to stop worrying about what everyone else thought of her. She knew that people were like her. We can all be afraid of things that don’t feel familiar. If we get beyond all that and see beyond our first impressions, our reactions, we can connect, our soul sees the soul of there other, our common humanity. Zuri has a sense that it was in that connection that powerful things could happen- like when she helps Sammy.

The Process

You can write your own story. You won’t always show up exactly like you want to. You won’t always get it right. You will make mistakes and you will be afraid just like I have, do, and will. Like Zuri with Sammy, I had a similar response to a little girl with Down syndrome the summer before my brother Stephen was born. I wish now I had a Miss Amanda or The Yoga Bag to help me see the bigger picture. I felt ashamed and embarrassed about my reactions to the beautiful little girl who wanted to touch my hair. I have thought of her many times, said prayers for her, and even written about her.

We head out into this life the authors of our own story. I know that you, like Zuri, and me, want yours to be a good one filled with moments in which you have done the right thing.

What it Takes:

In order to be in embodied self-regulation- (i.e., (a) a state of being true to your longer term goals and (b) in creation of a life that you want to be present in) you need to do these FIVE things- over and over and over again:

1.     Be here (or never leave yourself)
2.     Notice when you have gotten off track
3.     As soon as you know better, do better
4.     Re-state your long term goals and the qualities of the life that you want to be present in.
5.     Begin again….

As soon as you can, as soon as you get it, make it right, and step back in the right direction. Life, the universe, is full of challenges.  At any given moment, within any given challenge, you can anchor down into your soul and create your story.


Namaste!

Catherine


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