The seeds of a beautiful experience that took place in the middle of New York rush hour, crowded down in the belly of hot Grand Central Station, were planted over a year ago with these words shared on Twitter:
“Today let your breath be your soundtrack, smile and breathe in every pose.”
Putting those words into action has grown easier over time. For over a year I’ve tried. It’s worked for a few minutes or hours but then I slip back into the old habits of stress. Still, every time I’ve done it – deep breathing, seeing each challenging moment as a tough but temporary posture to move through in peace – I’ve fallen in love with the whole idea a little bit more so it’s stuck. I’ve kept at it.
So I was deep in the mess that is Grand Central Station at peak rush hour in the heat of summer. The subways that rolled through were packed, the platform for the 6 train packed, the stairs leading up and down jammed as were all the areas upstairs spilling out onto loud, crowded sidewalks and streets jammed with traffic.
All this awareness of being crowded into that space hit me and I waited for the panic. It didn’t materialize. Instead I felt waves of something unexpected.
I looked at each face, exhausted, frustrated, angry, some just trying to hold it together, and felt the brush of sweaty arms and the heat off tired backs bumping me and three words rose in me with each push and look –
“I am that.” “I am that.”
I didn’t see strangers I saw people desperate to just get home or to wherever they were going to enjoy the rest of the day with kids, friends, pets, air conditioning, some fresh air. The one woman who shoved her way through the crowd cursing everyone as she passed didn’t seem angry to me as she would have before – instead I could hear fear in her voice. And that’s when it started, I felt connected to everyone around me in spirit. I felt love. The word “Namaste” (“I am that”) made sense to me for the first time.
It amazed me. I kept testing it – looking around the subway platform for anyone I would have usually judged as annoying, obnoxious, stuck up, ridiculous whatever. It didn’t work. I saw people and I felt peace and love toward each one. If you are rolling your eyes right now that’s okay because on that day, between waves of love, I was thinking, “Really? This can’t be happening.”
I had a short ride to my destination (25 blocks) so I decided to just walk the distance instead of waiting to work my way into the next packed subway. I popped in my ear buds, turned up some samba and bossa nova and walked along Fifth Avenue toward 59th and Central Park South to enter the park and cross toward the Upper West Side.
Along the way I had tens of thousands of chances to fall out of love with people. Waves of them - of us - covered every city street and we were beautiful that night.