Things (don’t?) matter.

A table is a table. A rug is a rug. A shirt is a shirt.

Thrift store or couture, $1 or $1,000, the types of things we can afford don’t matter. New, old or inherited, they’re no indicator of our value or place in the world. 
Nicety doesn’t matter. Numbers don’t matter. How we treat our things, though? It matters. 

Each item in our lives—yours, mine—represents a trade. A trade of time worked. Of money earned and spent. Or of another’s generosity, and whatever they traded in order to give us a gift. Far from the price tag that hangs from what we own, these are the true value of our possessions. And it’s why, even though things don’t matter as much as people, they still deserve our everyday and utmost respect.

Once, a child old enough to know better took a marker to my purse in a waiting room. Yes, it was just a bag. But just a bag that represented a friend’s thoughtfulness and love—and the amount of time she gave to buy it.

It’s easy to shrug and say that children (or grownups) don’t know better. We’re in a hurry. And things are things and not as important as people, so why treat them well? And isn’t it vain, anyway?

But treating things with cleanliness and care isn’t egotistical. It’s important. Humble. Modest. And, paramount, reflective of how we view ourselves and others. Because in each and every materialism, also ingrained is a piece of the owner, the maker, the giver, the store clerk—time, money, work, generosity. 
Letting a rug go dirty without care. Coloring on a purse. Slamming and chipping dishes. Throwing pillows on the floor. Trekking across the floor without washing dirty feet. All of it and much more shortens the lifespan of not just the rug, the purse, the dishes, the pillow, the floor—but also the freedom that comes from owning and not needing. Because when we are too hard and careless with our things, sooner than ever needed to be, we are back making a trade. Of time. Of money. Of another’s generosity. 
A table is a table. A rug is a rug. A shirt is a shirt.

However they arrived in our lives—new or used, cheap or expensive—doesn’t matter. How we treat them, though? It matters.

Is it Thursday?

It’s one of those weeks where today feels like Wednesday. Wednesday felt like Tuesday. And Tuesday...? Well, you get the idea.
In the meantime, a lot has happened. The lawn has been re-sodded. I’ve taught class. Gone to class. Worked. Talked. Ate. Ran errands. Proof of each exists in my house and planner.

The details of all these actions, though, are lost to me. As the days slipped by unnoticed, I did and accomplished everything I was supposed to. But what did I eat? Which Target did I go to? And what was the lady’s name I met outside the store?

I didn’t even realize how scattered, how ungrounded I was until I pulled in the driveway this morning and slowed the car to a stop. As the engine cut, a realization flooded through me, bringing with it a little uprising of panic.

Wait. How did I get here so fast? Did I pause at that stop sign? Did I even brake at the red light before turning right?

It’s unnerving, the epiphany that your body’s been going through the motions of life on its own. That you're living and doing without knowing. 
All the moments I missed—no matter how big, small, beautiful or mundane—are and were part of the nectar of life. And because I was not present, they are lost to me. Gone. Yes, in the past, but not even available to be called upon to help me learn or grow.
Why share all this? Because yoga means "yoke." Union between body and mind.

Cluttered mind. Closed-off life.

"Maybe thinking so much is normal. Maybe 70,000 thoughts a day...really isn't that much, in the scheme of things. Did you think of that?" 

"Fair enough," I replied at the time, at the insight over the last blog post. Each to their own.

Cultivating stillness is a hard thing to wrap the head around. So why do it? Yes, it can bring a few moments of refreshing peace. But what are the lasting benefits? The tangible in-tangibles we can see and feel but that can't be clearly defined, easily measured?

How much mind space you have is how much room – how much possibility, opportunity – you have for life.

When our brains are cluttered with constant to-dos, anxieties, stresses – thoughts – we're maxed out. Full. At capacity.  

Like a closet brimming with possessions, mind clutter means there's simply no space. No space for now. No space for new. No space to observe anything beyond what we have, what is already there. 

That's a lot of life to miss, yes?

What's on your mind?

"What's on your mind?" my husband asked. 

I had zoned out somewhere between bites of grilled peppers and rice. Not unlike how our dog shakes off water after a bath, I jerked back to attention and searched for a response to his question, still hanging unanswered in the air.

Oops. What was I thinking about? Something. Everything. Definitely not nothing. But, in truth, not anything worth sharing. Which got me thinking even more.

Lost in thought. 
In her head.
Deep in thought. 
Checked out.
Penny for your thoughts.  
La-la land. 
Zoned out. 
Come in for landing.

As a society, we've coined so many phrases for being in our minds, alone with our thoughts, rather than being in the present moment. If it's so commonplace, how much of it, exactly, is there?

According to UCLA's Lab of Neuro Imaging, the average human has about seventy thousand thoughts per day.
70,000. (So much for counting with fingers and toes.)

How to lower that number and get a few moments of peace? Meditation is one way. So is pranayama (life force, breath control) – particularly ujjayi. Ujjayi (ooh-jy) is an in-and-out-through-the nose breath that uses a constriction at the back of the throat.

To try: On your inhale, draw air in through the nostrils and send it down across the back of the throat, exhaling, for now, through the mouth. You should hear a soft noise. Some say it sounds like a hiss. Others say Darth Vader. And still more liken it to the roll of the ocean, giving Ujjayi its common name of "ocean-sounding breath."

Hands to heart center, anjali mudra, and be present with ujjayi.
Once you've got the soft sound – ocean or hiss – close the lips and bring the hands to heart center. 

Now breathe in again through the nose, send the air across the throat once more, but exhale, this time, through the nose. Close your eyes gently and stay with it for awhile, listening and focusing on the sound.
Release the breath and tell me: What was on your mind?

Chances are, not much. Ujjayi translates to "victory" or "conqueror." Victory over the mind. Somehow, some way, that slight ocean sound helps us quiet our internal conversations, our inner voice. So instead of 70,000 thoughts... we can have 69,999.

Or less.