The night before I left town, I needed to clean my house. I hate returning to a mess because it doesn’t feel restful, and the last thing I want when I get home is to feel like I have chores to do.
Luckily, my house is fairly-tiny, and doesn’t take long to clean. I started with bathroom and then the kitchen, finishing with the floors. Everything was complete when I vacuumed my tiny living room. Except I quickly dusted my piano, realizing it was overdue, and repositioned the plants upon it.
Satisfied with my clean home, I took a break to eat snacks before my next chore: packing. Both of my cats were downstairs with me. Sterling, a big, fat, fluffy cat laid next to the front door, which I had opened to bring in fresh air. A thin, transparent, gold curtain in the doorway kept the bugs out. My older, dominant cat, Shadow, sauntered past me towards the door. Like an arrogant king, he paused to look down at Sterling, who did not make eye contact.
Shadow sat just beyond the gold, transparent curtain and faced himself directly at Sterling. Only the thin veil separated the two, extra-large males. I barely noticed Shadow’s confrontational posture until Sterling was growling. He carried on for a few moments before I looked up from my phone and asked “what’s going on here?”
As soon as I spoke, Sterling moved quickly and low to the ground. He stopped at the door behind me, which led to his cozy, safe space. He pawed at the door, trying to pry it open.
I crouched next to him, inadvertently blocking him into a corner. “It’s ok,” I said. “You don’t have to leave. I’m not angry.” I pet him, but did not open the door.
He breathed quickly, his agitation intensifying. He cowered beneath my touch. “Hey, it’s ok,” I placed my hand on his belly and gave him a rub. His eyes widened, his pupils dilated. “What’s up with you?”
I heard the floor creak. I turned, surprised to see Shadow right behind me. I reacted with a slight jolt. Sterling clamored to his feet, scratching at the floor with his claws. He bolted to the piano as fast as his fat body could take him. He leapt with fear, not looking where he was going, and found himself face-to-face with one of the potted plants.
I watched as his claw caught the lip of the saucer beneath the pot. “Oh Shit!” I exclaimed as Sterling fell backwards and the pot banged deep bass notes, echoing my expletive, before crashing to the ground, breaking and flinging dirt across the floor.
For a split second, looking at the broken pot and the brand-new mess, I had to make a choice.
I chose to be OK with what just happened. I chose to accept it, even though I had just finished cleaning the house and still had to pack and get organized; even though it didn’t feel OK, I chose to accept it with an understanding that it was OK.
I looked at the broken pot and the dirt on the floor. I looked at the little pile of dirt on the piano keys, the shards of pottery on top of the mound. I looked at the rug I inherited from my Grandmother, scrunched up where Sterling launched off it. In a way, the scene was aesthetically pleasing. Everything was beautifully chaotic, organically placed; it was an artistic expression of gravity and physics that no human could possibly recreate.
I kneeled beside the plant and stroked its narrow leaves — for at least a year it needed repotting, it had grown large and looked cramped. There also hadn’t been enough soil in the pot, but the plant was healthy and so the task never made it onto my to-do list. “Now’s your time,” I said.
I picked up the plant and the shards of pottery; I shook out the rug and cleaned off the piano. I moved with acceptance — maybe even contentment — and did not feel one twinge of irritation, resentment or anger.
With the plant repotted and the room clean again, I sat back and considered my reaction. Not too long ago, I may have cursed the sky for giving me wacko cats and grumbled as I fixed everything. Where did this deep sense of equanimity come from?
It could only be my yoga practice. I began yoga teacher training at the beginning of the year and have been learning the principles, philosophy and energetics of yoga. According to yoga, personality is a process, and we can evolve to a higher ideal. Left to itself, the mind repeats in cycles, yet with the power of our will we can retrain the mind and reshape ourselves. In this instance, I was not the woman who would curse the sky and get red in the face; I was the woman who picked up the pieces with a calm, knowing smile.
I recalled my teacher, Kelly Golden’s words at the end of every class, “the real practice of yoga begins when you step off the mat and into the world.”
Yoga teaches that discernment is the pinnacle of our spiritual practice. Everyday we make choices and the true practice of yoga helps us choose what is highest and best. In this instance, my practice allowed me to choose acceptance and peace.