Catch that Red Balloon. On Change, Howling on the Floor, and the Yoga of Impermanence

What do we do when the things we love float away like red balloons?

This week I have a story for you. We were in a big box store. Getting water bottles. Or some such practical thing. A woman promoting flu shots beguiled 3.75 year old Kailash with her red balloons. He then charmed her, the way children are wont to do, when so inclined, or want something, so we got away with no shots- and 1 red balloon.

"It's red, my favorite color!" Kailash exclaimed, skipped along happily with his red balloon. Then he looked up. The ceiling in the store cavernously opening above him- just waiting to swallow up beloved red balloons in its depths. "Here. Hold this. So it doesn't fly away.  He shoved me the balloon, which I dutifully tied around my wrist for safekeeping.

In line, juggling our practical items to be bought, I dropped some water bottles. In the shuffle- and the unthinkable happened- the beloved red balloon untwisted itself from my oh-so-secure mommy wrist- and began to float- float- float- up to the very high ceiling. Like maybe 24 feet high. To my chagrin. Immediately, the happy, skipping child is a wailing puddle of grief. We look, hopelessly, at the balloon far above us.

It's almost our turn. The store clerk kindly says something about a broom and tape- that might work, I think.  Suddenly, a very tall man walks up. . .and jumps. Misses. 

Defeat. That's kind of how I feel... We're in the box store because we are moving and my kid,he's growing up. And i'm kind of late on some stuff. Like how at school he needs bigger boy water bottles not sappy cups.  And we are falling apart losing everything here in this move. Again. 4 blocks this time. Only. But this is just reminding us of why we are even 3000 miles across the country from everything and everyone we've known and loved. Something I saw my immigrant parents do, that I never thought I would ever do. 

And it could be me there, on the floor howling about that thing I lost. But it's not. Because he's 3.75 and I'm something like 10x that number and have learned to fake it better. But really, I'm just like him. Packing is more like crying over 3 year old dress clothes that don't fit him any more, that he never even wore, and broken pieces of the crib my partner shattered to fit in the trash can. Because where we are going we have a 1 car garage and sentimentality doesn't fit. That's something I can't unsee. Can't undo. 

Let go. Aparigraha. Where's the yoga now? I think to myself.

And so he's howling. There on the box store floor. And i'm half heartedly trying to console him for this thing that I, honestly, kind of in my heart knew was going to happen (because don't we all think that?  When we watch our kids face light up with delight when someone shoves a helium balloon in their innocent little hand?) It's light. It's bouncy. Wow it floats. Giddy with glee. It'll float forever...and ever.. And yes, yes it does. The red balloon floats away.  Ah, impermanence. I don't know if the lesson even gets easier with time.

So he howls. My version is - I spoke about it. My interpretation of the box store howl. On social media. And I'm still getting messages. People are jumping to get me that red balleon. They are really trying. And unlike the red balloon on the ceiling this isn't so easy to retrieve. But my place in the circle of humanity....of the fragility of it all, the absurdity...the vastness. All we have sometimes is that jump. That people do it for us. That we do it.  Whether we get the red balloon or not.

So what happened you want to know? (Horrible of me to leave an adorable 3.75 year old crying on the floor in your minds, I know.)

Out of nowhere another tall man came and jumped for his balloon. Didn't get it. Jumped again. Steadied himself. He's uncommonly tall, maybe 6.4, wiry, like he works hard for his living, weathered. Dark hair, blue eyes edgy. This man who looks like someone I might avoid in the evening streets is doing this ultimate act of kindness for me and my kid. He tries again. Nope.

But now the kid has stopped howling. What's this? He's thinking. Watching.  The man shrugs. He tried. I wish he would try 1 more time. He's so close.  He walks away. 

Unbelievably, before the child can register and begin to howl again, an impossibly tall man walks up.  No, I think. Almost laughing. You've got to be kidding me. This is unbelievable.I shake my head to clear my eyes.

I see him. Clean cut, turquoise blue shirt matching his dark blue eyes and setting off his neatly cut, shiny dark hair. He's got to be 7.1 at least. I briefly wonder if he's some NBA star. But no, he's got a briefcase, he puts it down to just casually hop right up there and grab the white string on the red balloon on his first try. He smiles and hands it down to the child, amongst applause and cheers, and disappears quicker than you'd think someone that big could actually manage.

Happily, Kailash got into the car. By the time wed gotten home he let all the air out of that darn balloon.  But both he and I had gotten a lot more out of that balloon than hot air.

So the moral here is: Howl about the damn red balloon.

Howl openly if you need to. Mourn that red balloon. That one. Sometimes it got stolen from you. Sometimes It's not coming back. Talk about it. Ask for help when you need it most.  Like when your blubbering amongst baby memorabilia. Or whatever it is for you. The only way people know to help is if you howl about it a little.

And sometimes we got our red balloons all in a bow. So then. Go help someone get theirs.

Jump for them. Jump higher. Do what they can't to help them get what they need. Even if it's what they think they need and you know better.  Its their red balloon, for goodness sake. Their moment of need. Who are we to judge? 

And sometimes the Yoga is just about being there. Getting, losing, finding our red balloons. And doing it together.

Susanna Barkataki, M.Ed. E-YRT is passionate about sharing her heritage of yoga to increase harmony. She runs BlissWell Institute, a school for wellness, including yoga teacher trainings and a pay-it-forward online meditation program OM in 2 Bliss to give everyone access to great sleep, less stress, balanced energy and more bliss. She is a board member of Yoga Service Council, member of the Yoga and Body Image Coalition Team, and co-founder of Be Yoga Pro a next-level business training for yoga teachers. Learn more about her and take your yoga deeper on and off the mat with her bi-monthly written blogs on yoga, healing and everyday uplift at And go jump for that red balloon.

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