Most people have a love/hate relationship with New York. Mine’s more one-sided, I’m afraid. My relationship with the apple that beat all others is aaaaalllllll about love. Love, love, love. All love. Chew on THAT.
Here’s the thing with New York and me: I’ve been there more times than I’ve visited any other place on Earth. New York is my “fairiest of all” mirror that reflects back to me where I happen to be in my life, each time I cross its GPS un-friendly borders. And even when it tells me that I’m not, in fact the fairest, loveliest, or most sane-of-all, it still speaks the truth.
And man, is she ever honest.
Each time I find myself there, not only am I reminded of lifetimes past (MINE), not only am I reminded of past lovers, friends, family moments or personal stumbling blocks I shared with the city’s streets, not only am I awed, surprised and inspired, but I get a jolt of intense awareness of how ALIVE I feel the minute I enter its potholed, dirty, people-ridden, miraculous streets.
This year, I decided to skip family Easter and take off to New York for the long weekend with one of my best friends to get my yearly dose of the Big Apple instead of hunting for Easter eggs with my niece and nephew.
We packed our yoga mats, our running shoes, and our best intentions of mixing a healthy dose of exercise, walking, cocktails and sightseeing into the city that never sleeps.
And while we didn’t do any yoga, running, OR get much sleep, my yoga practice followed me there and manifested itself in all sorts of unexpected ways.
But let’s back up for a moment. Recently, life has been testing my best-laid plans; she’s being a stubborn bitch.
After getting through a hardcore yoga rut, and an even more brutal never-ending Montreal winter, I was finally getting my mojo back. I started running outside, got back on the yoga wagon, found time to paint and read and reach a healthy balance between work and play.
But just then, Arctic snowstorms swept over Quebec (in APRIL!!!) and work began getting schizoid again, resulting in weeks of late work nights, eating on the go, and getting hit by a particularly malevolent flu that kicked my ass. Not only that, but my friend came down with the same plague as me, the day before our departure.
Fuck the flu, we said, and went anyways. We took comfort in our shared misery, and braved the dizzy spells, lack of sleep and shortage of lung-power.
I didn’t do any yoga, running OR anything healthy while I was there. In fact, I’ve never been so physically miserable in my life. But here’s the thing with this particular trip: my yoga practice manifested itself in unexpected ways throughout my 4 day jaunt. I can honestly say I’ve never had such a great time there, despite everything that could go wrong, having indeed gone wrong.
Stumbling along in my sleep-deprived flu coma, I couldn’t help but be reminded of my past lives each time I crossed a familiar street, turned a corner, or did just about anything. Memories of times and people past came flooding back at me in continuous waves, when I least expected them to.
New York was the first place my family and I flew into when we left the secret-police ridden country of my birth. I remember looking out the plane window as it was landing, wondering how it was possible to have so many lights in one place. I’ve been there with bad boyfriends and good boyfriends pre, post, and in between breakups.
I’ve brought new friends and met old ones from around the world there, drank too much, stayed up too late, and watched the sun come up while walking its streets at sunrise so as to save on cab-fare in my younger, poorer days. I’ve laughed, cried, and gone through every emotion on the feelings spectrum in the big Apple.
But THIS time, New York and I had a moment. This time, New York was speaking to me.
THIS time, I was ready to listen.
This time, it was like I was seeing it for the first time, despite being aware of all the memories it was laden with. This time, unlike times past, I wasn’t living in the past or in the future, I wasn’t judging, I wasn’t wishing longingly I could live here forever, I wasn’t stressing about how soon my visit would end. I just WAS.
When we got stranded our first night (due to unforeseen circumstances) without a place to sleep and ended up staying in the kind of room that not even cockroaches would want to sleep in, I didn’t care. I couldn’t stop smiling at the life milling on around me. While my friend kept me up all night with her TB cough and I was running on negative hours of sleep, I didn’t have to FORCE myself to muster up energy to enjoy my day, it was somehow already there.
For the first time, I was able to get outside my own head and just be PRESENT in New York.
Despite external drama, there was, for the first time, no drama within me.
I profited from my friend’s illness and spent a day completely alone walking around the city, and it was magic. And then, the cherry on top, (after getting locked out of our apartment), I re-united with a friend I made in India a few months ago at my yoga teacher training. She took the train from Connecticut to meet me in Manhattan for dinner.
Despite only having known her for 30 intense days, despite only having spent time together in sweaty, emotionally depleting circumstances on the other side of the world, it was like re-uniting with someone I’ve known my whole life. The intensity of the experiences we shared is impossible to explain to someone who wasn’t there, and the personal growth process that has followed since could only be fully understood by someone who WAS.
Talking to her made me realize how much I’ve changed over the past few months, and how much of it is due to my yoga practice. And I certainly don’t mean just the physical aspect (which has, if anything, taken a backseat to life circumstances), but the mental and emotional aspects that are as important as asanas, and which we often (myself included) often overlook.
The ability to stay present, to let go of past and future, to suspend judgment and to stay open…
The ability to listen to your body and back off when you need to, without berating yourself for all the things you didn’t accomplish in one week, the wisdom to be kinder and more accepting of yourself and others, and the most difficult one of all: letting go of the need to control everything, and going with the flow.
And so, even though I didn’t get on my mat once in New York, I did yoga every moment. For the first time in New York, I was able to stay exactly where I was: in the present, enjoying every amazing moment of it. Even when it went to shit.