My daughter almost went to Tuscany. For the last 9 months, she has been preparing with her chorale (singing) group for a concert that would take place in a beautiful, old village in Tuscany. She practiced every week, planned what she was going to bring, and with whom she was going to share her hotel room. The day before the trip, she came home from school with 102 fever and achy. This trip wasn’t going to happen. As I watched her emotions intensify with the realization that she wasn’t going, I remembered all the teachable moments I’ve had where things didn’t work out the way I had planned.
Understandably, she sat with the disappointment for the rest of the afternoon. Gradually, she started to let the disappointment pass as she saw the opportunity in having a 4 day weekend wide open. Her flu symptoms started to wane. During the following days, she took the opportunity to rest, read a few books, and when she felt more energy, flew a kite by the lake and went to see “The Avengers” with her Dad. I always say that my kids are often my best teachers and this weekend, she reminded me of how we can, with a little awareness and acceptance, find the opportunity in nearly everything.
Years ago, when my children were babies, I had a hard time finding an “opportunity” for my yoga practice. I often thought that I could only practice if the kids were sleeping, the house was quiet, I woke up feeling energetic, the Moon was aligned with Mars, etc. None of these things ever seemed to line up so I realized that I had to practice acceptance and find the opportunity in however the situation presented itself. Sure, it’s more pleasant to practice yoga in a quiet house, when I’m feeling my best, but if I relied too heavily on these circumstances, I would never develop a regular practice and I was at risk for developing resentment. So, I started to roll out my mat while the girls were playing around me. Sometimes they would join me, often they would climb on me. Frequently, I didn’t get my full hour of yoga practice with complete drishti (focus) on my breath or body, but I practiced. One day turned into two, two into three and next thing I knew I had a regular yoga practice. I had changed my perspective, saw the opportunity in my present situation and the benefits of my habitual, albeit imperfect practice were showing.
This habit has led me to see the opportunity in other moments. For example, we put an offer on a house we really really really wanted and it fell through. After a night spent in resistance of the moment (“Why are we so unlucky…this house seemed so perfect for us?”), I started to see the opportunity in our situation. Staying in our apartment means no home improvement projects, no lawn to mow on the weekends and more time (and a little more money) for travel and adventure. Not saying that I have to always find the silver lining in everything and deny any emotion of frustration or disappointment. I can still have the feelings, let them arise and watch them pass. I just don’t have to sit or ruminate about the situation, feel sorry for myself and I can easily (well, most days) find the opportunity in these moments.
This habit of finding opportunity in the small and big moments really has opened my eyes and doors for me. The kids spill milk on the floor? There is an opportunity to wash the floor, which I had been needing to do anyways. A small toy rolls under the bed to the furthest corner, there is an opportunity to stretch and bend my body. I look at nearly every physical household task now as an opportunity to stretch, bend, reach and practice acceptance. With a big slice of humility, I can honestly say some days it’s more difficult to “find the opportunity.” When I first moved here, I would get overwhelmed just by a letter in French from the school or the landlord, or the girls homework because I had no clue what it said or meant. Then, I started to look at these moments as my French lessons; opportunities to learn the language better. The more I stay open to these opportunities, big and small, the more good things seem to come my way. Not resisting what arises moment to moment to moment, can show us the opportunity in any situation.
See if you can make this a habit in your own life. Practice with the small things; a favorite vase breaks, a yoga class is cancelled, you miss your flight? See if you can find the opportunity in these moments. Practicing in these small ways helps for the bigger, more difficult situations in life. People grow old, friends move away…S&%$ happens.
So, when my daughter was suffering with the disappointment from missing her trip, it was a reminder for me to not resist what arises in each moment. It also became an opportunity for me to not convince her that “it’s not so bad” and “just think about rainbows and unicorns and put on a happy face,” but to just be present for her, practice compassion and remember it’s a path.