image of Highline via TheHighlane.org
You know the drill. Get off the Greyhound, Amtrak, Virgin America flight and touch the electric streets with one or both feet, get moving. Get running. From here to there, appointment to appointment, climb the inside of skyscrapers to the highest floor, take the subway underneath deep earth, emerge over bridges, be moving, be fast, be striving, but rarely be still.
Many of us New Yorkers have found meditation centers, yoga studios and our own personal practice as a way to shift the pace from fast to slow, the attention from external to internal. We've learned, through breath and awareness, yoga poses, good teachers and the teacher within how to find space and stillness inside, no matter what is happening outside. Even if the swirling dervish of the Island of Manhattan is rattling at your windows. You can find space, quiet and reflection inside.
That said, what if we can't get to the mat, the cushion, a local center and want to relax? Want, indeed, to preserve sanity on a most active NYC day? For while New York can fire you up it can, if you’re not careful, also burn you out.
I polled a few New York yoga teachers and comrades about their "secret sanity spots" in NYC, places to go to slow down and hear yourself think and feel before you're onto the next thing. Think of these as backyard vacation tips for body and soul.
1) The Hudson Piers (West Side Highway off W 12th): Out by the water there is space. Water and sky, the skyline itself, is calming. In fact, seeing that towering skyline from even a bit of a distance, from a spot out on a long pier, puts a lot in perspective. Sometimes you need to get out of the city, even if its just out on a pier in the water, to put it in its place. Yes, Manhattan should be put in its place on a regular basis.
2) Community Gardens: You know you have one. I won't list the tops here so they'll still be somewhat secret. But chances are your ‘hood has a garden with green stuff. Green stuff is calming. Check it out. Things grow in NYC!
3) The MET (1000 Fifth Avenue at 82nd St): The Metropolitan Museum is good for getting lost in. It's quiet in there. Getting lost in quiet is good for reflection. Plus, the beauty of the art itself is a salve. Stopping to notice the placement of paint strokes or pixels seems to slow the pace of Avenue-paced minds.
4) The Highline (529 W 20th St): It may be a bit planned and manicured compared with a true organic wilderness walking spot, but this greenery induced stretch high above the West Side Highway still does wonders for stilling the mind. Maybe it's the view of the Hudson River, or the way you feel closer to the clouds, or the way urban elements mix so fluidly with natural ones, but something about it draws us to escape, while still technically in the middle of it all. Even when there are others walking around you, it seems you can find space to yourself to breathe. And the way wildflowers grow over and around steel and wood make us feel the natural world prevails, even in Manhattan, USA.
5) The Cloisters (99 Margaret Corbin Drive, Fort Tryon Park ): If you feel you need to escape not only this space but this time, hop on the A train to 190th Street and visit the Cloisters. Poof! You’re in the medieval era. But a most peaceful medieval era. The extensive gardens and architecture will make you feel the A train was some kind of time shuttle. To really get in the spirit, turn off your smart phone and sign off Facebook for the afternoon.
The yoga teacher in me advises you could also bring your yoga mat or sit in meditation posture in one of these places and really feel the transformation. For while I’m a firm believer in the power of place and collective energy it is also true that the State of Peace is a territory within.