Recently, while at a brunch I saw a delightful sight. A young boy with a big spoon reached into a big tub of creamy white yogurt and with utter glee brought the yogurt to his mouth and licked the spoon clean. His smile was wider than his face. His eyes brightened as he prepared to launch in for a second time. Just as his spoon was about to reach the container, a woman near him exclaimed in a commanding voice, “Stop! You can’t do that! That’s double dipping.”
All of a sudden his wide eyes constricted, his shoulders sagged and his chest caved in. He slumped towards the floor and turned his back away from the yogurt tub with what seemed to me to be a look of confusion. My own heart shriveled a bit as I saw what seemed to be shame – new and unfamiliar- began to creep in.
The boy’s mother, seeing his facial expression, quickly gave him a hug, spooned some of the yogurt into a bowl and gently explained to him what had happened. He cautiously spooned up some more yogurt and brought it to his mouth. She may have protected him from internalizing the shame and he may have enjoyed the taste, but the moment of utter joyful abandon was gone.
As I watched this young boy, I had been sharing his delight and enthusiasm. I was with him in that wonderful moment of anticipation as he dived in for that second spoonful of yogurt. I reveled in the beauty of his simple joy. And then it was all taken away. His mother’s attempt to retrieve it, albeit thoughtful, could not make up for the violent loss.
At first I was angry at the woman who cried out “double dipping.” I wanted to make a pithy retort but words failed me. Later, I realized I wasn’t really angry at her. I was angry for all those moments when wonder is squelched–whether intentional or not.
And then I reflected about how quickly and often do we do this to ourselves? How quickly do we turn a moment of joy into an aeon of judgment? How many of us no longer need an adult to wipe away our wonder because we do it to ourselves?
Sometimes in asana we may experience freedom, joy and delight but then suddenly a voice in our mind cries out, “You should be more flexible! You should be stronger! You should know how to do it right!” When I hear this voice, I do tell it to stop but that voice is stubborn. Silencing it just pushes it to another place. I need to acknowledge it’s there but also recognize that it’s just one of many voices.
So I continue to practice asana amidst chattering voices. Eventually, my mind quiets as I feel the different parts of my body become more integrated. And once in a while in triangle pose, I enjoy a heaping spoon of creamy yogurt.