A Fledgeling Yogi in Traffic

Traffic JamIt was cold, and more than once did a drop of sleet land on my hand or cheek as if the sky was to threaten me with the worst weather to be outside in, period.

I’m not sure what it’s like anywhere else, but cold weather does something funky to people in the Midwest. Out here in the country, it means more and more people seem to button up their houses tighter; they draw the curtains and turn on the lamps and let the garden go. The odor of charcoal briquettes is exchanged for that of burning cedar, and the icy kiss of wind on one’s cheek brings with it the hiss of dried leaves shivering in the chill.

Living in the city for the past few years, I forgot just how alone one can feel out in the country. We cover ourselves more and more (three layers!), so we become…not numb, but certainly isolated—every square inch of exposed skin becomes vulnerable to the unpleasant, chilly winds.


I think I need to step up my meditation game. Sure, I get in my five minutes at the start and end of the day, but today on the bike felt like a straight up war against my monkey mind. I’d find myself imagining the choices I’d make in the Mass Effect trilogy if Shepard was an INTP: would he save Ashley, or fall in love with her then be struck with remorse as the nuke goes off on Virmire? Would he run to Miranda in Game 2, or flirt around with Jack until he discovered something deeper was going on? Would he save Maelon and the data? Would he-wait! I’m supposed to be focusing!

The songs of starlings.
The pitch of car engines as they go by.
That unmistakable feeling of chill.

But would an INTP kill the Rachni Queen? No, but an INTJ would, because…

So, meditation hadn’t been going well. I thought.

Later, I’m on the way home from my niece’s birthday. Construction on the highway has slowed traffic to stop and crawl. It’s dark hours before it has any business being so—not the navy and gold of sunset, but the tuxedo black of Deep Night, broken by the deep red of brake lights, the overhead glow of street lamps and the pale flood from the businesses not yet shut for the night. The sleet made like sticky water on every surface, refracting and multiplying this visual noise to kaleidoscopic levels. The feel of the truck’s heat made my cheeks feel tanned, like worn leather. And when I looked to the side, I saw curtains of steam from a Seagrams plant roll through the uncovered catwalks and old boilers, its municipal lamps worn by decades to the dull color of molten gold or neglected teeth.

Lowering the window, I recognized just how crisp the air felt, not being run through a filter and heated. From the passenger seat, I could see the rows of people on cell phones and CBs.

Sitting in traffic, I’ve decided, is the loneliest place to be in this country. Because all of us were within stones’ throw of one another and connected to others by some virtual machination, yet…there was still something else going on, a feeling of entrapment. And so I went back to my training.

I am breathing in.
I am breathing out.
I am breathing in.
I am breathing out.

Being a yogi, it occurred to me…isn’t really about being special. It doesn’t make us innately better people. Sure, some yogis go on to put their legs behind their ears and make amazing pictures. Some yogis say fascinating things and think fascinating thoughts. But deep down, we’re people. And if you ever want to feel what being people is like, put yourself in danger of feeling like a number.

People are who fight for parking on Black Friday.
People are who put your groceries in bags.
People are who wait in traffic during rush hour.
People are who ask for change on the corner when it’s cold outside.
People are who keep the lights on in those giant towers with the cubicles, because they’re still at work.

I once thought being a yogi was about being special. I thought being a yogi was about standing on one’s head or putting your leg out to there. I thought yoga was about unraveling the truths of the universe. Now, I think it’s the opposite. Being a yogi…is being a part of a people, and seeing how one is a part of them.

Right now, it’s people who most need yoga.

And right now, there’s a lot of people out there.


This week, may you take a moment to relish the silence of the changing seasons. May you receive a kiss from the wind. And may you feel, if just for a moment, like a people.


Photo: ceiling/Flickr