There is a way my mother smells when I first nestle my face into her neck, when it’s been long since I’ve seen her. And these days, living so far from Southern California, it has always been ages since I’ve seen my mother. When I roll out my yoga mat, I’m reminded of this scent; the womb-like nature of it, of her. Holding all memory of me, all colors. The me who works tirelessly at becoming more and more awake; the me who is so asleep sometimes she almost drives the proverbial car off the road in the middle of the night.
So this morning I donned my army green fleece leggings. (Okay, they’re Zach’s, but he shares.) I turned on the baseboard heating in our apartment for the first time this autumn, and while the tentatively smokey scent and creaking bones of the heater began to come alive, I rolled out my mat. It is with reverence that I greet this space she, my mat, holds for me. I don’t always feel so deserving. It is a shy kind of almost-shame I feel in recognizing the impossibly long stretches of time without a visit to her, a hello, a thank you.
But she, like my mother, simply unfolds. Holds her arms open for me. Welcomes me home. Hello, sweetheart. How’s the weather? Here, sit down. Let’s chat.
After my practice, I make a mental note to visit more often, feeling a full-bellied kind of pride. Proud of myself. This is how it feels until I recognize, no, not proud. Humble.
My teacher says of yoga, of the breath that carries us through practice, “You are already in a loving relationship.” Why? Because she, the breath, loves you; she responds immediately, is always present, she is ever truthful. It is a relationship of the most devoted kind.
And there, standing in the kitchen with four perfect strawberries in my hand, all of them ready to be carved into little slivers for my morning cereal, I feel reverence. For the strawberries, for yoga, for the breath. The living thing that is Yoga does much for me; there is a self-satisfying reality to that fact. Just as in any relationship, we are deeply quenched when the Other gives us what we need, when they meet our longing with, Yes, here, it’s yours, of course. But our relationships are reciprocal; we must turn toward the Other and ask, also, What can I offer you? What thirst of yours can I quench?
And for yoga, to whom we must also ask those questions, and for the breath, I believe it is this: noticing. We are all longing to be noticed, to be beheld, to be seen. To be made aware of our own brilliance by the shining recognition we see in the eyes of our beloved. We owe much to those experiences or people, especially, who ask very little of us, who are exalted mostly in their own experience of loving us….
I think this is how we can know that even ideas of things — like Yoga — are sentient, and how we can begin to exalt them: with our awareness. Our attention to our own limitations, our short-sightedness, as well as the way we bloom in their presence. A breath that responds immediately to your attention, a grove of ancient redwoods sighing gratefully at the sight of you on the well-worn trail, eager to simply love you.