I initially assumed that this was a call to my yoga mat; like the ones I used to experience daily when I rose EVERY day before the crack of dawn to roll out my mat for practice. Sometimes so sleepy, I wasn’t sure if I was actually practicing or dreaming that I was.
I recall when I first made the decision to commit to a daily practice. It was more than 15 years ago now. I was a single mom with 3 young children, who was already up late into the evenings checking homework, doing dishes, and making the next day’s lunches and up early to do it all over again. Sleep was a precious commodity and I couldn’t even imagine how I could squeeze any more into my day. So I committed to waking up just 5 minutes earlier than usual to sit; to check in; to breathe; to feel.
I’ll never forget that VERY FIRST day of practice on my own. I literally rolled out of bed and put on a bathrobe to hold back the chilly, predawn air. I sat on the floor, cross-legged, at the end of my bed, (I didn’t own any fancy yoga mat or cushion in those days), and began to tune into my breath. I was so new to the practices that I still had to firmly repeat to myself, “breath in; breath out”. I continued for a few moments and then was distracted by the sound of stirring coming from my 3-year old’s bedroom. “I hear a sound and I come back to my breath”, I reminded myself. “breath in; breath out; breath in; MOMMY” I hear a sound and I come back to my breath; “breath in….” I now began to hear the sound of footsteps coming towards my door….”I hear the sound and breath in; breath out”…. The door opens and in comes my daughter, but I persist “I hear the sound and breath in; breath out; breath…”
My daughter began to speak to me “Momm…” and then BLECH!
She threw up right into my lap!
But what was so astounding, was that I was completely relaxed around it. I didn’t react, or jump up or make any exclamation at all! I just sat, with my lap full of throw up and reached out for my daughter, and told her it was ok; that everything was okay. As I heard myself say those words out loud, I realized that it was the first time, in a very long time, that I really believed and felt that everything was ok. There I was, sitting in puke, and I really felt everything was ok.
After that initial practice session, I figured I could overcome any obstacle. And so daily practice began. It was very challenging at first, but I found, that as time went on, I naturally woke up earlier and easier and would sit for longer. Pretty soon sitting turned into moving and eventually it seemed I could stay on my mat forever. Practice worked its way up to nearly a full 2 hours each day showing up as a combination of reading the sutras, pranayama, asana, meditation,chanting, shivasana. I stopped needing an alarm clock. God would wake me up each morning, calling me to spend some time with her and bask in her love. For a very long time, years, this continued uninterrupted. And then what happened?
It wasn’t any big event that began to erode my daily morning practice. Perhaps it was just ego wiggling its way back to the domineering position it prefers….”you practice a lot, what’s missing one day”, the voice would whisper. And so it goes….and the practice that I do still maintain has allowed me to watch that without judgment. Also, my practice has shifted and grown in other ways in that I feel as though I practice as I move throughout all my daily activities. Even still, at some point, the daily wake-up call ceased. Practice came back to the realm of will. Making time for something, nearly every day; however it isn’t quite the same as the ritual of an everyday, early morning practice.
I have recently learned that there is a Sanskrit word for that commitment I made so many years ago. Vrata – vow. This is different from Sankalpa in that vrata “is a solemn commitment made to your higher self, the living presence of God within you. It is a commitment to free yourself from the bonds of your negative past karma, to generate more positive thoughts and actions in the present, and to create a better, more spiritually enlivened future for yourself and those around you.” (from Linda Johnsen “The Yoga Of Commitment”, Yoga International 1/13/14).
This is a vow that can’t be broken. What I realized this morning, as I sleepily sat on my mat, and saw the sunrise come up, was that even if I haven’t made my morning date with god lately, she has. She’s still shown up and has been waiting for me to return. Breath in; Breath out; God is always calling to me. Breath in; breath out; this is the moment that I listen.