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nature as mirror



Recent events in the world have proved that human beings and nature are intricately connected.  Whether we like it or not, we are a part of the earth.  It is easy to forget- in our busy modern lives-that without simple fresh water or microbes in the soil, our lives would not exist.  The trees churning out oxygen, the seas teeming with aquatic life.

In yoga, the unity of nature and the soul is called prakrti/purusa.  The belief is that our lives here are a quest to live in balance-between the earth and the sky.  That is our predicament…honoring ourselves and honoring nature.  When we forget, the balance is off.  It is a strong but fragile connection.  To know ourselves and to know where we are going…. we can look to plants and animals.  Are they diseased due to pollution?  Are they struggling in a dying environment? Are we so disconnected that we believe that we are immune to the cycle of life?  Nature is our great mirror.  It will always answer honestly.  It will always show our mistakes.  Yet it will always provide the solution.  What happens in nature will happen to us.   I am seeing a new respect rise up in the world.  We are starting to grasp the bond between us and the earth.  We can no longer look away from ourselves in the mirror.

ancient words

The start of my yoga training is rapidly approaching and my required reading textbooks have begun to arrive.  I am feeling equally exhilarated and somewhat terrified.  I eagerly open the covers and start reading little gems of knowledge-or see a picture of a renowned yogi displaying a difficult yoga pose absolutely perfectly.  My brain is firing on all cylinders taking in all of the new info… and also things I have learned years ago that are being presented in a different light.  Some of the words written in these amazing books are thousands of years old.  It is so illuminating to read the journeys of people who experienced the same emotions and enlightenment as I have on their own yogic path.  When I take classes, I know that I am at a very advanced level.  I have been practicing for many years, I have invested time and emotion into exploring the deeper meaning behind the physical movements.  But in the grand picture of all the yogis in history-I am really a teenager.  Maybe a devoted college student.  I love that we can connect to the journeys of those who came before us and realize we really haven’t changed that much over thousands of years.  We may have computers and cell phones, hybrid cars and airplanes, fast food and even simple electricity, but our search for happiness, our doubts and faults, our questions and answers are remarkably the same.  To me, it just reinforces the truth that whatever path you choose to find your own  happiness, looking to our elders and respecting the past will always connect you to our shared humanity.

ebb and flow

You can’t be in the olympics everyday.

Have you ever watched a highly trained athlete in a major competition?  Truly an inspirational sight to behold.  Zero body fat, toned sculpted muscles, laser beam focus and energy to spare.  But it is simply a wonderful moment in time.  High level athletes cannot possibly keep this level of perfection every day of their lives.  It is the result of a well planned “peak”.  You cannot run a full marathon every day.  You’d be exhausted and probably injure yourself.  Worst of all you’d probably start hating marathons.  You would have drummed out all your enthusiasm too.  You’d get up in the morning and think….oh NO…I have to run another marathon today.  ugh….

However, we live our lives like we’re in the olympics everyday.  We expect our bodies to be perfect all the time. We never allow for a softening…of mind or muscle.  We chastise ourselves for an extra cookie or if we sleep in later and miss the trip to the gym.  We start to blame and punish ourselves for perceived laziness.  What is it about our culture that doesn’t allow for the ebb and flow of life?  Sometimes we have a little less energy than the day before.  We are taught to plow through and push harder instead of listening to ourselves.  There is no time to recharge.  Eastern cultures and yoga sages teach that sometimes rest and stillness are needed more than power and charge.  The wisest learn to ride the waves.  That way when the olympics of life are approaching, you can really bring it.

age and wisdom.

I was walking in Central park today and I began to marvel at the huge, beautiful, old trees.  They are always there.  Steady, dependable and gorgeous.  But I have rarely connected with more than just the beauty of a big, old tree.  Trees this size are older than me.  By many years.  They have survived terrible storms, insect infestations, high winds and harsh winters.  They have witnessed human triumphs, failures and joys.  They bear scars from fire or disease.  Some have fallen.  But those that remain are survivors.  They have the wisdom of the years and aren’t the young, lush perfect specimens they once were…..but they are glorious reminders of life lived.  Today, as I gazed up at the hundreds of years before me…I felt reeeeeaaaaallllyy small.  I felt a connection to something greater than myself.  Big old trees are beautiful because they have AGE.  Young trees although beautiful and lush, don’t compare.

Now how come we can’t apply this to our own aging process? Celebrate the scars and the triumphs and the knowledge gained after living a full life?

No reason why we can’t.   I’m sticking with the trees.

crack me up

“Ring the bells you still can ring

Forget the perfect offering

There’s a crack in everything

That’s how the light gets in.”

Leonard Cohen

Times are tough.  Everything seems to be a bit off kilter.  We all seem to be searching for balance.  I feel the energy in the people around me in my daily life…on the subway, in line at the grocery store.  There is a sense of everything trying to right itself after a bump knocked it off it’s center.

In yoga class, how you deal with falling out of a pose can be symbolic of how you are dealing with rocky times in life.  Being mindful of judgment, disappointment or anger can give us clues as to how we are dealing with challenges outside the classroom.

What’s interesting to me is how each person reacts to being jarred out of balance. Some limp along awkwardly refusing to even acknowledge something has changed.  Some crumble like a broken plate, laying in pieces, awaiting rescue.  Some glue themselves back together, and with bits of dried glue visible, shakily charge ahead.  A small few, have the wisdom to appreciate the new cracks, and start to try to love the new dimensions.  I think we all have reacted in these ways at one time or another.  But is there a pattern?  Can you boil it down for yourself?

Simply being alive means suffering some bumps and cracks along the way.  Not one of us is immune.  There is comfort in the shared experience of recognizing the healed places or the raw places yet to fuse back together.  It can make us more sensitive to each other’s struggles, and most importantly- to our own journey and the path the we have walked and learned from….or not.

Embrace the cracks.  You are not shattered, you’ve just added a new dimension to yourself.  Like a beautiful, unique stained glass window-let the light shine through.

The more cracks, the more the light can shine.