Trying to tie my shoes, clumsy, not able to work out
the logic of it, fumbling, as my father stands there,
his anger growing over a son who can’t even do
this simplest thing for the first time, can’t even manage
the knot to keep his shoes on—You think someone’s
going to tie your shoes for you the rest of your life?—
No, I answer, forty-five years later, tying my shoe,
hands trembling with this memory. My father
and all those years of childhood not being able to work out
how he loved me, a knot so tight it has taken all my life
I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy”-
Saunter into your local yoga studio and undoubtedly you will inundated with talk about – Mindfulness.
Why is this so? Primarily due to the images of relaxation, stillness, or acting in some idealistic way that mindfulness provides us in this atmosphere. Most yogi’s and mindfulness “practitioners” operate under the assumption that mindfulness, means continually being calm, serene and in control of your surrounding, even as the lady next to you in class rolls out her mat inches away from your perfectly oriented to the East sacred space. It’s because of this, that a mindfulness practice often feels as though we are failing in life, it erodes our personal sense of self-worth. Breaking News – Life is hard enough without aiming to be mindful and perfect all the damn time. Mindfulness, to me, is not a quest for perfection.
My mindfulness practice revolves around a well-known and often forgotten aspect about “life” – Life itself is deeply unpredictable. To translate the last statement into laymen terms – Life sucks most of the time, imperfection is the norm, and perfectionism will only lead you down a dark path. It’s how we live with and balance these hardships, that influences our moment-to-moment, mindful well-being. Even while practicing mindfulness, I can’t for the life of me, pay attention for an extended period of time. You know what most easily distracts me? It’s not the blonde hair or being a dude, or some new person in class … Its my own mind. I’m continually lost in my thoughts yet again, even right now. Yet, I bring myself back to the moment, even while dropping a screw fixing my bike or forgetting someones name I just met.
Many yogis’ or whatever, shroud themselves in the serious of a mindfulness practice, what’s lost is our collective sense of humor. Our minds often do what they want without us, if you can, look around during class and notice the stern faces and the concentration poured into being “mindful.” I often find myself spending an awful lot of effort aiming for something not fully attainable during class, during life. Mindfulness and a healthy dose of perfectionism only serve to make me feel worse about myself. The secret ingredient that is missing? A heartfelt smile and a sense of humility.
Shit happens in life, I make a mess of things a dozen or more times during the day. Mindfulness allows me to find comfort and humility in the midst of a crazy life. There’s no perfect mindfulness practice – Just you. I’m flawed and so is everyone else, but when you aim for improvement, instead of perfection? Everyone smiles.
One of the main reasons that we lose our enthusiasm in life is because we become ungrateful. We let what was once a miracle become common to us. We get so accustomed to his goodness it becomes a routine-
What is your routine when you prepare for yoga class (or anything really)? Hit the alarm clock and jump out of bed on one foot, whist telling the world you are awake on Insta-Whatever? Whack the snooze button a dozen times or so? Waking, peacefully, to me, is the most important part of the day. Sadly, I have forgotten to honor this time, choosing instead to “practice” in an antiseptic studio that feels anything but right, for me.
I used to take several minutes to notice my breath arriving gently in the morning. Savoring a few, rhythmic deep breaths as my body awakens. My sense of smell, my eyes adjusting to the morning light, the sensation of my body walking slowly across the cold wooden floor in our kitchen, and the morning sounds of the world waking alongside me, as I slide open the patio door … Now I find myself searching where I last placed the car keys, and rushing to class.
This is my story, as to why I decided not to practice in a local yoga studio, anymore. My routine has replaced – Mindfulness, and I am not comfortable with this.
Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as
two or three, and keep your accounts on your thumb nail …
I find it wholesome to be alone the greater part of the time.
To be in company, even with the best, is soon wearisome
and dissipating. I love to be alone. I never found the
companion that was so companionable as solitude …
If one advances confidently in the direction of his
dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has
imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in
common hour …
A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener.
So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts.
We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and
took advantage of every accident that befell us. Sometimes, in
a summer morning, having taken my accustomed bath, I sat in my
sunny doorway from sunrise till noon, rapt in a revery, amidst the
pines and hickories and sumachs, in undisturbed solitude and
stillness, while the birds sing around or flitted noiseless through
the house, until by the sun falling in at my west window, or the
noise of some traveller’s wagon on the distant highway, I was
reminded of the lapse of time.
It’s funny; in this era of e-mail and voice mail and all those things that even I did not grow up with, a plain old paper letter takes on amazing intimacy-
Its amazing what happens when we surrender to our true selves, being present and our breath. Healthy relationships gradually begin to enter our life, and the “things” we have been so diligently working on begin to bear new fruit.
I have been struggling with my breath for quite a while now. I show up to class, go through the motions during my home practice and never truly fall into rhythm during a nice bike ride or the rigors of daily life. Why? My breath has escaped me.
I believe the true cause is largely a matter of personal habit. Our lives, my life, is excessively filled with constant activity and incessant noise and distraction. I have grown accustomed to them, so mush so, that when they come to a halt, I feel uneasy. There’s a startling sense of emptiness, as if I’ve suddenly landed in a deserted corn field after being in the middle of a bustling city.
When I can resist the urge to plunge myself fully into an activity, I soon begin to surrender to solitude, silence and my breath. My agitated mind starts to calm. My thoughts start to slow down, and I feel a sense of re-attuning to myself, I feel a sense of connection – to my own self, and to the world as a whole.
When I listen to my breath, I begin to find a new balance and harmony in my life.
Out for a walk tonight,
the dog is throwing all her weight
against the leash, lunging toward
the fat tomcat
licking his black ankles
with a delicious, solemn attention
at the top of the neighbor’s steps.
Because this is what the dog
was made to do.
Because for some lucky animals
the space between the body
and what it wants
is all there is.