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Pine inhalation

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Amid the holiday madness that inevitably comes like Christmas cards in the mail, it can be easy to forget to slow down. Remembering to take a deep breath can be harder still. That's how and why my daughter Kate and I found ourselves in a yoga class during packed days of post-Thanksgiving travel, school assignments, end-of-year work deadlines and the general business of life, seasonal and otherwise.

"How about going to yoga class with me?" I asked Kate early one Sunday morning. She agreed, so out the door we went. We rolled out our mats, crossed our legs and took our seats. Nicole coaxed us into stillness, reminded us to offer our practice—with intention—to someone. It always takes a few minutes to settle into the practice, to stop thinking about how I'm moving and just concentrate on why I'm moving. I have to ask the hamster in my brain to stop spinning in its wheel, and I focus on something else besides daily tasks.

In yoga class, I usually have a vague sense of the students around me. But having my daughter beside me felt different. We were more connected obviously, but the proximity felt curious, too—in the sweetest sense of that word, both excited and inquisitive. There was Kate, nearly my own height, strong and longer-limbed, gamely working her way through a flow of poses. At a moment when I was supposed to do anything but stop breathing, the wonder of the moment took my breath away.

I only recently came to understand why my own mother and the mothers of older children talk about the poignancy of watching kids grow up. It happens too fast, they always say. I'm starting to get it. As your children grow, you don't just see them at one point in time; you see them at every point in time. When Kate folded into child's pose, I again saw her as a sleeping baby in a purple fleece onesie, tummy and chin on the crib mattress, with tiny knees tucked beneath her.

We closed our practice with meditation. Nicole sent us out into the crisp December morning with a mantra: Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu, or May all beings everywhere be happy and free from suffering. This moment in class sometimes brings tears to my eyes. On this particular day, the mantra hit me square in the heart—an articulation of what I want for all beings, but selfishly, most of all, for Kate. As parents, we can't chart a certain course for our children, especially as they get older. Instead, we have to take a deep breath and trust that the instruments they're given to navigate are the very ones they (and we) need. This Christmas, maybe, I'd at least given us the chance to pause and gain strength for the journey.

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