3 Lessons On Finding Peace From a Year In NYC

“In the midst of movement and chaos, keep stillness inside of you.” ~Deepak Chopra

I found my peace in New York City, where I spent a year as a consultant on a temporary work assignment.

It may seem counter-intuitive that living in a city targeted by terrorists, clogged with traffic, and punctuated by sirens and honking horns could instill a kind of tranquility unattainable in Minnesota, where I currently live. After all, Minnesota is home to over 10,000 lakes, comforting casseroles of tater tots and cheese, and generations of Scandinavians who make Minnesota “nice.”

So, what is it about the chaos and madness of New York City, as experienced in my year of living and working there, that helped me slow down, tame my neuroses, and rediscover a quiet place not present in my Minnesota life?

It turns out New York City is a pretty good teacher. It pushed me to my limits (and no, not just how long I’ll stay in a subway car with a puddle of piss) and taught me three big lessons along the way.

Lesson #1: Let go.

It seems simple, right? Who hasn’t received this advice at some point in her life? For me, letting go speaks to short-circuiting the wiring in my brain that causes me to spend far too much energy worrying about things that objectively don’t matter.

Back in Minnesota, I get hung up on things like people taking the parking spots in front of my house or the peeling paint on my neighbor’s windows or the landscaping crew that fires up when I step outside for my morning coffee.

I’m one of those people who adjusts the angling of picture frames and positioning of salt shakers and wipes the fingerprints off my phone screen with a persistent regularity. If I had lived in Victorian times, I certainly would have been treated for my “delicate sensibilities” and spent my days on a fainting couch or taking in the air on the Continent.

But living in my pre-war rented apartment on 23rd street in a building with over 900 apartments, I somehow managed to not care about a lot of things that likely would have triggered me back in Minnesota. For New York makes palpable the sense that I am part of something much larger than myself and my petty preoccupations. It puts my sense of my own importance into perspective.

My particular concern at a given moment is not more important than anyone else’s.

You don’t like sirens at 3am? Too bad—someone’s probably fallen down a flight of stairs or needs his stomach pumped.

You find it rude and annoying…

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