A CONVERSATION WITH MBS ACADEMY STUDENT, SUZY VAN EIJS
New mother and current student in the MBS Academy Foundation Training, Suzy van Eijs describes her experiences during and since her pregnancy – during training and at home, on the floor and on the go, her daughter Eydie in her arms.
Last Saturday, Suzy found a couple hours to chat with us while Eydie lay down for an afternoon nap. Soon enough, Momma would be up and running one more, baking some bread and on call for an energetic one-year-old to tug at her arms again in pursuit of the latest fascination: walking. For the moment, though, Suzy got to reflect a bit on her training with MBS, on motherhood, and on how the two have intersected.
“The thing I would say about pregnancy is that it’s just for such a short period of time. When you’re in it, it’s so huge, but before you know it, it’s over, and you can’t get back to it.” Of course, one can become pregnant again, but Suzy stresses the preciousness of each individual experience – as that experience. Her distinction recalls Mia’s encouragement throughout past seminars to give our full attention to each particular movement as it happens, instead of recalling something from the past or anticipating what will happen next.
Of her training with MBS, Suzy notes, “I think that might be a thing that this work has made me realize more: sticking in the moment, enjoying the moment.” It doesn’t end with pregnancy, of course. She adds, “Also now, if I hear friends saying, ‘Maybe Eydie will be able to walk in a month,’ I don’t really even think about that. I enjoy now, what’s happening now.”
As it turns out, Eydie offers the same lesson on the richness of slowing down and paying attention to right now. “Babies, that’s their life. They don’t think about ‘Oh, maybe later.’” With a laugh, Suzy spells out just how Eydie prefers to get the message across: crying. Loudly. And, the most wondrous part, Suzy is generally glad for the reminder.
“I think that might be a thing that this work has made me realize more: sticking in the moment, enjoying the moment.”
She explains matter-of-factly, “I’m so grateful that I had a baby who has cried so much, because otherwise I would have just ran right over her. Sometimes it’s a good thing, but sometimes it’s too much, this running around.”
“Running around,” as Suzy explains it, is the opposite of being in the moment. It’s the frenzied, modern condition of blindly trying to manipulate a situation in order to achieve whatever goal we have in mind. It’s what happens when we don’t take the time to observe. And worse, it can lead to “running over others”: trying to change other people, even our children, to achieve our own goals.
When asked how MBS training has affected her outlook as a mother, Suzy underlines this respect for others’ individuality and free will. “I think I’ve learned to accept more about Eydie being an individual, and not just someone who I’m creating.” Of course, she is also keenly aware that this point-of-view is far from the status quo. “As I said, I am so grateful… and maybe not so many people see it that way. You can just look at how many books there are on stopping a baby from crying.” The other approach? “Stop running.”
Having worked professionally for years with horses and with both amateur and professional riders, Suzy came to MBS with a lot of experience already in seeing how people – and animals – learn best. She had explored numerous methods of coaching and self-inquiry, from Neuro-linguistic Programming to Enneagram work. As Suzy describes it, one of the most powerful aspects of learning, whether about oneself or anything else, is through first “seeing one’s own motivations, not seeing them as evil or holy… and staying in contact with other people.” Dealing with a crying baby is certainly a perfect lesson in putting aside blame: a mother can hardly get angry at a kid for wailing at 2 a.m. Suzy suggests extending the same attitude of clear-eyed inquiry into one’s motivations to older children, grown-ups, and ourselves.
In doing a movement in an MBS class, Suzy describes what she calls the “metaphorical” level of the activity. “It’s about self-reflection, and not trying to change others for yourself. I find that that’s our work – on the floor.”
While she doesn’t shy from discussing the “deeper” implications of MBS, Suzy is just as insistent that any kind of learning comes through direct and often quite visceral experience. Take her lengthy, completely natural home birth; she describes the deeper lessons she took from the experience without a hint of romanticizing:
“I had a 25 hour labor. It was not all roses and moonlight. But I listened to my inner voice…. I tend to be really excited about ATMs involving breathing. When you feel your pelvic floor in your breathing (during the labor) that really helps…. Giving birth can change a lot about body awareness, because you get to experience parts of your body for a long time – like, 25 hours – so intensely that they get into your system on another level. Like, the way that you see your body when you close your eyes? For me, that changed. I couldn’t go back to my other picture of myself… but it changed, and I feel stronger.”
Of course, she points out, change in one’s self-image doesn’t solely happen on a physical level. “Now if I see myself, I also see part of my family; me is me, but me is also Eydie’s mamma. A more responsible person, more mature… but not too serious.”
That’s one distinction Suzy is very clear about. She points to how her child’s wonder spreads: “It gets to you that water just reflects light in all these great ways, because your child looks at it, like, ‘Whoa!’ and you do, too. It’s a more mature version of yourself and a more childlike one, in the sense of curiosity.”
Whether she’s working with a nationally-recognized show-jumper or sitting on the living room floor with Eydie, playing with their toes, that mature-yet-curious attitude of playfulness comes up again and again. Once while coaching a champion rider, Suzy helped her make a breakthrough with some gooey, worm-shaped children’s toys. She had the rider hold them around the reins as feedback devices, at once increasing the rider’s sensitivity and giving her a sense of what the horse was experiencing at the other end.
As Suzy explains it, sometimes introducing something a little bit unusual is the most helpful thing, just enough to spark curiosity and interest. “A bit strange, a bit different.” Often, she finds, this means not having a set plan from the start, but dealing with situations as they arise. In motherhood, the theme comes up again and again: “I don’t think it’s cool to try to exclude all the risks.” The bigger risk, she points out, is to spend all your time trying to eliminate risks. “That’s risky. Living isn’t. ‘Living is something that we surely won’t survive!’ But in the meantime, have fun and be curious… they go hand-in-hand.”
That willingness to experiment genuinely, to keep exploring without knowing the outcome, shows up, too, in Suzy’s approach to her own learning with MBS:
“I think this is the best learning system I’ve been exposed to. If I don’t get it at day five, I don’t worry. By the time I get home, I get it, because the light is shining on it from so many points of view that the one that I understand will come. And then the whole thing will be illuminated! And that makes me realize how well Mia and Leora understand how we really learn.”