Acceptance, Adaptability and Disability
A heavy sadness overwhelms me, and yet in that sadness is a flutter of inspiration, love and admiration.
I am writing another piece of course, as is my dharma at the moment. Editing month 3 of my Prenatal Kriya Yoga Teachers Home Study program, whilst listening to a "Mermaid Playlist" I used for an event some months back.
The song that caused me to stop in my writing tracks and remember with tears in my eyes was "Bird Gherl" by Birdy, and was one of the show stopping song and dance routines in last year's paralympics in London. The whole event if you were one of the few in America to watch it, was magnificent, and I don't use that word often.
Many Americans however were not aware, because of the media's poor coverage and perhaps our non-acceptance of disability, generally,of the majesty of the participants. It seems that the American public can mourn tragedy, but cannot embrace people who overcome adversity and find joy in celebrating what they still have.
The USA had the biggest contingency with some 227 men and women participating in the events. I have already spoken about why I think they did poorly, but what I want to focus on now because that is what I am currently working on, is this process of adapting to change.
It is forced upon us sometimes is it not? Illness and injury along with degeneration of the mind and body. We need to be able to adapt, adjust and acclimatize to these unforeseen changes, and still find joy, yet this can be very hard.
If anyone saw the opening show at the Paralympics where David Tool danced to the haunting Birdy song, you know that the dance was taken into the element of air. David may not have had any legs, but he, like us do not need them to fly.
Wow, how amazing is that!
He reminded me of some of my disabled aqua yoga students that have chosen to overcome adversity, and yet still remember the joy that can be found on the earth realm and simply transcends the physical body. Challenging physical circumstances can be an opportunity with the right attitude and positive response, to adapt and adjust to forced changes in our lives.
When dying is not a chosen path, people can learn to appreciate the subtle things in life that many of us take for granted. Take Tom, a stroke survivor and one of my earliest students and passionate advocate of Aqua Kriya Yoga. He used to wake up each morning when he was alive, to a glass of champagne, celebrating the dawning of a new day here on earth. In his practice he managed to "almost touch his inner universe" by changing his dismantled breathing pattern that often accompanies injury or illness, both physically and emotionally.
If our mind accepts change, then there is no problem, but the mind consists of 12 psychologically selfish facets that want to gain supremacy, and so, resist any changes that may after all, challenge their shot at being in charge. (The 12 facets are the 6 masculine and 6 feminine sides of each chakra)
Children in my experience seem much more accepting and adaptable to change than adults give them credit for. British school kids when polled about which games they preferred, the Olympics or Paralympics, overwhelmingly chose the later. They apparently found it acceptable, and even inspiring perhaps, that people who were physically challenged can with determination and courage, be a major contender in a very competitive field of physical and mental endurance and excellence.
If a child stamps and screams because he wants something and yet does not get it, usually it is not too long before he accepts that it is not going to happen,and moves on to the next thing. The parents however are still shell-shocked and trying to get over the emotional incident, that may have left them baffled and drained of energy.
In the piece I am refining at the moment I wrote;
"Life gives us the opportunity to gain insight and wisdom with our life experiences as we refine our intellect, and adopt a more compassionate nature. We measure our experiences with references to segments of time, such as childhood, adulthood and old age ".
- excerpt from Prenatal Kriya Yoga
I should have added heath and illness, too, because that also can afford us the experience to grow and mature, and yet many people do not think of adversity as living.
In yoga philosophy, memories are one of the fluctuations of the mind that cause us to forget that we are a part of all that is. We remember how things used to be, and become sad when things change.
Truth is, we are all becoming older, and change is "coming a-knocking at the door." My personal hatha practice seemed to nose dive shortly after my 50th birthday. Fear of injury set in, or was it common sense to know that what I did in my 20's, 30's and 40's was perhaps now not appropriate. I had to learn to adapt in the same way that many of my older students had adapted their practices decades earlier.
Can you accept being present and alive?
Can you accept each moment as an an opportunity to change and improve?
Can you imagine dancing through the air, where having legs was not necessary?
Can you imagine moving in the water, a medium that defies gravity, allows us to relax, slow down and think about what is really important in life?
I hope so. Without hope, there is no chance to make changes in our lives and we become stuck and unwilling to embrace new ideas and concepts of our own and in other people.
Without hope, we would think that all the bad and sad news in the media is just the way things are, and they could never be any different.
Without hope, we will never be accepting of other people and their differences, and learn how to get along with them anyway.
Research done by the Nottingham Trent University have noted a positive attitude change in children after the Summer 2012 Paralympics in London, when groups of children discussed the personality attributes of their disabled sports heroes.
Children between 7 and 9 were asked to find adjectives to describe able-bodied vs disabled bodied athletes that best described their performance and personality.
Both groups fared well overall regarding their performance, and yet, after group discussion regarding personality traits, words they found in 2012 like cheat, mean and selfish were improved upon 92% this year, as words like kind, confident and friendly were agreed upon for the disabled participants.
Dr. David Hindley said: "Our research last year raised some interesting questions about the perceived wisdom that the Paralympic Games is an effective vehicle for changing societal attitudes towards, and perceptions of, people with disabilities. We found in the first study that athletes with disabilities may only be accepted or seen in a positive light if they are evaluated in a sporting role and not in general terms, but it's very encouraging that the results are dramatically different following the London 2102 Paralympic Games.
Most of the disabled people in society are not Olympians competing at an international level, but they are courageous at facing personal physical challenges. Do you remember how the media asked all of us to say "Thank you" to the troops we saw either returning to the battle field, or going out to it yet again in the Middle East?
Maybe we can bless each person that we see who are trying to overcome disability, and see beyond that disability and our inability to empathize with their challenges, in order to find a way to accept them unconditionally into society.
I am often thinking that youth is wasted on the young, and yet sometimes time is wasted by the old. By discussing how people are different and putting ourselves in other people's shoes, like the children in this study, we can, I believe become more tolerant as human beings.
I am thinking, it really is a shame we get to grow up sometimes.
In the Kriya Dharma