Last week on the way to school, Lucia said, out of the blue, “Mommy, I'm just not spiritual.” I’m prone to parental lecturing, oversharing my opinion, but I’m newly enlightened by a book called Untangled by Lisa Damour. The book breaks out the major stages of female adolescence. Instead of launching into one of my moralistic lectures, I remembered the author’s wise words about how 11-year-old girls are just dipping their painted toes into independence. They are making overt efforts to establish themselves as wholly separate from their parents.
I stayed quiet. I just nodded and vocalized an “Mmm hmm” of acknowledgement to her declaration. “I mean, it’s just not my thing,” Lucia continued, “spirituality, I mean. It’s just not for me.”
Okay. I thought to myself. She is different from me. She is letting me know how different. And, I, in a clear moment of parenting clarity, recognized that we were both doing our jobs--- she was establishing her individuality, differentiating from me, and I was letting her do it! Two points for the mother-daughter team!!!!
As I was teaching Yin last week, the experience of my conversation with Lucia came into my mind. Yin Yoga is an intensely calm and quiet practice, and as such, there is room for lots of mind-wandering. In Yin practice, there isn’t the endorphin rush or constant movement present in more Yang styles like Bikram or Vinyasa. This absence can create an environment where mental wanderings proliferate. It’s easy for thoughts to enter our minds that we perceive to be “bad” or “wrong” or “inappropriate.”
I told my students the story about Lucia’s declaration of “not being spiritual” and shared my response—to let the pronouncement sit there, to make space for it. Once that happened, we could both move on, and feel good about the experience. Had I glommed onto a resistant response, “Honey, you never know. Someday you might become spiritual….. Do you really know what spirituality is? ……blaaaah, blaaaah, blaaaah.”
As I looked out into the sea of bodies, everyone had their eyes closed. They looked so peaceful and serene. But as a student, I know that closed eyes doesn’t mean quiet mind. I encouraged the room of students to make space for the myriad parts of themselves, the different voices, unexpected feelings. Resistance to a posture might come. Let it come. Make space for it. Frustration might interrupt your serenity. It’s part of you. Let it be. Only by making space for the things we don’t necessarily want, can we get to the other side to discover what else is waiting to be seen and heard.
Adolescence is a time of rawness, extreme evolution, individuation, and identity exploration, but that process doesn’t stop when we become adults. When Lucia said to me, “Mom, I’m just not spiritual,” I was able to recognize that she is in a moment in time in her life, a moment that is not permanent; her perspective could last ten years or ten minutes. But it’s hers. It’s part of her right now.
Whether with your own body in your yoga practice or the car with your kid, make space for the new, the different, and the unexpected. Who knows what you’ll find on the other side.