As a yoga instructor, I love to help students find their edge. As a human being, I’m still learning to find my own.
It was Thanksgiving morning, and my sense of adventure seemed to go down with my omelet. Like a wet blanket on a campfire, the food in my stomach slowly blunted my hunger for novelty. I longed for my bed, and I loathed the 6 hour stretch of highway that separated us.
To be clear, I had no regrets. Sedona was a magical place. An adobo ski town trapped in the desert, surrounded by towering canyon cliffs and buttes of unconscionable height and breadth. In the afternoon sun, shades of orange and red striped the cliffs and rock formations like a zebra’s hide. As the sun fell below the horizon, moonlight slowly painted the formations a deep, majestic purple. It was 50 degrees during the afternoons we spent there, but the sun had a way of enveloping your body in just enough warmth to make a t-shirt comfortable.
“Fine,” Alanna said from across the table. “We can go to boring old Phoenix.”
She lowered her chin and peered up at me through raised eyebrows, her lips slowly forming a smile. I felt my eyes soften, and a smile spread across my face.
“Okay,” I said, rising to the challenge. “We’ll go to the Grand Canyon.”
Mid-sentence, my inner Virgo began to race.
The South Rim of the Grand Canyon is about 2 and a half hours north of Sedona, and over 7 hours east of Los Angeles. I just added 4 hours to our trip home. We won’t get home until 2am, if we’re lucky. Why did I do this? What are we going to do for dinner? Do my tires need air?
I took a breath and tried to calm my mind. I assured myself that Alanna was right: We were too close to go home without seeing one of the most breathtaking wonders of the natural world.
We left Sedona at 2pm, heading north on Arizona State Route 89A. The plan was to make it to the Grand Canyon by sunset, find a good seat, and eat cold sweet potatoes as we stared into the vast emptiness of the mile-deep gorge. Despite the adventure ahead, I felt as though I were conned into making a reckless decision, a victim of Alanna’s disarming charm. After all, I had responsibilities in Los Angeles; yoga classes to structure, workshops to promote, and a holiday fundraiser to coordinate.
My mind’s eye burned red as we hit the road, and I berated myself for not closing out those responsibilities weeks earlier. I heard myself think You’re never on top of your shit, and quickly recognized my Negative Self Talk trying to gain toxic momentum. I took a breath, cracked the windows, and played Closer to the Sun on the stereo.
The road slithered alongside Oak Creek, through the ravine and toward Slide Rock State Park. We descended into a hypnotic tunnel of looming pines, and I felt a sense of calm wash over my body as the scattered trees passed the car, row by row. I counted them as they swept by, inhaling for one, two, three, four… Then, allowing my breath to effortlessly fall.
Looking over, I saw Alanna’s hair dance in the cool canyon air. Her tranquility filled the inside of the car, and my feelings of anxiety gently gave way to warm and easy contentedness.
As I breathed into the drive, I stole glances through the pines and noticed the walls of the canyon stretching skyward, beaming in the afternoon sun. The world beyond the car was eerily vast yet alive. Thriving with a vitality that comes only from surviving millions of years of ice, fire, and floods, an incomprehensibly long and recurring cycle of life, death, and rebirth known only to Pachamama, Mother Earth.
We made it to the Grand Canyon just in time for sunset.