On Spiritual Alignment

Tags

, , , ,

It was a somewhat unusual week of ups and downs, of great calm and turbulence in the inner world for me. It began particularly well in that I used the Monday holiday to read a new book from cover to cover – something I hadn’t done on a long, long time. It felt really good to get back to ‘deep reading’, and prompted me to make a summer reading list of spiritual biographies. That was the high-point of the week, and I was only the first day in.

The next couple of days was where the outer world started seeping in, and it turned into a bit of a flood by Thursday morning. The morning meditation practice was unable to restore calm and stillness, because the mind was highly perturbed and the usual heart-focusing techniques weren’t working. Something was surely out of alignment. I looked in my ‘toolbox’ to see – what was I to do next to reset my alignment?

The first step to realignment was to return to the weekly walk in the reservation, which I did Thursday evening after work. The forest immersion worked really well to do an inner reset, as the familiar trails, the waters of the river and lagoon, the clear blue skies — all submerged me in their warm embrace. The exclamation point was the blue heron that I observed sitting in perfect stillness across the river, for the entire final ten minutes of my walk. Typically, a heron will take off as soon as it sees humans, but today was different. The realignment was going well.

Friday morning meditation was a bit of a test of how well the realignment was going. Things were better, but not quite fully restored yet. It wasn’t till late Friday evening, after seeing my daughter again after a week, overlapping with a long dinner meeting with a very good friend’s mother, Carol, whom we hadn’t seen in almost three years, that the realignment felt almost complete. It must have been Carol’s beautiful, pure, in the moment, loving energy, deep hugs, and childhood stories of living and growing up in the small town of Longport on the Atlantic shore, that helped clear away a large part of the dust of the week.

As I write this post, I find myself asking some questions. How do we know that we are in alignment, and out of alignment in our inner world? What are the happenings in our outer world that shift us out of inner alignment? How often do we lose alignment, and how quickly is it restored? What tools do we have for restoration, and how well do they really work?

I was tested this week in a way that was perhaps not so unique to me. Hence, I shared my experiences with you. The alignment testing helped me identify some weaknesses in my spiritual practices. One result of the week’s testing is that I am grateful for the opportunity to learn, adjust and develop greater awareness on the journey towards answering — Who am I? What am I truly aligned to, and why?

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering and twitter chat with the #SpiritChat community, Sunday June 26 at 9amET / 1pmGMT / 630pm India. I will bring some alignment gauges in the form of questions, and a pot of tea. You bring the cookies! Namaste – AjmaniK

The hydrangeas finally bloom in the garden… helping to restore alignment!

On Paths of Union

Tags

, , ,

There is an instant affinity and connection when stepping into the trail. A distinct sense of being welcomed with joy, even by the mosquitoes! A sense of delight in the meeting, in the coolness of the slate-lined river bank and the breeze and the ocean of green come ashore. A sense of peace in the silent flow of the river whose bottom can be clearly seen in this late afternoon in the light of the filtered sun that remove all your troubles so that you can focus on the expanse of the invitation that lies in front of you…

And then, after you have spent at least a half hour playing among the stones of the river bed, weaving in the trails and bathing in the foliage of the forest, the river-side offers you a place to pause and rest. You gratefully accept. As you sit on the trail bench, there is something about the slant of sunlight on the trees, and the river’s peace, that prompts you to do a first-time-ever evening meditation in that space. The path has unfolded before you.

You are sitting amid the noise of the traffic and people walking on the trail behind you… and yet, after a while, all you hear primarily is the river rustling by and the wind whispering among the trees. The sun filters through the trees behind you and sends warm currents up and down your spine. And then, after what seems like an eternity, and yet is actually less than a dozen minutes, it happens.

You remember Dad and his ability to submerge into stillness and silence in the midst of it all. You realize that That is what he was communicating to you all that time, on all those days-long train trips across India, the road trips in the far reaches of the Himalayas, when as a child you wished that he would speak more words of wisdom into you. He was showing you that the path to a higher Union, the path to awareness, truth and bliss, goes through the deep silence and stillness that quietens the waves created by the “mind stuff” — the path that Patanjali defines as the practice of Yoga.

