The shape of life can shift in ways unexpected. And the shape of my life has changed quite a bit lately. I did not expect to be teaching and traveling as I currently am—and I am not really sure of just what shape my teaching schedule will take in the next few years. But having these travel opportunities has brought about some some very real challenges, but also some simple and even surprising rewards. One of those rewards comes from the break in routine, although I still have my daily routines. And I think that travel can help sharpen certain types of awareness. It can heighten the act of noticing.
I have noticed that my life takes on a pared down simplicity when I am traveling, and this simplified lifestyle requires a certain type of discipline. But it seems to also require a balance between discipline and spontaneity, or between the familiarity of routine and the freshness that can come from shaking that up a bit.
Embracing a combination of discipline and spontaneity is important when on the road, due to the sometimes unpredictable nature of travel. The unpredictable is exciting, awakening; but we need the predictable, too. And that is where discipline comes in. It is more essential on the road, and for me, maybe even easier in some ways. First of all, the discipline of practice is what helps me stay both inspired and grounded.
And as I mentioned, I keep my life very simple when I am traveling. That means no television, and very few films (only on the plane, and only occasionally). I discipline myself to focus on what I am investigating in my practice, on study by reading my e-books, and working with online course material. I enjoy the rituals of practice and a daily run (as I do in NYC) but especially enjoy these rituals while in a new place.
And on the days I am not working there is nothing quite like a the secret pleasures of some solitary wandering. It awakens the mind and senses to the mystery of context, and place.
I love being alone, though it isn't always easy. And I must admit, I am not truly alone. My husband and I talk or Skype daily. And when I am teaching I am surrounded by other people. But it is also true that it is the nature of familiar physical contact that I miss the most when I am away. I miss the familiar physical contact like the soft touch of my husband's skin and the all- encompassing release of tension that I feel when I am near him, or when I am held in the comfort of his embrace. It is the shape of his torso inside an old cotton t- shirt and the scent of him that feeds my need for the familiar. These are the things that feel like home.
However, it is partially the travel that helps me notice the things that might otherwise slip by unappreciated. Travel has indeed helped me see life in a different way.
Of course I still love my time in NYC—but it does mean a different and more concentrated teaching schedule. This is where the need for more conscious planning comes in and this has provided a good challenge in the way I prepare my usual classes. Series, workshops and a more thematic approach to the teaching practice is coming to the foreground as of late.
These changes provide another way of framing the practice experience—and another way to communicate and facilitate a learning process. It can be difficult, but in a good way. And thanks to the writings of the poet Rilke—I am learning to trust in that which is difficult.
Having the opportunity to teach and share this yogic inquiry online has come about because of travel, and has presented a whole new challenge—one I like but am only beginning to feel my way into. Again, it is about learning to trust in and engage in that which is difficult.
It is strange, but the fluid nature of life right now feels oddly okay, as long as I remember to relax and go with this current unfolding with trying to control too much. And to remember to feel the unique geography under my feet in any given moment.
Fortunately I have a very stable force of love in my life and have work that by its very nature is grounding and stabilizing.
But I find it curious that lately that I seem to be drawn to wearing flexible, minimal footwear, with a the type of sole that allows my feet to really feel the texture of the ground beneath me. It as if I am seeking both the fluid and the stable in the very soles of my feet. I want to connect fully with the unique and variable specificity of this interaction.
And always, always—there is space. I love the process of seeing and sensing space—but lately I am noticing different things in space. Things like the long, slender fingers gracefully gesturing on the steering wheel of the ex-dancer who is driving the car I am riding in. Or the tall reed-like pieces of metal in a sculpture that sway in the wind, reminding me of otherworldly and extraordinarily high prairie grasses. Suddenly my eye alights on the slightly turned out left foot the person walking next to me. It seems delightful, mischievous, even artful.
The space is especially artful when it is filled with the achingly tender gestures of human beings as they they comfort themselves knowingly or unknowingly. Some through postural adjustment, some through the soothing touch of their own hand on their face. Perhaps gently supporting a cheek or lightly touching the eyes, forehead or mouth.
I am grateful that, at least for now, travel has helped me pay a closer attention to such things, a better and closer attention to how beautiful and wondrous we people, and the world, can be. And how much of it is basically okay. This life is rare, unique, and never to come again—not in this way. It feels good to notice this, even though it can be painful. But it is a good pain—it is the pain of being attentive, open, and alive. And for this brief, brief while—while we are alive, while we are here—to relax and enjoy the noticing. And let that be everything.