Ayurveda Day 15: Winnie the Pooh

Working with kids can be tough.

You have dozens of kids of all ages running around screaming, all having different care needs that have to be satisfied instantaneously, lest their energy become destructive. Some adults just try to control everything. Others will let the kids run rampant and free, disregarding all safety. Others still are too patient and forgiving and won’t be able to respond quick enough and become daunted, feeling heavy about the task at hand. It takes a balance of these qualities to ensure the kids have safety, freedom, and are engaged in something productive. It’s very easy when faced with a challenging setting to just give into our tendencies.

I’m sure at some point every child care worker (or parent!) has asked themselves “I wish I had a road map to these kids personalities!” Some actually do come with a set of “instructions”: the ones with diagnosed developmental qualities, such as autism, ADHD and ADD, anxiety, etc. There are tools and techniques we can use to help them because now we have a clear map of how they act and react to certain things, and we can play to their strengths (For example, studies have shown that kids with ADD thrive when they are in nature and struggle when there is too much stimuli in the room). At worst however, we compartmentalize them without proper attention to their needs, and they just suck up resources while everyone else falls through the cracks. Overwhelmed is a word I would use to describe childcare.

The desire to diagnose these kids came because the system they are in was not only not helping them thrive, but they were also disruptive to that system. If we just understood these kids, and indeed all kids more deeply, we could help to calm that destructive force and bring out the best in all of them. There is no such road map or model in the west that allows us to do this effectively.

But what if I told you that there is a road map, a set of “instructions”, for every single child, that help us to understand how to best teach them? In fact, there is a road map for every person out there, not just kids. Ayurveda has this road map! Though it does take time and practice to draw it all out.

Ayurveda works to assess not just a person’s physical tendencies (towards illness or imbalance), but also their personality tendencies (how they treat others and themselves). By understanding that a person’s tendency falls into one of three basic doshas, we gain insight into why they act they way they do, and how to bring out the best in our relationships with people. These doshas are called Vata, Pitta, and Kapha and represent movement, transformation, and structure, respectively. When in class today, we discussed these doshas in considerable detail and as I related it to my relationships with the kids at work, I remembered good old Pooh Bear, the free spirited Tigger, and hard working Rabbit.

Have you ever had a friend that is really all over the place, and is happy that way? You will ask them a question about what movie they want to see tonight and by the time they get to the end of their words, they have told you what they had for breakfast, what their favourite movie is, about a weird thing that happened today, and they still haven’t even told you what they want to see. When you ask them again what they heck they want to see they say,
“Oh I don’t mind they all sound good!”.
This person is showing clear Vata personality traits. This person is Tigger! There is so much movement in their minds its hard to pin them down. They thrive on being grounded and more structured as it enhances their focus of attention (dharana). When someone is upset with a Vata type, they may reply,
“I’m so sorry what can I do to fix this…how can I change?”, feeling guilty and critical of only themselves.

Maybe you have a friend like this, but you are not like them at all. You only wanted to go to the movies because you heard about one that really fit your interests. It fit all the criteria you have in your mind of “what makes a good movie”, so you decide that you are going to go out and see that one specifically tonight at the 7:10 showing, as that gives you enough time to eat and rest after. You have a purpose and will only switch to another movie if you can be convinced that there is something else out there worth seeing at a similar time. Otherwise, you would not even go out to see “just any movie at anytime”. You tend to be more easily aggravated by the movement of your Vata friend, and you become critical and don’t understand how they can be so seemingly random and aloof.
This person is showing clear Pitta personality traits. This person is Rabbit! Pitta types have a clear vision and purpose towards almost every experience and decision in their lives, making them great problem solvers. Unfortunately, they can feel like everything is a problem and want to fix it all. They thrive when people just are clear with them on what they want and when they want it, and they may even be willing to change when their flaws are pointed out, though they can get defensive. They tend to point one finger at everything else, but are three times harder on themselves. When a Pitta type becomes upset they may say,
“If everyone and everything was exactly this way, then we would all be happy”.

You may be so aggravated by your Vata friend that you decide to call another friend and invite them to the movie. You like this friend because they do almost anything you say. They are generally obedient and quiet. They take their time with everything and are very thorough. Sometimes this friend can be pretty slow to get going, or seem withdrawn. They are generally supportive but also can feel uninspired at times. Maybe they laugh at all your jokes! You don’t always call this friend because they tend to be more supportive and you feel like you have to initiate everything.
This person is showing clear Kapha personality traits. This person is good ol’ Pooh Bear! They tend to just be still without much going on, but thrive on more movement in their lives, be it physical movement or mental movement (creativity). When someone is being mean to a Kapha, they might respond,
“Oh wow, you must have had a really bad day. What’s wrong?”. They can be difficult to penetrate at times, and will most likely only change when there is a catalyst (movement).

If you have ever read a Winnie the Pooh book or seen those three interact on the television show, you will know exactly what I am talking about. These three are extreme caricatures of these three traits, but they serve as good imagery.

Cuddly Reliable Pooh Bear, Diligent Hard-Working Rabbit, and Bubbly Lighthearted Tigger.

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I should stress that anyone can be any combination of these three doshas. You may have a tendency to be Vata when making decisions, Pitta when focusing, and Kapha when stressed. It is all variable. But learning what doshas make up your personality and what makes up other people’s can really help take the judgment out of our relationships. We will stop saying “this person is so freaking critical of everything I do!!!!”, and instead say “This person is showing a Pitta personality trait. They just need to be acknowledged and then will be more open to discussion”. It’s a pretty freeing concept that goes much deeper than what I wrote today. But one day you can pay me to be your Ayurvedic Practitioner and we can journey into it together.

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Until next time, go watch some Winnie the Pooh!

With gratitude,

S

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