I step onto my yoga mat.
I stretch the tips of my fingers up to the sky; inhale. I move them down to touch the mat; exhale. I slide into my first downward dog. I feel nearly every muscle in my body expanding, opening, releasing. I slowly lower into child’s pose, third eye meeting the Earth. And there it happens, I connect. Exhale.
I connect to what lies below me, this beautiful organism that we live on. I connect to what lies within me, feeling the universe inside of my cells. I am here, I am present, I am surrendering all of the things and all of the thoughts that held me back from this connection prior to this moment today. And a thought occurs to me – if deep peace such as this exists, why can it sometimes be so hard to find off of this yoga mat?
I step off of the mat. I look at it, observe its details. Its calming blue color, its four pointed edges, its small company label, and the signature of one of my favorite yogis looking at me from one of its corners. I love my yoga mat, but it is in all reality…a mat. I realize : it’s not the mat that is giving this peace to me. It is me – my heart, my soul, my mind – and it is only that on this mat, in this space, I allow myself to open them. To be; infinite and free.
This day happened about a year ago. And ever since that day, I have been trying to figure it out, to answer the question I found myself now asking – how can we carry the peace we feel through our practice and on our mat…off our mat, in an effective and dependable way, that is simple enough to become part of who we are? Well, I can pretty much sum it all up in 3 words : be here now.
Wherever you are, whenever you are there, be all there.
How did you feel when you woke up this morning? Did you dread the job you had to go to? The people you had to see? The never ending to-do list that you had to once again confront? Or, did you wake up and count your blessings? List through your head all of the things you are grateful for while you brushed your teeth? Get dressed with a smile, and walk out the door with a plan that made your heart flutter? You could have done either… do you ever think about why you chose the one that you did, while considering the alternative?
For the longest time, I chose the less attractive option. For some reason it can be so easy to let your mind run itself exhausted by focusing on the future, the past, and the negatives. But this does something far worse than just slowly allow depression to crawl into your mind, making itself comfortable on a Tempur-Pedic in your soul. It causes you to also think that escape lies within the Friday night plans, within the vacation you are thinking about taking in 7 months, within the next fun holiday party. Which is true, these are all fun things to look forward to, but what do they do for the rest of hours of the days – what do they do for right now?
So how do you learn to fulfill the right now? Well, you live in the moment. You be here now. You control your thoughts and you focus on the good. You allow yourself to feel joy when you see the eyes of your dog light up when you grab the leash. You really listen to what your kid is saying to you and you ask a question back because you care, and you see they feel you caring. You go do something nice for someone, expecting nothing in return. You take up a new hobby, realizing that it’s never too late to try something you’ve always wanted to. You drive down the road and observe the beauty around you. You actually stop to smell the flowers. You take a hike, or a swim, or a walk, and you find a place that blocks out the noise. A place that allows nature to heal you for a few moments, and remind you of how tiny you and your problems really are in the grand scheme of things. And if all of that doesn’t work, then you make changes.
It is up to you and only you to make your life what you want it to be, and you will only ever live the life you create for yourself. You will never achieve the level of happiness you want by constantly reaching for it externally. Get the media out of your mind, get society out of your mind, get the constant worry about what people think of you out of your mind – and look in the mirror. The person staring back at you is the only single thing you are guaranteed in life, for the rest of your life. So you might as well love them. And you might as well learn to start rooting your happiness internally into that, so that you can carry it with you in every situation, in every moment.
Once you start making decisions by how they will affect your internal happiness, you will realize that things will start falling into place. And once you start deciding what exactly it is that you want, what it is that makes your heart flutter, then you act on it when you see a path to it light up.
I did this in somewhat of an extreme way. I bought a one-way ticket to the other side of the world, and allowed my passion for traveling and learning to take precedence over all other aspects that society was telling me were more important. I left all of my family and friends behind, without an established career, without a ton of money, without a long-term plan, without needing any of the knowledge I had just spent four years learning to get a degree. But I did it because I decided that my happiness was the most important thing, and I knew that me staying and being unhappy wouldn’t benefit any of these things in the long run. I knew that if I was putting myself in a position that made me feel fully alive – I would learn the power of living in the present moment, I would master the art of being here now, and a path to the life I so deeply desired would light up along the way.
Nothing is always perfect, and nothing is ever completely perfect. But it shouldn’t be, because if it was that way then there would be no balance. The bad teaches you how to appreciate the good, and the good teaches you how to get through the bad. The yin to the yang. No matter what, there will be bad days, there will be “funks”, there will be heartbreak, regret, and sorrow. But if you start to view these bad situations as lessons, and if you start to see the people you are in contact with as teachers, then you will eventually find what you are looking for.
So today I step onto my yoga mat. I connect, and I find peace. But now I find comfort and confidence in knowing that it won’t leave when I step off. I know how to keep my heart, soul, and mind open – and I am not afraid to take chances. I can find my escape whenever I desire it, and I feel harmonized knowing that what I say, what I think, and what I do are synonymous with each other. I’m getting better at finding the good in the bad, even though it’s a constant practice. And the small picture that was once my little bubble of a life has now turned into a big picture that is filled with love, light, and growth.
I can live in the moment, and I can be here now,