Big Souls in Little Bodies

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I sit here in the waiting room of my son’s therapy appointment. I’m tired. It was a long day of driving kids to soccer practices, bringing four year olds to well visits, catching up on laundry, returning e-mails, scrambling a somewhat healthy dinner together, and dealing with an emotionally angry teenager who didn’t want to come here. When people ask me how I’m doing. My response is always the same…”I’m doing okay.” Okay is an answer that keeps things neutral. It’s just enough of a hint that things aren’t “good’” or “great”, and it’s a word that gives people the hint not to prod further. It keeps me safe. And whether it’s good or bad, it’s how I roll and it works for me.  But behind the okay is a deep well of feelings, questions, scenarios, venn diagrams, pro/con charts, and any file folder type you can imagine. At times I believe I have a handle on it, but if I’m completely honest with myself…I don’t. None of us do. It’s not until I come to the mat that I begin to dive into just one folder, one feeling at a time. It’s in those moments I’m reminded why I need my practice and why is needs me. 

As adults, we are molded over time to continue to add to the files in our brain. We lock certain files away, not to be touched. Others we scatter across the floor because we just don’t have the emotional energy to deal with the mess. The neat files are the ones we have a handle on. The ones we know we are good at. We are the walking, breathing embodiment of continuous brain chatter. Very often the chatter is self-criticizing in nature. We compare, we judge, we use the word “should” too often, and we feel lost if we sit in it for too long. Hence the tears that stream down my cheeks while in Savasana.  

I spend a lot of time with kids. Not just my own, but all ages. Through my work I bring self-awareness practices, mediation, and yoga into the schools for grades K-12. I consider myself an observer of the child. I watch the eyes, the shoulders, the way one child scans the room for the attention of another. The insecure and the quiet ones pulling inward, trying to hide from even the slightest glance. Children have a delicate energy about them. They are open; even the ones who make it overly apparent that they would like to be shut off from the world. Let’s flip it around. Could they instead be afraid of the power they have within them to actually feel and experience the world more deeply than we feel ourselves as adults? I’ve always been an advocate for not discrediting the child. All too often I see adults underestimating (and therefore limiting) a child’s brain capacity to process big issues because of what we think they can handle. Put aside that assumption and understand that they are far more capable to understand content we think they are too young for. 

  Kids are the easiest people in the world to teach mindfulness and self-awareness to because really the only person they care about is themselves! When you start to tell a child about your weekend or a fun event that you experienced, instead of being fully present in the conversation they instead can’t wait to share with you their same experience. The entire time you are speaking, they already have their language built up in their heads ready to blurt it out. This is normal. They’re kids and over time they will understand the value of being more functionally present in conversation with peers and with adults. What we need to begin to understand is that the child needs respect for the capacity of what their brains can manage, what their brains can sense, what their bodies can feel on an energetic level. Kids learn kinesthetic movement through play and sports. The younger ones fumble over soccer balls while following it around like bees to a hive. The older ones know that they must make critical decisions followed by physical response in order to make the right play. It’s time we begin to teach the child the innate power they have within them related to discerning, intuitively listening, connecting with self and others, and feeling in ways beyond just the surface of emotion. What lies beneath and in the corners of who they are is the stuff that defines our soul’s purpose. Education MUST begin to recognize that students are “big souls in little bodies.”* These bodies are the future infrastructure of our community and country. Honoring them and their uniqueness when they are little can only strengthen their developing belief systems as well as current and future healthy relationships. 

Yoga and mindful awareness practices are an open invitation to any young child, teen, or young adult which can transform the inner body to do great things. The next time you find yourself talking to one of these fascinating people, ask them this question and give them space to take as long as they need to answer: “What makes you separate and unique in this world and how can you use your gifts to leave an impact?” If they don’t have an answer, it’s an invitation to lead them to yoga. 

  • From the Bob Davis Podcast, “big souls in little bodies.”

Sarah Stevenson