In Every Step

Essay

May 13 2020

Gold Tape

In which I fret over my commute to the yoga mat, confront consumerist habits, and embody wisdom from Aerosmith and Ralph Waldo Emerson.


Dear Reader,

In December, I took up a restorative yoga practice at a lovely studio down the road.

Walking home from the class, I would feel all cosy and calm, ready to drift off to sleep. But even in this state I searched for a reason to stop by one of the few shops that were open at this time of night. Supermarkets, pretty much. I could be useful, pick up an ingredient we need! Or I could treat myself to a magazine – or chocolate! Or perhaps a super healthy box of coconut water – mm hydration!

Then I would catch myself: What was I doing? I was on this peaceful walk, with the comforting blanket of the night sky overhead. Entering a shop would mean straining my eyes under fluorescent lights. It would mean welcoming that awful feeling of blinking myself awake to a dry throat after a poor night’s sleep. Even so, I foraged in my brain for an excuse to go shopping. The consumerist habit grappled, grumbled with my desire to simply be present.

Raised on Aerosmith and Ralph Waldo Emerson, I’m all about the journey. 

‘Life’s a journey, not a destination’: so goes the Aerosmith song, so goes the famous Emerson saying. I take comfort in this quotation as a Bostonian artist, myself, somewhere between philosophy and rock and roll.

So on I journeyed. Every step past every door of every shop was a step towards rewriting this habit, I said in my head, It’s a journey it’s a journey it’s a journey. I envisioned the future. I’d keep walking home from yoga class, and over weeks, months perhaps, I would slowly dim my desire to enter the supermarkets. Of course, this is not what happened. All of a sudden, I have zero desire to enter any supermarket. So that’s something.

I’ve built a corner of the bedroom into a yoga studio, because I have to.

This solution was born from limitations, but I’m thinking hey, I should have done that all along. Now I can climb straight into bed after class, because I’m right there, in my pajamas even. But a new struggle has emerged. Without the buffer of arriving 15 minutes early, as per standard, what surrounds my yoga practice is not space, but scramble.

New plan. I make myself arrive early. I sit cross-legged on my folded blankets, and close my eyes. But then I have to open them again to retrieve the zoom link and make sure my audio is connected. Here there are new obstacles: the urge to check my emails, to complete a task, to be online, to shop online. I’m tempted to rearrange my bedroom in a way that I’m never tempted to reorganise someone’s yoga studio.

In 2007, Haruki Murakami wrote:

‘A lot of runners now use iPods, but I prefer the MD player I’m used to. It’s a little bigger than an iPod and can’t hold nearly as much data, but it works for me. At this point I don’t want to mix music and computers.’

Well. I am mixing not only music and computers, but life and computers. Wellness and computers. I can’t really take away the computer. But I can strengthen my willpower.

I’ve been walking in the hills. 

These hills were the dealbreaker for moving here. They’re just around the corner, but I hardly ever went. At the start of the year I set the intention to go at least once per season. Now I go every. day. I just walk. hey, I should have done that all along too.

I’ve been going outside FOR EXERCISE ONLY, as the government guidelines entail. But walking in the woods has benefits beyond moving my muscles. Outside, I integrate my body with my whole self. Nature combines it all, puts things in perspective. I’m a tiny human in these hills, adjusting, a little at a time, listening and learning. I unwind my rigid habit-keeping from my intuition, and begin to feel, to heal.

Want to hear something Amazing? 

Emerson didn’t actually say ‘life’s a journey, not a destination.’ Nope. I just found out that we don’t have written evidence of that. What he really wrote was this:

‘To finish the moment, to find the journey’s end in every step of the road, to live the greatest number of good hours, is wisdom.’

So he’s kind of saying the opposite: if we live wisely, we should consider every step in the journey to be a destination. This is even better! My destination is not over there, a journey’s distance away. My destination is in this step, and the next, and the one after that too.

I’m already here. Mastery is not the destination. The journey is the destination. Every step past every shop was not only progress, but its own ending.

Listening back to the Aerosmith song, I think Steven Tyler is saying a similar thing. The song is about recovery, growth, and the noise along the way. A few lines after ‘life’s a journey, not a destination’, it goes: ‘but I just couldn’t listen to all that righteous talk’. Maybe the line is about the exhaustion, weariness of those telling us how to be: motivational misquotes included. I kept the right ones out and let the wrong ones in. 

I’ll make a million journeys in a day, take a new favourite line from the song, and with a blink of an eye, I finally see the light.

Until the Next Chapter,

Xandra

P.S. Meanwhile, from isolation, Steven Tyler is tagging his Instagram posts #DONTWALKTHISWAY. 😂

P.P.S. I would love to hear your story too. Please write back, on PatreonInstagram, or email.

P.P.P.S. My favourite yoga teachers are Kayla Kurin, Demelza Feltham, and Mary Lofgren. I’ve had the pleasure of practicing with each of them in person. They all live in different countries, and because of the lockdown, I get to visit them virtually.

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