Uptown is no excuse!" he jokes, with a radiant smile. "Wait, that should be a t-shirt. That's your new mantra. Wear it!"
He's exactly as I remember. A soft presence, with a playful way and a pureness of heart. It's been nine years since I've taken his class. When I first found him I was in my early thirties, living on the Upper East Side, struggling to keep a documentary film company alive. I had left the "real world" a few years earlier - quit my job as a TV news reporter - and jumped into the unknown. I was in transition. And if you have to be anywhere in the world in transition, make it New York City. Because as costly as it is, as tough as it is, and as uncertain as it is...underneath it all, is unmistakeable magic.
For the first time in my adult life, I didn't have the answers. I had no plan, no goal in sight, and there was no running from it. All I could do was surrender, and when I did, the most serendipitous events began to occur. I found a lightness, a freedom, and a mystery that I had never known before. I was open to things I would have overlooked, dismissed, or rejected in my previous life. I took freelance writing gigs and a job at a high-end yoga store, that not only paid the rent, but paid me to take classes all over the city. So that's exactly what I did.
For nearly a year I lived in the unique type of fantasy you can only find in Manhattan - where strangers from all walks of life, people you would never cross paths with or know otherwise - find themselves in a sacred circumstance that turns them into kindred spirits. So it was, for eleven months, in the company of a group of amazingly creative women that I surrendered to the flow of life and played. We worked, we ate, we drank, we went to each other's performances (singing gigs, plays, musicals)...we laughed, we cried, we encouraged and inspired one other...and we spent hours and hours in the hottest exercise classes New York City had to offer - spin, African dance, 5 rhythms, barre, and of course, yoga.
That's how I found him. One of the best teachers in the city, and I don't say that lightly. He has that thing that all amazing yoga teachers have - sweetness, inquiry, no judgment, no expectations, impeccable sequencing that emanates natural flow, and above all compassion and love. They hold the space for you to just BE. Time disappears, the mind is still, the heart opens, and you're moving in ways you never knew you could...feeling your place in the universe.
When the real world came knocking again, and I dove back into politics and consulting, my routine changed. Gone were brunch and yoga dates with the girls. Instead I was arranging last-minute press conferences at 8am, having three hour campaign strategy meetings over dinner on the Upper East Side, then coming home and writing until the wee hours of the morning. Within three years I'd released my first novel. A few years after that I went back to Massachusetts for a heal some old wounds, releasing the past, turning forty, now what? eight month sabbatical. Within two months of landing back in Manhattan I met my future husband. We dated, married and moved to Westchester County within a year after that.
So when he turned to me, my sweet yoga teacher, as class was starting and said: "Wow, good to see you, where have YOU been?" The only answer I could come up with was: "I know, it's been a while. I've been Uptown."
If you are or ever were a New Yorker you'll get the joke. As united as we are, as much as the ten million of us make it work every day in a symphony of unbelievably peaceful and extraordinarily efficient co-existence...we like our little nests. You're an Upper West Sider or an Upper East Sider; an Uptown person or a Downtown person; someone who doesn't leave the Village or the Lower East Side; or is only all about SoHo. So in New York terms my answer really wasn't that silly. For me, since I landed in 1999, my special place has always been Midtown East and the Upper East Side.
But as we began to move and I replayed his reaction in my head, it left me wondering. Was I making an excuse? Why? What had kept me away from this delicious and soul nourishing class I used to love. I'm not one for excuses. If I want to do something I do it, if I don't, I don't. I make time for the people and events I care about and I am no longer compelled or guilted, the way I was in my younger years, to spend time with people or take part in activities that don't interest me. That may sound self-serving. It is EXACTLY that. To serve the self means honoring your authentic truth, discovering your own path, and allowing for the natural flow of BEing instead of DOing. Those things only come by not worrying about pleasing other people. For at their core that's what excuses are...simply a way you trick yourself into the trap of another's expectations, instead of living life on your terms.
