I’ve been thinking a lot about time lately.
I have a fraught history with time. Sometimes I squander it. Sometimes I cram it so full of obligations there isn’t room to breathe. Sometimes I dream of having more of it, but then I go back to worrying that if I have too much I’ll just be squandering.
I’ve often said if I had one superpower, it would be to freeze time. I would hit the pause button and fly around doing whatever I wanted, squandering, busying, napping, running, cleaning, whatever, and then when I hit play and everything would pick right up where I left off. I wouldn’t ever miss a thing. I could be in two places at once. I could have me time and everyone else time. I could do it all. I could even clean the kitchen.
For a long time, I had a hard time being in the moment. My mind was always wandering somewhere else — looking ahead, missing what was behind, wondering what was next. And then I started practicing yoga.
Yoga taught me the power of freezing time, in a way. It didn’t let me be in many places at once, but it taught me how to be in the place I was. It taught me to be still, to sit tall and to breathe. It taught me to be in this moment, for as long as it lasted, and to let my mind go. I saw my thoughts as a river rushing by, and all I had to do was not grasp the molecules. I just let it go. I focused my brain on my breath, the way my spine felt, the rise and fall of my belly, and miraculously, that mindfulness gave me respite from the pressure of time.
I love yoga so much I took a 200-hour yoga teacher trainer course for almost nine months, and at the end, I became a registered yoga instructor and started teaching others what I had come to love.
That was nearly five years ago.
I loved teaching people how good it feels to hold adho mukha svanasana, aka Downward-Facing Dog pose, and how a slight adjustment in your shoulders can shift the weight out of your wrists and make your body feel like a stable bridge as it released your lower back. I loved introducing them to nadi shodhana pranayama, or Alternate Nostril Breathing, and how the simple act of bringing air in and out of your nose can be so powerful in clearing your mind. At the end of every class, I brought my students to a seat after svanasana, and I talked about taking a moment to listen to what is inside, to recognize who you are as a person and to see that person without any judgment.
I talked so much about listening to your body, watching your thoughts drift by without trying to control them, and staying present that a thought kept popping up from my mental river, flashing like a fish in the sun for a moment, then flowing on.
The thought was: simplify.
The thought was: scale back.
The thought was: take time.
For a while, I watched the glint of those thoughts as they passed by, and soon after, I argued against them. How can I simplify, I wondered. And I added more to my schedule. It’s not possible to scale back, I thought, as I missed my son’s baseball game and stayed up late working to make up for the time I was gone. There is no time, I moaned as I felt buried by commitment and inadequate to rise to anyone’s expectations of me.
Then a few weeks ago, around the time my friend passed away, it occurred to me that time is an extraordinarily finite thing. I could wrestle with it all I wanted, but I was always going to lose. It was always on the move and was never going to stop. The only thing that could stop is me.
I was the one who needed to be still.1 comment on this story
So, yesterday, I taught my last yoga class.
I had worked so hard to be there, I loved it so much, and I’m afraid of what will happen after I step away. But yoga has taught me to stop and listen. Yoga has taught me to look deep inside, where I know everything will be OK. I see the flash of fins that say, “be still,” and I hear my breath coming in and going out. For a moment, I wonder what will come to the space in my life I have created, and then the thought flows on.
For now, time is frozen.