I throw out my mat on the floor in front of the couch. A water bottle is set down next to it. I click on a few small lamps and turn off the bright overhead lights, soft music is coming from the stereo. I push play on the youtube video and sit down, criss cross – applesauce. The instructor guides me through a series of poses. She reminds me to breathe. She asks me to listen to my body, to notice how it feels to be alive.
My limbs are awkwardly moving into foreign positions. I’m less graceful than I’d like to be. Less toned and less flexible. But I am alert. I am aware of the muscles that ache. The joints that feel stiff. And I am attentive to the stretches that enliven me, the breath that simultaneously wakens me and soothes me. I feel my body quiver under its own weight and then relax into the support of the ground. I notice how it feels to be alive.
My practice lasts only a half an hour. Then the mat is rolled up and put back into the cupboard. The day progresses to the next thing. My body is no longer the focal point but only a vessel in which to carry out my many tasks. But I take these words with me: notice how it feels to be alive.
Notice the hunger in my belly. Notice the smile that stretches wide when love feels near. Notice the heavy eyelids that want to close in sleep. Notice the sweat that gathers on my upper lip under embarrassment. Notice the smells that push nostalgia through my memory. Notice the impatience that presses against my chest when things are going poorly. Notice the stab of pain shooting under my skin when insensitive words are tossed. Notice the weary limbs that want to rest. Notice the heaviness in your stomach that wants a breath of fresh air and a little movement. Notice the way the soul swells and withdraws, ebbing and flowing with elation and frustration as the day unfolds.
Like small children who don’t notice they need to use the restroom until it is an emergency, we are a people that push forward with little regard to our body and spirit until it is too late. We run ourselves hard until we are injured. We urge ourselves to move faster until we are breathless and lifeless.
What if, instead, we listened to how we were feeling? What if we took ibuprofen before the headache becomes a migraine? What if we stop running before the knee is seriously hurt? What if we stretched before we were sore? What if we ate before we were starving? What if we solved a conflict before the relationship was irreparable? What if we had a conversation before the distance grew too great? What if we rested before we were exhausted?
What if we noticed how it feels to be alive?