City Living: Finding Stillness Beneath the Maelstrom


Photo by Kate Moran

By guest-writer Kate Moran

Sunday, 3/10/13
(Recorded in real time and then transcribed)

I’ve been going about it all the wrong way. I’ve been thinking about what to write for days. I wanted it to be thoughtful, important, and impactful –something worth reading. I’ve been thinking about emotions and events and how we as humans can continue living in the fullest, most fulfilling way. And needless to say, I’ve been struggling to make the words come. I now see I’ve been going about it all wrong.

The extent of my knowledge about Buddhism is an Eckhart Tolle book and a children’s hardcover beautifully-illustrated book called, “Zen Shorts,” that I used to read the kids I babysat. In the book, Stillwater the panda tells wonderful fables that come to life with the help of deft watercolor and ink brushstrokes. One is about two monks who are on a long journey and pass a river, flooded from the storm the night before. A princess riding on a caravan, carried by attendants, is stuck across the river, for they cannot cross the high waters without getting her or her many silk packages wet. As she complains loudly, the elder monk suddenly picks her up, transports her across the river and sets her down. She does not say anything to the monk. He continues on his way with his walking partner. After many hours of travel in silence, the younger monk finally exclaims, “Why did you help that princess? She was so rude and didn’t even say thank you! The nerve of her – I can’t believe her behavior!” (I’m paraphrasing, of course) To which the elder monk replied, “I set down that princess hours ago, why are you still carrying her?”

It’s hard not to carry things in our life. It’s hard not to pass judgment on everything that happens to us. We carry our work and careers, our sex partners and relationships, our family, our friends, the pressure, the disappointment. We say, “This is good, That was bad, This sucks.”

I’ve been pondering this notion of ‘staying present‘ a lot lately. It’s very difficult to turn the narrative off in my head, no matter how many different exercises I try. It seems I’m always overthinking things, naming things, labeling things; thinking about yesterday, tomorrow, next week. What I didn’t do. But the times I feel most present are when I’m exploring a new environment, especially in nature. So naturally, I live in New York City.

I’ve been living here for almost 8 years and lately I’ve felt the need to move on. I’ve felt unhappy here. The city has finally proved to be too much for the girl. But today, I decided to pull myself up out of bed, (where I had spent pretty much the whole day) and take my foster dog for a walk. I live in northern Manhattan across the street from Fort Tryon Park. I’ve been to the dog run many times before, but I’ve never ventured past it. I love this park. It’s big. The barely maintained wilderness, jagged cliffs, and swooping broken paths swallow you up whole. You can easily get lost in it. If you climb up high enough, past the steep, broken stone steps, you can really feel above it all.

So today, I decided to walk past the dog run and follow the path. Without much thought, I chose to go right, through a tunnel, up a grand stone staircase. I found myself next to a quaint stone cottage-sized restaurant covered in ivy, and further down the path, a beautiful garden and high pavilion. Here I am. The pavilion overlooks the Hudson River, Jersey, and the George Washington Bridge. All the lights are sparkling. It is dusk and the sun is setting behind the ink-black branches of the trees. Planes that look like little fireflies are taking off from Newark airport. Cars are rushing by the highway below and blipping across the bridge. There is movement everywhere, but up here, it is still. It is beautiful. I think that is the one adjective with which I am always happy to pass judgment. Nature is beautiful. We are blessed to live in a world like this.

Being up here above it all is so peaceful, breathtaking. And for the first time in months, I feel like I can set down all of the things I am carrying. I start to acknowledge everything that I am feeling and sensing, but without judgment this time. My ears are cold. My nose is running. The clouds are long, thin, but puffy. There are sirens in the distance. The trees all are facing out, stretching their spindly black branches as if to hug New Jersey. It wasn’t that I was approaching writing wrongly, it’s that it just wasn’t time yet. I know this is what I need to write about now. Up on this terrace: me, my dog, the sky, the earth, and the water below. That’s all there is. That’s all that matters at this moment. I feel light and invigorated. Calm. I will come back again.

It’s important to take a look at all that surrounds us. To really stop, explore, look, stare for a while. Inhale, exhale – as they say – but maybe next time, keep my eyes open. Take it all in.

By Kate Moran

Kate is a Jill of All Trades based in NYC, with extensive experience in casting, talent representation, producing, directing, and writing, and sketch comedy. Kate is the former artistic director and founder of the Broken Glass theater company and current producer for Let’s Have a Kiki! comedy variety show with Jessica Rionero at the PIT. Past credits include INFERNO (writer/director), ISO: A HISTORY (writer/producer). She’s currently in pre-production for her first short film, Are You Afraid of the 90s?, set to shoot in early Fall 2013. She really likes her electric blanket, Netflix, hot sauce, puns and double entendre.

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Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.

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