My partner and I moved to New York City on January 1, 2016: a powerful collision of our metaphorical “new beginning” and a realized new beginning on the first of the New Year.
We came to NYC from Boston, where we had both done a lot of growing up and just growing. I’d been in Boston for five years; she’d been there for eight. But we both were ready for something new, and when she suggested New York City, I jumped at the chance.
It’s been just over four months of NYC living now, and I’m feeling it, spiritually. I’ve lived in other metros before—Boston, Minneapolis—but yo. I’m a country girl at heart. (I grew up way the fuck out in the Iowa countryside and went to school in a nearby town of approximately 1000 people.) I like what the city provides—accessibility, more culture, more options, explicitly LGBTQIA+ friendly spaces—but there’s a big part of me that yearns for nature.
And New York City is kind of famously disconnected from nature. (Not even talking about Central Park here. Let me tell you, hiking up in Inwood near the Bronx or in Prospect Park in Brooklyn is not the same as standing in the middle of a cornfield with a sunset exploding across the sky for miles in every direction.)
So… what’s a super-spiritual nature lover to do in New York City, when “nature” is framed by skyscrapers and you don’t have the money to get out of the city on a regular basis?
The answer: @@Your environment does not define your spiritual practice.@@
Does your environment affect your practice? Obvi. Trying to go outside barefoot to sink roots down in a city, or in an area where it’s always winter? LOL.
Build your practice around your environment—don’t limit your practice because of your environment.
With that, here are a few lessons New York City is teaching me (plus, a bonus lesson from Mecca of My Life Created!):
You don’t need quiet to meditate.
Boston did a lot to teach me about how my practice could not depend on my environment: whether because I was in a busy city or because the ever-constant snow meant that I couldn’t just walk outside barefoot and imagine roots growing from my feet or spine.
With a high needs, recently adopted pitbull at home, I don’t get many quiet moments to meditate, and when I’m at a coffeeshop, I want to be working. My longest period of uninterrupted time is on the subway.
So… I’m learning to meditate on the subway. (Again: build your practice into your environment.) Headphones in, eyes closed, even for just a minute. Learning to fall into myself and find center even when surrounded by dozens of people is a process, but an important one.
Be intentional about your time, and your timing.
This is especially pertinent for the whole subway meditation practice. @@Set yourself up for spiritual success.@@ Don’t try to cram a yoga class in between super-tight meetings if all you'll think about is your next meeting; if you don’t feel comfortable reading tarot publicly, don’t bring the cards to a coffeeshop or park expecting to be able to spiritually zen out.
An example, courtesy of subway meditation: this practice only works at certain times of day. I don’t try to meditate during rush hour, or any time the train is packed shoulder to shoulder. And I only do it when I have a long subway ride, when odds are good I won’t miss my stop. I also make sure to turn my phone off and put my headphones in anyway so as to maximize the odds of not being interrupted.
Seriously, let me repeat this: Set yourself up for success.
Take a few deep breaths every day.
Breath is literally our life force. Intentional breathing, and especially intentional deep breathing, have done a lot for helping me ground in my body, in my space. I honestly can’t remember ever breathing this intentionally anywhere else, but here in New York City, where it’s easy to be isolated—even from yourself—amidst the hustle and bustle, intentional breathing has proved pretty important.
Also: the Cue app works wonders here to remind me to actually do this.
This last tip comes from Mecca, a bomb-ass astrologer and HBIC at My Life Created. Mecca is a NYC native, and I asked her how she stayed spiritually grounded in the city. Her advice? @@Treat yourself well.@@
For me, living amidst the hustle and bustle of NYC means that staying spiritually grounded is a necessity, because the frenetic energy of this town can be a soul suck if I'm not careful. Spiritual grounding to me, means that I have to actively create my own sanctuary. And that can change from week to week depending on my needs at the moment. Sanctuary could be getting in good food with a good friend or two, getting in a good nap, spending some quiet time in the sunlight, near the river, or perusing my favorite home decor store (I. Live. For. Home decor. LOL). Basically, I try to treat myself well.
What do you do to stay grounded in your environment? How do you work with your environment to spiritually center? Let me know in the comments!
P.S. Want a 27-page self-care workbook? (Obvs you do.) Sign up for the Girlboss Woo email list, pick up your free copy, and recommit to your self-care practices today.
P.P.S. Follow Mecca on Twitter!