We’ve been talking about nature – Nature – for the past few newsletters. Okay, I’ve been talking and you’ve, presumably, been listening. (Remember, that comment space down there is to establish a dialog.)
Sometimes Nature gets really overwhelming and it’s really hard to stay connected. We’ve had a lot of that lately . . . floods, droughts, wildfires. All pretty scary stuff. Even from a distance, and especially when we’re in the midst of it. Chaos in our climate.
If we look from macrocosm to microcosm, we see things like fevers or tumours or other reactions to the chaos that can develop in our physical systems. Anxiety. Debility. Things that lead us to the fear of the other “D” word.
It can be really tempting to give up and pretend that we can dwell only in the spirit and mind. We won’t even try to play with the big boys and girls.
Did you notice that word “pretend”? Sorry to say, when we cut off consciousness to the physical, we’re also cutting off from mind and spirit. They’re a package deal, folks. Can you say “delusion”?
So what do we do when nature/Nature gets that big and scary?
There’s a long and a short version of that story and they’re both spelled “m-e-d-i-t-a-t-i-o-n”.
We’ve got this amazing connector between our various aspects: breath.
The short version is, pay attention to your breathing when you’re confronted with the immensity and chaos of life. Get all Greek goddess and just do it.
The long version is, pay attention to your breathing. Really pay attention. Which nostril is taking in more air at the moment? What moves when you breathe? Do you like exhaling more than inhaling? Which takes longer? Is every breath the same? Do you breathe more into one side of the body than the other? More into the front or back? Are there sobs or sighs happening on the way in or out?
Look, you’re still alive, so you’ve been breathing “correctly” so far. The point is not to do it “right”; it’s to be attentive to that basic connection between your body, mind and spirit.
You don’t really have a choice about staying with nature/Nature. Let your breath help you not to lose your mind or spirit as you stay with the difficult times in your body.
Spring is in full fling here in the northern hemisphere, with bursting flowers and singing birds making nature all Disney, all the time. Of course, those of you in the south are in the “wait a minute!” line, looking at the remains of coloured leaves and short, chill days.
So what if you’re not feeling supported by nature’s outbursts? What if you’re decidedly hermetic, ready to withdraw from sunny spring up north? Or you’re just bursting with inspired enthusiasm down south?
There’s something special that happens when we feel attuned to nature’s cycles. We feel in step with the Universe, in its manifestation in multiple species. We’re in the flow, carried along by energies greater than our individual selves.
But life does stuff that can interrupt that flow. You live 14 hours a day in a cubicle with a computer and then move through asphalt-land to find a soft spot to land for sleeping, so nature is irrelevant. Your best friend dies and time just stops, along with the song in your heart. Just as nature is gearing down to sleep, the project you’ve poured your heart and soul into takes off, and so does your spirit.
I can just hear those of you who are coming up on full-scale autumn now: “But I don’t want to slow down and go into hibernation!” Especially those of you ready to zoom ahead on your renewed enthusiasm for life.
No, you don’t have to find your inner bear and let it run the show. But you do have to acknowledge it and give it its due.
Easy peasy (okay, a little effort if you’re the cooped-up cubicle soul). Pay attention to something in nature.
Are there birds you hear regularly? Pay attention. A tree you can watch change with the seasons? Pay attention. Animals who regularly cross your path? Attention.
So, no, you don’t need to rev all the way up to the springtime party when you need time to grieve. And you don’t need to dial down to hibernation when you’re cleared for takeoff. Tuning in to the new life of spring will support you through loss to your own regeneration. The slowing down of autumn will keep you grounded and help you find restful time-outs in the midst of new excitement.
Your connection to nature is your connection to the Universe in all its large- and small-scale splendour . . . . and every scale in between.
Yama is yoga’s Social ethics, how we practice to get along with each other.
Michael Stone‘s way of looking at these . . .
Ahimsa: recognizing that I am not separate from all that is. Non-violence
Satya: listening, acting and speaking from the heart in each spontaneous circumstance. Truthfulness
Asteya: being satisfied with what I have; not taking what is not freely given. Non-stealing
Brahmacharya: encountering all creatures with respect and dignity; wise use of sexual energy. Continence
Aparigraha: using all the ingredients of my life without clinging. Non-possessiveness
How is your asana practice reflecting your yama? How is your yama out in the world reflecting your yoga?
Last month, you had an opportunity to look at some of your attitudes toward your body. In the tried and true tradition of connecting microcosm with macrocosm, let’s consider how that reflects your relationship with your very own home planet, Earth.
