I cracked my eyes open. The early morning light was gently casting a soft glow over my dear friend Bela. Quietly, I unzipped the tent and slipped out into the middle of Lamington National Park, where we had set up camp the evening prior. The dappled sunlight was making its way through the trees onto our campsite. Sitting down on the cool earth, I took appraisal of my body. Yesterday we had walked 15miles with heavy 50lb packs on our backs. My body was sore, but happy. It was New Years Day, 2016.
Settling into my meditation practice, I began reflecting on the past year. In 2015 I left my home and teaching schedule in NYC to travel full time, a long-planned adventure. Naturally, just before I’d left NYC I had a slew of (always unplanned) “life kicking me in the guts” kind of events. As I packed my bags I put yoga into my “mental suitcase”. I was on the road to find connection. To shake things up. To find Joy, again. To find purpose, and meaning. Little did I know, traveling would actually help me to find a deeper understanding of the 8 limbs of yoga.
Oh sure: ahimsa, satya, asteya, brahmacharya, and aparigraha. I knew how these guys showed up in my life, or didn’t show up. But, how was I really practicing yoga off the mat? When I was in NYC a question that constantly nagged me was: “Is what I’m doing impressive enough?” Whilst in the midst of nowhere, it was so liberating to realise, the forest simply doesn’t care if I hike 5 miles, or 20 miles, or no miles. It’s all good. So, if no one else was judging me, why was I judging myself so hard?
The earth: the ultimate sacred scripture. Being in nature, taught me so much about myself. I finally learned to sit and just be. I became deeply aware of just how much my body craves the space to do nothing. Ironically after 500+ hours of yoga teacher training I needed the earth, not a book, to re-remind me of this.
Asana (posture practice)
Without this bad boy, I’d be the Tin Man on the road. If it’s not sitting in a car for 5-8 hours a day, it’s hiking for 5-8 hours. Everyday my body desired, no, demanded I take time out for a self-guided flow. To be a student of my own body, rather than a teacher all the time. I relied on these familiar movements to dissolve my physical, and mental tensions.
Pranayama (breath control)
Oh, right. For sure, I breathe. We all do! That counts for something, doesn’t it? Just before I left New York City my breathing was short, sharp, and erratic at the best of times. It took me many weeks of traveling, meditation, and letting go to release the tension that had built up inside me while my world was falling apart in the weeks leading up to the start of this adventure.
Pratyahara (sense withdrawal)
When you’re living amongst the land it’s so much easier to let go. There is less stimulation. Stillness and silence takeover, replacing the chaos of the city. Having less distractions, less need to be constantly connected to the virtual world, allowed me the opportunity to find a deeper connection inside myself. I could let go of everything happening around me. This practice came in handy when trying to convince myself that my tent was NOT being ravaged by grizzly bears (it was actually just the wind).
One of the easiest things to do in the middle of the forest: focus on a magical, natural formation. Did you know that half dome actually looks like an angry bird? I could easily drop into a well of deep, deep focus looking at just about anything whilst traveling.
My regular meditation practice on the road allowed me the opportunity to step back and objectively see how I created the extenuating circumstances in NYC prior to leaving. It allowed me to see my habits. That I craved connection with people (and donuts). And how that relates to my inner growth. And then live those questions.
Samadhi (super conscious state)
Have I transcended to a higher level of consciousness through meditation? Maybe. It’s like Fight Club. First rule of Fight Club, “don’t talk about Fight Club”.
With love and light