Excuse me, do you have the time?
“Oh,” quipped the woman slipping her arm around her husband’s bicep, “he has the time, but I won’t let him.”
My friend Gretchen and I fell apart, giggling uncontrollably. We laughed because it was funny. We laughed because the woman was quick and sassy. We laughed because these people looked so old and the very idea that my fifteen-year-old self might be propositioning the man was beyond our imagination. Our laughter carried over into our post-basketball game sleepover and the story still makes us giggle more than thirty years later.
Before the woman’s response, I had thought it a simple, polite request. My father would be picking us up at a specified time. The game was over and we weren’t sure how much time we had to linger. It was eleven years before I would even see my first mobile phone, a bag phone the size of my son’s backpack and nearly as heavy. Gretchen and I were enjoying the freedom of a college basketball game without parental chaperones and we were motivated to hang on to each magical moment.
Without a wristwatch, I generally have a reasonably accurate sense of time. Still, I am very often appalled by how long things take to accomplish and how little time I have left before the next item on my agenda. Time as it is measured occasionally seems to slow down, but more often speeds up and I look at its passage and wonder, “how did that happen? Where did time go?”
On the yoga mat, paying attention to time means staying present. Still, we use time to try to create logic in the practice. I reference the numbers on the clock for limb placement and toe direction. Time also serves as metaphor. In Virabhadrasana II, Warrior Two, the feet are stepped far apart, the front knee bent deeply, the back leg straight. The hands reach out from the shoulders, front and back. Ideally, the torso is straight up and down and the eyes gaze softly just beyond the middle finger. Like more than one yoga instructor, I attempt to coax students standing in Virabhadrasana II to be more upright by suggesting that the back hand is in the past and the front hand in the future.
Riffing beyond the notion of staying present in the body of the pose one day, I heard myself saying that the body is in the present, the breath is in the present, and only the mind can travel backward and forward in time. I was enamored of the concept, but it needed refinement. There’s cellular memory in the body, where it stores hurts, emotions, experiences, and physical action. I think, too, we physically anticipate, whether future events are exhilarating or dreadful, and of course tensions we manifest and carry from moment to moment. And then there are memories, like the surprised delighted laughter I shared with my friend that I can still feel tingling against the bright lights and sounds of the clearing crowds exiting the basketball arena. When I remember that instant, I feel as much fifteen as forty-eight.
I was in tenth grade that year, the same grade Fourteen now navigates, just days in to his new school year. Like my son, I was in a new school building; unlike my son, it was a high school fifteen hundred miles from home, a year in Arizona that would end up being magical for me from beginning to end. Nonetheless I can identify with his post-junior high world, where the halls are crowded with enormous strangers and there’s an expectation of embedded knowledge about such things as college entrance exams, scholarships, and future life plans. We talk about it every afternoon when he gets home, teasing apart the solid information from everything else, and I hear the tensions in his voice brought on by the school’s cultural assumption that everyone should know what comes next. There is just one straight path to follow.
I want to assure him that there’s no straight narrative line to follow. We can pick a path, we can sight down the future arm and gaze into the distance, but not only can we not speed into and through the next moment, we can’t truly predict it either. He’s learned this a little—opting this year to make some academic choices based on what he needs to learn rather than following the requisite path. But saying all of that out loud would earn me a cringe and a hippy dippy yoga mama label. He’s a young man in a hurry, and current enrollment notwithstanding, he tends to run ramrod into the next thing and then the next.
Instead we talk about all of the people we know who majored in one discipline and earn a living doing something completely different. There’s the IT executive who was a philosophy major and the marketing VP who studied history. There’s Fourteen’s uncle, who majored in art history and now writes for outdoor magazines. There’s even his mother, currently on my third or fourth professional incarnation. What, I ask him, does being an English major have to do with running a yoga studio?
We shrug then, and laugh, and tend to after school snacks, homework and practicing. In a more contemplative moment, though, we both know that there is lots I learned in college that I use now—creativity, critical thinking, research, and the ability to navigate a variety of personalities and situations. The more I learn in each of my iterations and in my life, the more I grow, and the more I connect the new material back into what I already know. So I think about those hands, forward and back, in the future and the past. And I think how good it is when we bring them together—at heart center, overhead, behind our backs—and travel not through time but breathe into it, warriors in the most peaceful sense of the word, finding our paths but never being surprised when they circle back around on themselves, crossing over, lining up, looping the loop.
The new moon dawned on 9.5 and brings with it the energy of gathering what we need, growing into the person we’ve been planting the seeds toward becoming, and letting go of the past. Fall and its routines and bountiful harvest are welcome arrivals. Wishing you the very best the fall has to offer, with gratitude and love, Rxo