I recently spent four amazing days in South Lake Tahoe on a 48-acre forest of redwood, aspen, pine and other glorious trees. The crystal clear blue lake was just outside my bedroom window and each morning I had the chance to sit out and peacefully meditate. I concentrated on the sound of the breeze, the motion of the waves, the tall towering stillness of those glorious trees. At night, things got even more amazing: the stars, the huge number of brilliant stars. It felt like Mother Nature was casting one big sparkling blanket over this most majestic area of the world hinting of the landscape far larger than the one we can immediately see. For me, it was especially enlightening as I did have an additional purpose for going to the lake other than having fun with friends. It was my chance to break out of my routine, clear my mind of usual thought patterns and allow some space to open up to new perspectives. I was not disappointed.
Keep in mind that I was surrounded by trees – big trees – more than by people. This was a big shift for me as I live in Santana Row and grew up as a city girl. The impact of the contrast was immediate and humbling. There was so much space all around me especially above me. Open space. There was so much silence. I was amazed at how I could without strain hear conversations of kayakers on the water. Like any vacation, it takes a few days to really get into it. (You know it when it happens. The giggles start to pour out.) My mind relinquished some habitual control, leaving me feeling at ease; at peace. Perhaps it was my meditation, but I started to process things a bit deeper. I observed how the trees don’t complain to what degree the wind blows; how a redwood tree doesn’t care if it is sharing the same soil as a palm tree. And not one tree was ugly or “out of shape”, despite having droopy branches or a crooked trunk. Despite the challenges Mother Nature brings, trees continue to grow up towards the light. Their dominance over the mundane was remarkable to me.
Nature has a way of reminding you to keep things simple. Nature has a way of reminding you that there are bigger things going on than whatever plans you may have. Nature has a way of telling you that, despite any drama you might encounter, something beautiful is always blooming. Nature moves slowly, at a pace hardly visible to the human eye. But shifts are more permanent and beyond our immediate comprehension. Bigger laws are constantly at play. Can we impart that into our yoga? Or even more so, into our ever changing lives?
I appreciate that I get a chance to share with you what might be on my mind as, being regular yoga practitioners, we bond through our common discoveries. For me, longevity in all things continues to filter my thinking lately. Being at Lake Tahoe satisfied my need for clarity but also introduced a bigger component: detachment. I recall hearing that word for the first time many years ago in a context that was loving and supportive. But it took me awhile to wrap my mind around its real meaning. My initial reaction was “how cold,” “that’s a defensive mechanism,” or “it’s an emotional escape.” This is so far from the truth. Detachment is the key to happiness in a longevity kind of way.
Google detachment and you’ll get over nine million links. Sifting through all the given definitions, here are two that I found that highlight what it can mean in our yoga practice and in our lives:
“The determination to be free. We want to give up our ego games because we are determined to be free from all the problems they cause. This does not mean that we have to give up a comfortable house or the things that we enjoy. Rather, we are trying to stop the problems that we have in relation to these objects. That leads us to detachment.”
Being detached does not mean that we cannot enjoy anything or enjoy being with anyone. Rather, it responds to the fact that clinging very strongly to anything or anyone causes us problems. We become dependent on that object or person and think, “If I lose it or cannot always have it, I am going to be miserable.” Detachment means, “If I get the food I like, very nice. If I do not get it, okay. It is not the end of the world.”Detachment” means ridding ourselves of clinging and craving for something or someone.
I recognize that nature does have a science to it. It operates with logic and an interconnection. I also recognize that we as humans operate with a brain, a consciousness that allows us to make decisions with discretion. However, that’s not what I was seeing. What struck me here, in Lake Tahoe, the land of abundant life, was how everything interacts from a higher consciousness. Nature has no ego – attachments. It is detached from clingings or cravings. Nature is free. I was observing bigger laws at work.
For me, I see detachment as the Mother Virtue to them all. All solutions live in the space of detachment; it’s where all real possibilities exist. It’s beyond that place of working to stay open minded or putting effort into understanding another’s action. Detachment IS the absolute to all of it and the end result is this useful mental playground that is filled with an enabling atmosphere that stretches your thoughts far beyond an immediate right-action response. Detachment makes room to both resolve issues at hand and address bigger concerns.
Try it. Make space between you and any situation you are in. Make space between you and your reflection in the front mirror. Go further than releasing expectations or suspending judgment. Step back even further and become a witness to your external and internal self. Observe that person (you) in the mirror and watch how you move, tune in to the sound of your unique breath, be curious about the thoughts you have and why you’ve chosen them. No need to justify or rationalize any of your thoughts or actions. The wind will blow where it blows. The waves settle on the shore in their own unique way, different each time. The point is how this will carry through in more significant circumstances outside the studio. I can safely say that all of us are challenged from time to time with looking at our own behavior. When you are practicing detachment, during times of self-reflection, you no longer have a vested interest in protecting who you’ve known yourself to be. This orientation affords more compassion, more love, more understanding, and more peace. This generates even greater insight. We begin to live in a higher level of consciousness. That’s what I saw in Lake Tahoe: how nature lives in higher levels of consciousness amongst bigger laws. We are nature. We too can live and benefit by living in higher levels of consciousness.