The Yoga – Nature Connection

Besides the physical asana practice, one of the uses of yoga most employed and discussed by modern yogis is improving our relationships. Whether it’s contemplating and working towards living into the yamas, practicing maitri karuna (compassion, PYS I.33), being present, breathing, understanding how karma plays into our choices and actions, observing the play of raga/dvesa (attraction/repulsion) and our reactions, or other practices, yogis take yoga into their daily lives and relationships.

So often this is limited to our human relationships, but as creatures of nature, and as descendants of a practice that was largely performed in nature, it is a continually relevant to ask ourselves: “What is my relationship with nature?”

In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna says:

“Mature in yoga, impartial
Everywhere that he looks
He sees himself in all beings
And all beings in himself …
When he sees all beings as equal
In suffering or in joy
Because they are like himself,
That man has grown perfect in yoga”
(Stephen Mitchell’s translation)

If this is the type of relationship we were to cultivate with nature – with trees, rocks, blades of grass, birds, cows, caterpillars and pigeons – how could we go about it?

1) Give it time

Spend some time – minutes, hours, days, and longer – getting to know a tree, the pigeon who likes to hang around outside your window, the clouds passing over a particular patch in the sky (sometimes we have can have flings with nature as well). Observe the nuances, idiosyncrasies, and moods. Observe how your own senses relate to it. Observe. All good relationships take time.

2) Yoga tools

Choose one of the yoga tools you know, and cultivate a perspective of the flavor it takes on when applied not just to human beings, but to all beings. What qualities does ahimsa take on or discard when applied to a tree? Satya when applied to water? Aparigraha to cows? Raga/dvesa? Karma? Intention? Breath? Choose one, and practice.

3) Vidya (seeing clearly)

Intrinsic to our perception of the world, beings, and nature around us, is the function they serve in our life. There is a dominating perspective cultivated and woven into the texture of our culture. We see an apple, and think of its name, the crispness of it, how it grows on trees, the last one we ate, etc. It is rare to see an apple without naming it, understanding its function, or relating it to how it serves us. Could we, instead, be with another being, and go beyond the name, the purpose, to the very essence of the being. See clearly right down to the very essence past all its “appleness”, until we get to the point where we and the apple are the same? It won’t work to approach the apple and immediately think “We’re the same.” You must pass through the experience of “appleness” first.

4) Meditate

So often when we spend time walking in nature, we’re thinking about where we’re going (point A to point B type stuff), we’re trying to clear our heads or work out some problem, or we’re daydreaming. Use walking meditation as a way to cultivate a true presence with nature.

“When you feel blissful and peaceful, then you have peaceful coexistence with all of nature, not only with this planet, but also with the sun, moon, planets and galaxies, with all of existence. The whole house of nature becomes your own home. Such a man or a woman is the incarnation of heaven moving on this earth. He or she is the image of Mother Nature.” Shri Brahmananada Sarasvati – The Universal Search for Peace

“i thank You God for most this amazing day: for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes…” e.e. cummings – from Xaipe

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