The backdrop spectacular, I initially felt a warm massage of gratitude envelope me as I drove along Memorial Drive en route to the yoga studio I teach at in Brookline. Six-thirtiesh AM, sun working its way upward, little diamonds of light dancing on the adjacent Charles River as runners glided in all the morning glory this scene had to offer. Runners. Their heads bobbing. Visible breath. Some straining, shuffling. Others floating in step to an internal metronome cultivated through years of training.
Stay in the moment. Don’t go back, Shannon.
Inevitably, I went there. Back to my own experiences running along a salty waterfront, zigzagging through narrow trails, huffing up a steep Seattle hill (don’t you dare walk Shannon, just shorten your gait I used to say..), outpacing a blinking red crosswalk hand on an urban ten-miler. Yeah, I went there so fully I nearly missed my turn onto the BU Bridge. That warmth of gratitude morphed into hot tears of longing for something I no longer have. Something I gave up unwillingly, after a series of bargaining matches with a reality – I’ll run shorter distances, I’ll slow my pace, I’ll do more lunges, planks, half-pigeon poses…anything to hang on to my running tether line – I simply couldn’t alter. My forty-something joints and spine begged for mercy. Not more pounding.
So here I was. Here but not here. Lost in the activity I loved for so many years and disconnected from the precious moment God presented me with on my journey to the studio. Because nothing will replace running. The extraordinary physical experience of feeling your entire cardiovascular system circulate energy throughout your body, propelling you forward like a powerful machine. Not a mere human being. Even on the tougher days, with remnants of yesterday’s fatigue flaring in my thighs, during my run, I felt alive. Present. Powerful. Invincible.
The half hour or so before my class began, as I sipped a coffee and broke apart a warm croissant, I reflected on my drive to the studio and managed to guide my soul back toward gratitude. I had a class ahead to teach, a responsibility to create a space of gratitude and joy for my students to flourish in, and going in ruing my past was no place to start.
In my journal (one of several that I carry with me and record in constantly) I flipped to a page highlighting one of the yoga sutras: Aparigraha. Its simple translation is “non-attachment”, or “non-coveting”. But there’s nothing simple about it. And landing on this page in my journal (buttery croissant crumbs to prove it), I believe, was no coincidence.
Let your concern be with the action alone, and never with the fruits of the action. Do not let the results of your action be your motive and do not be attached to inaction,” – Krishna
Running served me in so many ways: kept me strong and healthy, exposed me to God’s landscape, quieted my doubts – even if only temporarily – and heightened my sense of possibility, and provided a space to hear and trust my inner voice to guide me through tough life decisions.
But I realized by the final bite of my croissant how much I’ve grown and accomplished since parting with running two years ago. I’ve discovered other ways to tap into my soul, maintain my strength and follow the wisdom of my heart that don’t require lacing up my beloved Brooks Adrenalines.
At the moment it’s my yoga practice. These days most frequently in the quiet of my home studio at 5 AM, flowing alongside classical piano on Pandora. It’s also walking, slow enough to notice a squirrel dart across the Somerville Community Path or a giggling couple describing last night’s exploits loud enough for me to overhear and recall my own adventures of being 23. And it’s most definitely teaching – which almost feels like an oxymoron – as I feel like the student, learning through every class I teach how to better connect with my students and live a life full of gratitude and appreciate every magnificent moment God puts in front of me. Like the moment I nearly squandered this morning by clinging to days running that are no longer part of my present life.
Stay in the moment, Shannon.