My yoga practice this evening was especially welcome after a series of long and intense work days. Although my Saturday and Sunday yoga sessions are a joy, I especially look forward to the two nights of the week that bring me to my yoga mat. These weeknight sessions allow me to restore myself after giving so deeply to my clients, and they are a gift to me.
When I first began to practice yoga, it was difficult for me to remain still in the quiet moments, in the poses that did not tax me physically. I was able to focus my attention if my body was busy and my breathing was deep, yet my interest waned and outside thoughts intruded in the slower moments of the hour. I battled with this tendency to mentally leave my mat until one day I consciously said to myself, “Be here, be on this mat and enjoy this respite into inner peace. If your mind and spirit are elsewhere, you might as well leave the room.” That evening, I found some leftover craft paints and a small paintbrush. Though artistically challenged, I carefully outlined a few words on the top of my mat and stenciled a few designs on the edges. Standing back to observe my work, I was delighted. “Be here, Be Now” were the words that stared back at me with stark simplicity. From that day on, I could easily recall myself to the present moment when my mind wandered during my yoga practice. Although the bottom section of that first mat wore through to nothingness long ago, I have repainted similar words on subsequent mats. Now, my charcoal gray mat has the words, “Be here, Be Love” painted in simple letters at the top. I stenciled a golden sun, moon, and a few stars at the corners. Fittingly, a single paw print from a certain hound marks the bottom right corner. My mind wanders less frequently now, although it is not too uncommon for my thoughts to wander to and fro at least once during each session. Tonight, my thoughts had strayed to a particular client’s intense challenges. Even during my yoga practice, thoughts of my session with her earlier in the day captured my attention strongly. So strongly, in fact, that I lost my balance during a challenging pose. As I repositioned myself in the pose, I made a conscious effort to focus on my practice and leave thoughts of my clients in the safe confines of my office. Without needing to view the words painted on my mat, I gently murmured, “Be here!”
I finished my practice feeling unusually weary. I bent to roll my mat, breathing in deeply as I reminded myself that it had been an especially challenging week; my body and my mind were both wanting rest. Times of weariness offered all the more reason to remain focused on my practice, to allow myself inner rest. Yoga was the perfect place for me to leave my mind outside and find union with my spirit. Leaving the chatter of my thoughts elsewhere, yoga allowed me to me in the moment, to BE HERE for myself. An unfamiliar woman had practiced to my right side, and she turned to me. “I see what is on your mat,” she stated simply. Her beautiful, dark eyes were kind and smiling. “Where did you get that?” she asked. “Oh, I did it myself, I painted the words by hand,” I responded warmly. We began to talk, and I told her the story of my mat and its predecessors. Her eyes lighting up, she noted, “Oh, you have made my day. You have given me the mantra for my year. It will be to ‘Be Here.’ Thank you so much. That will be my mantra, and it will help me, it will guide me.” I smiled in appreciation, and we began sharing a bit about our lives. As it turned out, we are both in the healing professions. She, a healer of the body, specializes in working with those who battle with HIV. I, as a psychotherapist, strive to help clients heal their spirits and their minds. Both of us, we realized, make use of yoga to keep ourselves well, to keep our spirits cleansed and our minds able to focus on our work. In keeping ourselves healthy and balanced, we are able to give our clients the attention they need and deserve. Our conversation meandered in the quiet of the yoga studio. We learned that we shared the tendency for our thoughts to travel elsewhere during our yoga sessions, the time that we needed our minds to be free, to allow ourselves to “Be Here” and take respite.
Regardless of the nature of one’s job or life, this challenge to “Be Here” is a difficult one for so many of us. Whether dining with a loved one, sharing time with a friend, walking alone in nature, falling asleep, or standing on a yoga mat, it is the chattering and wandering mind that interferes with the present moment. Life evaporates, the moments are gone, and for naught. As I worry about what is past or what is yet to come–none of which is within the control of my worrying mind–I have lost the beauty of the present. If I cogitate upon where I have been or where I have yet to be, I have lost the exquisite moment in which I am now immersed. Before I blink my eyes it, too, is gone, a memory of a moment I once had. Ever striving to remain in the present, I am reminded that all moments of life–both the challenging and the sweetly gentle–are priceless gifts in their own right.
I am weary and my bedtime has passed, but I smile as I realize that this evening’s yoga practice was especially precious to me. I am reminded that my yoga mat is an ongoing gift to me on myriad levels. It is a symbol of the necessity and privilege of taking care of myself so that I might better love and serve others. It gently reminds me to “Be Here, Be Love.” By remaining in the present, by being true to myself in my quest for inner balance and peace, I can love more fully. When I come from a place of love for myself, I am more truly able to love others and the world that I call home. So, as I head to bed, the words from my yoga mat, “Be Here, Be Love,” embrace me. Everywhere I turn there is a lesson to be learned, love to be shared, and a moment to be treasured.