Most of these summer days, the sky tips our faces upward and it feels good to remember just how small we stand amongst all this wonder.Read More
The following post was written by TaraMarie Perri, the Founder/Director of The Perri Institute for Mind and Body. Her professional work is dedicated to yoga education and research, holistic health therapeutics, and the integration of mind/body practices with the arts and sciences. TaraMarie holds an MFA and serves on Faculty at NYU Tisch School of the Arts. She maintains private practices in New York City and Brooklyn.
In mid-May, I visited my dear friends at their home on the banks of Lake Champlain in Westport, NY. My times with them are always special--getting back to nature, recalling how to unwind, and celebrating the art of living. On a daily basis, I enjoy their spectacular surroundings as we kayak, hike, boat, or venture to their local farm to visit the animals.
It is not difficult to enjoy the views and sounds of nature in the region. But when I get to experience them through the eyes and ears of my good friend, Felix, the landscape becomes even more alive. Felix is five, and he is one of the most kind, creative, and curious children I have ever known (no surprise, as his parents are exceptional people!). Even at a young age, he embodies the enviable blend of urban hip and country chill.
Each day of my visit, Felix’s mom and I took short hikes and enjoyed investigating the new spring growth of bright green leaves, wildflowers, and orange baby geckos. On the last day of my visit, we followed a short trail--Felix accompanied us because he was not in school that day. As we walked along in a line, we talked about our watch for edible fiddleheads. We told him about the purple trillium we had seen each day and the hope of locating a white variety. From time to time, Felix squatted down to pull leaves to carry, and to touch the different fern textures.
Then the real magic began.
“Look, mama, this is a pink lady slipper!” Felix exclaimed. We marveled at his knowledge of this delicate wildflower’s name, and he proceeded to tell us how it would look as a bud before the open petals we saw. Later, “Oh, I found a Jack in the Pulpit!” Both of us had not seen this special little growth hidden under a cluster of other leaves. We gathered around to discuss its unique design. Once again, we were amazed that he had such an interactive presence to see things we walked right over. I started to watch Felix walk, and realized that Felix was not thinking about finishing the walk or following the trail—he was looking around on the path as we went and truly seeing the details. He was the best kind of mindful trail-walking companion. When our adult eyes fixed downward to take in the view to either side, Felix would look around, change levels, get down on his hands and knees, and dig in to the richness of nature.
His enthusiasm for finding other varieties, his pauses to touch a leaf or unfurl a fiddlehead (“You can unfurl them and create a new kind of curl, TaraMarie!”), and his happiness when we encountered another large-leafed trillium awakened me to the hidden joys of our hike.
By the time we exited the trail, Felix had collected a pine branch in one hand and a leaf cluster in the other. He turned around and waved his arms out to the side as if in a wide embrace of his forest friends. “Bye thistles! Bye trillium! See you later! Or tomorrow even,” were his parting words.
Five-year old Felix was our fearless leader and wilderness teacher on the trail.
It appears he may also be a wizard of the woods.
- TaraMarie Perri
Photo credit: Catherine Ross Haskins
The following piece was written by Maggie Gavin. Maggie has been teaching yoga for The Perri Institute for Mind and Body for five years. She is currently pursuing her MSW at Fordham University, to learn how to support mental health through yoga. Catch her class at Steps on Broadway: Tuesdays and Thursdays at 10 AM and Fridays at 12 PM.
A few weeks ago, I spent some time playing blocks with my nephew. While I tirelessly tried to build interesting and sturdy structures, he tirelessly knocked them over. Every time, I felt a little let down that the structure wasn’t “finished” before he knocked it over. But for him, the fun didn’t come from building, but from flinging the blocks up in the air and across the carpet (thankfully, they were soft, meant for toddler fun). Finally, I convinced him to let me stack 26 blocks (just like Daddy and he did before). Finished, they were taller than him. When I gave him the “go” to knock them down, he just stood still for a moment, a look of pure joy spreading over his entire being.
My sister-in-law commented that seeking the finished product is an adult mindset. Often in yoga and meditation, we talk about the idea of impermanence. We have to re-teach our adult students and ourselves something a child understands instinctively. How many times have we almost gotten to a place that feels complete, only to have the pieces get tossed up into the air? How do we react when that happens?
