Relaxing in the Rat Race
Living in New York City can sometimes feel like running a race that never ends. With obligation after obligation, there’s always somewhere to go, something to do or someone to meet. The harried New Yorker may be a stereotype, but there’s certainly truth to that characteristic as well. We schedule ourselves mercilessly, but what about scheduling time for ourselves? Making time to sit, quietly, and reconnect, is every bit as important as running to that next meeting. In fact, scheduling time to just sit can be one of the most important things we do all day.
But where, you might ask, is a good space to sit? Where can one be in the city, yet escape the madness of the city? In actuality, places to relax, be at peace, recoup and rebound, are everywhere. Sometimes, we’re so busy, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s right in front of us. New York has great refuges, and listed below are five that offer immediate calm in the midst of the city.
Central Park is referred to as New York City’s backyard. Indeed, there’s something for everyone here. Whether it’s rollerblading, cycling, jogging or playing softball, Central Park has it covered. There is even a lawn bowling court in the park! But for mindful ease of being, nothing can quiet the mind as much as slowly rowing a boat in the middle of the lake in Central Park. For just $15 an hour, you can row yourself to the center of the lake, kick back, relax, and follow the rhythm of the breath to your heart’s content. In the Spring and summer, there are any number of exotic birds that call central park home, and you can see many of them by rowing along the lakes outer, quieter edges. Quietly pull up alongside a deserted section of the lake, look up in the trees. Screech owls, woodpecker, green herons and more make their home in the park.
New York Botanical Garden
The New York Botanical Garden is a sanctuary in its own right. Established 1891, the garden contains old-growth forest. Amazingly, this forest, which was never logged, has many different tree types, including oaks, American beeches, cherry, birch, tulip and white ash trees. Some of the trees here are more than two hundred years old. It’s a great place to sit, breathe, and focus on nothing but your breath. What a wonderful break, right in the Bronx. Even better, grounds admission is free all day on Wednesday to all New York City and from 9a-10a on Saturdays. With prices like that, it’s the place to be!
Staten Island Ferry
While not a three hour tour, the Staten Island Ferry provides a bit of that off-island feel without breaking the bank, or the day. In fact, the Ferry is completely free and you only have to travel to the southernmost tip of Manhattan to ride it. A thirty minute ride in each direction, the ferry provides a break from the city. Looking out at the water’s horizon, smelling a hint of what one could pretend is the sea air, you get a feeling of escape from ‘the bait of the world.’ Looking into the water, i’ve been mesmerized by the things I’ve seen. Not just the styrofoam cups and beer can, but also the myriad jellyfish, lazily floating by. Life abounds in New York City, and not just human life.
Reading Room, New York Public Library
Recently reopened after two years, the New York Public Library Reading Room was built in 1911. More than 100 years old, the room presents a 33 foot mural on the ceiling and access to millions of research books. Aside from reading, however, the room provides is something of an oasis in the middle of the city. In midtown, at 42nd and Fifth Avenue, quiet space is hard to find. The Reading Room provides much calm is a sea of activity. New York’s citizenry has used the room for self-improvement since the early years of the depression. But self-improvement doesn’t only follow intellectual pursuits. Slip into one of the many seats, close your eyes, and breathe in the surrounding calm. After twenty minutes, you’ll be ready to go outside to the hustle of the street with a more mindful state of being.
Prospect Park, Brooklyn
Often referred to as a more clear vision of Frederick Law Olmstead’s vision than Central Park, Prospect Park is a 585 acre sylvan. With a boathouse, lake, and the Long Meadow, a favorite among picnickers, Prospect Park is also referred to as ‘the people’s park.’ While Central Park is often jammed with tourists, especially in the summer months, Prospect Park more often sports a more local crowd. Sitting in the middle of the Long Meadow, one can feel transported out of the city entirely. “Breathing in, I calm body and mind. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment I know this is the only moment.”