Pay attention. Do your workings in and for the world, but also do the work needed to walk your path towards higher Union. That has been the message filtering into my heart over the past week or so, and re-iterated in Friday evening’s walk. I am grateful to be sharing the loving message with you. Namaste.

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering and twitter chat, Sunday June 19 at 9amET / 1pmGMT / 630pm India. I will bring some tea, fruit and questions – you bring your favorite walking shoes 🙂 – AjmaniK

P.P.S To all who are celebrating, Happy Father’s Day and Happy Juneteenth on June 19. International Yoga Day and Summer Solstice is June 21. Get ready 🙂

The walk is rarely easy… and yet, always worth it! (Rocky River Reservation, Ohio)

Our Spiritual Roots

Tags

, , , ,

The sun is still low enough in the sky, but high enough to be above the roofline behind me, that I can sit on the top step of the deck and enjoy my morning reflection with a warm cup as the cool breeze rustles the wild willows just beyond the fence line. On and off through the week, my thoughts have been drifting to my roots and foundations.

I have been watching the two water channels that flow into the pond grow from virtually nothing to lush greenery in a few weeks. The stark contrast between autumn’s ‘taking away’ and spring’s ‘giving back’ is virtually complete. The wildflowers, the wild grasses and bushes on which the blackbirds sway all day long, the thick foliage on the sky hugging trees — they are all back. What sustains them, year after year, so that they make triumphant returns?

Yes. The answer is their roots. The one sure way to destroy a plant is to remove it from the ground, roots and all. The one sure way to destroy our physical life force is to remove us from our source of life — the breath. Perhaps this is why, in times of great joy, visiting my grandmother while bubbling with excitement to share my news, she would often say — ‘son, pause, take a breath, then speak.’

I often wonder about having had the privilege of being rooted, watered, nourished by the wisdom of my elders, particularly in my younger years. What would my life look like today without their mix of tender loving and gentle steering of my mind, body and heart? What would your life look like without the roots nourished by those who have channeled some of the best of their own life force into you?

As we grow older, we tend to forget. Some of us may even claim that we are ‘self made’ people. It may be so, and yet, let us take a breath and ask — what are the roots that sustain the layers of us that are beyond the mere physical? What are the roots of our subtle body connected to? What sustains those roots?

Research has shown that the roots of trees in forests have an underground network of inter-connection, which helps trees ‘lean on’ each other for nutritional support. I have often seen ‘above-ground’ evidence of this inter-connection during my walks. As long as the tree is connected to its own roots, or those of its neighbors, life remains, because it is connected to a life-giving source.

Perhaps we humans are the same way. No matter how many autumns we may experience, spring eternal is our destiny as long as our roots remember to stay connected to, and draw energy from that Source.

How will we remember?

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering and twitter chat, Sunday June 12 at 9amET / 1pmGMT / 630pm India in #SpiritChat. Bring some ‘root’ stories to share with the community. Namaste ~ @AjmaniK

Connections… among above-ground roots of trees…

On New Realities

Tags

, , , ,

I have to admit that I wasn’t ready to face the reality of returning to in-person work on a full-time basis this week. After two years of remote work, I didn’t know if I even remembered how to function in an office among people. However, rather than stress about it, I decided that I was going to take it one day at a time, and no matter what, inject some lightness and fun into each in-person work-day.

On the third day, which was Friday, I ended the day by returning to the trails in the Metro-parks near work which I used to walk regularly before the two year pandemic hiatus. An hour or so in the reservation helped me process the new realities, and reminded me of some old ones that I had forgotten.

The first reality is that Nature doesn’t forget, even when we often do. The hidden entrance to one of the trails, the welcoming oaks, the river almost covering the embankment, the lightest of light blue flowers – they were all still there. I had forgotten their soothing nature, but it all came flooding back in the first few minutes, once I chose to be present to them. Their welcoming embrace was complete, the sense of familiar joy was full, and it was as if two years of absence had collapsed into a single moment. I experienced the reality of nature’s power over time and space.

