It’s Monday morning. The teenagers are off to school, the husband to work. There is a dog on each couch. One beside me, the other off at a forty-five degree angle with her back turned to the edge. In the other room the pellet stove hums through fire and my home is filling with its warmth. Outside, the sun is rising to melt the frost that laces the ground in white, and dry the laundry that I have just hung on the line. And, somewhere in the midst of trees and bushes the cats roam the early day.
Even though the hours spread before me without a tangible promise, inside the body the heart beats with possibility. It promises nothing but what I make of it. The routine of daily life is laid before me. I know I will walk and feed the dogs at midday. Pick the kids up a few hours later. But the in-between is mine to fill. There are no yoga classes to teach, except the one I will offer to myself after I finish this post.
Already I can see the blue of the mat spread across the wood. My muscles stir cells reaching through memory to begin again anew. An hour to dance with the vessel of form and stretch into the wonder that is life.
I think of the days when I would sit and wait for wonder to find me. An offer of something new through an email or phone call leading me down a path of exploration. Today there are no expectations. No disappointments of no magic beyond the mundane in the tangible. There is only me sitting in the stillness of possibility and the knowing that I have minutes to weave into the creation of hours. Words to follow onto the page and their journeys to explore.
Today brings the promise of the joy of creation. To traveling inside the labyrinth of the self and find the treasure of the seed waiting to sprout. The bud reaching for the touch of light to bloom. Words press me into the shadowlands in search of wonder. They have stories waiting there. Life in stasis, softly breathing as it waits to unfold. And so, I think, perhaps I will write their stories, not knowing what they will tell me yet, or where they will lead me to wander. It doesn’t matter where we will end up. The magic is in the endless opening. The light beckoning in the soft fire of the heart.
Sometimes the spirits of the land study you before you are allowed to study them. Their secrets held inside the membrane of earth and stone until you have proven yourself worthy of receiving.
Before we left that morning, I sealed acceptance into my aura. There was the knowing that I would be given what I needed to receive and perhaps not all that I yearned for. There is no rushing the land and its protectors, but a grateful, open-heart is always accepted.
I had met Chocorua over the winter, when I had turned a bend in the road and found myself faced with its head of stone, balded in patches of white from the snow, looming before me. It was one of those moments when the body defies words. My daughter looked at me, and I at her, with the same knowing. Someday, I would return. There was no discussion.
We drove the rest of the way to her ski meet immersed in our own thoughts, my eyes blinking away the moisture bought on by our encounter with Mt. Chocorua. Why, I wondered, have I not seen you before?
I have lived in NH since I was nearly five years old. The mountain I had just passed, a mere 1.5 hours from my childhood home. I must have heard of it, even “seen” it in my travels. I have learned, thought, that we do not truly see until the land is ready to be seen.
And, so I found myself traveling the roads to Chocorua six months later. Now mid-summer, there was no snow, but plenty of heat. We had just over twenty-four hours for our trip, and this would be our first night away without our children, ages 14 and 15, since they were born. A strange way to celebrate a slightly belated 20th wedding anniversary, perhaps, but my husband, like my daughter, understands my desires even if he doesn’t entirely comprehend them. When I found out he had booked us a night in North Conway so we could celebrate two decades of marriage by hiking the legendary mountain, I was deeply touched. My only reservation was that we would not have enough time.
Which was part of the letting go.
The morning began with tension after the release that yoga brings. I had a morning class to teach, and when I returned home, it was to find my husband nowhere near ready to go. I have a long history with time controlled by the minutes that tick by on the clock. I loathe being “late,” in whatever circumstance that involves. It’s not easy for me to let it go. I had breathed acceptance into my body at the start of the day, and it was not going to allow me to forget it.
When finally we got on the road, an hour after I had hoped we would leave, my husband and I found ourselves doing our individual best to release the threads of tension between us. That is until twenty-five minutes into our journey he realized he had forgotten his dress clothes, and, true to his nature, blamed it on my long-battle with time. Once more I found myself breathing into acceptance as we turned the car around.
It was a mostly wordless journey back home. When we arrived our daughter, just recently having woken, greeted us with some surprise as she smiled above the top of the couch. We had now lost about two hours of the day, by my calculations with the clock, but my body knew it was what we needed. This test of letting go of what we tend to hold onto, if we could.
And we did, gradually at first, as we settled back into an uneasy silence. My husband making the first offering of peace by placing his right hand on my thigh as he navigated the road back toward the mountain with his left. I felt the letting go as I met his offering with the wrap of my hand around his. Our journey now officially underway with all we needed packed in the car, even though later we would lament not having brought more. Not in terms of clothing, but in terms of supplies for the long walk ahead of us. In our determination to hike 3.5 thousand footer, we had not given much thought to the long, indirect path we had chosen to get to the top. Chosen as though it was not a choice, because it was the path walked before the white man had landed on the shores of New England.
