As of 2011, roughly 423,000 children in the United States were living in foster care homes. Today the numbers are much the same. Nearly 20% enter foster care due to physical abuse; 65% leave without a place to live; and less than 3% end up going to college.
Anthony, from the latest episode of URBAN YOGIS on The Chopra Well, is an exception to the trend. He grew up in and out of foster care, back and forth between his mother and various temporary homes. As he explains in the episode, his mother never fed him or provided him with basic life needs, let alone the more intangible necessities of love, comfort, and security. He was never with her long before being sent to another foster home, making for a fairly unstable childhood.
With the help of his final foster family, as well his own drive and will to survive, Anthony emerged from his youth with a clear vision for the future. He’s proud of the life he has created for himself — living independently in a supportive housing unit, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Actuarial Science, and aspiring to get a Ph.D. in Mathematics. Anthony didn’t just survive his childhood; and he isn’t just “getting by” now. He has discovered his passion and ambition. He has embarked on a difficult and rewarding path, made all the more remarkable by his challenging childhood. Through his weekly yoga practice, Anthony further refines this path by learning to pay attention to his moods, focus his mind, and discover strength in every subtle movement and breath.
How does a young person emerge from such a difficult childhood and thrive in adulthood? What facilitates this resilience and ambition? It could be that some experience along the way provided just enough of a glimmer of hope – a supportive social worker, a beautiful song, a loving foster family, an inspiring lesson from history. In Anthony’s case, a large part of his success comes from the opportunity to live alone and get acquainted with his own strength and competence. Yoga has played a large role, as well. As his instructor, Eddie Stern, says, yoga allows us to slow down and focus on our movement and breath. Through this, we come to see that we are individuals with minds and bodies and souls of our own. We aren’t just witnesses of a world going on around us, but rather conscious agents of our own life story. Past, present and future aside, Anthony is his own man. And there is great pride in that.
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