Perspective: a particular attitude toward or way of regarding something; a point of view. – Google
There is a tiny, clear glass vase that sits empty in my kitchen window. It’s almost too small and lightweight to be of use. Even when it’s full of water, a single rosebud is enough to tip it over. Silly thing to have, right? Yet I can’t imagine ever getting rid of it.
While I don’t notice it very often, when I do, it makes me pause and smile. I would go so far as to say I’ve caught myself lingering over it.
You see, when my daughter was very young – two or three years old (she’s 20 now) – that little vase was very rarely empty. I had received it as a gift from my mom and my little girl was fascinated by it. Perhaps it was its remarkably small size, or the little glass “ruffle” around its neck. I don’t know. What I do know is that my daughter would spend hours and hours in our backyard and in the woods next door searching for treasures to fill it.
To anyone else, her bouquets would probably have looked like a crushed pile of weeds pulled from their garden – yellow dandelions, white clover buds, golden buttercups, purple wild violets crushed together in her tiny fist. Not to my daughter, however. From her perspective, those weeds were beautiful flowers. To me, in her hands, they were transformed into sweet gestures of love from my turbulent, tumultuous middle child.
In hindsight, those tiny bouquets provided a multifaceted lesson in perspective. They were a reminder of the sweetness at the heart of a child who was quite often shrieking or biting or otherwise trying to control the world (her brother and me, mostly) around her.
Even more powerful, they were a reminder for me to recognize that beauty was often unplanned and quite easily missed. Back then I was an avid gardener, hard at work trying to control a little bit of the world myself. Mostly, I was trying to rein in the weeds running rampant in my brand new backyard. The clusters of flowers she delivered almost every day reminded me to take a little joy in my mess.
It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see. – Henry David Thoreau
Teaching yoga is, for me, another way to practice choosing my perspective. I won’t lie to you (or myself) – periodically a student comes my way who is strong, bendy and graceful. Sometimes, they have practiced for years. Sometimes, they just seem to be born for it. Either way, they are beautiful to watch. They are also fun and challenging to teach as I continually seek ways to help them stretch and grow.
Stop it. I know you’re thinking, “Well, she wouldn’t like watching me practice.”
You’re wrong about that. I love watching people like you and me practice. The most misaligned triangle pose (Trikonasana) in the world is a thing of beauty when you’ve had the privilege of watching it unfold from then to now. The same is true for the journey into tree pose or headstand. While the in-between steps along the way to developing the full expression of any yoga posture can feel (and look) awkward and even a little odd, they are sights I treasure as I guide and watch my students in their own journeys of growth and change.
In short, I wouldn’t trade those joys for the joy of watching 100 advanced students a day. They are as individual and as special as each of us are in this great big, diverse world. The way our progress unfolds on our yoga mats is as unique to us as our fingerprints are. It is a privilege and an honor to witness each glimpse of someone developing and becoming. This is a beauty, I suppose, that could easily be missed by a newer teacher or an untrained eye who might not see what I see.
This is, in part, what my daughter was teaching me with her tiny bouquets. I didn’t need to wait for my peonies to bloom or even for the weeds to finally be conquered (which is good news, because they’re still out there) for there to be beauty to treasure in my yard. It was already there. She and I were both looking at the same thing. I just wasn’t seeing the treasure until she brought it to me.
All these years later, I can’t look at that little vase (or a patch of buttercups, actually) without remembering my beautiful girl’s gift to me – the certainty that beauty is all around us all the time. We sometimes just have to choose a different perspective to see it.
Do you see now why I can’t imagine getting rid of that silly, little vase?