Pay attention to your mat only

– by MeditateZEN

“Breathe in.  Take a deep breath.   Hold it.  Exhale.”

StockAmy trees and pretty cloudy sky

The Yoga instructor encouraged us to merge mind, body, and spirit with each intake of air.  Gracefully she transitioned from one pose to another:  Downward Dog, Plank, Cobra, Mountain pose.  For the record, I wasn’t nearly as graceful.   We cycled through the salutations numerous times.

Rooted in the practice, she finally suggested Tree Pose.  Although seemingly simple, this balancing act was most challenging to me.   I stood on one leg, and placed my foot just above my knee.  My legs sketched out the letter “P” as I reached my hands high…well…almost.  Nearly falling to the ground, I tried it again.  And again.  And again.  I felt smaller and smaller with each failure.  I was confident the word “Loser” was written on my forehead.

My peers stood steadily.  I believed that they quietly mocked me with scrutinizing judgment.  The Yogi spoke, “Remember, this is your practice.  Do not compare your work to others.  Honor your work and your body, pay attention to your mat only.”

Sweat rolled down my face (from embarrassment mostly) as I finally secured the pose in beautiful stillness.  Yes folks, I did it!  I owned that tree pose!  What a glorious moment!  (I was sure Queen’s “We are the Champions” was playing in the background. I envisioned the crowds cheering me on!  Everyone was jumping out of their seats when I scored the big pose!  Oh, how I was convinced of my greatness.)

It is irrelevant I maintained it for only 5 seconds.   That detail is not necessary.  Nor is the part about my almost taking down nearly 6 people when I grabbed for anything to save me from a face plant.

Nonetheless, 5 seconds was my personal best, and I felt so accomplished.  Later, I began to think about the instructor’s comments.   “Pay attention to your mat…don’t worry about what others are doing around you.”

I realized that was a doctrine I needed to incorporate off the mat too.  How?  It’s simple really.  Often we are all so busy paying attention to what others are doing, that we inadvertently do ourselves harm.  We use their success as a way to measure our failures.  Self-doubt becomes our constant companion.

What if we could focus on our work only?   What if the tool we used to measure success was instead our own personal best?  What then?  Would we begin to recognize our fullest potential and see accomplishment where we once saw inferiority?    Isn’t that powerful?

You see, it is all about perception.  I challenge you to pay attention to your mat only.  Stop comparing yourself to others.  This subtle shift in thinking will replace anxiety and inferiority with confidence.  Encourage your children to do the same.  Help them to see their accomplishments.

Root yourself in your best, stand tall on one leg while the other is pressed against it, raise your hands high, breath in, breath out.  Balance.  Own it for 5 seconds.  See it as an accomplishment.  Tomorrow you will make it to 10.  Every step is progress when your only focus is on your mat.


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