The following post was written by Callie Ritter, a certified yoga teacher through The Perri Institute for Mind and Body, and a Restorative Exercise Specialist as of summer 2015. She's professionally trained the connection to her body and movement as a Modern dancer for over 15 years; she aims to spend the future helping others in their bodies with her accumulating knowledge and passion. Callie was born and raised as a cowgirl in Southeast Idaho, but currently resides in New York City.
I was appreciating an average but perfect glass of rosé when I caught my reflection in a window: solitary with a wandering gaze. I grimaced at the thought of going back to my accommodation for the night, never mind, I leave for the airport at 6 AM tomorrow morning. I left my extra euros for a smiling waitress with good English, and began the hour walk back, my eyes up and watching. I shared paths with a goose whose yellow gaze studied me carefully; I secretly took pictures of people’s window displays; I asserted myself to some young punk men: “Can you please leave me alone?”
I killed time by watching the underside of a tree.
Traveling is a lonely and not-lonely thing. It brings you into the unknown, where your perception zooms out and blows open your mind—yet it also zooms in, bringing into focus the intricate texture of an experience. The edge requires you to pay attention, helping you remember what it feels like to be awake.
I made a friend from Sao Paulo named Cauay. I remember his dark eyes shifting serious when he paused to see if his physician skills were needed in a huddled crowd in Amsterdam’s Red Light District. He later ordered Nutella-smothered waffles with such introverted, boyish excitement that it made me smile. I already had my pack on as he stirred from sleep on his bottom bunk. I wished him luck and shared our last glance.
Ellie was a mother and daughter and asked about my love relationships as we sunk our bare feet into the sand of a windy beach. We rode cruiser bikes under arches of great green trees, and on our path the sun laid Dalmatian-print shadows. She told me about being a new Singaporian, and how you can always start over—because you always have a choice. Whenever she orders tea, it’s usually for the biscuit that comes with it.
I had too many clothes on for the temperature inside the bus, but was too busy scanning for a recognizable street sign, my stomach unsettled. Quit pretending to know what you’re doing Callie—because the truth is you don’t. This is all new.
Traveling sharpens the perspective. I feel and see much more than I do in my normal life. I breach the ‘stranger wall’ by crawling over to ask someone for help, or if they mind having company. I open myself up to the experience—however uncomfortable, bland, or blissful it may be. I take in my surroundings and spread my consciousness, and something truly unique happens; I feel like I’m a part of it all.
Intersubjectivity is a philosophical and psychological term to define how one’s subjective, identity-driven experience relates to another’s. It’s typically found in anthropological and social contexts describing shared common culture and things we agree upon. On a deeper scale, it can provide a pure definition of relationship, where and when it is that we see eye-to-eye, or rather as I want to venture: eye-into-eye.
I implore to the goose, “Come on, be my friend. I’m sad I’m traveling alone.”
The goose replies by sidestepping away. “You’re a strange and tall creature who seems to want something.”
The city’s energy fades like a weekday, and the light from the west is dimming golden into blue. I’m wearing sneakers without socks and have a belly full of bread.
Traveling isn’t comfortable, and branching into new territory can be risky, but it requires you to absorb information at a heightened intake. This newly expanded awareness leads you to observe a moment so deeply that you begin to merge with it. Merge with the glance of the waitress, the sip of glassy rosé, the wet-foot smell of a hostel, the way sun comes through the trees. When you’re open to the smells, the sounds, and how you feel in a situation, you view yourself from the outside and you see what all around you sees as well. This is intersubjectivity: relating to everything else to the point that you dissolve into and overlap realities. You find that feelings of discomfort can actually help seal in how real an experience can be.
The Third Nobel Truth of Buddhism states that a remedy to the inherent discomfort of life is a state of Nirvana or connectedness. Christos Yannaras, philosopher and author, writes, “We know God by cultivating a relationship, not by understanding a concept.” Connection is about living in a state ofrelationship where all comes into focus. This is my meditation. My practice as a yogi is to try to come back to this state of intersubjectivity over and over again, and do so on and off the mat.
I step off the plane into the humidity of a high noon. Fulton Street is full of color and swagger and fresh ripe mangos in rows. I’m home but I’m not the same. What does this feel like? What are they wearing and saying; what’s in that window?
Can you experience the same walk home freshly each time? Can you get out of your head and into your body and your environment, and touch it with your perception? Wherever you are, do you hear the birds? The sirens? Humanity’s breath and profanity? Yourself inside this moment? Whatever the experience is—don’t you want to be here for it? Within it?
Photography by Callie Ritter.