The Abundance and Simplicity of Nature

The moment when planet Earth reaches its maximum axial tilt toward the sun is just a few days away.  Though we think of the summer solstice as something that occurs on a day (21 June, this year) it actually only lasts a single and fleeting moment. After the moment passes, the hours of daylight, having reached their longest length, will again begin to shrink towards their shortest length come winter.

Summer solstice is said to be all about abundance, nature, and fertility. This past weekend we visited a garden just outside of Seoul with over 50,000 species of flowering plants and it felt as though we were drunk on summer. Surrounded by all those blooms and the creatures the blooms attract, including humans, it felt as if Nature was indeed abundant and fertile, overflowing unto itself. The air was thick and hot and heavy, the blooms were fragrant, and the sun was bright. It was gorgeous.

 

20130619-123716.jpgWe walked through the garden and literally took time to stop and smell the flowers. It was so incredibly nourishing to be outside, surrounded by the beauty of  nature, and it felt as though Nature was generously offering us this beautiful gift of summer; a feast for the eyes and the nose. And perhaps the fact that we know it is fleeting, that we’ll have to wait another year to see the Earth in such bloom, makes us appreciate it even more.

20130619-123710.jpg

Many long-time yoga practitioners will tell you that the more in tune they are with the rhythms of Nature, the more abundant their lives become.  I think we tend to associate the word abundance with excess. To have an abundance of something often means to have too much. But summer very beautifully demonstrates that abundance is not complicated. The Earth explodes with an abundance of life and yet it is quite simple. Water, soil, sun, and as little interference from humans as possible. That’s it. The less we interfere with nature, the more we can enjoy abundance and simplicity. And isn’t that what we all say we want, for life to be simple?

I recently read a great quote:

The longing for simplicity is a spiritual longing. Asking physical things to meet spiritual needs does not work.

We crave simplicity and dread complication (or at least we want to) because it is the way of nature and we are always more in tune with the spirit when we are in tune with nature. Spending our summer working at a slower pace, taking time to enjoy the abundance of the Earth, and simply being in nature is spiritually fulfilling in a way that no amount of physical things ever could be.

So, I wish you all a beautiful, spiritually-fulfilling, and utterly unproductive and simple summer, as well as abundance and joy.

Namaste, yogis.

20130619-123704.jpg

Advertisements

Downward Facing Peekaboo

April 15 was my one year anniversary of living in Korea.  Try as I might, I simply cannot believe we’ve been here that long. If it weren’t for the physical evidence of the littlest yogi being less than 8 weeks shy of his first birthday, I may be able to deny it altogether. I love living here and am very comfortable in many ways, but in other ways am still completely clueless. It seems I should know or understand more about this country. And what I wouldn’t give to be able to communicate more fully. If it weren’t for that darn baby! He takes up all my time! Thank goodness we have a few more years which will bring many more opportunities for learning.

Reflecting on this first year, I may not have gained all of the knowledge that I desire, but I have most certainly learned some very important lessons. Lessons in letting go, lessons in humility, lessons in adaptability, lessons in patience … honestly the list could go on and on.

One of the lessons I am most grateful for, and one that would have been learned no matter where I was this past year, is the importance of play. I consider myself a pretty easy-going person, but I’m not terribly playful. This past year has given me some time to a) accept that about myself, rather than despise it, which I have done in the past, b) figure out why I value playfulness and why I don’t seem to be playful, and c) give myself the space to explore playing. A little Yogi certainly helps with all of this.

Downward Facing Peekaboo

Downward Facing Peekaboo

The Hindu deity Hanuman, depicted as a monkey, is described in Hindu scripture as mischievous and playful. Interestingly, his namesake posture, Hanumanasana (the splits) feels not at all playful. Not for this yogini anyway. More like torture. Or at least, that’s how I used to feel. I made a decision, when practicing Hanumanasana, that I would only go as far in the pose as I could while still being able to enjoy a good belly laugh. At first, this meant barely getting into the pose at all, as my smile would usually disappear as soon as I moved past a runner’s stretch. But, little by little, I’m getting deeper and deeper into the pose. My hips and hamstrings are releasing, and the laughter is coming much easier. I’m still a far way from the fullest expression of the pose, but the feelings I have associated with it have completely shifted. And more importantly, every time I begin to move into Hanumanasana, I have a good laugh and am reminded of the necessity of play.

My son is at the age where he mimics everything I do, so when I laugh, he laughs. When I am playful and joyous, he is playful and joyous. There are times to be serious, of course, but the realization that I have been taking myself a bit too seriously has been a profound one. One of the great things about Hanuman is that even with his playful, silly and mischievous nature, he is also incredibly powerful. He was reminded by Jambavantha:

 

You are powerful as the wind;

You are intelligent, illustrious and an inventor.

There is nothing in this world that is too difficult for you;

Whenever stuck, you are the one who can help.

Reading that, it is exactly the message I’d like to impart to my son and to myself.  I can’t teach it to him if I don’t believe it is true for me. Especially the part about knowing that when you are stuck, you have what is necessary within to get unstuck. Sometimes this means being serious, but as I’m learning, often times, getting unstuck is simply a matter of letting go and having a good belly laugh.

Namaste, yogis and yoginis!

Tis the Season

Happy Holidays my dear yogis and yoginis!          

This is the time of year when we are meant to slow down a bit and focus on the things that truly matter: family, friends, sharing good food and drink, gratitude, joy, peace and goodwill towards all. Of course, it doesn’t always turn out that way. Sometimes the holidays have the opposite of the intended effect and can bring out the worst in people. Isn’t it funny how the very things and people that can bring us so much enjoyment can also be the source of so much anxiety?

The great thing, though, about the holidays, is that they happen every year, so every year is an opportunity to be our best selves. Focusing on gratitude, joy, peace and goodwill throughout the entire year is a pretty good way of ensuring that when the holidays roll around, we will already be in the swing of things. Waiting until November to start is a bit like beginning training for a marathon the week before you’re supposed to run.

Yoga is such great training for this marathon of life. Through our practice we learn to let go, experience joy, cultivate patience, feel gratitude, and create peace. We focus all of these good things inwards first, so that we can then go out into the world and exude them in our lives.

So for this holiday season I wish for you to be filled with gratitude for all the good in your life; to experience immense joy; to discover an inner peace that melts away all anxiety and frustrations; and to feel that warm sensation of compassion and goodwill towards all.

Many blessings to you and yours.

Om Shanti Om