I have always romanticized trains. Perhaps because of old movies. Someone was always being greeted at a train station with a warm smile and a strong, spinning embrace, or they were saying goodbye on a smoky platform with a passionate, lingering kiss. Or perhaps it’s because I’ve never had a daily train commute to lull me and dull me into the reality of trains. There’s just something about the slide of the whistle, the rhythm of the bell, and the sound of the wheels on the tracks. It gets me every time. Sigh.
The yoga studio where I teach is adjacent to a set of railroad tracks. It’s a freight line, so the train runs infrequently, although occasionally it will roll through during one of my classes. I consider it a yogic blessing.
This morning, as luck would have it, the train was running. Class had just begun. Everyone was sitting, legs crossed, with their eyes closed. I was talking about posture and breath. Sit up tall. Breathe slowly and deeply. Feel your heart lifting on the inhale. Feel your shoulders relaxing on the exhale.
I could hear the train coming. The whistle was getting louder and louder. Soon it would be too loud for me to speak over. Listen to all of those outside sounds, I said, like a symphony! I paused for a moment as the train passed by. Then it moved into the distance, the sound of the whistle growing quieter and quieter. Changing pitch. Becoming more wistful and more romantic.
Perhaps you can imagine that whatever was stressing you or worrying you before you got here is riding away right now on that train. If only for an hour while we practice.
I visualized all of my cares and woes, packed up in a steamer trunk and riding off in into the distance. And just like that we were in the moment. Present on our mats. All our past regrets and future worries rolling away. We moved and breathed and flowed and balanced and laughed and sweated.
About 40 minutes into class, I thought I heard the train again in the distance. Twice in one hour? That is an odd occurrence for this line, but the tracks are always there, so it can come at any time.
And it was indeed coming back! I heard it getting louder. I hope it’s not bringing back everything I sent away on it! I said, as I laughed.
But of course it was. Because it always does. It always comes back. First, the soft sound in the distance. Then the buildup, the rumbling. Then the sound so loud it can’t be spoken over. The loudest thing in my head. If the train stops I can remove that trunk and begin to rifle through it. Or I can leave it onboard. I can send it off again, as the sound begins to fade, to move into the distance for a while longer. I don’t have to deal with that baggage right now. I know it will come back again. The tracks are always there…
…Twice today I got to let go of all the noise in my head and let it ride off into the distance. The sound of it all bending and changing until finally it was gone. For a while.
Harper’s Ferry, WV