I am a person who resonates deeply with the outdoors. I hear the ocean in our breath, feel the swell in the currents of life. Some days I wake up dry and achy as an old tree, and need soft winds to encourage the movement in my limb. Sometimes I feel as strong as a mountain, or as vast as a valley carved out by the brute strength of a glacier. The sound of a hummingbird’s wings make me giddy as a child. There are moments when I look up a granite wall, seemingly impossible to ascend, but with every move, every crack, every smudge, hold, and pinch, I make my way towards the place I hope to reach.
My most honest journey to yoga began in one of these places (although I’d been to studios and classes many times before). On the shores of Bahia de Conception, Baja California Sur. I can close my eyes and see it. Feel it. The place is not a memory to me, but almost like a singing bowl; silent in place, then awakened by a vibration, a movement, a resonance within. It was there that I began to realize things about myself, to make an agreement with myself. My yogic journey is a piece of that, and so that is where my journey to yoga began.
I started visiting Baja to work hiking and sea kayaking expeditions in the southern part of the state. As I drove down the single highway for three days to reach the campus from which I was based, I saw a lot of desert. Dry vast spaces, the landscape only broken up by giant cardon and cholla cactus, old fences, brittle and falling. I had not spent any significant time in the desert before. I couldn’t realize what I was seeing.
The ocean of course looked more inviting. As I drove down the west coast the Pacific thrashed upon rocky shores, smashing rocks into pebbles, into sand, into dust. On the east the sea was much calmer, a deep blue contrasted by the dry mountains. The tension of wind lines clear from far away, but from a distance only a ripple on the water.
But still, I was just seeing the superficial.
My journey to yoga began when I started to realize that everything has an adaptation, a way to be, a reason to be, and an unconscious perfection in this world. That the leaves on the trees rotate with the sun, to harvest its energy, but also to protect is physical self. That the cholla clings to movement because it is wise, and it wants to expand its space. The mesquite root drives deep into the earth to pull its water and life source, while the cardon fans its roots to catch water as the sky releases it back to Earth. That the bat ray jumps to impress its mate, and the whale jumps for perhaps no reason at all..
My journey began when I started spending time (a lot of time) in the outdoors. Not days, but months on end in natural and wild places. When I started paying better attention to the moon and the stars. When I started to cycle with the moon and be honestly more connected to nature. As I started to pay attention to what was going on around me, my consciousness was stirred. I began reflecting on pain-body, presence, non-attachment. Although, as I said, I had been to many yoga classes at the gym, I can now look back and realize that the beginning of my practice manifested in a more spiritual than physical way.
My life has been quite privileged in the way that I get to spend so much time in nature. However, my life in the past two years has moved me away from the wilderness in which I once lived. Sitting here in Singapore, I realize and reflect on the distance that I’ve put between myself and these environments which are so important to me. By environments I mean not only nature, but the internal environment where I once cultivated self love, awareness of life, and compassion and curiosity toward all entities and beings.
It is with most humility that I can admit I feel a loss of that in myself these days. And so, coming full circle, my current journey in a yoga practice is to find a vehicle to move once again to the place I was before. Physical practice is an opportunity to realize my body and mind as a path toward spirituality and awareness because my physical, natural environment cannot always exist.
Maybe what I’ve learned most of all,
Is that no amount of money, career, or prestige is worth what I feel in nature.
A holistic practice is what I journey towards now; a plan to return to the wilderness with increased philosophical and physical practice. And soon enough, I’ll reflect again. And we’ll see where my journey goes from there.