In all things human

New York City has chilled out.
People on the street are less hurried, the traffic flows sedately, the line at Zabar’s is leisurely. There is time to nod and smile at fellow customers without feeling that everyone is clawing for the front of the line. Even on the subway, a civilized distance is observed between the pressing bodies. New York has become freakin’ mellow.

Or maybe not.

The last time I lived in the city, I had a mission, an agenda, a dream. Higher than high ambitions that were not to be thwarted. The city was to be gotten through, gotten over, conquered, and tamed. (Oh, how the gods must have laughed!) Every moment was a rush to the next appointment, every transition too slow for what I needed to get done.

But upon my return to teach a yoga intensive this June, everything looks a lot less harried. My first thought was, wow, there must be fewer people here! Did the population decline? Have that many people lost their jobs?

Um, no.

The reason for the change is laughably obvious. New York hasn’t chilled out, honey, it’s ME. Three years in the Pacific Northwest have slowed me down enough to actually see other people on the street, take my time standing in line, and feel positively mellow in my hyper-kinetic homeland. (That, and the fact that a visit to Delhi makes New York City look like an elderly, sleepy monarch.)

I took an Iyengar class today with Carrie Owerko, where she spoke about how we see the world through the filter of our mindset. When we take a moment to acknowledge where we are – rather than immediately reacting – we have a better shot at practicing direct perception of the present moment. In every situation from “class was sooo hard today” to “my partner is being completely unreasonable,” we can first ask ourselves: where am I coming from? What is my state of mind? What are the vrittis, or thought patterns, that are fogging up my perception?

While my New York state of mind has been tempered with some West coast chill, I still find myself starting to hurry in the street. Looking down and not up and walking too quickly to enjoy the sites that I’m passing. Getting irritated waiting at the deli. When I notice this happening, now I can take a moment to reset. I wipe some of the fog off the mirror and think of the Pacific Northwest. And smile at person next to me in line.

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