June 13, 2010
Rahul and I went to see The Karate Kid right after school yesterday with some friends. It was really good and he was inspired by it. Rahul recently started studying Tae Kwon Do and has loved it, so he came home from the movie wanting to train hard. (This will only make sense if you’ve seen the movie, but he made me hold a little brass bell high up in the air while he aimed to kick it…) As the evening progressed he began to grow a bit more frantic in his training. It was bedtime and I knew he was tired, but he was fighting it by throwing his energy all over the place. Finally, I took him by the shoulders and told him he needed to calm down. He said his heart was racing and I explained to him how we can control our heart rate by slowing down our breathing. He tried to follow my instruction to breathe deeply and let the air out slowly ( one of our “wellness” exercises when I worked for Aveda) and he was really struggling with it. I was firm with him, though, and made him continue to try, even as tears started to come to his eyes. He doesn’t really cry that often and it surprised me that this exercise would make him sad or mad, so I asked him why he was crying and what he was feeling. He just whimpered and I was confused. Normally he is very articulate about his emotions and can tell me what he’s feeling or why, but this time he seemed baffled as well. I saw that he was determined to slow down his breathing, though, so I continued holding his shoulders while he took a few deep breaths. Then I suggested we sit down, cross our legs and hum, Eastern meditation style. He followed me and as he hummed he burst out in full tears and I suddenly understood what was happening.
Many moons ago, when I was in college studying music, a famous Broadway singer came to give a master class. One of the students who got up to perform and be coached by her was particularly bad. I remember he was singing, “On the Street Where You Live” and it sounded awful. He was super tense and stiff and he was barely hitting the notes or keeping rhythm. The teacher stopped him and explained to him that he was holding a tremendous amount of tension in his body and she wanted to help him let go of that while he tried the song again. She told him that she was going to touch him on the shoulder while he was singing and when he felt her hand he should try to focus on relaxing that muscle. So he began the song again and it still sucked. Then she placed her hand warmly on his shoulder and he closed his eyes and began immediately to relax. His shoulders moved down to their normal position and suddenly tears began streaming down his face. He continued to sing and his voice was like night and day: completely lyrical, warm, rich–it was beautiful! When he finished the song the entire class was sitting in complete awe at what we had just witnessed. That day we learned that the body holds onto emotion. And when we can release the tension (through music, in this case, and coaching) the emotion comes to the surface and is released as well.
I thought of that boy in my singing class last night as I watched Rahul’s dormant emotions bubble to the surface through practicing Tae Kwon Do and practicing mediation. I told him that what was happening was that his body had been holding on to sadness from his past (God knows he’s got a lifetime of it) and that his body was now trying to let it go. I couldn’t believe it, but Rahul listened to me and bravely continued to breathe and relax as the emotion came pouring out of him. I just sat by him and told him how brave he was being. And a few moments later he was done.
Rahul is the bravest person I have ever met. I cannot even relate the amount of courage he has shown in his life. Maybe someday I will grow up to be like him.