Image via WikipediaToday is the first full day of spring. Since snow was falling in the Adirondacks this morning it looked like winter was hanging on. The pastor at our church wore one of his Hawaiian shirts this morning so we would know that, despite the snow, spring had indeed arrived.
The snow was short-lived since it's been unseasonably warm for the past week. Other than a few spots on the north side of the house the snow piles have all melted into mud puddles. Yesterday we spent a couple hours raking up the thick layer of leaves that had been under the snow. Since it was late fall when we moved into this house we have no idea what the yard will look like in spring and summer. As I uncovered the dirt I saw signs of new growth and the promise of pleasant summer surprises, but there are lots of empty places that will be perfect for gardens. I introduced myself to the trees and plants around the house and promised to care for them. Soon I will have my hands in the dirt, working with nature to create patches of color where none previously existed.
One of this morning's hymns was "How Great Thou Art." What a perfect song for the beginning of spring. I really like the second verse:
When through the woods and forest glades I wander,I must have zoned out a bit after that hymn because I couldn't tell you what the sermon was about. I was thinking about things that make my soul sing. Even though I see them every day I am always in awe of the mountains. Sometimes, when the light is right, the view takes my breath away. The lake is beautiful whether ice covered or blue and rippling in the breeze. I can't help but smile when I see the local wildlife - woodpeckers, huge deer, fox, scampering chipmunks, snakes and even an occasional bobcat. What better surroundings for my yoga practice than these?
and hear the birds sing sweetly in the trees;
when I look down from lofty mountain grandeur
and hear the brook and feel the gentle breeze;
Then sings my soul...
This is why I came here. When we moved out of New Jersey we could have gone anywhere. There are plenty of places where it would be easier for a yoga teacher to find work. I could have joined a group of teachers in an established yoga studio with hundreds of students rather than struggling to build something from nothing. My soul just wasn't settling for the easy way.
It's interesting to note where you can find the meccas of the yoga community in the United States. New York City and Los Angeles are so packed with yoga studios that you can't walk into a Starbucks without tripping over a rolled mat propped next to a latte-sipping yogini. In the suburbs, the yoga studios are found in shopping centers and office buildings. Simply, studios sprung up where people are, making it convenient to squeeze in an hour's practice after work.
In contrast, the stories from India tell of seekers struggling to mountaintop caves where sages lived in isolation, becoming wise through solitary meditation. Paramahansa Yogananda (author of Autobiography of a Yogi) tells of his many attempts to escape to the Himalayas during his youth. For yogis like Yogananda, the spiritual, quiet mountain was the place for a yoga practice.
Ironically, it was my suburban yoga teacher who inspired my own mountain quest. While we worked through our chakras in teacher training, one thing kept coming to the surface. I wasn't satisfied living where I was. I felt like I was missing something. I felt scattered, uncentered. I needed different surroundings to really live my yoga.
I didn't come here to be a yoga teacher with hundreds of students. I came for the mountains themselves. I came to feel the sun on my face as I sit, in lotus, on the flat rock of a summit. I came to ground to the energy of the earth by being with the earth. I came to stick my feet into spring-fed streams and watch dragonflies dance over cattails. I came to let my practice evolve organically, to share that practice with anyone who's interested and to build a community of yogis and yoginis where none previously existed. Then sings my soul...