Handstands and Wonder

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One afternoon, after teaching a class on handstands I was sitting on the grass while some kids were playing. They put their hands on the ground, kicked their legs up in the air and then immediately fell down. They were trying to do handstands without giving them any label. After doing this a number of times one of them squealed in delight, it’s so much fun, “we jump up and then fall down again.” I was awed. She didn’t care that she couldn’t hold her legs up in the air. She didn’t care that she kept falling down. She just continued to jump up and fall down.

I could have interpreted her actions as a story of perseverance but I think I would have been mistaken. Perseverance is an admirable quality. There is a lot to say about the importance of striving towards one’s goals but I was awed by something else. This little girl just loved what she was doing. She loved the movement, She reveled in the sheer joy of the moment. She embodied a total sense of wonder.

I believe that this sense of wonder is our birthright. All children, no matter the difficulty of their circumstances can tap into it. Unfortunately, somewhere along the way of entering into adulthood many of us lose it. The experience of wonder becomes a dim memory as we take on responsibilities and focus on building our future and/or lament our past.

But I also have hope that the dim memory of wonder can be ignited. The practice of yoga is one way to re-find the path to wonder and keep the channel open. As adults, we may not find our way there by kicking our legs up in the air and falling on the grass. Our path might be something as simple as wiggling our toes for the first time in 10 years or taking our arms and legs wide in what I call “bigasana.” It may be doing a handstand against a wall or breathing deeply and discovering that some Irises smell like purple.

No matter the path, may each and every one of us find our way there.

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