Walking and Witnessing
I just walked for almost two hours through downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, where I’m trotting around on book tour for my novel, The Divorce Girl. There is little I love more than taking to the streets, my backpack and cap on, to explore a new place. There’s something about seeing a place for the first time, on the hoof, that allows me to wake up to my connection with more than my own mind-filling narrative about what I’m doing, what I’ll do, and how I’ll explain it to x, y and z along the way.
The more I practice on the mat, the more I feel the resonance of yoga off the mat and on the street. No surprise that such walking also mirrors my process in most yoga classes. First, I have to shake off or burn through the haze of words, questions, problems, solutions that come in the door with me. Then I usually face the struggle of trying to do something hard for me (most notably, the first downward dog of the day, often the hardest) before simply breathing through it all to arrive at just being with whatever comes: sore muscles, tired legs, surprising moments of being less balanced than I was yesterday, and the struggle to try without trying so hard that the trying tenses me up. Eventually, I surrender, and the world renews itself. The innate curiosity and tenderness of living in this body at this moment comes home to roost in my soul, and yoga becomes a moment of waking up to being truly alive.
Today as I walked through neighborhoods of aging Victorian houses and small apartment buildings, my own thoughts vanished the world in front of me for the first few blocks. Then I started to see what was around me, my legs tiring faster than I realized, my throat getting thirsty, my mind wondering if there’s a coffee shop en route or a great vintage store to peruse. But since I’m walking in a place I don’t know, who knows what’s around the next corner? It turns out there’s a large statue of purple gorilla beside the dumpster next to an apartment building. There’s a community garden where Korean women squat to weed their small plot. There’s the state capitol, towering into the blue sky. There was a strong wind, picking up the first falling leaves of autumn and ferrying them westward.
The more I walk, the more I melt into witnessing what is: the soreness in my heels, the tension in my right shoulder, the pockets of big and no wind, the homeless man sitting on the corner with his sleeping bag and a sign saying he goes by the name of “Cowboy,” and the ringing of the church bells from a distant red-brick tower behind a curtain of cedar and cottonwood trees. I’m at home in this new place, this life present and available as a gift all the time, and this body (on the mat and on the street) the best gift this life gives me.