This week will mark the end of my first sessions of full-immersion into the world of teaching yoga to kids. What has felt like an initiation by fire, with five different classes of kids ages 3-17, has left me with more questions than answers. What is, I find myself wondering, the “correct” way to teach yoga to kids and teens? Or, is there one?
Each day is different. You can arrive with a lesson plan, sets of props, and a bag filled with yoga-themed goodies, and some days this will be grand. On other days, you may as well throw it all out the window. At least that’s how it was for me.
Humans are creatures driven by their emotions, which can be impacted by not only their own internal state of being, but by the emotions of those around them, and the energy pervading the planet. Children, in particular, are highly empathic beings, easily influenced by the inner and outer emotional body.
Some days, I would arrive to a yoga class and find the energy of peace and happiness pervading the classroom. Joy easily filled us, and our yoga practice would flow like a stream of clear water. On other days, the air would be thick with humid emotions. Restless bodies trapped in an airless room were all striving for release. Who could blame them? If I were five, I too would rather be outdoors running free. Heck, even at 45, my body prefers freedom when it feels trapped in a space of confinement.
So what does one do on these days? I don’t have all the answers.
Ideally, yoga would travel to meet us where we are, at any given time. We would take it outdoors when the weather calls us to plant our feet on the grass and align our pulse with Nature’s. But, sometimes we must make do with what we are given. Closed, airless rooms.
There are days when I pretty much gave up. Threw in the towel, you might say, and mostly observed and accepted, as best I could. Taking the few precious moments when they arrived to engage a wild child in a yoga asana or breath.
They became moments of self-observation too. I would notice my own emotions, tipping toward frustration, futility, and sometimes anger. Unruly children can be cruel and disrespectful, often without intention. I found myself searching for the rare moments when I could reign them in, and teach them that there is more to yoga than moving the body into animal-like postures to find the seed of goodness within and grow it.
Even the kindest child can turn into a monster when their peers are unruly. It is not fun to watch. It is, just the opposite. Yet, we learn and grow from these moments as best we can. Moments when I found myself resisting the urge to yell. To take a small body and shake it into awareness after it reached into a bowl to grab a helpless fish, or stuffed tissues up its nose while grinning wickedly in my face.
Oh yes, there were those days when anything and everything that felt like it could go wrong did, and I would wish for a miracle that never came. Although I don’t believe in corporal punishment of any form for children, I do believe children in the society I live in tend to be over-indulged and, for the most part, lack an understanding that there are consequences to actions, even though punishment of any form is not given. And herein, perhaps, lies the gift for me.
I have found, as much as I try, that although I love to make yoga fun in creative ways, I am not a yoga teacher who finds home in the make-believe. Elaborate stories filled with action, songs, and props are not my thing. When I create these types of classes, I find that the children easily get bored unless you change the scene and plot each week. To me, this takes too much effort and feels contrived. It feeds the over-stimulated mind I am working to calm.
This, to me, is not yoga. Yoga, for me, is finding the seed of each essence held inside those restless bodies and allowing it to bloom into being. In whatever small, or big way, it is willing to bloom. And, sometimes we simply need to take away what does not work, including the children who are not ready, or wiling to engage in the practice of yoga. In each class I taught, there were always at least two children who were not ready, or interested in yoga. At least not this stage in their lives. Or, with Miss Alethea. And, that is okay.
On those rare occasions when these children left the classroom, the energy transformed. Children who would normally follow the reckless leader(s) when present, were now engaged and attentive. Their sharp mind tuned to my soft words inviting them to find their own yoga dance as I gently guided them along.
Sometimes an entire group needed to leave. Last week, I found myself down to two students in the last fifteen minutes of one class. Two five-year-olds who could be as unruly as the rest, remained with me while their four peers left, one-by-one, to join their other classmates on the playground. They were fifteen magical minutes. Two bright minds focused on my voice as they danced from pose to pose. “Show me how you would go from Dog Pose into Cat Pose?” “From Warrior One, into Warrior Two?” I simply sat, watched, and gently asked as the magic unfolded through their bodies.
Sometimes, the ideal yoga class is two students. Sometimes it is only fifteen minutes. And that is okay. More than okay.
The same thing happened during my middle-school yoga class last week. More than half the students were not present, due to a sport’s commitment. A group of five girls, all friends, who would rather socialize and fool around with each other than practice yoga together were absent. Instead, I had four students, two boys and two girls, who were engaged for an entire class without interruption. It was a thing of beauty.
And so I find myself asking if it is unfair, or fair, to request true engagement in the form of commitment to yoga when the person is a child? I think, perhaps, it is. From what I have seen, even a three-year-old can be engaged. There is a reason I have not mentioned my two preschool classes in this post yet. They are my largest classes, but they are also my “best” in many ways. Yes, there are challenges. The wanting to hug the teacher, and sit next to her. The friends who need to sit apart least they wrestle the entire class….but, for the most part, they are perfect in their imperfections. The students young enough to listen to their teacher without resistance, still hold a desire to please and learn. It’s easy to release the inner child when there is joy dancing around you, and a half-hour passes quickly with these children.
