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© Sylvia Benito, 2014
25th of February

Stick to the Mat


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If you have a regular practice of yoga, you will know what I mean when I say, “Stick to your mat.”

What does it mean to stay steady with something in life, regardless of hard that something gets?

What does it mean to have a sticky heart?

I met my teacher, Gangaji, twenty four years ago, and have remained her student ever since. Over time, I have spent many days in retreats with her, or in retreat in India; maybe around 140 days over my lifetime in silence.

Wait, that’s half a year of my entire life spent in silence.

Yoga? 25 years of practice, or approximately 7000 hours.

A year of my life spent on the mat?

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Writing? I can’t even estimate how many hours of my life I have spent writing because it’s too many to count. Here’s a hint: Writers write. and write. and write. and write.

Completing my Chartered Financial Analyst program? Oh wait, that took forever and it was hell with a calculator. I don’t recommend sticking to THAT mat.

And yet in all of those areas of my life, I am still a student. My spiritual teacher is far deeper into awakening, my yoga teachers have stronger practices, there are way smarter people in finance, and there are such better writers it’s a miracle that I don’t just grab a bottle of whisky and give up right now.

Though I am not the best yogi or the best writer or best anything, I stay steady in the practice of the things I love. What has guided this steadfastness all these years is a question Gangaji once asked me; the same one she asks all her students,

“What is it that you truly want? And what will that give you?”

That inquiry has held me fast in many moments when I was tempted to walk away.

Last week I went to my yoga studio for practice even though I felt like hell. As I unrolled my mat onto the wooden floor, I told Molly Weintraub, the Yoga Joint teacher extraordinaire who was about to lead us in practice, that I felt like I needed “a restorative class”.

And then, Molly laughed.
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I swore that I felt nauseous. I edged my mat away from other yogis because, you know, I might be getting sick. Don’t want to spread germs. It was one of the hardest practices I have had in a long time. But Molly’s voice kept hitting all the right spots, as if she knew exactly what was going on. She kept telling me to stop being a baby just stick to the mat. That I didn’t need to fidget, didn’t need to collapse, didn’t need to leave the room. I stayed on the mat for the entire 75 minutes, though I began to drop into a few child’s poses towards the end. All of that “getting sick” feeling shifted and I realized I wasn’t under the weather. I was sad. Seeing the sadness for what it was, plainly, like a cloud in the sky, was like blowing the cloud away with consciousness. I saw it, and then, it was gone.

Stick to the mat.

Where this has been a trickier edge of learning is in the realm of relationships. If I love someone, friend or coworker or mate, I gather you into my heart, like forever. I just never, ever ever let anybody go. Because when I ask myself “What do I really want?” The answer is always love. Every time.

Even if I haven’t talked to someone for a spell, they are still in my heart. Sometimes I wonder how I am going to squeeze everyone in because I keep meeting so many damn people I care about.

It is as if all the beloveds in my heart are threads that I am pulling into a needle, darning a big quilt. I have so many threads running through my hands. Glimmering white strands of sisters who have been my friend for years. Big strong threads, my parents and siblings and uncles and aunts. Fragile tiny threads, the threads I am protect with my every breath- my sons. Multicolored threads, the community that surrounds me. Deep scarlet embroidery thread; the men who have given me their love.

Every so often, a thread comes along that does not make sense, a relationship that for one reason or another falters. Broken threads. I never let them go; no matter how damaged the yarn is or how frayed the silk has become, I will circle back to that thread a million times to try to get it right and add it back to the quilt.

I am not entirely sure if this is a weakness of mine, or a strength.

It’s funny how often our strength is also our greatest weakness.

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When I stick to the mat in yoga, the magic never fails to transform. I’d like to think that the same is true for relationships, but I know that’s probably not true. Some relationships merit a goodbye. Some relationships perhaps cannot mend. Sometimes magic is not enough.

But even in those moments, I still pick up that thread, broken as it is, twist and bind it with a thin bit of gossamer silk and a prayer, weave it straight through my heart, and work hard at silently getting it back into that big old giant quilt of love.

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© Sylvia Benito, 2014
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