It’s always amazing to me how markedly our surrounding environments affect our bodies, minds, and spirits. Whether visiting another city or escaping to the wilderness, I find that my city grip is loosened, maybe not completely but certainly significantly, when I get out of town. My mind can become cavernous (space to truly focus and think, how glorious!), and my spirit joyfully invites in the benefits of retreat; even my body seems to release its typical tight spots, softening, opening. Even so, I would never have guessed that a trip to Louisiana with some girlfriends – to first celebrate a dear friend’s wedding and then make the most of our proximity to New Orleans and its Mardi Gras festivities – would offer me such a strong sense of refreshment, clarity, purpose, and drive.
Within the course of our four days away, we left winter for spring, woke up to summer, braved a cooling fall night and chilly morning, and returned back to NYC’s relentless winter season. These drastic seasonal changes made our four days feel like a much more substantial passage of time, and perhaps it was this that contributed to the personal growth that ensued – time's provision of linear space opening our awareness to our habits and values, instigating subtle to large changes here and there…
I used to travel endlessly. My family set a hunger for travel in my bones with our many road trips through the States. I carried this with me into college, studying abroad and traveling elsewhere to dance, and extended my stay in a cheaper apartment to pay for excursions abroad. Each trip opened the bounds of my Midwestern-girl scope and planted seeds for further personal growth. In the weeks leading up to our Southern voyage, my cravings for travel started peeking out of their hideaway. Nostalgia was cropping up in my daily life as well, particularly on my yoga mat, highlighting and simultaneously altering my relationship with the past by yes, noting those past experiences, but even more notably underlining my present moment and sending my eyes and heart towards the future. I feel as if these two factors, along with a desperate need to escape my daily grind, only heightened my recognition of Louisiana’s fresh air, my lack of responsibility in the ways of work, and the vast opportunities for fun that lay in front of us once we stepped off the plane. To have such a broad, blank slate of time to explore was an unbelievable treat that offered me the chance to drop my day-to-day and cave in to community, spontaneity, and culture in a beautiful way.
Meeting new people in foreign places, especially locals, always excites me; learning of others’ traditions can be so eye-opening and intriguing. Meeting new people, too, magnifies my sense of my outer identity and makes me consider the essence of my being:
Who am I?
Which pieces of myself will I share in this place with these people?
Which pieces of myself will I explore through this interaction, and this one?
I recently came across a meditative exercise entitled ‘Who Am I’ that endeavored to showcase the way thoughts and emotions can spill onto our identity, covering, blurring our sense of our true core. Reading about it made me wonder about the ways we humans piece our lives together. Each of us has had and will continue to have such a different journey along the ride of life, and each of these journeys is composed of so many pieces that can hardly be predicted and perhaps aren't even as true to our deepest selves as we imagine them to be.
If you break down the word ‘vinyasa’ to its Sanskrit roots, you come up with a definition of ‘to place/put together in a special way’. Vinyasa classes are most commonly known for their flow, their movement linked to the breath with seamless transitions from one asana to the next; a unique aspect of this style of yoga is its creative sequencing. We certainly could characterize our lives, and the choices that we make each and every day, as their own sort of vinyasas, no? As human beings, the differences we share in the ways of genetic makeup and circumstance are distinguished all the more by the act of choice. Sensing my trip’s deep effects on my inner strength (self-confidence and motivation) and my physical body (relief from a cold and stability in my body’s physique even despite a lessening in my typical exercise regimen) brings numerous questions to mind…how does a different locale with its fresh population and string of experiences affect us in those initial moments of contact? How do those same elements inspire the moments that arise after we depart from such a place? With such a mix of factors, it becomes challenging, maybe even impossible, to pinpoint definitive answers to such questions. I presume, though, that space in whichever form we find it can be a catalyst towards refreshing our personal life-vinyasas.
Space can lead to an exceptional sort of openness and reflection, whereby our senses and intuition pick up on pieces of conversations, visual objects, emotions, and events that become special food for thought and lend wisdom to whatever it is we are pondering at the moment. I participated in my first tarot card reading in New Orleans, and after meditating on one particular predicament I’d been facing in recent months as the session began, was surprised and pleased to hear comments surrounding that very situation through the whole of my reading. While I would never act solely on such recommendations and predictions, I very much appreciated this sense of the universe supporting my growth process, encouraging me to move forward with the current of change, while still humbly submitting to and embracing what already is.
Are our lives not, in their own ways, thrilling choose-your-own-adventure stories? If we consider this to be true, I would hazard to suggest that travel is one of the most powerful ways to reevaluate, rejuvenate, and alter the course of our life stories. Visiting places outside the comfort of our own circles can initiate change, as we see how others live and consider our own choices based on the beliefs and actions of these others. Sometimes the effects of our travels are less obvious, and we arrive where we are unknowingly; there is a beauty – and if we’re real about it, sometimes a horror – in that moment when we suddenly comprehend where we have landed.
My March wall calendar’s quote for the month is this:
Right now my life is just one learning experience after another. By the end of the week I should be a genius.
This quote seems to perfectly encapsulate my Louisianan trip, and perhaps travel more generally. If we consider how much we learn in one day, how much could we gather in a week, especially if we leave the comforts of home to explore somewhere else? I can’t guarantee I’ll be a genius like Jeanette after just one week. For now, I will just continue to brew on my Louisiana musings and move ever forward towards those experiences awaiting me, here in NYC and beyond….
- Liz Beres