This morning Maple asked me, with a furrowed brow, about what’s going to happen to all those “bad kids” come Xmas morning.
She’s worried because rumor has it that somewhere out there those poor bad kids are really in for it with ole Santy.
“Mom,” she pleaded, “Christmas is only 4 days away and I just feel like we need to help them.”
I have to admit that those “you’d better watch out” songs feel wrong to me as a mother intent on raising girls who can embrace their inevitable “badness” with compassion.
It made me realize that those sneaky subconscious tunes have wired me to fear my own “badness” since birth.
And, having spent most of my life as a closet addict, I’ve sort of always known, without a doubt, how “bad” I was.
You see when you’re hiding heavy things, your brain is sorta wired to constantly keep track of all the “bad things” you’ve done:
those extra sweets you sneak,
those drinks you drank,
the secret spending you did.
And although I hid them well, they lived on a secret spreadsheet deep in my subconscious.
I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life unwinding these knots, but everywhere I go in the modern world I am inundated with reminders of my badness: not rich enough, not fit enough, not fast enough, not famous enough -- acutely aware of those one or two or seventeen more things I need to finally reach the finish line.
When I skeptically found my way to a yoga mat twenty years ago, I was carrying that secret spreadsheet of my mistakes (which was not so secretly appearing as my exhaustion, tight hips, belly bulge, and heavy heart).
I was usually late for class and snuck into an open spot in the back, where I could silently sweat, stretch, (and cry) my way out of all the inner demons that were demolishing me.
And after each practice, to my complete surprise, I found myself falling into the arms of a wide and wordless Grace that had always been there, moment after moment, breath after breath, in my goodness and badness, with nothing but endless love for my scattered, self-conscious self.
While I had grown up hearing about God in my head, yoga gave me a place to feel Her endless love in my messy and slowly melting heart.
And that is how I healed.
What’s ironic to me is that the essence of the Christmas story is not a shameful one, although the Santa songs tell us otherwise; rather, it’s a message of utter goodness: God climbing down into the tiniest of bodies to show us that no matter how dirty or simple or poor a human might be: she is holy, she is Divine.
You see, humans USED to think of themselves as merely fleshy animals, full of faults: violent, selfish, greedy, proud.
But, NO, the Christmas story assures us: you, my love, are so much more than what you once believed yourself to be.
To me, this is the purpose of the practice, to awaken and strengthen my connection to that holy place within me where I can feel and know that despite all appearances, I am constantly cradled by compassion, fumbling my way through an eternal Divine Dance.
And so, in Maple terms, I tried to explain that we're all a little naughty and we are all a little nice.
That life is hard and we all do things we're not always proud of to cope with it.
And that life is also beautiful and deep down humans are innocent and good.
She pondered these things and with a knowing look said "I always knew the naughty list wasn't true, Mom."
With endless love,
Yoga Teacher and Student, Speaker, Writer, Mother, Wife, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Human