In a glacier carved lake in northern Montana, cold and exhilarating, I float on my back for as long as I can. With my ears under the surface of the chilled water my breath echos a rhythm. Above me the sky is clear blue, with a sporadic cotton ball cloud and a mountain in my periphery. Below me, if I were standing, I could look through the clear water to my feet. I give in to the feeling of weightlessness. I settle in to the soft and electric water.
I was happy to be in this place, happy to release tension and stress, happy to rest with nothing to do. Later, I thought about the nature of getting away from it all and wondered about the power that taking a break from normal routines and landscapes has to refresh us. So many of us dream of being “on a beach somewhere” and that “where” is often not “here.”
Traveling is something that I truly adore. My favorite is exploring nature. Mountains, streams, different shapes and shades of green. It is stunning to walk through trees and think about ecosystems that are working their own cycles. I often look at a tree and think that my whole life has happened and that tree has been growing in that spot the entire time. Along with the magnificent and breathtaking, I also look forward to the mundane. I love to reap maps, look at unfamiliar streets and walk into unfamiliar grocery stores. It’s about my body moving into new space. A journey into the unknown.
This got me thinking about something my teacher, Bill, often says which I will paraphrase here: You are always in new space. The Earth, a little rock hurling through the universe, is always encountering new space. The same four walls around you are just tricking you into thinking the space between them is the same. That which is fresh and amazing is always around you- and within you.
I feel that this is the yoga journey. We may keep a steady practice of the same asanas and pranayama, but we are always finding ourselves on new paths. The difference between this and traveling with our bodies is that inside of us there is no map. Well, some might say there is, and maybe there is, I’ve just lost mine. I see a dense thick of vegetation (confusion/clutter) that holds many paths, some well travelled and some overgrown. I look at the maps I have created in the past and they seem to be wrong. Each time I focus on my breath and practice I am mapping that vegetation, getting rid of some and cultivating some. If I’m away too long, I come back and everything has grown over. Each time I practice there is something interesting to explore. There is a thought or sensation that grabs my attention. Sometimes I know which path I’m heading for when I begin practice, sometimes I don’t.
At first glance, traveling through my internal world didn’t seem as appealing as witnessing the magnificent landscapes on this planet. Through the internal focus of yoga, I can witness that which is vast and stunning within me. That which is there all the time, regardless of where I am physically. Yoga teaches us that this is the thing that is vast and stunning within all of us. Practice lights up a torch inside of us so we can see what’s inside differently. And while my internal experience doesn’t look like the mountains or sky or ocean, it’s got it’s own way of soothing me. Even though I sometimes yearn to get away, my yoga practice reminds me that it’s good to be home.