However, his comment - "Uptown is no excuse!" - was a gift, not guilt. Because halfway through class it hit me, I wasn't making an excuse to him. I was making it to myself. And these are the trickiest excuses of all. The ones that rob you of true self devotion. All these reasons why in the years after I first met him I could never get to his class - work obligations, a different schedule, new friends, etc. The list went on. And while the past nine years were amazingly powerful both personally and professionally...more recently I have recognized that I am making excuses to myself again. Being a good wife and homemaker, a dedicated law student, and a committed and diligent advisor to clients - all of it has given me an excuse to let some "self-serving" activities slide.
So last weekend I made a commitment to my favorite things, in spite of and in addition to, the list of all that "had" to get done. I snuggled onto the couch and ordered an indie film (Paris Can Wait - if you love movies shot in France and are a fan of Diane Lane and Eleanor Coppola films - I highly recommend); I registered for a yoga workshop with a world-renowned yoga teacher from out West that hasn't been in the NYC area in thirteen years (not gonna miss her!); and I spent eight hours in my office, my creative sanctuary - sorting, plotting, reading, creating, goal setting, and writing - as the scent of Diptyque's Baies lingered through the air and the hypnotic sounds of Deva Premal enveloped me.
Finding ways to add pleasure, softness, magic and beauty to quotidian life is what keeps us ALIVE. For there is no greater purpose we have than to discover all that makes our souls shine. In the eyes of my teacher I was reminded that in doing that which makes your own heart dance - you become a fascinating, wholehearted, enormously creative and gifted being that can then go out into the world and share that light with others. Sometimes making space isn't about freeing up your entire schedule, but rather just devoting enough attention and time to things that will make your heart smile.
So that is my call to you in the coming weeks my beauties, make space for all those SELF serving things that fill your soul...because when all is said and done, Uptown is no excuse!
I've been thinking a lot about The Path lately, as often happens when something new comes along and quickly alters one's life course. Whether expected or unexpected, welcomed and appreciated or dreaded and dismissed - the events that redirect our path are pivotal moments in life that should not be overlooked. It is at these turning points - in these transitions - that our path truly unfolds. In the past month I've had two significant course "redirections," one was starting my first year of law school, the other was my first car accident. Attending law school had been joyfully planned and enthusiastically received. Getting struck by another car was a frightening surprise that left me feeling helpless and alone. Both experiences were shocks...and it is only now, in the ensuing weeks of calmer waters, that I have been able to reflect on these two events whose simultaneous transpiring I believe to be no coincidence.
Let me start by saying I am quite familiar with shocks. In fact it is the shocks in life that I believe catapulted me into alignment with my true path. Whether a painful break-up, getting fired from a job, the severing of a close friendship, the startling loss of a loved one, a failed business, or an abrupt end to a long-held dream - in the moment all were resisted. Years later the blessings are so clear, the gifts so poignant, and the course redirections vividly recognized with enormous gratitude. Even when goals are set and accomplished, welcome beginnings commence, and wishes manifest...in all the excitement there can still be a shock that reverberates some time later. Because in that exact moment - The Path is forever altered.
Last month I dove into law school with the same commitment that I bring to any new endeavor. I had spent a year exploring, strategizing, and arranging all the pieces that would deliver me unto this moment. The moment where I would walk through the doors and a new professional life would begin. The largeness of the moment had an essence similar to that of booking the trip of a lifetime held in the heart for many years, or planning the wedding day or the release of a first novel, or perhaps preparing for the birth of a child or the launch of your own business...all this effort for these long-awaited spectacular moments you think you've prepared yourself for and yet once they arrive and fade into the hours, they leave you feeling lost, alone, empty and deflated. Law school was no different. By week two the nascent excitement was gone and I was drowning. Left with the overwhelming and practical reality of rearranging my life to meet its expectations and demands. Like the new marriage, baby, or business...the transition was all-consuming and I lost myself for a moment in the shock of it all.
