"The truly great are humble."
Some weeks feel heavier than others. We’ve moved past the immediate response to this crisis and we’re settling in for what looks to be a longer experience than we may have first thought. Maybe the adrenalin is wearing down. Maybe the nightly news seems still at the forefront of your imagination come morning. Make sure you rest.
These are the times that, whether or not you’re naturally inclined to it, you may feel humble. We think of those who are humble as modest people, unpretentious, and Montessori certainly evokes that definition in describing the influence of creative humans who don’t boast, who avoid triumphing like the foolish. But we can think, too, of the original etymology of the word. Humble, from the Old French “humus,” low to the ground. Literally, one who bows down.
At the end of a hard week, at the beginning of what will, undoubtedly, be an extended hard time, you may feel like falling to the ground, like crumbling. Remember: humble does not mean weak, and rest is not the same as succumbing. The truly great are humble. Simple. Modest. Low to the ground.
If you practice yoga, you're probably familiar with Balasana, child's pose, that position in which you rest your hips on your ankles and your forehead on the floor, your arms gently trailing at your sides. It is a position of rest and retreat, a place to breathe and to be grounded. In the mythology of the asanas, this pose is meant to remind us of the balance between the lightness of childhood and the higher calling within each of us. In the myth, the child Krishna playfully puts a large handful of dirt in his mouth. His brother runs to their mother to tattle and their worried mother pries open Krishna's laughing mouth to look inside. Instead of the mess of dirt she expects to see, she is able to look deep into the vastness of the universe. Krishna has been so absorbed in his play that he has forgotten his divine nature. The pose is meant to remind us of this, that we are meant to be connected to the work of this world but balanced by our higher calling. In yoga practice, it's used as a rest pose, a space to retreat to after more challenging, active practice or from which to emerge back into action.
And whether you've ever been on a yoga mat or not, the lesson stands. We ask a lot of ourselves in caring for children, and even more so now when we are knee deep in such muck, and meanwhile the world asks even more of us, managing the stress, the fear of the unknown, the financial impacts, the loss of control. These moments of rest are important. Finding the space and time to retreat matters. Not to retire. Not to concede. But to rest, to restore, so that we can emerge again into the work. You don't have to remember the sanskrit "balasana." Remember the concept of "child's pose," to remind you of the ways in which children are engaged, deeply and joyfully, even in their most challenging work. Our great work, like the children's, is rigorous and profound. It takes all our energy but, like the children, when we are engaged, we don't notice the burden we carry. Not all of our work will feel this way. Some will take all our effort, and we'll know we're expending it. Rest is even more important to prepare for that work. Take the time. Take the breath. Without criticism or judgment. Then get back to the work. It will be Monday again soon enough.
* a response to To Educate the Human Potential, Chapter 10: Early Man, M. Montessori