Have you ever planned a trip that had to be cancelled?
Or have you ever gone on a trip somewhere and found yourself in a totally different destination?
This post is inspired by a poem entitled "Welcome to Holland" by Emily Kingsley.
It is about becoming a special needs parent.
The poem “Welcome to Holland” likens becoming a special needs parent to planning a trip to a particular destination, say, Paris, and realizing that you have landed somewhere else.
When you plan a trip to Paris, you buy guidebooks about Paris, you prepare your itinerary and even learn a few phrases in the French language.
Imagine your surprise when, after the airplane lands, the flight crew announces “Welcome to Holland!”
So, you respond by saying “Hey wait. There must be some kind of mistake. I did not book a ticket to Holland.” I’m supposed to be in Paris!”
But somehow, plans have changed. And here in Holland you must stay.
This new place called Holland is not really disgusting or horrible. It’s just a different place.
What you do then is, since there is no way to change things, you decide to buy a new guidebook, prepare a new itinerary and maybe learn a few phrases in the Dutch language..
Before long, you realize, how, in this place called Holland, things are done differently.
Maybe it is not as glamorous as Paris but Holland is not such a bad place at all.
If Paris has the Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa and the fashionable shops, Holland has its windmills, tulips and marvelous paintings from Dutch masters such as Vermeer, Van Gogh and Rembrandt.
Of course, the pain of not making it to Paris will not be easy to forget, but if you do not allow yourself to move forward, then you will miss the very special things that Holland has to offer.
Yoga teaches us that, in this world, pain is unavoidable, but suffering is optional.
From the Yoga Sutra 1.5 (vrttayah pancatayyah klista aklistah) we learn that the modifications of our mind, our vrittis, can either be klishta (painful) or aklishta (non-painful).
Therefore, how we deal with our painful experiences determines whether we suffer in life or not. We can only overcome the painful thoughts with the help of non-painful thought patterns.
When one is a parent to a child with special needs, we can choose whether everyday is a punishment or a prison cell or decide if the deeper meaning of life is one of service to others.
One does not have to have a child with special needs to benefit from Yoga Sutra 1.5. Everyday, we are confronted with situations that challenge our ability to see and think clearly.
It is our identification with our vrittis that make us suffer.
To realize this is to arrive at something that I would call the yoga of special needs parenting.
Yoga Sutra 1.13 (tatra sthitau yatno abyasah) speaks of perseverance, abhyasa, as continuous effort without stopping, without looking back.
Thus, in the yoga of special needs parenting, there is no room for regret, only relevant action. It is not a single effort. It requires continuous application for as long as the action is required.
YS 1.15 (drstanusravika visaya vitrsnasya vasikarasamjsa vairagyam) says that when we learn to recognize what we can control from the things we cannot control, then we are making progress in yoga.
When we become too identified with our child’s disability and our happiness becomes dependent on whether the child is cured or not, then we are far away from vairagya or detachment.
Finally, in Yoga Sutra 1.16 (tatparam purushakyater gunavaitrnyam), the concept of the highest level of disinterestedness called paravairagya is discussed. At this stage, one realizes his or her spiritual purpose.
Here, we can say that the gunas, the forces that govern the physical world, no longer influence us and there is no desire for a particular result arising from one’s efforts.
When we have reached the stage of paravairagya, fixing the child is no longer the ultimate goal but rather to spread a message of love, faith, hope and healing to others.