I have learned that when it comes to shocks...if we don't pause, if we don't bear witness to the power of the transition...hours can turn into days that become months which fold into years and one day we are left wondering, "where did the time go?" If we are not mindful of the shocks - the turning points - we may be further along, but we could also end up further removed from our true path.
The car accident woke me up. I'd spent nearly ten hour days at school in Manhattan and the remaining hours before bed studying at the dining room table. The fridge was empty and groceries needed to be bought. So I set out on a Friday afternoon for a quick shop. Within seconds of pulling into the parking lot I was smacked hard from the side by another driver. After the insurance cards were swapped and we'd taken the requisite photos I pulled the car off to a corner and bawled. It was my first accident, and although a minor one, it shook me. I'd driven in more than a dozen states, at all hours of the day and night, in the craziest of conditions - blizzards, downpours, dust storms - for more than twenty-six years, and despite it all I'd never had an accident. It was a shock that was a clear wake-up call.
The wise ones say that all of life is merely a play, a never-ending movie in which we are simultaneously the actor, producer, and if we are lucky enough to find self-mastery - the director. In seeking the spiritual significance of shocks you only have to look at the stage. The clues are in the setting - while a house represents you (your subconscious, emotions, mind, relationships, etc.) - a car represents your path. So here I was, struck by the universe to stop and take a look at my path. And the beautiful understanding that I came to was this...the welcome chosen shock induced the painful unwanted shock. In other words, I had been so engulfed by the new path that law school was presenting - the path of the moment - that my attention had been pulled away from the eternal path - the path of the soul code. The Path of attention. The Path of balance. The Path of non-attachment. The Path of spiritual nourishment. The Path of self-care. The Path of soul devotion. The Path of inner harmony. The Path of trust.
For many, life is lived in the enduring enclave of the known, a path that comes with its comforts but also its sacrifices. For security breeds stagnation and stagnation asphyxiates the soul. To be an adventurer, to live a life dedicated to learning and growing, to remain in the constant wonderment of it all takes great courage and vulnerability. It is a path that demands persistence, resilience and above all - trust. Trust that no matter what arises, it is all happening to bring you into alignment with the miraculous unfolding of your sovereign self. Even as it is essential to remain open to where the universal cosmic flow wants to take us...it is our divine duty to ensure that we continue to honor our spirit and our soul gifts with our commitment and attention to SELF.
The truth is, we need not ever be consumed by an event - for better or worse - nor are we ever really helpless or alone. Some shocks send us in new directions so that we may grow, others settle us into a deeper resonance of self and remind us of the person we are meant to be. What the shocks do is illuminate where we have lost a sense of wholeness, of unity, with the most important person in our lives - ourselves. For me the shocks reminded me that there is another book, and other creative projects, that I've been neglecting. They reminded me to pause, get centered and grounded, and not use this intense time of transition into law school as an excuse for abandoning my SELF.
As a dear friend once gently advised me, "The real work of life is to constantly be in touch with your SELF, everything flows from this. When you know your SELF - your powers, your gifts, your intentions - then everything else that happens in life is just whipped cream." In the scheme of things a law degree at this point is just whipped cream on an already rich and blessed life...lived in constant awareness of, and devotion to, the soul path.
To honor The Path of the Self, even in times of great change, this is the immense work of being an adventurer.
Pause for the transitions and take the moments as they come...my dear, fellow travelers on The Path. ▵
Welcome to The Rainville Pages Blog. I first launched this blog six years ago, shortly before the release of my debut novel, Trance of Insignificance. The Rainville Pages grew into a sacred space filled with musings on writing, personal transformation, being a woman, friendships, love, relationships, spiritual growth, travel, and big city life. In weekly posts I shared my everyday experience while also exploring the beauty and mystery of living as a creative - in courage, vulnerability, patience, and trust. In the ensuing years much about my life has changed - after sixteen amazing years in Manhattan I moved to tranquil Westchester County, I got married and wrote another book - but my desire to share and connect with you, my fellow travelers on the path, remains. Thank you for the gift of your interest, support and love. Stay tuned for more posts soon! ♥︎