One of the most difficult parts of my transition to Parisian life has been not being able to physically practice yoga asanas (poses). This is no fault of Paris; there are many yoga studios all throughout the city. The issue is with me; a few weeks before leaving, I underwent surgery to remove a dislocated bone in my thumb that was beginning to hamper my practice. I was under the impression that it would be a very minor procedure, and that I’d be back on my mat in two weeks. This was not the case. For the first few weeks, my thumb was completely immobilized and my left hand was mostly useless. This made getting dressed a challenge, let alone facilitating a complicated international move. Just before leaving, my surgeon removed my cast, and his team helped mold me a more functional plastic splint.
Once in France, I had to guard my newly-armored hand on the metro, and still struggled to go about daily tasks (imagine trying to wrestle a pair of skinny jeans over long underwear and tall socks single-handedly-it is an arduous process). Every gentle bump to my hand was painful. In short, it really sucked.
In this time of transition, I longed for the comforts of a yoga studio: the glow of candles, flowing through sun-salutations with others, hearing sanskrit words, and the feeling of oneness when everyone in the room chants “om” together. Yoga is everywhere; one metro stop in nearly any direction leads one to a class. The expression “Water, water, everywhere, but not a drop to drink” accurately describes what I felt. I was distracted from this much of the time by the new places and people we encountered everyday, but whenever I slowed down, I felt the sense of longing again.
The weekend before I left, my good friend Maura invited me to come to a meditation class she was holding. It left me feeling calmer, and helped me sort through the noise my mind was creating. I also recalled how meditating by focusing on candles the night before my surgery prevented me from panicking About a week and a half into my stay, I remembered this feeling, and decided I wanted to feel it again.
I found a comfortable seat and closed my eyes. I felt my stomach rise and fall with each breath. I watched my uncertain, angry, guilty, and fearful thoughts flow in rapid succession, but did not try to stop them, nor focus on them. I let go. I let the thoughts exist, and simply observed, as if they were people strolling by while I sat in a café gazing out into the street. They came, and they went, and I was still here. After a few minutes, I opened my eyes, and felt less fidgety and anxious. My mind felt clearer. My heart felt a little more free. I recognized that the yoga studios would still be here in a few weeks, and I’d still remember how to do a down dog. Most importantly, I reconnected with what I’ve always shared with students; that as long as one can breathe, one can practice and receive the benefits of yoga. I just needed a little reminder, too.
Readers- I would love to hear how you meditate. I would love to hear what experiences and activities bring you to a more meditative state. What is your favorite way to work toward inner peace?