Finding an Oasis in the Concrete Jungle: A Guide to being Zen in NYC


Hey Folks,

I’m born and raised in NYC; I have lived most of my life in my beloved city. I know as well as anyone how beautiful life is in the Big Apple but, I also know all-too-well how stressful it is; living in Gotham requires us to be Superheroes, otherwise we’re just nerve-wrecked civilians.

It’s no secret that living in the city that never sleeps is as thrilling as can be but, it’s simultaneously so, so very tiring, stressful, hectic, and energetically-draining; anyone will burn-out if they don’t follow a strict calming routine within their day-to-day life in Gotham, even the best of us caped crusaders. Many of NYC’s citizens work hard to put food on the table; with NYC being one of the most expensive places on Earth to live, time is quintessentially money. So many of us have to spend hours commuting to and from work—hours which we know are so important—hence why it is so stressful when the subway is late and/or the midtown traffic is simply unbearable.

Everything that we do adds up! Stress and nerves don’t just go away; energy cannot be created nor destroyed—this is physics; energy does need to convert into something, and stress is a form of energy. I’ve spoken about positive and negative stress in the past: beneficial stressors such as working out and being proactive in life and career are considered to be positive stress; it is negative stress when one freaks out over bills so hard that they have a panic attack and develop an anxiety disorder—which oftentimes leads to addiction(s)—something like needing to drink a bottle of merlot whilst binging on Chinese takeout to feel a semblance of comfort. The aforementioned negative stress fools us into believing that we can teleport into an oasis each time that we fall prey to our addictive behaviors; we then begin chasing those oases—only to realize that they were seductive mirages.

So, instead of eating and/or drinking and/or partaking in Lord knows what—one needs to showcase some discipline when the traps that chronic stress creates are cast.

Let’s speak about how to find that positive oasis whenever it is that you find yourself in a sardine-crammed subway cart or in the midst of a bumper-to-bumper traffic jam.

The NYC subways have become notoriously unpredictable over the years; between crime, unsanitary conditions, and seemingly unending delays, many New Yorkers dread taking the trains to and from their job(s). As somebody who has been battling numerous anxiety issues for decades, riding on a crowded subway was one of the surefire triggers that would get me!

When I was training clients for an upscale gym on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, it’d take me over two hours there and two hours back to get home to my house in Southern Brooklyn; yeah, spending 5+ hours daily commuting because of work was definitely a nervous-breakdown-waiting-to-happen schlep! Luckily for me, I had practiced Zen-calming breathing techniques and meditations for years, and I saw it as a lesson in learning how to become tranquil, even during rush-hour in Bedlam. Whenever I’d feel an anxiety attack coming after me—while being stuck on an unmoving train—needing to train a client in ten minutes on the other side of town—I’d force myself to concentrate on my breath. I would practice the box breath daily on the train: 4 second inhale—4 second hold—4 second exhale—4 second hold—repeat!

While practicing the box breath, I’d simultaneously play “I Spy” with my mind: concentrating on a plethora of subtleties around me—which had piqued my creativity. I’d notice random cool graffiti, fascinating “humens of New York”, lovely miscellaneous buildings and infrastructure, etc. Not only did I find my anxiety subduing itself, I’d also be building many-a-creative spectrums within my imagination. Try this exercise the next time the screeching rails scratch at your senses! Do the box breath AND play “I Spy” with the endless beauty that is juxtaposed amongst the clutter. Find the things that make you LOVE NYC! Practice this exercise on the train and you will arrive at your stop before you know it!

I don’t know what’s more frustrating: being helplessly stuck inside of a delayed train or moving an inch a minute within a horn-honking Metropolitan traffic nightmare. Unlike when you’re being chauffeured on the subway, when you’re driving a car you’re your own captain, meaning that you cannot play “I Spy” with your imagination; you need to concentrate on the road—for the safety of your fellow drivers and yourself. So how can we relax while driving a car? Two words…BE PRESENT! As soon as you feel that initial proverbial “road rage” flaring up—STOP AND RECALIBRATE!

Road Rage is some pretty messed-up stress, that’s for sure! Road rage turns an otherwise peaceful driver into a sadistic monster; even if you don’t swear like a sailor and flip another driver the bird, or worse, start some belligerent confrontation, road rage in itself is extremely detrimental to one’s physical health and internal balance. Road rage exacerbates everything from cardiac issues to blood pressure IBS to hemorrhoids—it’s SO not worth it! Been waiting in the same turning lane for 10 minutes and all of a sudden some d-bag from the wrong lane decides to merge in front of you?

Yeah, I know, I’d want to do that to them as well—but it’s not worth it! Take a deep breath! Do your best to switch your focus from anger to amusement…laugh it off, put on your favorite radio station, concentrate on your destination, count five things that you’re grateful for and just let it go. Practicing road “Zen” will not only prevent you being potentially arrested for assault, it’ll chisel you into a substantially more balanced and successful human being! It sounds too good to be true because it’s simple; simplicity is bliss, and practicing the transmutation of negative stress to positive stress is fundamentally the simplest discipline out there—just do it!

Wishing all of my New Yorkers peace, comfort, health, wealth, and of course happiness.

Stay classy, New York City!

Banner Image: Taking in the view at the water’s edge in NYC. Image Credit – Namphuong Van


Andre Zemnovitsch

I have been a Certified Personal Trainer for almost 20 years. Training for some of the top boutique gyms in NYC and the Catskills, I have been honored to assist well over a thousand clients evolve not only their bodies but their minds to higher levels. I have dedicated my life to finding the most effective fitness techniques, herbs/plant medicines, exercise regimens, Martial Disciplines, scientific approaches and ancient wisdoms from the four corners of this wonderful World—to help myself and my fellow man live longer and better. I am the founder of High∞Chi Fitness—a soon-to-open revolutionary gym—where a medley of fitness Masters from around the globe will come together to work in harmony, collaboratively taking clients to their apex fitness levels. High∞Chi Fitness isn’t just a gym; it’s a way of life to assist the client to ride the trajectory of perpetual fitness evolution! Throughout my fitness journey: I have been blessed to learn from elite Martial Artists, esteemed Acupuncturists, Yoga Masters, Pilates pioneers, Zen Masters, and even real-deal Amazonian Shaman and Mystics. I have designed and instructed original and revolutionary fitness classes for some of the most illustrious centers and institutions on the East Coast—from the peaks of the Poconos to the Hamlets of the Hamptons. My successful classes place emphasis on Qigong breathing with Zen Visualization Exercises, alongside "Dynamic Meditations" juxtaposed with static techniques. I hybridize Ancient Eastern Techniques with the most up-to-date contemporary Westernized approaches: for total health and well-being and mind-body-connection. I have been fusing into my training regiments: the latest scientifically-backed advancements in fitness with a thousand years' worth of Martial Disciplines. I believe in a "best-of-all-worlds" approach to health and exercise, a best of East-meets-West, if you will. Via my training: I incorporate dexterity (hand-eye-coordination) alongside footwork, strength and conditioning, postural alignment strategies and physical therapy, breath∞work, mind-calming/elucidation strategies, visualization-manifestation methods, a variety of Martial Arts techniques, and a cornucopia of other important facets of mind-body enhancement. With all the aforementioned, I have found that this is the preferred way to follow THE WAY to optimized health and clarity of mind. My life is devoted to making your life better in every way! If you are interested in training, please send me a message via my email [email protected] or call me at 347.777.2584.

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