A yogi and the train or moving meditations

Its been almost two months now since I have started my now not so new position in Boston, a position that involves traveling 200 miles round trip via Amtrak and the Boston subway. One of the questions that I am constantly asked is “how is the commute?”; and surprisingly I must say that the commute is not bad at all. Generally when I give that answer people give me the raised eyebrow, after all traveling 200 miles a day for a job is not the norm in this part of the country. (My ole man hails from California where long distance commutes are not abnormal and even in my native Chicago a long commute is not unheard of)

However there aren’t a plethora of anti-racism organizations in the country much less in the state of Maine. The opportunity to lead such an organization was a once in a lifetime chance and I am not one to let a pesky detail like living two states away from the actual job get in my way.

Seriously though, after almost two months of riding the rails, I am struck by how absolutely calming the train can be. As an active, practicing yogi, my biggest challenge has been making time for the mat with this new schedule. To be honest, I am spending a lot less time on the mat doing what most people consider to be yoga but asana or poses are just one limb on the tree of yoga. Instead my practice has become more focused on pranayama or breath control. It turns out that focusing on my breath for long periods of time can produce the same calming effect in the body that an hour and a half long class can.  The breath can move energy just as effectively as poses can though my spine does miss the mat. It can also quiet the mind and in my case keep the anxiety gremlins at bay.

In a culture that thrives on constant movement and control, choosing to take the train goes against the grain since the perception is that I am giving up control by not being in my own vehicle. Yet the idea of control is an illusion since really our sense of control is mostly in our own heads. As I was reminded one evening when the train was delayed and in that second found myself raging over the train’s audacity to be off schedule when I wanted very much to be on schedule.  A fellow commuter reminded that had I been in a car at that moment, I would most likely be sitting in bumper to bumper traffic and not moving. Fair enough. At least I was able to walk around, stretch my legs and just be present.

Instead as the weeks have gone by and the nonstop barrage of winter storms have happened, I find myself looking forward to my train time. After all, how many of us as partners and parents are able to carve out four hours a day to ourselves, several days a week? Admittedly the train is not a day spa but it is a place to snooze, day dream, meditate, work and even play online. It seems now that I have specific time carved out for the empty moments which I previously used to steal and feel guilty about, I find that I am far more present and aware with the people who matter most to me.  It turns out that a yogi doesn’t always need a mat but the wise sage Patanjali did say that “The restraint of the modifications of the mind-stuff is yoga.”

PS: Many have asked me if we are leaving Maine, while we had hoped to move sooner rather than later, that is not in the cards at this time. Unless someone has a sweet affordable pad in Boston, otherwise we will be Mainers for a while longer with a goal of being gone before the girl child starts middle school. After a decade plus in Maine, Boston has provided us with serious sticker shock.

4 thoughts on “A yogi and the train or moving meditations”

  1. Girl, from all I’ve heard, Boston is FAR from being a haven for Black folk. Don’t put more value on that place than it’s worth.

  2. So happy I found your blog. I just read them all and feel like I am just a younger version of you. I am a black girl who since the age of six has been in predominantly white schools. I talk proper and experienced being made fun of in school for being different. Too black for the white people, and not black enough for the black people. I live in Texas, but I just got accepted into a program at UNE in Portland. I guess my question for you is…should I accept the offer? I have come a long way since high school in finding my voice and myself. I have low tolerance for nonsense and do not want to make the Portland news. I really do not want to experience anymore racism than I already have in life. If it were your daughter would you advise her to endure the four years in Maine and finish as Dr. BGIM or look at other options?

  3. I am jealous of your train time. Time all to yourself “with no one asking you to ‘do something” for them. Oops, did my perfect mom mask fall off?

  4. Nice post. I am hoping to make the discussion at Space next week. I’ll be commuting to Portland from Downeast – sadly, in my car. 🙂

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