I can’t run. And I can’t rue. How a yoga sutra reminded me to wake up this morning.

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.

Seattle, 2011

Seattle, 2011

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.

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Why my Charlie card feels more valuable than a driver’s license

 

I'd rather not drive

I’d rather not drive

Not everyone gets my preference for public transportation. I have a valid license, have carried one in my wallet since proving I could back the parents’ station wagon in reverse around a corner (do they still make you do that?), and am able enough to follow the girl’s instructions on the dashboard Nav system.

Why not just drive? My friends frequently ask.

Give me the option between buckling up behind a steering wheel and squeezing into an overcrowded subway, and I’ll always choose the latter. I thought about this on my AM commute to a studio I teach at across town this morning, and realized my aversion to driving had nothing to do with past experiences behind the wheel. I’ve never been hit by another car, or dinged anyone else hard enough to warrant exchanging insurance details. Nor have I allowed another driver’s short fuse and middle finger for driving too slow to send me sideways (that’s the real yoga in action – breathing beyond the mental cage of other drivers’ rage).

Nonetheless, I avoid driving. And drew up a list of reasons why that frankly, have nothing to do with saving the planet or reducing my carbon footprint. There are a few, however, that I think just might be helping me to appreciate the extraordinary gift of being alive:

Where has he been and what has he seen?”

Behind the wheel, I’d never have been able to consider what’s behind the tired eyes of the aging, gangly Rastafarian on a midday subway ride to Cambridge, MA. His knit cap holding together a mass of dreadlocks serving as shock absorber as he bobs against a handrail, struggling to stay awake. Where has he been and what has he seen?

Riding buses, subways, taxis, trains, ferries, they put us in contact with people that the Universe chooses for us. People we otherwise might avoid. And that, to me, is really interesting. A recent taxi ride from downtown Montreal to the airport gave me the opportunity to interact, in my butchered version of French, with a driver who giggled and promised his English was worse. He left me feeling inspired, not embarrassed, about trying to communicate in his native tongue. Every retail merchant, restaurant server and passerby prior to my fateful ride with this kind fellow had flipped to English before I even had the chance to say Merci.

I shared in a previous post (To Paris With Love) the emotional cord struck when observing an elderly woman’s hands sitting across from me on the Green Line T train in Brookline. Her presence brought forth my late father’s spirit, comforting me in a moment of sadness and alienation as I was still adjusting to life in a new town.

Going with the flow requires more than doing a few sun salutations.”

We toss around the ‘flow’ word a lot in yoga-land. And while flowing through a series of sun As and Bs in a warm, steamy room is dandy, life’s flow isn’t always so warm. Having to exit a broken down bus in Seattle several miles from my intended stop during an unusual snow storm years ago (there’s one plow for the entire city) without throwing a temper tantrum was a stronger test of my ability to flow. Go with the circumstances presented, consider my options, and make my way home. On two healthy feet God gave me for walking. That’s the kind of flow I can really learn from.

We are all connected. Even if I’m convinced he’s an idiot.”

Getting up close and personal with bad behavior – periodically present on public transportation – is a direct route into my judging mind. After inwardly fuming at the oblivious teenager scrolling through Facebook as his backpack smacks into me repeatedly like a metronome, I soften. And realize my hand is gripping my phone too, waiting for an incoming text or some other distraction that could irritate the passenger next to me.

We’re all more distracted. And with most passengers, including me at times, opting to self-quarantine themselves into a soundproof, ear-budded, Instagram version of solitary confinement, it’s tough to connect. But at least on a bus, subway, train or the back of taxi we can be distracted together.

Beats driving solo down a freeway devoid of any human contact at all.