Tuesday, October 15, 2013

LIVE from New York!

Vol. III, No. 1

At Beaufort Books, preparing for the 10/21 launch
It was 1996, winter, and I was in Madrid, Spain, on my first overseas trip. By way of welcoming the new students to the study abroad program, Flint addressed us all in Spanish. I had to concentrate hard on what he was saying. I'd been studying Spanish for about eight years, but I'd never been spoken to at length in any language other than English. But then Flint said something and I understood immediately, and I never forgot it:

"Welcome to your new country. From this point on, you will never again have a home. You will fall in love with little pieces of each place you visit, never feeling quite settled and never again knowing 'home' as home."

And so it was this past weekend, arriving "home" to New York, to the East Village of Manhattan. Obviously, I desperately miss my little girl and my guy. Without them, I feel like a part of me has been amputated. But there's something else. And the something else is making me feel like I'm peering into a window of what my life was, before I chose to pursue 'our' dream instead of 'my' dream. It's lonely, what I'm witnessing, my old single-minded pursuit.

So let me tell you about the coconut stand.

The first thing I did when I arrived in New York, after gawking at a whole new level of shoe fashion (thigh-high leather stilettos paired with red nylon short-shorts in rather bracing October weather), was attend a yoga class. Yoga and meditation are my methods of cutting the noise out of organized religion, of just being quiet and listening. Given all that's about to go down in the next week with the book launch, I knew yoga was where I needed to be.

Jet-lagged, I arrived to a 95-minute class not at all prepared for what was about to happen.

"We'll begin by meditating," Austin at Jivamukti instructed. "But," he added to our tiny Sunday-morning class of just four, "you will sit facing the person next to you." We did as we were told, the four of us, gazing into someone else's eyes as we meditated. My palms were sweating and I struggled with the discomfort, but Austin knew that would happen. He said so. And then he pushed us further.

"Now," Austin said, "tell the person you're meditating with that you love them."

So, to a man I've never met and whose name I can't remember, I said, "I love you." Austin's point, which has stuck with me in these first few days back in New York, is that it is awfully difficult, but shouldn't be, to find compassion and camaraderie in an urban setting.

The next morning, I returned to Jivamukti for another class. With that kind of backdrop, I knew I had to. And that's when I learned about the coconut stand.

This time, the teacher was Mimi Chen, a friend and someone whose classes I've sought out for the way she manages to teach profound concepts on an attainable level. Recently, Mimi had spent time on a retreat in India. She was focused, she explained, on her yoga practice and her meditation and it seems her mentor picked up on just that. Her mentor was an Indian Sanskrit teacher named Lakshmish and he often warned her, "Don't go to the coconut stand!" In fact, he didn't just warn her, but he reminded her, constantly, that she shouldn't go to the coconut stand. Even when he knew she hadn't been to the coconut stand, because Mimi doesn't actually like coconuts.

According to Lakshmish, the coconut stand was where all the visitors hung out, where everyone got their social groove on, and forgot about the real reason they'd come to India. Smack in the middle of a lesson, Lakshmish would ask Mimi once again, "You didn't go to the coconut stand, did you?" She hadn't, Mimi told him again and again, and she wouldn't either. Mimi was focused.

Lakshmish's point was made to Mimi in India. Mimi's point was made to me in class yesterday.

Right now, here in my supposed 'home' in New York, I am feeling oddly far from my comfort zone. On Monday, my book is being published. I have given up a promising banking career to take this leap into the unknown, and Monday will be the test of whether or not I can stand up in front of all of you at my book launch and tell you why this story was worth telling.

And one thing's for sure now: I won't be spending very much time at the coconut stand.

Live from Mongolia will be released on Monday, October 21st! Get your advance copy on Amazon.com for 40% off sticker price, or come to the launch to buy it and I'll sign your copy for you. Good luck with your dream, whatever that dream may be. 

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