I’m a hopeless theorizer.
That’s a word I thought I might have made up, but Google and its free online dictionary friends inform me that it’s legit. What I mean is that my mind will work and work to come up with theories—big or small, borrowed or original, elegant or disastrous—to explain, well, everything.
I can’t help it. It’s like a mental tick.
I’ve long been working on what exactly explains the deep soul-resting-bliss I feel when I can be totally immersed in nature. I feel it when I’m on a boat—even if it’s a crazy ferry in Indonesia that holds about a 50/50 chance of capsizing, or the Star Ferry in Hong Kong that you jump on as a quick commute.
If I’m on a boat, on the water, and can see and connect to the water around me—something deep inside me falls quiet. Calm. Happy.
Similarly—and I expect I’m not alone here—I feel that release of tension when I’m in woods, mountains, watching the sunset, staring at a campfire.
You know what I’m saying?
One of my favorite theories to explain this is “absorption”—inspired by Chip Hartranft.
Absorption strikes me as one of those things you read or hear and it daintily tickles your brain with fleeting comprehension—all while somehow deep down you know in your heart that it holds truth.
Hartranft discusses it in the introduction to his translation of the Yoga Sutra; I can’t possibly explain it thoroughly here, so let’s just hope Chip doesn’t stumble on this article because he’ll surely be appalled at this sloppy attempt to paraphrase his elegance.
Anyway, in this introduction, he illustrates the distinction between “pure awareness“—the unchanging, universal truth (for lack of a more original definition) and “consciousness“—the mind stuff that we all know and love deal with, and he explains that a steady practice of yoga “teaches the consciousness to turn inward toward itself and realize true nature of its underlying awareness.”
He compares pure awareness to a body of water and consciousness as its surface.
The goal of consciousness is to reach a state of such stillness that it becomes possible to reveal the pure awareness hiding beneath the usual tumult.
Still with me?
Something that helps the consciousness to still—a feat who’s difficulty we can all respect merely by recalling our attempts to meditate, sit still in Savasana, go to sleep after a busy day, is absorption.
Hartranft names absorbing events like a birth, wedding, death, or sunrise as examples of when we can taste fleeting moments of enlightenment: as if “we are seeing directly into the nature of things.”
I think some level of this enlightenment comes any time we are immersed in nature—at least if we are able to be comfortable in it (certainly not true for everyone, which would just mean their discomfort results in their consciousness remaining too perturbed to get a glimpse at pure awareness).
I just love this idea.
Like somehow nature knows the pain-in-the-ass we’re all dealing with in our minds and sympathizes. So, when you’re on a boat or in the mountains, the nature around you helps bear that burden by absorbing some of the craziness in your head and gives you a break from it all.
This whole theory reminds me of my teacher’s words about Shakti just a few weeks ago, at a time when I needed support so much that her words brought tears to my eyes.
Shakti is nature itself—the great divine mother who represents the manifestation of absolute truth; she represents our conscious experience as we know it. She’s with us, all the time, “even when we think we’re alone in our car” Shakti is there with us, holding us in a sweet embrace, with the dear, unconditional love of a mother.
We all have those days when its awfully comforting to know that Shakti, with her motherly love, is embracing us, understanding us, wanting to absorb some of our burden and ease our load. Sweet, sweet Mother Nature.
Mandy stumbled into her first yoga class while living in Hong Kong and on the prestigious, but uninspired track of law and politics. The practice snuck up on her and brought unexpected but powerful transformations in body, mind, and spirit. She couldn’t ignore the power of the practice, and it inspired her to completely shift her path in life. She began teaching Anusara-based flow classes in Hong Kong until moving to San Francisco in August 2012, where she now teaches both Vinyasa and Foundation-building classes. Follow her schedule and read her blog at www.mikanyoga.com
Ed: Elysha Anderson