Everywhere across whatever sorrows of which our life is woven, some radiant joy will gaily flash past.” —   Nikolai Gogol


There is a time in the late morning when the crowd of commuters on the Istanbul Metro is thin enough that I can actually see the row of passengers lined up on the bench facing me. This place is home to Turkish culture, where eating good food is everything. Thus, the crowd may have been thin, but the people themselves, not so thin;-)

Sometimes as I am sitting already riding home from work, I check out the feet (find a foreigner by just looking at the shoes – a classic past time between stations), or marvel at people’s agile fingers texting messages.

Today, my attention was drawn to the faces. I have seen plenty of cheap domestic shoes step off at Şişli, and imported shoes under power suits or matched with snazzy handbags step on at Levent. The funky gel-spiked men’s hair styles at 4.Levent no longer raise the tips of my lips for a smile.

But those FACES! The bags under the eyes, the curl of the brow, the sculpting of the noses, the animation of the lips… are fascinating. Is it possible that Turkish speakers have more advanced lip control than English speakers, perhaps because of making all those bizarre vowels (ü,ö,ğ)?

Some of the faces are trapped in a blank stare at the color screens of pocket telephones. Others are looking off through the ceiling in the direction of ‘higher wisdom’. Many seem to be simply peering out with a somewhat confused look that I take to mean “big deal, I may be in this oh-so-imperfect body, living this oh-so imperfect life the best I can, so just let me be…”

This scene reminds me of the Nose, a story by Russian genius Nikolai Gogol. The would-be metro-commuting bureaucrat wakes one morning to find that his nose has up and jumped off his face, and taken a life of its own. The bureaucrat tracks down this impostor of a nose and confronts it:

Bureaucrat:  “Well, it’s downright uncouth for me to be without a nose.  After all, you are my own personal nose.”

Nose:  “You are mistaken, good sir. I’m on my own. In fact, there can not be any close relationship between us.”

I love it! It’s so yogic. We ‘wake up’ to find out that the body we thought was our own personal body is in fact just something we wear for a while.

The faces I love to see the most are the ones in delicate concentration of balancing in a yoga pose, the ones expressing the inner peace of taking rest after yoga, the ones with a spontaneous smile, laughing at our own folly and human imperfection that can be revealed so playfully in yoga.

How many of those metro riding faces will lighten up with a bit of yoga?  Istanbul is on the move.  Yoga is coming. There are flashes of joy, one grin at a time, inshallah.


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