Closed eyes meditating, my butt sitting on a yoga mat, the one I bought at Whole Foods, the one that my hands slip on when I sweat, which is usually. Class hasn’t started yet, but I can sense them, surrounding me, their mats slapping the floor, stretching in their Lululemon pants, the women. I don’t have to open my eyes to know they are there, flexible, strong, relaxed, focused. A few minutes later the teacher welcomes us, thank you for being here, for being present to yourself. I open my eyes, take a quick look around, sometimes see another me, a guy with hairy legs, but not this time. Ladies, what would you like to work on today? Ellen asks, then makes eye contact with me. Daniel, something you’d like to work on? She says with a smile. I’ve been at it for more than a year; Vinyasa, Flow, Kundalini, Restorative, each class an inner and outer adventure, a 75 minute voyage, breathing into tendons, muscles, discovering hidden recesses of my body’s stress. I make no suggestions for Ellen, soon find myself on my back, legs far apart, like I’m giving birth to twins. Downward Dog, Warrior 2, Plank, Happy Baby, Pigeon, names that sound like video games, my contorted limbs pressing into earth and air. Eyes stay closed, but occasionally I peek, we look like kids playing a sophisticated version of Simon Says. Minutes pass, life loosening its hold, I forget where I am. Shavasana, corpse pose, Ellen’s tranquil voice offers us simulated death, an ending. I hear sighs, relief, rest fills the space. My mind wanders off to the future, wonders how it will be with me, those final breaths, then namaste.
People schedule SoulCycle, mani-pedis, evening cocktail encounters with friends. I schedule spiritual growth. Very American of me, I know, but I live in a world of kid carpools, grocery shopping, laundry, and taking the dog out to poop. My daily calendar is always filled to the brim with bills that need to be paid and emails that must be returned. If I don’t make time to listen to myself, everything else takes over.
For years I knew there was a spirit in me, a writer in me, a poet in me, never fully free, always bound by external obligations. I have figured out a formula for expressing my inner being. I begin each morning reading a spiritual text that helps guide me on my journey. I meditate at least 45 minutes a day, scheduled breathing, in, out, trying to be as present as possible. Most Wednesday nights I meditate for an hour with a small group of friends, we then read and discuss the writings of Thich Nhat Hahn for another hour. I spend daily minutes (often hours) writing, reflecting on who I am with words, my words, on a page or computer screen. Every two months I plan intensive meditation weekends (Friday-Sunday) where I meditate multiple hours a day either at home or away. Each day I also do some form of yoga.
What exactly is spiritual growth? For me spiritual growth invites my internal quiet to speak loudly with truth. When I grow spiritually I learn things like love is everywhere, more is learned by listening than talking, there is good in everyone, anger is always reactive. Wisdom I’ve heard before, known before, but I need reminding, over and over again. Am I sitting enlightened under the bodhi tree? No, but I’m keeping a channel open, my spirit touching a timeless stream.