The Central Iowa Yoga Retreat is a day for yoga. It’s a day to ground in community, to grow your knowledge, and to let curiosity bloom.
Martha and I bundled up on a very snowy morning in early January, and drove to the Hotel Pattee in Perry Iowa. Lopso, the resident dog greeted us warmly at the back door. His name complements the fact that he had three legs, making him lopsided. He became a caring presence to us and the students. Lopso wandered in and out of our session, and paused only for his hotdog lunch.
Carol Spaulding-Kruse had asked us to facilitate three hours of yoga with Drake students during a J-Term class, focusing on the intersection of yoga and writing. We focused our session on Hanuman, the monkey-faced god of the Hindu myths. Even though Hanuman’s story is centuries old, its lessons are still relevant today. The Ramayana is one of India’s most popular myths. In it Ram asks Hanuman to complete several difficult and challenging tasks, that he believes are impossible. Each and every time, Hanuman tells himself that he cannot accomplish such enormous tasks, and yet, he always does. He’s been telling himself a story that simply wasn’t true.
As we told Hanuman’s story, we asked the students to consider the stories they tell themselves. Martha and I urged them to note which stories are true, and which are not. Sometimes in our minds, we tell ourselves stories like, “I’m not funny” or, “I’m too shy.” Because the stories aren’t always true, necessary, or helpful, they limit our capacity to experience our full humanity. We told the Drake students some stories we’ve told ourselves, and how they’ve not always been helpful, true, or necessary.
Yoga asks us to occupy space, to relish in the full capacity of our humanity. Hanuman reminds us we can do hard–even impossible–things, even when we’ve been telling ourselves we can’t.
…a sense of belonging is one of the most essential needs of humans. We also need to feel power over our lives, belief in our own abilities and a sense of generosity. Seems to me Covid has challenged our ability to satisfy all of those needs.
I started working in Des Moines in 1980 when I was fresh out of graduate school. Iowa State University Extension hired two urban 4-H professionals to fill one position. The Polk County Extension Director’s reaction was not warm. “There’s no such thing as a free puppy” was his frequent response to our requests.
Extension negotiated with Evelyn Davis for free rent in exchange for free programming with the families, kids and staff at Tiny Tots, and we moved into an old classroom on the second floor of the old Nash Irving Middle School, then the home of Evelyn Davis’ Tiny Tots Center. It was a cold day in February 1980, and Horticulture Specialist Mohammad Khan took us on a breakneck tour through the “hood” in his tiny Nissan. Things have improved a lot since then. Hofmaster and I learned our way around the city by being lost a good deal of the time.
Evelyn Davis’ work continues through the Evelyn K. Davis Center for Working Families. The Center houses Gateway to College and other programs for individuals and families that struggle to make ends meet, much less get ahead. Ms. Davis was a force of nature that impacted me personally as well as professionally.
I felt my baby’s first kick in the hallway at Tiny Tots waiting out a tornado warning. When I brought Kate to the center a month or so after she was born, Ms. Davis took my crying child from Charlene Owens’ arms and she quieted and settled against that warm caring heart immediately.
Ms. Davis helped our nutrition education programs connect with other organizations in the community, and let us hone our teaching skills on her staff and clients. Our joint efforts brought additional ISU staff to the community to work with parenting skills, nutrition education and advise on home improvement. We turned those three classrooms into a real inner city Extension Office that impacted the community for four years.
Now the site of the old Tiny Tots Center is Evelyn Davis Park where we held our first 4-H Portable Challenge Training. We brought Sam Tower in from Washington State University to spend a week with 12 professionals from Extension, Des Moines Schools and Employee and Family Resources. Those five days began the adventure movement in the Des Moines area. That fall we created a physical education class for kids who were at risk of dropping out of high school because they were failing PE. Soon we added afterschool and summer programs, and finally corporate training and work with adult students.
Ten years later we started the Adventure Learning Center with Living History Farms and Polk County Conservation, still the premier course in Iowa. And that’s where I learned to climb poles. But that’s another story!
I just applied to make my yard a certified wildlife habitat. I figured I might as well, since the deer have plucked my rosebuds one by one this summer and fall. Really, it’s a small step toward taking better care of the outdoors.
I started the process about three years ago when a group of friends and I removed an extensive pool, deck and pond structure and opened the space to nature. The huge Pin Oak that anchors the space has flourished since then, putting out new growth. I’ve added a perennial border of native plants and shrubs, allowed redbuds, oaks and maples to grow where they will. I’ve composted for a while, raised a bit of food and most recently installed a rain garden with the help of my friend Anne, the Iowa Garden Coach.
It’s really turned the back yard into a refuge, not just for the critters, but for me and my friends. I hope you’ll take some actions to make the world a little greener; here are some suggestions–
- Take this “Outdoor Bill of Rights” Survey to help the Iowa Department of Natural Resources develop their agenda for getting children and youth opportunities to spend time outdoors.
- Parents–Check out “Be Out There” at the National Wildlife Federation’s Web site, especially the resources for taking kids outside including Why kids need to play outside
- The Next Step team was involved in creating this online resource for exploring Iowa–99 Parks Family Fun Guide
- See what it would take to create a wildlife refuge at your school.
A map is a special kind of picture of a community or area; there are landmarks that make each community unique. Each team will draw, photograph, take notes and collect things that can be glued to the map-page. At the end of the walk, print photos and add items from the walk to the map-pages.