I pull my mat out of the corner and unroll it across the floor. The mat is olive green and faded and missing in places where the cats have mistakenly used it as a scratching pad over the years (or, maybe intentionally, they are cats after all). I’m tempted, every time, to use my daughter’s bright purple and blue mat, just a few months old. But I don’t. It’s hers and should be hers and if I were to use it she wouldn’t have a yoga space of her own.
Still, despite the old and the holes, the feeling of unrolling my mat across the floor, in front of the piano and between my desk and the double french doors, is a deep clean breath. It’s a motion I never thought much of really. Never really thought that it would yield a moment I’d ache for in the hours (sometimes days) in between but I do. It means that the next ten or fifteen minutes are mine. That in the next ten or fifteen minutes I will breathe deeply and focus inwardly and stretch outwardly. It means that I have chosen, specifically, how to spend this time and nothing will stand in my way.
My word for this year is intent and as I began the year, I chose this word thinking about relatively big decisions. Decisions about new schools and career trajectories and what to do to move our family in the way we want it to move. I wanted to approach those choices and crossroads thoughtfully and respectfully and with the time to think them through so that I wouldn’t just gravitate towards the first option presented. So far, I haven’t made any big decisions just yet but I’m considering many and the process feels right.
But, of course, intent also comes into play in even the smallest moments of life. The daily decisions about what to do, what to eat, where to go, what to listen to. Sometimes you have to just go with the flow, yes. But more often than not I am finding that taking a moment to pause and at least give a thought about how to spend this moment or the next, this hour or that morning, is changing, in micro-movements, the way I live my life. It means that rather than diving into my office on a Saturday afternoon, because that is what I have always done, I buckle my daughter into the car for a couple of hours of shopping and hot cocoa and we have the sweetest conversation in the car on the way home. It means that I plan out the work I need to do and the work I want to do and I align it to the times I know work best for my brain or heart and just by that act of planning and thinking about being intentional with my time, I make the time for the things I want to do. It means that I have begun tracking my time in a messy spreadsheet, even when that time belongs to me and not a client, so that I can get a better picture of where my minutes go.
And it means that, almost everyday, I put work aside, leave the laundry unfolded and the dishes dirty. I kiss my children goodbye just for a bit, and I go into my office and unroll my yoga mat.
I’m new to yoga and the progression from where I pose today to a yogi who can successfully achieve a flow is slow. But in just a few short weeks, I feel my arms and legs growing stronger and my breath reaching deeper. And I feel my actions becoming more intentional. The slow transition between poses and the moments to linger in each one is the most tangible study in intent that I can imagine and so my minutes on the mat push me deeper into my word and my goals for this year, every time.
In the first days of the year, with the impetus of a fresh start and the relaxation of a somewhat slow return to the normalcy of after-holiday life, carving out these fifteen yoga minutes was easy. And you’d think it would always be easy. It’s just fifteen minutes, after all. But it’s already become more difficult. My mind could reel for hours on all of the reason I should not unroll that mat, all of the other things I need to be doing, all of the other things I could be doing. And it will only become more difficult when the snow melts into spring and life literally beckons and it will be just so easy to blow it off and take a walk or run the kids to the park. Of course, intent is not about the easy thing or the thing that beckons. It’s about actively choosing the right thing for the right moment.