March 17, 2016

My Mat Brings Me Home.

Emily A Francis article photo

It’s 3:40 in the morning and I awake as my littlest one has managed to pee all over both me and herself in the middle of the night.

That’s not a big deal: throw the towel down, change her clothes and mine, go back to sleep.

She tosses and turns and then finally she gives it up.

It’s now 5:15. I’m mentally running interference in my own tangled mess of random thoughts and distractions of the finest measure. I decided that grabbing the TV remote like I usually do when I can’t sleep just won’t cut it this time.

Instead, I left the room and sat on a meditation cushion that I’ve had forever and has somehow become part of the toy room.

There it was, lying in the middle of the floor, waiting for me among dog food bowls and random toys. I had to move the sit and spin over a little bit, fending off the three dogs and the cat as they started to swarm at me.

Then I took a seat, took a few breaths and began looking around what was once referred to as “The Buddha Room” and is now a toy room.

I realized that I still had my incredible tapestry of Ganesha hanging on one wall. I looked at that beautiful Ganesh and asked, “Please Ganesh, remove the obstacles that are in my path. Please make the way clear.” It was then that I heard one of my favorite quotes from Anthony DeMello come from inside my head: “muddy waters let stand, become clear.”

So I decided to go with it—let all the thoughts that are walking through my head with their muddy shoes just come on through.

This time, I sat back and just let the thoughts come and go without attachment, realizing that they would move on, clear up, make sense, or go deep.

However they wanted to plant themselves down, I was game.

I see the tapestry of Buddha that my friend brought from India, and suddenly I was in a sacred room, toys and all. I transported myself to the time that I studied yoga and lived at the ashram. I remembered being woken by the early morning bell as my roommate was the keeper of that bell and always came back to me last to let me get just a little bit of extra sleep. We would wash our hands, face, and feet, then enter the temple for morning meditation with our yellow shirts and white pants—sattvtic colors for learning.

I would sit on the blankets and for a moment before closing my eyes, I would scan the room, dark wood walls, ceiling and floors, an alter with all of my most beloved deities sitting on top. The Prashad would be waiting for us in a covered dish. I would wonder what it would be this day.

The harmonium that my teacher would use would bring us back from meditation and into the chanting hour.

I took a deep breath and closed my eyes just as I used to at the ashram. Life was easier back then. I tried to tap into that space when I was studying. I was single and totally available for this training. I could manage the eight weeks of no sex, no alcohol, no mushrooms, no onions, no garlic, no meat, not even eggs. I took it all in stride back then.

I can’t even imagine how I would ever get away nowadays. I gave thanks for that sacred timing of my life that allowed that experience which changed me forever.

I practiced varying hand mudras and breathing styles as I sat here this morning both in my Buddha Room and in the ashram itself side by side and back and forth. As I sat in my meditation space I heard the words “allow yourself to be…” “Be what?” I thought. And that was when it hit me: That sentence should be just fine exactly as it stands.

I’ve gotten so lost.

Allow yourself to be. Just be. Not something in particular, not anything in particular. Just being. The sacred act of simply being, or what I call “in the flow.”

And then I did it—I returned home, to my mat.

There was a time when yoga was in my daily life:  I taught almost every day, I practiced almost every day and I lived with the best yoga mindset I possibly could every day. There was a saying in our daily yoga journal that we had to fill out and turn in each week during training. That question was “how much time spent in the company of the wise?”

I realized that as of late I have not been spending time in the company of the wise at all. When I think now of spending time with the company of the wise, I am referring only to myself. I have not been living in my higher space at all. Instead, I have been living in the company of the fool. I have been allowing myself to sit in foolishness of my own thoughts.

I am the one who has been allowing myself to get stuck in these thought patterns that are not my own and that from my higher space do not choose to engage in.

So the answer to how much time has been spent in the company of the wise is not nearly enough.

There I was back on my mat. The mat that has holes from my foot prints from the years of constant practice. I have several mats in my house–they all have foot prints worn down into them. These are mats that I visit on occasion but don’t live on so much anymore.

But this morning, in the wee hours, it was something entirely different.

This morning, I came back home.

In the midst of my becoming a wife and a mother and a serious foodie, my body has gone through many changes. I did well during my pregnancy and lost double the weight nursing. I’ve spent the last few years either being pregnant or nursing—now I’m doing neither and my body has put on weight with a vengeance. I say all this to say that while my body is undergoing transitions, I do not look like someone who practices yoga and for sad reasons locked deep into old wounds and awkward comments I’ve heard along the way, I’ve lost myself and turned away from my deepest treasure—my practice.

Yoga has little to do with the physical body—this is something that I have known that all along. The physical results are just an added benefit from doing something so powerful. Anything we do that links passion to movement awakens our innermost, vital, gorgeous radiating selves. In practicing, we bring that person back up and out into the world.

I have been hiding my dazzling light and now it is time to turn it back on and take a look at who I truly am. It is time once again to allow my hidden jewels to sparkle and let myself be found once more.

I know who I am and that morning stepping back onto my mat, I set her free again.

I took the first deep breath and as I raised my arms up, I felt my soul lift just a little bit, and with each repetition into the sun salutations I felt my soul lighten up even more. It was a totally different energy today with my practice. It was a reunion of my soul and a merging with who I have become. I wasn’t beating myself up for not being here more often, or for letting my body get out of shape.

Instead, I looked within deeply and gave that perfect sigh of gratitude.

It’s okay that life has gotten me down and that I’ve somehow strayed from my path somewhat, because today I returned back home again. I will continue to come home again and again to my sacred mat. As my chest opened in cobra pose, my heart expanded into a place that had been locked down.

I saw things that were my own creation and things that I allowed that I wouldn’t have had I been in a deeper and more sacred space within my own being.

Circumstances became clearer and I understood that if I can maintain this mindset, things that are toxic just really can’t reach me the way I’ve been letting them reach me.

I open my chest and my heart chakra as I inhale the energies from the Heavens.

Exhale and calm within my entire being with exactly where I am right in this moment.

And just like that, my mat brings me home again.




Author: Emily A Francis

Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Author’s Own


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