I was lucky enough to spend almost a month in NY for the holidays. It was bitter sweet, emphasizing sweet because of the memories and fun I had with my mother and sisters. Bitter, because it was the first Christmas without my dad and it was bitingly cold. I think I just made that word up.
It’s funny, once you bundle up with layers, first the tank and underwear, then the thermals or silk underwear, then the sweater, then the jacket or vest, then the hat, scarves and mittens, then the coat. Only then…
do you have to go to the bathroom.
And it’s easy to get a neck ache because when you turn your head to look at something, you don’t just turn your head; you turn your whole body. Arms are straight and stationary at the side waste like Charlie Brown and the Peanuts Gang and sweat begins to pour down the back of your neck freezing the little hairs when you walk outside. It can be stifling. But ahhhh, the cold. I feel it clean out my lungs, cherry kiss my cheeks, stun my bones!
It makes me laugh that I can’t quite remember what it felt like to grow up in this cold, or return to it, year after year.
I’ve always had a ride to and from the airport. My whole life. In NY, it was always my dad. My sister has taken that role now. In LA, it was always close friends or my boyfriend.
This past holiday was filled with new memories to cancel out the last memories. Coming back from the holidays was no exception. I had no one waiting for me. No one, but the little blue Super Shuttle man.
I’ve been lucky, if I think about it, that I have always had such giving and patient people to brave the traffic and find me amongst the baggage and confused people pouring out of every sliding portal door of LAX. Even when I was living in China for that short time, I had a ride.
Now, there was no one. I went from almost one month being completely wrapped in friends and family, hats, gloves, scarves and coats, to complete solitude. I shed the tears first. I am alone. I shed the vest, the hat, and the scarf. I was armed with just my Dharma Mittra hoodie (I haven’t taken off since I saw him two weeks prior, him chiding me for my headstand. I'm too full to go upside down!) and a loaded iPod shuffle (compliments of my friend Beau and the rogue tunes we smuggled from Japan).
I was an hour early arriving in LA, and instead of feeling anxious, I felt calm and peaceful.
There is no one waiting. No one to wait. No one to feel anxious is waiting for ME. There is just me. At my pace. There is me, when I am ready. And so I took the time that I normally reserved for being in touch, to drop out of touch and drop into myself.
I thought about how lucky I was that yoga found me. It is one of the very few things in my life that I did not have to search for. It is one of those things I don't feel is 'worked' for. Not like the rest of what life challenges feels is worked for. In a way, it feels less like like work and more like life. It is what I live for and what lives in me with a flow.
I thought about shedding the NY layers and how each time we as students of yoga come to the mat and do the same thing. We take off our frustration, hopefully turn off our phones, take off our additional clothes and bags, strip down to the absolute necessary for our seat on the journey ahead. For an hour or so, we keep the most important things, close to us, but the rest…just gets packed and stowed away...for later.
We arrive at a different place at the end of our practice from where we came, hopefully more open then tight from the closed space of a plane, our job, our trials, our life.
We are left with what we have on our backs and only then, when we leave the mat or aircraft of life do select what baggage we attach and take with us for what's next.
We are re-engaged and re-newed. Re-engaged. Different.
Sometimes there is someone waiting for us with a hug, flowers or a smile. There are things to do, families to take care of. Maybe there is just a guy with a sign. Maybe it’s just you, alone, with the gift of reflection and gratitude for the journey.
I could do without the baggage, without the layers, but all of them are inevitable in this life. We do have a choice - to carry or shed, check in or carry on. We have a choice as to where we wanna go and what we want to bring with us in our yoga practice and in our life.
What do you really need to hold close to your heart on the mat and on the plane? Your family, memories, love, your water bottle and yogitoes towel?
What is just baggage that you can shed?
I’m so thankful that I was kept up most nights while I was in NY, because my mother and sisters were giggling or chatting away. I’m so thankful that I was able to feel the whipping wind on my skin and come in from the cold for a warm bowl of soup my mom made.
I’m forever grateful that I live one block from the beach and that I can return there via friends or the Supershuttle or my own car after a long day. I’m so glad there is a Super Shuttle, which puts random people in a van for us to meet and swap holiday stories, from Korea to the east coast.
I made new friends in my loneliness, but I was not alone.
Finally, I am happy to shed the layers of cold and the past and just keep what’s inside. It’s liberating to be bare and fresh in the newness of what’s to come. It’s all I need.
Happy New Year!
Now take it off. Take it all off!