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Easing the Journey Through Shadow & Light

  • Dawn

Mindfulness and the Prodigal Yo-yo

Anti-Anxiety Tool of the Week: Dance While You Wash

I've found it's much more fun to wash my hands if I'm singing and dancing--and it turns out that two verses of "The Hokey-Pokey" take just about 20 seconds. I'm sure you can come up with other handwashing songs as well. (And yes, after all these months I still need reminders to wash my hands, not to mention inducements!)

Put your right foot in,

Put your right foot out,

Put your right foot in,

Then you shake it all about.

You do the hokey pokey

and you turn yourself around.

That's what it's all about. Hey!

Now do it with the left foot and you're done!

Mindfulness and the Prodigal Yo-yo

I began this particular round of mindfulness meditations a month or two ago, not out of a noble commitment to spiritual growth but because I thought sitting cross-legged (with supporting pillows) would help stretch my troublesome hip muscles--which it does. But I am continuing to do it not just for the benefit to my hip, but because it almost always leaves me feeling more centered and peaceful.

There are (at least) two aspects to this peace. The first is simply being a little friendly with my body. When I am being mindful, my breath and I--we're just sitting here being buddies. A nice feeling.

The other aspect? Bear with me for a moment.

Recently I found myself thinking about the parable of the prodigal son. And no--I'm not thinking of the TV show! Rather, about the original story as told by Jesus (who was a great storyteller). The simple version is that the son got his father to give him his inheritance early, then left home and indulged in a spending and pleasure-seeking frenzy, until he was a total mess, with absolutely nothing left of his inheritance. Then he crept back to his father in humility, as a beggar.

And what did the father do when he recognized that it was his crazy profligate son limping towards him? Did he wait impatiently with his foot tapping, ready to lecture him on his waywardness? Did he rant and rave at the imbecility of using up all that hard-earned capital? Did he refuse to allow the renegade to come back, while ticking off his failings on his fingers? No. None of the above.

"While he was yet at a distance, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him."

(Luke 15:20 - 21)

That's the other side of the peace I experience with mindfulness.

The more traditional (and very powerful) interpretation of this parable concerns one's relationship with a loving, forgiving Father or Mother God.

But what catches my attention this time around is the analogy to the simple act of self-acceptance, that of welcoming myself back into a basic noticing of my breath...without judgment.

I focus on my breath.

I get distracted.



I focus on my breath.

I get distracted.



This is a process that, at least for me, is repeated tens if not hundreds of times during a given mindfulness meditation and--thanks to the wonderful people who taught my mindfulness classes--(almost) always in a milieu of simple acceptance and non-judgment. I do it so many times I feel like one of those toys with two discs and a string: going out, coming back, going out, coming back.

So, am I calling myself a yo-yo? You bet! But quite affectionately. "Come on back, you silly prodigal yo-yo."

Is there a limit to the number of times I should accept myself back after wandering off? Is it seven times seven? Seventy times seven? That's 490 times--that's kind of hard to keep track of. Which is probably the point.

This acceptance is quiet, not like the party the father threw for his returning son. But I'm guessing if that prodigal child went out and returned as many times as I do in a 10 or 15 minute sitting, the father/mother would eventually stop giving parties but would still greet the child with compassion and acceptance.

Welcome back, you silly, prodigal yo-yo.

Imagine if that kind of self-acceptance was the basis for our interactions with ourselves--and with each other. No threats. No punishment if we come back. No reprimands, no cataloguing of our sins. No finger pointing.

Imagine instead a quiet, affectionate, complete--though perhaps sometimes bemused--acceptance.

Think about it.

And think about sitting down, stretching your hips a bit, and giving it a try.

Until next time,


Photo and art credits:

Child dancing, Gabby Orcutt, unSplash

Mother and child, Jhon David, unSplash

Yo-yo guy, unknown

"Pickles" cartoon, Brian Crane

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