My trip to NYC was just wonderful, and I’m so so glad I can go anytime I want, again — we walked in the park for hours, we did a lot of stuff for Heaventree, we had dinner with my stepdaughter Anna, who is about to move to London (at Awash, my favorite Ethiopian restaurant which is also in our neighborhood luckily), and we went to a concert Saturday night in Riverside Park. The Clay Tennis Court Association presents a concert series every summer on the hillside near the tennis courts, and every summer the line-up is the same, rotating through all kinds of music. Last Saturday it was Efendi, a small ensemble that plays music from the Middle East (and they pull Greece into that zone). The band comprises a clarinet, an oud, an electric guitar, and percussion instruments, and the oud player also sings.
Every year they also bring in a gorgeous belly dancer, Dorit. Partway through the performance her students join her, and I’m telling you: it is mindblowingly gorgeous to watch them. They are mostly middle-aged and older (one woman was probably in her 80s), they are representative of NYC (a Chinese woman, a Vietnamese, a Ghanaian, an Israeli, and a variety of others), and their bodies are all sizes. And every single one of them dances like she is the most beautiful woman in the world . . . and so they are. It doesn’t matter how large their bellies might be, or how skinny, the women dance. In the last 20 minutes of the concert, the teacher asked the audience to stand up and she taught everyone how to dance, beginning with the most accessible moves — the hands, twisting and spiraling, and raising above heads. And as I looked around at the smiling audience, I could see that all of them felt beautiful, too. Honestly, this makes me cry every single year.
It was also glorious to see the sunset again, which I miss here at Heaventree. Even when I just drive away from my house, down to the post office, I get more of a vista (though still not sunsets; I’d have to drive up the mountain to see that, I guess). I do miss sunsets, so I’ll just have to soak them up every time I’m in the city. Driving to NYC, I felt such a pleasure dropping down, down, down, down, from the elevation of the Catskills (my elevation is only 1,330 feet), down to the Hudson River, and then further down, down, down to the sea level of NYC. I love anything that wakes up my awareness to living on this planet, to the planet-ness of my life. I probably won’t go back to the city until the last weekend of August, in part because we are going to be painting this weekend and next weekend preparing for the carpet installation the following Monday — plus, I want to be up here in this remote area for the Perseid meteor shower, which is supposed to be magnificent this year.
To the point of the post’s title: doing it even when it doesn’t come easy. When I changed my life a few years ago with mindfulness and yoga, it was mysteriously easy. Mindfulness slid me into more changes than I set out to make. Mindfulness brought me into so many different ways of living, and it also helped me lose a lot of weight. I started at 155, and at my lowest I was 126 (which everyone assures me is way too low for my 5’10” height). I definitely wanted to lose some weight, but that’s not where I started. I started from a place of hating all the chaos of my mind and attention, of hating feeling shattered and fragmented, from wanting stillness, and from deciding just to do one thing at a time. And the rest just slid into place. Yoga slid right in there, and with almost no exceptions (none I can recall), it was always a pleasure and easy to head toward the mat. It was always easy to stay present there.
It still isn’t easy, this go-round. It’s not. It’s not getting easier, either. I force myself to go unroll the mat. I force myself to queue up a class. I force myself to stay sitting there. I have to play tricks on myself to remain present, which mostly means putting my phone upstairs and turning off the bluetooth speaker downstairs that connects to my phone, so I don’t hear any notifications. Today is the 17th day, and it’s no easier than it was the first day. Doing one thing at a time is no easier, and it has not been easy at any moment. My mind is no quieter. For some reason I have hung onto an image from one of the Carlos Castaneda books — that the great Raven plucks out a spirit from the vast circle of them spinning around, flying in a chaos of noise. That image feels so much like my mind, still.
Eating well has gotten easier, at least. I’ve lost 7.5 pounds since I started, which means I also get to put away the sole larger pair of jeans I’d kept because they are now too big. That feels so great. My body is feeling better in terms of feeling it — the bulk hangs around my hips and stomach, and there being less bulk just feels better. My chest is going down again too, so my bras fit better and it’s easier to sleep. I feel like I’m slipping out of my terror body, the heavy one I race to when I feel under threat, so that also makes me feel like I must be feeling less threat. Drinking my green smoothie every morning is a little easier, although it’s less good than it was in Austin, when I had an abundance of frozen fresh peaches from HEB. They just aren’t available here, so it lacks that emerald shade of green and the slight tartness that the peaches added, but I’ll adjust to that.
But I persist. It is not easy yet. It’s still not easy. It’s still not quiet, and in fact it doesn’t feel ANY quieter, yet. But I believe it will come if I keep at it, and so I do.