Practice Diaries: Seven Minutes in Heaven

Llama, llama, red pajama– what’s with all this ashtanga drama?  

So here I am. On my mat. Home alone.

But no matter where I go there’s this bad neighborhood I call the internet, or maybe I’m the bad neighborhood. No doubt wifi signals float around my inhales and exhales, no doubt the frequencies inside my head could signal outer space. Still, this Manduka mat seems a safe harbor from the shit-soupy-cereal of likes and emojis outside and in the ether and eventually, if not right now, from the dirty snow slush pile inside my head. It’s a safe zone from the hot lava of mental machinations. You can’t tag me “out” here.

Though perhaps, like me, you keep waiting for it. For the other shoe to drop. No, it already did, and it was more like a shoe bomb. And then came another and another and another till I was just pelted by a hailstorm of shoes dropping. I’m taking about the stories of assault by PJ, the wahoo say what now? goings on with list of authorized/certified teachers, and the endless echo of Facebook threads that swirl and snarl and boil.

Llama, llama, red pajama– what’s with all this ashtanga drama?  

Let me cut the song and dance. Here’s what I’m finding on my mat: a daily experience of being, a ritual that serves as both the lavender oil balm and coffee kick for the soul. This doesn’t mean that the circus outside my door must be ignored. But for 90 give or take minutes on my mat, I try to find that space where even if I can’t ignore the raining boots, that cockamamie world isn’t leading me around by the nose.

I’m taking a mindfulness class and it’s, forgive me– yummy. The experience of being in the room for over an hour is itself a bath in some new mind space because I am out of the house at night — translation: my usual space of never ending to do lists, dishes, laundry, dogs. We arrive, put away our shoes and phones and listen to the wonderful teacher and to each other and do some guided exercises.

It’s a relief.

It’s a relief to have time off from the endless autoplay inside the brain, to throw a wrench into its constant whirring and turning, the way the mind will pick up a thought, stare at it, turn it over, lick it, bite it, suck on it till the tongue of consciousness is bright red and sore. I am trying to bring this into my yoga practice, because while the practice dictates attention to breath by breath, I’ve also practiced up my skill in thinking about the breath instead of feeling it. Yes, I’ve not managed to execute my final posture, but I have reached a near expert level of playing a loop of thoughts– think a “real housewives”- type marathon– in my brain as I breathe and move and practice.  Well, at least it’s short lived. At some point the practice flow picks me up to swim with it; at some point a pose or transition rips me into the moment and I stay afloat there —


Angela Jamison described stepping onto her mat as entering a “little hell.”

“I go into the little hell because every time I practice alone, knowing from experience that practice will eventually take over. Sometimes after 1 minute, and sometimes after 45. I don’t know why the resistance still has to exist, after all this time. Is it constitutional? Am I a hard case? I can’t know, but when I say that I love practice, and that I am in a love relationship with practice, this includes the little hell. It is the love in the relationship with practice that enables me to go there.”

Hell seems the only way to make it to seven minutes of heaven. Wait– make that five minutes:

“In a peak experience, in some great moment, it’s possible. But we just can’t say perfect. You must give up the notion of the permanent heaven. We can get into heaven, but for five minutes, then you have to come back to the world again.” ~ Abraham Maslow 

Learning about mindfulness — despite being so green i’d rival your spirulina spiked-kale green smoothies, dear yogis– inspired me to try to bring some space between the loop and my practice time. Instead of waiting for the practice to take me over, to carry me away from the loop like Prince Charming, I save myself. I disengage me and my practice from the loop, like separating two troublemaking kids in class, Wonder Womaning my way out of the resistance to best serve the resistance that matters.

This non-effort of an effort is, in many ways, a snapshot of my big picture approach to practice: keeping the practice sequence-breath-ritual, which functions well for me, and unhooking it from tsunami of boots raining down around it.

It’s an “inside job” (thank you Anne LaMott).


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