Art by Stephen Wiltshire
If you live or work in a big city, you’ll understand when I say that it can get lonely. Cities seem to have a life of their own—the constant hustle and bustle to which everyone is subjected. Sometimes it’s easy to feel lost in the masses; just another speck on the urban canvas. This can often promote negativity and the idea that your space is limited, your sense of being is limited, and that it’s a constant competition between you and everyone else. You may not feel that consciously, but it is there beneath the surface and it informs our actions. Ultimately, these feelings are just the fears of an insecure ego. I say this because the ego is insecure by nature no matter who you are. If not, it wouldn’t constantly feel the need for more space, more recognition, more respect, etc. The ego believes it is the self and indeed, it can be very convincing. But in reality the ego is just one facet of your being. It should act as a servant to your true self, which is pure consciousness. So how do we get in touch with the true self in the midst of city chaos?
- Take the space: If you find yourself on a cramped train, bus, or elevator instead of tensing up (which is a natural reaction), relax your body. Take a deep breath through your nose. Allow your legs, hips, stomach, shoulders and neck to release. Feel your spine lengthen and your head float upwards. Imagine you are surrounded by a bubble that is expanding outward. It’s ok that other people are in your bubble. It is a bubble of peace and good will. Let it bring you into the present moment. See how good it feels!
- Walking meditation: As you walk through the streets of your city focus on your footsteps. You may think that sounds preposterous but it can be liberating. Too often, we impatiently go from one engagement to the next focused on what’s to come, lost in egoic thought. Try this. Gently place your awareness on the act of walking. If it helps, start by labeling the steps ‘left’ and then ‘right.’ Eventually let even those words go. Feel how present you become. Notice the breath simultaneously.
- Physical activity: If you consistently work out, then you probably understand its benefit. If you don’t, I say to you, why not? Beside the health benefits, it can tremendously improve your sense of self. You do not have to go crazy with this. Even some simple stretching once or twice a day will do the job. We are physical beings. There is no way around that. Your body wants to be flexible and strong. If you’re someone who loathes the idea of working out but you’ve decided to give it a try, start easy. A great practice is to stretch before a morning meditation. Find what works for you; yoga, stretching, dancing, brisk walking. Just don’t neglect your body. When we place attention on the body, it will often bring us into the present.
- Get down with nature: But it’s all steel and concrete around me! Most cities, have designated pockets of nature commonly called parks. If you’ve never been to one of your city’s parks, you are missing out. Take the dog for a walk or just find a bench and sit for a few minutes. You can eat your lunch there or even get some exercise going and kill two birds with one stone. Our cities are full of great technological wonder, but nothing beats getting back to your roots. Feel the grass beneath your feet, listen to the sway of the trees and the birds calling, and breathe. You will feel invigorated and centered.
- Go to the theater: If you want to feel the moment in full swing and get in touch with your emotions, see some (good) live theater. Unlike most film, live theater is not simply escapism. It is introspective work. You as an audience member share the space and the moment with the performers. You are a part of the journey and as such may experience all sorts of wild thoughts and emotions. If it’s good, it will be cathartic and thought provoking. If you live in New York, I’d recommend Tally’s Folly. I just saw this piece and the performances are stellar.
Wishing you inner peace this tuesday.
By Terence Stone
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.