And so, I find myself at that point of endings that calls me to assess and evaluate before I can determine the next path to take. Still, there are more questions than answers before me, but I know I want to keep walking the path of yoga with children.
While sitting on the porch this afternoon, I had a visit from the resident hummingbird and found myself pulled into the stillness of the present to bear witness to life. While it is all too easy to try to take over life in our hurry to live it, sometimes it is worthwhile to allow it to take over us. If even for just a few moments.
When I began writing The Labyrinth about six years ago, I had one central question in mind, “How can I help kids and teens live their truths without fear?” As a child who lived in fear of speaking her truths, I have experienced the physical and emotional effects of not living in alignment with your inner truths. I believe the greatest gift we can give our children is the gift of empowerment through unconditional love. When we open up to the realization that our children are here for their own unique purpose, and that it is our job as their caregivers to help honor and nurture their inner gifts, we allow them to bloom into the light of their true selves.
The six main characters in The Labyrinth are young teens who are at that pivotal point in their lives when their sense of self is being developed. They are learning who they are and how they fit into the larger world around them. As each young warrior of light works through their fears and insecurities inside a magical labyrinth filled with light shadowed by darkness, they begin to unlock the gifts of their true selves. Realizing, in this journey of self-discovery, that they are not only powerful, but a necessary part of the web of light that connects all life.
The Labyrinth is available worldwide in print and Kindle formats, and I have developed a companion website for readers who seek to explore its themes for self-empowerment and personal growth. As I work to enhance and expand the teachings of the book series, I am looking for input and engagement from its targeted readership. I’d like to bring together a group of kids & teens between the ages of 10-14 who are interested in exploring life through The Labyrinth in an online book club. Over the course of 7 weeks, we’ll read and discuss the themes and passages from the book that have the greatest impact on them.
Empowering Youth Through The Labyrinth
Some of the topics that are explored in The Labyrinth include:
Yoga, mindfulness & meditation
Working with crystals & stones
Animal & spirit guides
Energy balancing & protection
Finding & embracing one’s gifts
Our discussions will be used to help develop games, workshops and interactive tools, some of which will be hosted on the warriors of light club website, for kids and teens to explore freely. In exchange, I will send participants a signed copy of the book, and a uniquely designed chakra pendant. Unfortunately I can only ship within the U.S. due to international shipping costs, but if there is a reader outside the U.S. who wishes to join the book club I’d be happy to reimburse the cost of the book ordered off of Amazon.
If you know a child or teen who might be interested in being a part of this online bookclub, which will be hosted via Zoom, please share this post with their caregivers. I’d like to begin soon after the New Year and hold the online gatherings on Sunday evenings around 7pm EST.
More about The Labyrinth & the Warriors of Light Club
About The Labyrinth:
Six young teens find themselves drawn inside a mysterious labyrinth. They have been told they are the chosen ones, tasked with a mission to repair the broken paths of light in the planet. A darkness, they discover, that is driven by a fear that is as much outside of them as it is inside of them. In order to save themselves and the planet, the young warriors must find the strengths of their inner gifts. Becoming, in the process, warriors of light bound together on a journey of discovery that will take them to hidden places in Earth and within themselves.
Reviews of The Labyrinth from readers:
“This is a beautifully written book that can be enjoyed by anyone who appreciates adventurers who work to improve themselves and their situations with courage and intelligence. As characters the youngsters show up well in the various situations they find themselves yet not without having to battle their personal demons. I enjoyed it that the violence was not out of proportion to the story, and that there wasn’t a lot of silly “teen age” behavior. Best of all, I felt was the interesting way the author presented nuggets of he Ancient Wisdom, those principles that guide us to our best selves. I can’t wait to see the next book!” — Tasha Halpert
“The Labyrinth is a beautiful metaphysical journey that will appeal to kids who like fantasy and magic. It has at its core an exploration of our relationship with the Earth, and how we each have a shadow side (our fears) that we must be willing to face in order to understand how we can heal ourselves and our planet. The language is beautiful and accessible, the characters diverse and engaging, and the story invites kids to ponder their place in the larger web of life, without being “preachy”… I deeply appreciate the author’s mission to help kids dive below the surface in an age where it’s easy to get lost in the technological and material world.” — Carol Goff
Warriors of Light.Club:
Warriorsoflight.club, a companion website for the book series, was created to provide children, teens, and their caregivers a free, accessible, and safe environment to explore a deeper awareness of self. A monthly newsletter is offered via the website for youth who seek a community where they feel accepted and honored for embracing their true, unique selves.
Alethea Kehas, MFA, RMT, RYT200, owner of Inner Truth Healing & Yoga, works with people of all ages to discover, heal, and realign with their inner truths. The Labyrinth is her second published book, and she is in the processing of writing book 2 of the Warriors of Light series.