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I stand on my yoga mat, feet apart. As I exhale, I press my feet into the floor feeling my connection to the earth. Simultaneously, I feel my breast bone lift toward the sky and the lowest part of my belly tucks up and back toward my spine.
I inhale and reach my arms wide. I feel my collarbones spread apart. I feel the muscles across my chest stretch, expanding with my breath. In this same instant, my sternum lifts even higher and my spine follows along. It feels like the weight of the world has lifted from my shoulders as I reach myself up to my full height.
I exhale and bring my hands to my hips, folding forward. As I lower into this forward bend, I keep my spine as long and as extended as it was a moment before. I feel the muscles on the back of my legs and around my bottom stretch open and I move into each millimeter of newly available space by drawing my head closer to the floor.
For these three breaths – probably ten seconds – of yoga, I’m focused entirely on sensation. I have no goals other than to experience. It doesn’t matter how close my head gets to the floor. It doesn’t matter if my hands feel flub or not. It doesn’t matter if my shirt is riding up.
What matters in these seconds is that my mind, my breath and my body are all doing the same thing. My breath and my movements are completely synchronized. And my awareness is engrossed in how this feels. For these seconds, my experience is all there is. I am purely and simply BEING. This experience is not earth shattering. It is not other-worldly or overly spiritual. I have not slipped into some heavenly realm. Rather, I’m most definitely standing, a little sweaty, right there in the real world on my yoga mat.
But these moments have an immediacy and a concreteness to them that others in my day will not. There is a clarity to this experience that I relish. For a moment, my jumbled, racing thoughts are stilled. Like lake water clearing after a boat has passed, everything is suddenly bright and calm. Beneath the quiet is a sense of gratitude and even joy at being here and now, a vital part of this world. I feel solid. Centered. Connected. I understand in the deepest possible way that this ordinary moment is extraordinary. In fact, they all are.
And then I think, “This is what life is meant to feel like! This is being in the moment! This is it!”
And, with these jubilant thoughts, as a suddenly and softly as a bubble pops, the experience is over.
What to do now? Do I roll up my mat and walk dejectedly out into my day? Do I wallow a little in my disappointment that I let it slip away? That I am still such a baby when it comes to focusing? That I’m still so very far from enlightenment, from finding heaven on earth?
I draw my mind back to my breath. With an inhale, I rise to standing. I feel again the power of my feet, my core and my strong, long spine. With an exhale, I softly drop my chin and notice my upper body relax. And with an inhale, ready and willing to try again, I open my arms wide. As I feel my chest stretch open, a little smile brushes my lips. It feels so good. I draw a little more air in. With my next breath, I fold forward and feel (again) the wonderful synchronization of movement, breath and awareness.
This is practice. My job is to keep showing up. Each time I do, my intention is to settle. To sense that I’m integrally connected to creation around me. To drop my awareness beneath the chatter in my head to something deep within me. To feel again what it can feel like to really live.
Some days, I have a few of these moments. Some days, none. Once or twice in the past 15 years, I’ve spent almost my entire practice in this quiet, clear state. But, over the years I’ve learned that the type of yoga practice I have is almost incidental. Over the years, I’ve come to understand that what my daily practice does is ensure that I will have more of these moments – moments of pure experience, of pure connection, of pure clarity – off my mat and in my life. And that I will notice them when they happen and continue to seek more.