I arrived at yoga 15 minutes before class was scheduled to begin and set up my mat in the front row. I wasn’t sure how many people would arrive for class and, while I don’t necessarily like being in the front, I know the instructor and she would tease me if she came in and saw that I intentionally chose to be further back.
The room was warm and there was one other woman at the far end of the front row. I settled in, cross-legged, to close my eyes and clear my mind. I didn’t expect it to be an easy job. We were just coming off of a long Thanksgiving weekend and I felt catapulted in to the holiday season. With only six days to go before my daughter’s birthday, I had yet to purchase her gift. Once her special day was over, I anticipated a mad dash of shopping, decorating, cooking and traveling until January 2nd. In the meantime, we were looking forward to a move in the late Spring which meant fixing up our house to put it on the market. Add to that all of the “normal” things on my weekly schedule and my mind resembled a plasma static electricity ball when I closed my eyes. You know, the ones that make your hair stand on end when you put your palms to the glass?
I sat for a minute, warring with myself about whether or not I ought to even be attempting this. Maybe the best thing to do would be to get up and go get some of the things crossed off of my list instead of indulging in a 90-minute yoga class. No, I would look silly walking out now and the instructor would surely catch me leaving. Perhaps I should sit and address some of the items in my head right now – devise the menu for my daughter’s birthday party or make a mental list of which things I can likely get done today. I felt my anxiety level ratchet up a notch. What I needed to do was to sit with my anxiety. Just experience without judgment. Acknowledge my discomfort and not try to solve anything.
The teacher entered the room and welcomed us all. I steeled myself for the beginning of class, knowing that once I started it was like strapping in to an amusement park ride – I was here for the duration. Especially in the front row. She asked us to close our eyes and do our best to stay within the confines of our mats. No, stay here, yelled my mind. This is what is really real. These things need to be done. This is real life.
“That means not looking at your neighbor’s practice or thinking about what is for lunch. Just truly arrive on your own mat and be here. Simply here,” Mary gently reminded us.
At that moment I realized that being here in this moment, anxieties and all, was what was truly Real. Those expectations either existed in the past or the future, which really means not at all. The only place to be was here, on my mat, in my body and my mind. I know that yoga and meditation offer me peace and solace as well as strength and a sense of achievement. Despite that, I often trick myself into thinking that activity and busyness are more valuable. More “real.” Because I can get instant gratification when I cross something off of my list, it feels like an accomplishment. The benefits I get from stopping, slowing down, and being deliberate and planful about my actions and thoughts are much less tangible. But if I think about it, I can always add more tasks to my list. That conveyor belt is never-ending. The act of coming back to myself, grounding my actions and thoughts in this moment right now, wherever I am, feels solid and constant. It may not be “progress” in that sense, but without a stable base from which to act, that conveyor belt will drop into the abyss.
As always, by the time Mary had led the class through our second set of sun salutations, my mind and body were firmly on my mat. Halfway through class, I realized the static electricity had completely dissipated and the realization that now is enough carried me through the rest of the 90 minutes.
Whether or not I actually cross everything off of my to-do list doesn’t seem to matter anymore. For now, I am reminded that Now is Reality and everything else will follow.
*This is one of several essays that originally appeared in BuddhaChick Life Magazine. As the magazine is no longer available, I've reposted them here so that readers can find them.