Photo: Stefanie Duerr
Thirty years ago (or thereabouts) I worked at a magazine in New York City; for a time, our offices were a block or so north of Times Square, which was a pretty seedy place back in the day. Never in a million years would I have believed it if someone had told me I'd one day be sitting in Lotus pose (well, maybe it's verging on Half Lotus) on a yoga mat smack in the middle of the place, gazing up at the skyscrapers and listenting to "Om" reverberating from the mouths of thousands of yogis. But such was the case last week when I attended Solstice in Times Square, a celebration of the longest day of the year. Over the course of the day some 8,000 yogis took over the center of Manhattan, spreading their mats up and down three city blocks and practicing yoga together.
The point of this event was, in part, to prove that if one can find tranquility in the heart of New York City, one can find it anywhere. It was about finding your center, being strong and focused, with life swirling all around you. And that’s what I discussed on another blog I write http://montclair.patch.com/blog_posts/staying-centered-in-the-center-of-times-square if you’re interested).
But for this blog, I’d like to focus on what this event brought home for me personally, and it wasn’t just the realization that yes, I can hold my Tree Pose while 1000s of tourists pass by in busses or stand on the sidelines taking pictures. It wasn’t just the realization that yoga helps me to find inner strength and inner peace even while sirens are wailing, horns are honking, and folks are rushing to the subway.
For me, the event brought home the fact that there is just no predicting where the river of life will take you. Thirty years ago I didn’t know what yoga was (if anything, I imagined it had something to do with boney old guys walking on nails). I wasn’t an exercise freak back then nor was I a “spiritual” person. I pretty much believed that everything that happened in life was the result of chance and that my chances of having a whole lot of bad stuff happen was just as high as having anything good come my way. My outlook on life was actually quite negative, even though I had plenty to be happy about.
Today, sitting on my rear, plunk in the middle of the busiest part of New York City, I am profoundly changed. I won’t bore you by listing all the ways that is so, but let me just say that I now believe that life will deliver exactly the lessons we need to learn. One of the most important things that I personally needed to learn was to slow down, have confidence in myself, and to believe that the goodness in life would find me. For me, yoga was the route that brought me there.
And so I found it fitting and astonishingly “right” that I was sitting in Lotus just yards from the very place where I once rushed, feared, doubted, and eagerly sought success and happiness. Back then—young, ambitious, and driven—I wanted more than anything to “succeed” in life. Today, as a yogini, I define success in very different terms, and know with all my heart that it is mine.