In Yoga Thoughts

No matter where you go, there you are.” – Jon Kabat-Zinn

It amazes me that it’s possible wake up one morning in Philadelphia and go to bed that night in England. But that’s exactly what we did this past weekend when we went to visit our son who is studying in London. Perhaps because it was such a short trip or perhaps because I speak the language (albeit with a far less glamorous accent), I had to keep reminding myself how very far from home I was.

And we were very far from home. London is, after all, 5,706 miles from Philadelphia as the crow flies. It is across an ocean. It is in another nation and (almost) on another continent. We were seeing exotic sights from history books and travel magazines – Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge. It is apparently even a season ahead of us – we left home in late winter and arrived in glorious late spring.

But, in terms of making me feel like I was far from home, all of this paled in comparison to the nature of the crowds I found myself walking amongst. Despite living in Manhattan for years, I do not believe I have ever experienced a “melting pot” as I did while touring London. Every cluster of tourists we passed seemed to be speaking a different language. I was smacked by selfie-sticks from Japan, Germany and Egypt. I was stepped on by African, Pakistani and American feet. I stood in awe in front of the Rosetta stone with people from Ireland, Russia and Portugal. I shared a car on the London Eye with a large, devout Muslim family from Turkey who were just as thrilled by the views as I was.

Clearly, I wasn’t in suburban Philadelphia anymore.

But, somehow, despite being in a foreign land surrounded by people from foreign lands, I felt at home. I flirted easily with the littlest member of the Turkish family on the Eye and his mother, in hijab and niqab (head and face veils) smiled at me easily. I managed to offer to take a photo of a family from somewhere in Eastern Europe who gratefully accepted my offer – all without exchanging a word. I was as annoyed by slow-walking families from the far east holding hands across sidewalks as I was by families from the American Midwest slowing traffic  the same way in Rockefeller Center. The Beefeater giving our tour at the Tower of London made me laugh just as hard as the nearby man from Australia.

Yoga teaches us that we are all connected. As we talk to people who also practice, we discover rather quickly that our experiences are quite similar. While each of us have our own unique fears and strengths, these differences are miniscule compared to the similarities. Yoga leaves us feeling calm, energized, balanced and centered. Our practices help us take the ups and downs of life in stride. We find that hardships on our mats often are well-disguised gifts. We are, therefore, better prepared for hardships off of our mats.

In an amazing coincidence, I found myself on the Tube next to a businesswoman from Bermuda who practices Ashtanga yoga. There’s no way to explain how we wound up speaking, let alone about yoga. Like the subway in New York, the Underground in London is mostly a silent, smart-phone-induced solitary experience, but we talked for nearly a half hour. When I got off the train, I felt like I was saying goodbye to a friend. Not only does yoga teach us that we are connected, but it helps to deepen that connection.

I’ve learned over the years on my mat that we share this planet, this environment, and every single breath we take with every other creature in the world. More than that, we share the human experience. We laugh. We fear. We rejoice. We mourn. We smile and we cry. We love. We form friendships and families.

And, clearly, we travel to London. I may not have learned a new yoga posture in London, but I came home having reinforced one of yoga’s most powerful and transformative lessons. I learned that people are people, no matter where you go and no matter where they’re from. And I learned that people can connect, rather easily, no matter how we look, what language we speak or what our cultural differences.

No matter where we go, there we are … together.
Amy

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