A Stream of Consciousness on the Yoga Mat

There are sixty-four people spaced out evenly on their yoga mats, like seven rows of perfectly aligned crayons. As I dim the lights and burn a stick of incense, the sparks of their conversations heat the room -- and it's not just physical talking. The mental chatter vibrates just as loudly. One of the biggest challenges of teaching yoga is starting the class. Transitioning into a quiet mind and assisting others to do the same. How do we set our lives aside and shift into a higher consciousness? Is the practice supposed to do that for us...the breathing, poses and meditation? Maybe the key is the simple act of spending time on the mat.

1. Let's stand up, bring the feet hips-width apart, relax the arms down with the fingertips soft, and close the eyes. Take a deep inhale and as you exhale, notice the space around you. The space within you.

2. We strive for stability: health, a home, financial independence, happiness (in no particular order). And when we think we've arrived, it doesn't feel like we thought it might: stable. It feels temporary. At any moment it could slip between our fingers like soft, powdery sand. I read in a book somewhere that all attachments are energy. Money is energy. It comes and goes. Gets exchanged. Dissipates.

3. The typical dimensions of a yoga mat are 72 inches long and 24 inches wide.

4. According to Hindu philosophy the human experience is fraught with attachment. We are inevitably in love with desire, afflicted by absence and seekers of material possessions (see home and money from #1). Human beings are stuck in the web of maya -- the pains and pleasures of the material world.

5. The Law of Conservation of Energy: energy may never be created nor destroyed.

6. Vairagya is the Sanskrit word for non-attachment. It is one of the tenets described by Patanjali in his Yoga Sutras, which serve as the foundation for yoga philosophy.

7. I remember watching Wile E. Coyote as a child and feeling jealous. I wanted a portable black hole. You know, he'd throw the black circle onto the cement and wait for Roadrunner to fall into it and disappear (but he never did). I'd find myself fantasizing about what was inside. Was there such a thing? Could it take me away from the scary monster that lived in the closet? Provide an escape route from my parents divorce? Deliver me to a place where I could swim in a warm ocean and tie seaweed in my hair and search for pretty shells and draw endless pictures in the wet sand with a long piece of driftwood? Is a black hole an attachment? But it doesn't have any dimensions, you might argue.

8. The secret to an unpredictable and ever-changing world is not living outside myself. If I want peace, I must look within. And within doesn't actually mean inside myself as an ego-driven human being. If it is not inside or outside, where is it?

9. So I listen to music because I can seek out songs that explain what I am feeling. If I find one that embodies the angst du jour, I listen to it over and over. I possess it. I play it so loud that my eardrums ache instead of my heart. The floor vibrates, the curtains flutter.

10. Lillian Smith said: Faith and doubt...both are needed -- not as antagonists, but working side by side to take us around the unknown curve.

The yoga mat is my black hole. It is a sacred rectangle that turns any surface into a sanctuary. It is a connection to a greater form of energy that defies the laws of physics. Energy that will never be destroyed. Energy that will never disappoint or leave you feeling hollow and lacking. This energy doesn't require dimensions. It transcends the demand for possession. The yoga mat is a portal. And on it you don't need to know all of the answers. You don't even need to know what you might find inside.