About Me

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Michigan, United States
a registered yoga teacher, and a Thai/Yoga Bodywork practitioner.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Free to just *be*

Although there's nothing revolutionary in the kids' homeschool life, I'm reading some things that are peeling back assumptions and teaching me a few lessons.

One book is The Freedom Manifesto (click for an excerpt). The author pines for pre-Puritanical, pre-capitalist days when living in community and being average would qualify one for eternal life in the hereafter. Nowadays, he says many of us subconsciously buy the line of  continuous improvement, not slacking for a moment for fear of falling behind--and so we are never satisfied, never safe. It's great for advertisers but disastrous for our mental and physical health.

He advocates giving up a lot, namely--your fear. We pander to our fears and discomfort and fail to build community and self sufficiency. The author says: simplify, and don't be modest about it. He aligns the nobility of the monastery with that of the hobo, life outside the norm, a life of freedom. I can't do his tone justice, and I detest abridged books, so I'll stop here and move to...

Free Range Kids. This woman became famous for letting her nine year old ride the New York subway, alone. She compiles a lot of statistics about how safe life really is and wraps them in a tasty layer of humor and anecdotes. I had to stop reading repeatedly just to laugh.

Parents are so over-informed (24 hour news, the web) and prepared for the worst (CSI and other horrible crime dramas) that we put our kids into paralysis.
No walking or biking anywhere because "What if...?"
No trick or treating after dark (or trick/treating PERIOD).
No letting the kids run amok through the neighborhood, monitoring themselves.
No discomfort or failure for your delicate offspring. 

I didn't realize, until the author points it out, how deeply the Adam Walsh story of 1983 and the subsequent milk carton kids had made assume the worst about...most everyone. Perpetual mental discomfort has become normal parenting. However, she points out how we take our kids into cars (accidents), let them play inside all day (house fires), and visit relatives (molestation), all of which are much more likely to result in "something bad" than if we let them play with their friends outside, unsupervised, or go to the movies with friends. Planning for the worst doesn't make the bad stop happening; it brings another kind of abduction--the abduction and squashing of a kid's chance for independence and confidence.

Reading these books concurrently has been a double loaded barrel, blasting apart fears and attachments--stuff I didn't realize I had; it's been the equivalent of a deep tissue massage for the mind, bringing flexibility where I didn't know I was tight.

Some examples of how I have faced fear, giving up (in a good way):

made bread, ate my fill, and enjoyed it ( fear of being fat),

drank wine and enjoyed it (fear of...more fat, I guess. I like wine so much I figure I'm guilty of something),

turned off all screens (DSI, computer, TV) for a whole Sunday (fear of solitude, discomfort not having pre-packaged entertainment or being in-the-know),

told the kids to go outside and not list all the things to watch out for (fear of losing control),

let my kitchen be dirty and letting the jerk of discomfort subside (fear of not being a decent housewife/human and breaking the Cleanliness Is Akin to Godliness "rule");

allowed my normal workload of life--teaching yoga, walking the dog, yard work-- account for my workout (fear of...yep, being fat, again);

let my kids occupy themselves without insisting they do something edifying (fear of raising wards-of-the-state);

forgave myself for letting the kids quit music lessons last year (fear of not enriching their lives)

took a break from judo while the kids are doing soccer and ballet (again--fear of not enriching their lives enough)

Practicing yoga is supposed to be about awareness. Reading these books has been like my first handstand: freeing and terrifying.What are you afraid of? How is it binding you?


  1. I just got a gift card for books and I'm getting both of those now.

    After being in an abusive relationship just out of high school, I have been paralyzed by anxiety to the point that I have breathing problems. STILL. It's such a hard thing to let go of...but for the sake of my kid, I NEED to...I hope Free Range Kids will shake up my thinking a bit.

    It's so nice to read your blog. Sometimes I feel like no one else around me is questioning "the way things are".

  2. Jen - in response to this : "allowed my normal workload of life--teaching yoga, walking the dog, yard work-- account for my workout (fear of...yep, being fat, again);"

    In the Excuses Begone (Wayne Dyer) there's a chapter on Awareness. He says that Harvard did a study on hotel room attendants from 7 different hotels. They split them into two groups. The first group was told to think of their work as their daily exercise. The second group went on to work as usual (no change in mindset).
    The first group experienced a significant change in weight, blood pressure, body fat, and waist-to-hip ratio in only 4 weeks.
    So your attitude about your daily tasks has the power to help you stay healthy, without adding in more time for "exercise".

    Pretty amazing. Had to share. (Chapter 4, page 73 in hardcover)