This week, I’m in NYC visiting friends in the city I called home for 5 years. The neighborhood I lived in, Hamilton Heights, is growing quickly: new coffee shops and cafes have popped up every time I’ve visited this year. Columbia University continues to buy up property close to the Hudson River, inching their reach further uptown from the main campus on 116th to the medical campus on 168th. In this neighborhood and this city where people move quickly, where things change and places change and 8 minutes is a long time to wait for the next train, it’s even more important to find groundedness within.
That’s what I love about New York: it challenges you and also gives you the freedom to be you — if you’ve got the conviction to. Yeah, anyone can find peace when meditating in a quiet candlelit room with incense burning, or at a retreat in the great outdoors. But what about finding it on the uptown D train at 59th st. when you’ve just heard someone yell “it’s showtime!” What about finding it at a crowded deli counter while you’re waiting for your turkey and egg on a hero? Even finding it on the mat in the city is something else. You might hear trucks downshifting to brake at the red light, ambulance and police sirens passing through, animated conversations in Spanish, Russian, Mandarin…all while you’re being told to move with your breath, not to rush from one pose to another.
That is precisely what I’ve learned to do. Only after I moved away from the city, spent a year going deeper into yoga, meditation and connecting with my breath was I able to come back and notice a change in my yoga practice. Besides being more confident in alignment, transitioning from one asana to another, and feeling the energy created by those around me, devoting time to look within myself this past year has uncovered a stillness and groundedness that I couldn’t see before. It was covered up by voices around me that I had internalized throughout life, telling me what I should be doing, who I should be in profession, in appearance, in having-my-shit-together.
So, when the yoga teacher this morning said “don’t rush”, I didn’t. I savored being in each pose, sensing how my body was feeling and what it needed today. I heard a semi drive by outside, noticed the toned back muscles of the guy behind me in adho mukha svanasana (downward facing dog), and felt the muted vibrations from the floor as someone below us climbed up the stairs. I wasn’t fazed. I was here. Exactly where I needed to be.