Practicing awareness and silence.. in America?!

New York City is awesome for many reasons, but it's not exactly known for being a calm and tranquil place to live, work and play.  As I found great peace and serenity in my life while practicing yoga at Pure Yoga in Shanghai, I was eager to get back to the mat, specifically at Pure Yoga in NYC.

After a month though, I've noticed some differences between practicing yoga in Asia vs. America. 

In Shanghai, the entire studio space was always completely silent.  In the lounge, people sipped their tea and relaxed with their eyes closed and in silence.  In the locker room, everyone kept to themselves and moved quietly through the space.  In the classroom, people entered quietly and assumed savasana or another restorative asana and kept their eyes closed until the teacher walked in quietly (while gently closing the door behind them).  The teachers gave many hands-on corrections throughout class.  They expressed genuine care and appreciation for their students.  At the end of each class, the teacher always asked the students to give a silent thanks to our neighbors for the energy that they brought to the space.  We always concluded with a silent "Namaste".  

In NYC, the atmosphere is the complete opposite.  Everyone is always chatting loudly, from the people working the front desk, to the people hanging around outside the classrooms waiting for classes to start.  There is no complimentary tea, and no one lays down with their eyes closed in the lounge space (except yours truly when I didn't know better).  The locker room is reminiscent of one I left behind in high school, as the women chat loudly amongst each other and say things like, "Oh my Gawd, I haven't seen you in SO Lawng!" and gossip about so-and-so and their husbands/children/friends, etc. In the classroom, the chatter continues as people talk amongst each other and compare notes about which teachers "suck" and which teachers are "the best".  The maintenance staff have barged into a class already in session to deliver a cart full of yoga blocks, while we were mid-"OM".  During class, students often do their own sequences of movement and ignore the teacher's lead.  Some even go so far as to take selfies or ask friends to take their pictures mid-pose! I've also found some teachers to be stand-up comedians in training.  They like to make small banter and tell witty (to them) jokes.  They almost never give hands-on corrections and predominantly rely on verbal cues (perhaps speaks to the litigious nature of American society?). At the end of class, the teacher usually tells the class about a product, Kickstarter, workshop or retreat that they've launched and request our monetary support.  After "Namaste", the students often applaud. Yes, APPLAUD. Like Americans do when an airplane lands safely.  The experience has struck me as being entirely too noisy and inauthentic.

So is it impossible to practice awareness and silence here in America?  Is it just not our "thing"? 
I realize that I'm hyper aware of what's happening around me, because I can actually understand the local language for once.  But I literally had to put my fingers in my ears the other day because I found the banter of those around me to be so irritating.  One of the great pillars of yoga and meditation is the detachment from ego.  I'm finding this really hard to practice when students around me are posing for Instagram shots and teachers are self-promoting their products in class. The great irony is, I'm trying so desperately to reconnect with my AMAZING teacher from Shanghai, and he's no where to be found on social media (I'm talking to you, Adam Armstrong).  

Maybe you don't practice yoga or meditation, but how many minutes of your day are devoted to silence?  And true silence, not sitting quietly thinking of what you're going to say when the person you're conversing with finally stops talking; not sitting quietly thinking of the million things you have to accomplish in just a few hours of the day.  If you find yourself to be a chatterbox, can you try to add three minutes of pure silence to your schedule everyday?  

Growing up, I was extremely talkative in class and a real eager-beaver for those participation points. But the best thing I did for myself, in order to mature as an adult and compassionate human being, was to move overseas and learn how to be quiet.  I learned how to be aware of the space I was in, read the body language and non-verbal cues of the people around me, and yet be at peace with my inability to communicate.  I didn't have to have all of the answers and I didn't have to always express my opinions, frustrations or beliefs.  I could just be.  

I hope you find inspiration and peace in the solace of silence.

P.S. Namaste! ;)

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