Robert Zeitlin shares how he got over his fear and learned a new lesson about stress — from his daughter.
The 2010 documentary Race to Nowhere showed how the college rat race was stressing kids out, hurting them both emotionally and physically. Stress came from a lot of directions, sometimes with good intentions. They felt stress from school, from parents, from peers, and from the kids themselves. The kids believed there was a payoff for working harder. Getting into a good college ensured a safe, productive adult life. But the kids interviewed for the film were losing touch with themselves, killing themselves for grades and a college resume, and ultimately realized that there was no end to the treadmill they were on.
My daughter is a competitive student. She always wants to get A’s but is only competing with herself. Her quest to get good grades is to show her best work to herself and secondly to prospective colleges. She is also my first yoga teacher. I always wanted to learn but was intimidated to go to a yoga studio. So she started teaching me what she learned. That helped me get past my fear and I started taking classes a couple months ago at Prana House Yoga, a studio with beginner classes that turned out to be a great place to start.
In fact, last month I took a workshop at Prana House on “Inner Journeying.” I know that sounds kind of new-age-y but it was covering meditation, how to slow things down with yoga and breathing, and how to use writing to learn more about yourself. I used to think a class like this was too “out there,” the way I dismissed meditation. But over the last couple years, I have learned that I need to take advantage of these kinds of opportunities.
Both of my kids decided to go to the workshop, too, each for their own reasons. I was proud that they are the kind of people who have curiosity and the courage to check out new ideas like this. I didn’t care if they liked it or got anything out of it. I was just proud that they went.
The morning after the last workshop, driving my daughter to high school, I told her that it was really cool that she does yoga and meditation. A lot of kids her age are only doing what will help them get into a “good” college. Few of them would have time to check out something new, between travel team tryouts, play practice, learning new languages, and all the other resume-building activities that fill a 16 year old’s schedule. The mission is to get into the best school (Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford) to ensure the greatest possible future for themselves.
She shrugged and said that yoga and meditation helps her deal with high school. “It’s helping me get into college in a different way.”
Photo: Nicholas Tonelli/Flickr