by Blakeney Schick
There’s a halal food cart that is almost always on the corner of the block where my office is. It’s pretty unremarkable — there are thousands just like it across the city — and I have walked past it almost every afternoon this summer. Although I love the smell of the food that’s sold there, for some reason, I have never tried it.
One afternoon in late July, I was coming back to the office with my lunch, when I saw the halal meat man on his knees on top of a slab of cardboard, praying in the broiling sun. Ramadan had just started. He prayed while people walked by, cars honked, and cabs cut each other off about 4 feet away from him. And as I watched him, while waiting for the light to change, I thought of my own practice.
I start most days with intentions like equanimity, to be aware of my posture or gratitude. But the challenges of getting through the day usually carry me away from those intentions so quickly that it’s usually the middle of the afternoon by the time I remember to remember, and say to myself, “Oh yeah, I was going to try to do that today.” That’s where my practice is these days.
This daily cycle of forgotten and remembered intentions is one of the reasons why I walk through the doors of Mala a few times a week. My home practice almost always gives way to chores, to-do lists, and social plans, and I know that I have to set aside time and space on my calendar and in my brain to make sure I get on the mat. I hope that one day I will be able to more easily integrate my practice into my daily life. And perhaps there will come a time when I remember my intention more often than not. That day hasn’t come yet, but remembering that I’ve forgotten is a step on that path of practice.
Ramadan is over now, and the weather is thinking about getting cooler, and I still occasionally see this man, facing toward Mecca and improvising a prayer rug as he practices his faith. The last time I saw him, it was a can of Sprite with a paper napkin on top of it for him to touch his forehead to. And every time I see him, he is a quiet and remarkable reminder to me that practice, whatever it looks like, really can be woven into our lives — right there in the middle of a busy New York afternoon.