In the last year I”™ve become mindful of the countless wasted hours spent drowning in thought rather than paying attention to the here-and-now. It is no coincidence that yoga also entered my life about a year ago along with the concept of “mindfulness” and mindfulness meditation. Today I am on a path to awareness and I am ready to re-evaluate every pre-conceived notion about who I am and how the world works.
That is not to say that I am cured of the very human conditions known as doubt, judgment, regret, planning and desiring, but only that I am slowly gaining awareness of the toll that these conditions have taken on my mental health. With the vital help of yoga, meditation and focused attention on my breath, I am equipped with the tools to recognize my wandering mind as it is wandering. I can sometimes identify mood states before they take over and alter my sense of self.
Mindfulness meditation teaches awareness centered on self-love and non-judging, but I am not always an honor student. Recently, my mental chatter was a formidable opponent to this loving concept. I was angry at my negative thoughts and angry at my inability to mindfully silence the chatter. On this day, my mind wanted nothing to do with yoga or any of its dumb benefits. I decided to go anyway because at some level I knew it was the only hope of calming this inner dialogue. I was partially correct.
I felt shakier than ever as class began and entirely uncertain of my abilities. I felt even more insecure because my old co-worker was stationed behind me and I was sure that she would notice me fail. As class progressed and the instructor called out basic poses, I lifted my left leg when the direction was right, I wobbled and faltered in postures that I thought should have been simple. I cursed the bloody Pigeon pose for being so damn uncomfortable. I wanted nothing more than to teleport out of the studio and into my bed with a tub of gelato, but I carried on as I waged war with my mind.
As my thoughts spiral into the abyss, I kept coming back to my breath and telling myself to “be here now” as I often do in moments of discomfort. In doing so, I occasionally flirted with my initial intentions to clear the mind and cleanse the body of its clutter. I refused to lose the war.
Final shivasanah finally arrived and I felt a dual sense of relief that I made it through class and disappointment that my performance was far less than stellar. With mixed emotions, I hoped the next class would be “better.” I hoped that I could feel proud of my skills once again.
As I rolled up my mat and got ready to leave the studio, my instructor approached me. In the instant before she spoke, my mind was convinced that she noticed my poor performance and was about to pat me on the back and tell me “not to give up.” The thought of her sympathetic compassion for my epic failure was somehow mortifying.
Instead she kneeled down, looked at me straight in the eye and said she was impressed by the evolution of my practice. Apparently she noticed when I first started at the studio””a complete newb””and watched me grow in confidence and poise. She indicated that it was gratifying to watch me get into the flow during class and that seeing her students transform in this way is the whole reason she feels fulfilled as a yoga instructor.
In that moment she broke through my mental wall with exactly the words I needed to hear at exactly the right time. I cannot explain it, but somehow I know she felt my energy through yoga. She intuitively gave me a dose of genuine kindness that I needed more than anything but was unable to give myself at that moment. She allowed me to let go of the chatter.
Just like that, I emerged from the fog and remembered my intentions in stepping on the mat that day. I was exactly where I needed to be.