“Oh, we could be stars. We could be stars.” ~ Stars, Alessia Cara
The other morning, I woke up and decided to go to yoga on the spur of the moment.
I hadn’t planned to make it out of bed so early, but I did, and apparently so did a lot of other people. My class that morning was located near several other workout spots, and, with the sun barely up, it was already rush hour on the block. I walked among the other early birds, as we all made our way to our various destinations, mine in the corner building, on the floor at the very top. I climbed the staircase and checked in at the front desk.
“I’m Anne,” I said. “I’m here!”
I stashed my things in a cubby, entered the practice room and set up my mat. Then I stepped back out for some water, and when I did one of the yogis standing nearby reached out and pressed her thumb to my forehead.
“What’s this?” I asked.
I took a good look around and made a small discovery. Many of the other yogis were wearing a single gold star, smack in the middle of their foreheads, right where their third eyes should be. And that’s exactly what that yogi had just stuck on me!
Evidently, these yogis had made their own small discovery. Earlier that morning, they’d found the batch of gold star stickers used to chart the progress of the 30-day challenge that kicks off the year. During that time, a list of participants gets displayed on the wall, and consecutive days of practice are marked off in a star-studded roll call.
I reached up and touched my star. I was surprised at how happy it made me! It wasn’t the beginning of the year, and my only challenge so far that morning had been to get out of bed; but, apparently, that was enough to earn me a gold star in the center of my forehead! There was no question that I would practice with it on. In fact, we all did.
It was as if we’d declared ourselves shining stars, just for showing up! All this might sound silly, but, looking back, I don’t really think it was. I think it’s only human nature to want to be acknowledged for showing up, and it doesn’t always have to matter for what.
I’ve happily answered countless roll calls over the years. Growing up, on a daily basis in school, I’d answer, “Here!” whenever my name was called. And, three times a week, in Hebrew school, I’d answer a little bit differently. In Hebrew school, I’d say “Hineni!” [pronounced Hee Nay Nee]. This phrase means “Here I am!”, and I’m afraid I must have said it so many times that it got stuck like a sticker in my childhood mind! And there it remains. To this day, it’s amazing how quickly this phrase still occurs to me whenever I arrive somewhere. I even text it to my children if we’ve planned to meet, and I’m the first one to show up.
These days, I’ve been learning a lot about showing up. There seems to be an art to it. I never knew this, until I started practicing yoga. Yoga is the ultimate roll call. Each pose calls our names, and that gives us the chance to show up over and over again. It’s just that, for me, all this showing up can sometimes get a bit tricky, because, while I practice most every day, it’s not every day that I always know where I am.
But yoga has an answer for that. According to the practice, we are never really that far from ourselves. If we are looking, we can always be found just inside the space between our effort and our ease, and so it’s our job to find just the right amount of each. And that’s the artful part, especially on the days when we’re somewhere beyond our own reach. On those days, what we’re supposed to do is breathe.
We all must have been having one of those days, because at yoga the other night, none of us could get the balance right. It got to the point where the instructor finally stopped the flow, so that he could speak to us about the breath. He explained that he wanted us to take two breaths in every posture, and he even showed us how.
Stepping into Half Moon, he said, “The first breath helps me find the posture.” He split his arms and balanced. “And the second breath tells me I’m here.”
What he'd just shown us might have been done in two breaths’ time, but to me what he had demonstrated was the search of a lifetime. And that’s something that takes patience, which is okay, because yoga is supposed to be a lifelong practice. Only, lately, I’ve been feeling a new sense of urgency. I think there’s a voice inside that’s trying to speak to me, and what I’m hearing it say is “Hineni!”.
I don’t know how all this came to be. Maybe it’s because not everybody who was once here still is, and that’s made me keenly aware that I still am. And suddenly that has me wondering if I should have some sort of plan! Such urgency is not really in sync with my yoga practice. At yoga, we’re supposed to focus on the search and not the outcome. We’re supposed to have patience.
I didn’t always feel this way. Only a few weeks ago, I was out with my mother. I had practiced yoga in the morning and then picked her up in the afternoon. We tooled around for a bit and then sat down for a cup of coffee. And that’s when she told me what had apparently been on her mind for quite some time.
She thinks I’m yearning for something. She asked me about my plans.
I balked. I didn’t have any plans! I explained to her how that was the old me, the one who had always shown up for everything that she’d ever lined up. With a conscientious nature, I had always been good at making plans. And they’d always worked out for me, too; that is, until they didn’t. After that, although it may have taken some time, I’d let go of my need for making plans and had been more than happy to see where I’d land.
But, now, it’s been a few weeks since then, and suddenly I’ve felt this new urgency set in. Maybe some of it’s come from watching what’s been happening around me. I’ve been watching my son embark on a new phase of his career. He’s taken the leap of faith that he'd always planned to take, and now he’s out there flying! And I’ve been watching my daughter enter a new phase of her life, too. She’s reaching into the world in a way that she hasn’t in quite some time.
I’ve been watching their courage and wondering where is mine?
Several years ago, my daughter invited a special young man into our family. His time on this Earth was far too short; but, while he was here, his days would start earlier than hers. And, in the mornings, before he’d leave for work, he would ask her to join him in the kitchen for breakfast. He’d beg her to get out of the bed, pressing kisses like gold stars upon her forehead.
“Wake up!” he would say to her. “There’s a whole world out there to enjoy!”
He had been ready to show up for more than breakfast, and he had wanted her by his side for all of it. And, while he is no longer here, his words certainly are. They are forever etched on a bench in the heart of New York City for all the world to see. I believe they were his way of saying, “Hineni!”.
And now they are speaking to my sense of urgency. What, I wonder, could be out there waiting for me?
I think the only way for me to find out is to keep showing up as best I can, and for that I’ll have to keep practicing. And I think that’s a pretty good plan. Somehow the search for my effort and ease gives me the space that I need to breathe. And that gives me the patience to take my two breaths, whenever I start to wonder what’s next.
The first breath is the one that wakes me up, and the second breath tells me I’m here.