One thing I didn’t mention in my Paris round-up post is that I had a moment when we were at the Sacre-Coeur. It started when we climbed the dome at the top of the cathedral. It’s a long hike of 300 steps in a tiny, narrow chamber. I don’t do well in confined spaces and there was no way to see how much further you had to go. There were several moments during the climb when I had to pause, tears in my eyes, and tell Andrew I didn’t think I could make it to the top. The thing is though that once you’re in the tiny, narrow staircase, you pretty much have to finish — the exit goes the other way. Thankfully, I made it to the top, and this is what I was rewarded with:
The view of the city from the top is absolutely astounding. I was so glad I’d made it up there.
We finished our tour of the Sacre-Coeur, and to be honest, I was still reeling from the panic I’d felt climbing up to the top. As we wandered through the cathedral, I saw people praying and lighting candles. The stations of the cross were hung up in honor of the approaching Easter holiday. There was so much history and emotion in the building, and as we wandered, the sound of a choir singing hymns in French echoed off the walls.
I’ve written before about my sadness over my faith and as I looked around at all of the symbols of the faith that used to be mine, I started to cry. I felt so alone and separate from this life I used to know. I watched people praying and lighting candles for their prayers and I missed feeling that I had an outlet to do so.
When I spilled out of the cathedral, Andrew let me have a minute alone, looking out over the hordes of people sitting and hanging out in the Montmartre neighborhood. And then I heard it: a street musician playing “Let It Be” by the Beatles, a song so significant to me that I have “Let It Be” tattooed on my arm.
Then I really lost it.
All the sadness I’d felt about that part of my life came flooding out. I felt silly and couldn’t put words to my emotions, but I leaned against a railing and sobbed. The street musician approached me, trying to engage, and I just couldn’t. Andrew finally put some money in his case so that he would leave me be.
I don’t know how to explain what happened there, other than for the first time in a few years, I felt something profound in that area of my heart and spirit. I thought I didn’t feel those things anymore, yet here I was, on the trip of a lifetime in the most beautiful church I’d ever seen, bawling.
At first, I took it as a sign that I absolutely should find a church the minute we got home. But as I researched and sought out a place that aligned with my beliefs and thoughts, I came up empty handed, as I have for so long. I shelved the idea and chalked it up to a silly overly emotional moment on a trip where I was tired and overwhelmed.
Then I went to yoga.
Yoga has opened up that spiritual space in my life again. Yes, my body is changing and I get a workout unlike anything I’ve ever experienced every single time I go, but there’s a bigger thing that keeps me going to my mat. There is absolutely zero religious talk, but the lessons are similar to what I felt at church. People talk about kindness to self and others. They discuss meeting people where they’re at, and the practice of gratitude. I have cried on my mat the way I used to when a church service moved me, and I have come out of the studio feeling peace and joy. I have found patience in situations where I typically have none, and I have felt more serene and content as a result of my practice.
The 75 minutes I spend on my mat — both the physical practice and the messages my teachers share — give me a peace that I haven’t felt for years. It has become my place to go and let go of the things I’m worried about because it’s 75 minutes of quiet and peaceful meditation, with myself. The group I have met with each Thursday for the 40 Day Transformation is kind, supportive and positive, and I have so missed having a community of people I feel that I connect with. And each time I practice, I walk out feeling a little bit better about my life and myself.
When the people in my life have asked me what drove me to sign up for this 40 Day Transformation, I’m always honest: to lose weight. That’s the truth. I didn’t go in seeking anything other than a workout.
I’ve lost some pounds, but what I’ve found is the thing that’s truly amazing.