Intellectually, we know things change constantly. As children, we create situations that require rebuilding. We learn the meaning of tossing the pieces into the air and enjoy seeing where they fall. As the stakes of our lives increase, it becomes harder to see the pieces of our hard work fall apart. Can we find a way to approach the changes in our lives with the same childlike joy and curiosity? Can we pick the blocks up and start again, experimenting with a new structure? As challenging as the moment of destruction might be, each time we rebuild, we learn something new about how to fit the pieces together.
Summer. When I think of this season, words like freedom, play, and adventure emerge in my mind. Vivid memories crop up too – of long afternoons at the beach, enveloped by a sound score of crashing waves, giggles, and screams; of countless scoops of ice cream melting in my mouth, so satisfying especially on the hottest of days; of grass squishing underfoot as I run through sprinklers in my backyard…there’s something so timeless about summer’s long days and warm nights. Most of my oldest memories exist in the summer months of my childhood. I still largely operate on a school-year schedule, so when summer rolls around I inevitably look for opportunities to play, to mix up my daily routine in an effort to recharge and revel in summer’s fun.
Our yoga community at The Perri Institute for Mind and Body is drawing playfulness into our class offerings all summer long. Spies and mysteries abound, and cheaper classes, as well as pop-up classes across the city in unexpected sites, are keeping our students on their toes.
And why not shift our typical patterns during the summer months? Ever since college, I have endeavored to travel and reenergize my studies over the course of the summer. The ways I’ve met such intentions were sometimes more extensive – traveling to and through Europe to engage in various dance workshops, meeting artists with shared interests yet completely different backgrounds and modes of living and art-making. Other times such goals have been met more simply – attempting to learn a few words of German or a few chords on a guitar (even if it all was forgotten soon after). Regardless of the mode of play, I find such beauty in the way that free time and fresh experiences can infuse us with newfound enthusiasm and simultaneously inform us with hindsight. Have you ever been away from home, even for a weekend, and suddenly sensed this clarity arising in your mind or heart regarding something that has been milling about within you for weeks or even months? When it feels as if your intuition has been ignited and that answer you have been desperately trying to grab hold of falls into your lap in a most organic and unexpected way?
While this summer has brought relief to me after an exhausting year, certain situations and outcomes have reminded me, or perhaps encouraged me to use my free time not to grasp for answers that tell of my future but instead, to use what freedom I have to explore and reconnect, so that I can meet what unfolds rather than force what I think I want into being. My boyfriend introduced me to a catchy tune recently that speaks to the journey of discovery at its close. The last minute and a half of Jason Mraz’s "Song For A Friend" swells from a quieter instrumental interlude to a full, vigorous choral setting that repeats, over and over:
Climb up over the top.
Survey the state of the soul.
You've got to find out for yourself whether or not you're truly trying.
Why not give it a shot?
Shake it. Take control and inevitably wind up
Find out for yourself all the strengths you have inside of you.
As I read those lines and listen to them set to music, I’m reminded that each of us bears the responsibility of surveying the state of our soul as the days and years pass by if we are to delve deeper and deeper into the essence of who we are and what we can be for the world around us. The ways that we examine and shake matters up will inevitably differ, as each of us operates on inimitable wavelengths, but no matter what our mode, we ultimately guide our growth. For me, traveling and delving into learning spark an evaluation of where I have been and where I am living presently; assessments like these often can instigate a repatterning of habits we’ve developed that no longer serve us. And yet I believe that between our considerations and our actions there lies a subtle interplay on the part of the universe in relation to our circumstances. It’s as if there’s this middleman – the Universe – that emerges after we shake things up and guides us back to the path of control and routine with a touch or punch of intuition, depending on how he presents himself. We do initiate growth on behalf of ourselves, but at the same time, I can’t help but give credit to the mysterious, spy ways of the Universe that move me down surprising paths when I remain open enough to see, listen, and feel its advice.
If you were to consider your parking spot on the road of your life right now, what are those matters that seem like they could use some shaking up? How will you find or create space to climb to the top of your life’s mountain to survey your body, mind, spirit, and surroundings?
As the heat bears down on us and the smell of barbecues permeates the air, let us toast to summer’s offering of play. Through diversion may we gain even more of an understanding as to where we are and a stronger intuition as to where we must go and what we must do from here.
- Liz Beres