(Okay, I just know some of you out there are reminding me that you don’t actually come from here. I’m fine with that. Just remember that you’re living here and you don’t want to be like the bad tourists who make a mess and then leave it for the inhabitants to clean up.)
We live in such an amazing time: we’ve got access to images of the whole Earth. We can follow weather systems as they shift and change and interact with each other. We have a sense of how air, water and sea exchange with each other.
But when was the last time you noticed the phase of the moon?
And do your sleep or eating patterns change with the seasons? Intentionally?
Caring for the Earth can seem an insanely huge project, way beyond Don Quixote and windmill-tilting. Hell, caring for our physical needs is more than many of us can manage with family, work, and other demands.
So, what did you find last month? What was the glaring area or attitude that deserves some attention and a re-write or do-over?
If that were a metaphor for something bigger on the planet, what would it be? Are you running down the soil, by never giving it a rest or a change? Are you polluting the air by tossing garbage into your lungs? Is your refusal to take time for water intake causing a drought?
Yes, we’re being simplistic here. Because we can solidify our personal nature intentions by approaching them from the global perspective. And those of us who are already concerned about the bigger picture can find our personal reflections of the problems we see out there.
If your intention is to stop running yourself ragged, and the only doorway out of that you can see is to need less, here’s your opportunity to reduce, reuse and recycle. If your blood pressure spikes because you haven’t been dealing with your emotions regularly, here’s your opportunity to defuse the emotional violence in the world with compassionate conversation. If you want to tune your sleep cycles to the natural world, here’s your opportunity to observe and mirror the patterns of the flora and fauna around you.
Despite our cultural behaviour, we are not separate from the rest of nature. Here’s your chance to reconnect with the rest of our tribe.
I’ll be presenting 3 highly participatory workshops in March and April, 2 on tarot and 1 on numerology, all at On the Wings of Dreams, in downtown Shepherdstown. You can attend one or more; the first one is the only one with a limit on attendance (and we’ll just create a waiting list and a second date, if need be.)
Tarot . . . It’s Easier Than You Think is a fun way to get acquainted with the basics of Tarot, using The Tarot Game © by Jude Alexander. If you’ve always wanted to learn tarot, this is the time and place to start – or carry on with what you’ve already started. There’s space for only 6 intrepid students to explore tarot basics while building a reading. Since space is limited, advance registration (with payment) is required. To book your space, call 304-876-0244. Thursday, 10th March, 6:30 to 9pm; $30
Tarot Spreads: Mapping the Landscape will get you up to speed for information gathering. Now that you’re familiar with some of the inhabitants and landmarks in the Tarot world, how do you organize your materials so that you have as much information as you’re looking for? We’ll look at how you can build spreads of your own. Come with your tarot deck and an area of your life that needs clarification; you’ll be reading a spread of your own creation. Prerequisite: Tarot . . . It’s Easier Than You Think or other Tarot experience. Thursday, 21st April, 6:30 to 9pm; $30
Numerology: Numbers as Patterns will have you looking differently at the numbers in your life. In the esoteric world of Numerology, numbers aren’t just quantities, they’re qualities. In this introduction to the art and science of Numerology, we’ll look at your personal numbers, as well as some of the numbers that surround you. You’ll leave the class with keys to your own treasure chest of meaning in your life. Thursday, 7th April, 6 to 8pm; $25
Sign up via email, or by phone call to On the Wings of Dreams: 304-876-0244.
How much do you love your little slice of nature: your body?
Tell the truth. If your sweetheart treated you the way you treat your body, would you break up with him or her?
If you poured the stuff you pour into – or onto — your body into your water, would you let your loved ones drink it?
Do you remember your body’s favourite places and foods or do you cater only to your taste buds and temper tantrums?
Your relationships go better when you’re listening to each other and acting on what you’ve heard, don’t they? So how do you listen to your body? It’s giving out signals all the time; are you tuned in?
How are your children when you let them indulge in all the processed sugar they can get their hands on? It isn’t fun to find discipline, but it’s productive, isn’t it?
Conversely, how are your romantic or family relationships when it’s all about discipline and janitor service? What happens when you pull all the fun out?
How did Valentine’s Day go with that really awful suitor who stopped at the 7-11 for half-dead flowers and pulled a half-eaten Snicker’s bar out of his pocket like it was solid gold? (True story!! Not mine, fortunately.)
How can you be more of you, in a better relationship with yourself?
Take a look at the basics: sleep, food, water, movement, play, sex. (What? Play is a basic? Yup.) Where do you want to start treating yourself better? (Remember the “listening to your body” questions? Start there.) How can you make that happen?
Who could you be if you’d be loving and kind to your body?
(Did you notice we just played “20 questions”?)