The second reality was about Nature’s beauty. It is in full display, but we often close our eyes and ears to it. One section of the trail, about a quarter of a mile long, was resplendent with white on both sides. It was as if someone had taken canvases of green, sprayed them with white flowers in all kinds of random patterns from head to toe, and then spread them on both sides of the trail to create a tunnel. Why had I never noticed these when I walked this same trail dozens of times before in years past? Maybe I had developed a new awareness, a sense of slowing down after two years of being away? Was this my new reality?

The third experience of reality was a heady mix of the new superimposed on the old. After emerging from the tunnel of flowers, I was going to bypass circling the lagoon. I thought that some sections of the perimeter would be impassable, as used to be the case in the past after heavy rains. I walked by the first entrance with the intent of visiting one of my favorite benches that overlooked the other end of the crescent-moon shaped lagoon. As I got closer to this other end, I noticed that the trail entrance at this end looked a bit different. Where did all the gravel on the trail come from?

This deserved some exploration, and what followed was an amazing walk along the lagoon after all! I met with new wooden bridges and walkways constructed over all the previously impassable parts of the water. I simply couldn’t believe the brilliance of the newness of it all. I admit that I did miss the unpredictable nature of the natural paths which used to often abruptly end, and have me turn around at random points on the three-quarter-circle trail.

New realities of bridges and walkways had made the beauty of the lagoon accessible to so many more people, as evidenced by the people fishing, dog-walking and bird-watching on the trail. Time will tell how the increased human activity bears out for the lagoon’s waters and its wildlife, but so far so good.

As I drove back home after the work-day that ended with my heart and mind full of new realities, I slowly absorbed the new conditions I had experienced over the week. Nature exists to remind us of what is permanent and what isn’t so — what we do with such reminders depends on our inner state. Is it perhaps true that we have the ability to create our own realities by choosing the degrees of awareness, bliss, truth and attitude that we bring to any given moment? If yes, then we can be creators of our own destiny connected to permanence, can’t we? If no, then how do we get out of being immersed in the state of our mind’s illusions?

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly gathering and twitter chat in #SpiritChat, Sunday June 5 at 9amET / 1pmGMT as we explore reality and such. I will bring some questions and banana bread. Do visit. Namaste – AjmaniK

A steel and wood bridge over the East branch of the Rocky River…

Moments of Silence

Tags

, , , ,

The dog sitting by the screen door, watching the heavy rain falling on the deck, as the storm finally arrives, and then leaves quickly.

The stars emerging slowly and showing off their light as the moon is yet to rise.

The rising sun emerging from behind the clouds in the distance, and the lingering of the moon fading in its light.

The drops of overnight rain sitting on new leaves that emerged over the past few days.

The pair of geese escorting their newborns through the lake, teaching them to feed themselves as they go.

The two turtles sunning on a bed of reeds by the shore as the geese swim by.

The rush of white flowers on the wild bush that I almost cut down last year because I thought it was too close to the fence.

The stillness of the dragonfly caught by my camera as I went to take a closeup of said white flowers.

The eyes that welled up, and stayed so, during many of this week’s meditations.

What are some recent moments of silence you have experienced? How did they affect you? What kind of energy did they create within you?

So much of the condition of our heart and mind is affected by the energy that we experience in our moments of silence. Many of these silent moments, particularly those in nature, tend to catch us unawares. These are often the moments that tend to bring us great joy.

However there are other personal moments, planned and unplanned, which force us into temporary silence. The impact of these moments on us is so strong and deep, that we revert to silence to process their energy. These are often the moments of grief, sadness, anger, and even bitterness.

Regardless of our physical and emotional response to the positive or negative energy brought about by moments of silence, there is much that we can learn from them. If we make space for the silence, pay attention to the timing of their arrival, we can honor the message of every such moment.

With greater awareness of the moments of silence happening around us and within us, our hearts and minds have the opportunity move towards greater peace, equanimity and stillness. As a result, we can emerge from every new moment of silence with renewed strength and resolve to take actions for the greater good of all.

Kumud

P.S. Join us for our weekly twitter chat with the Spiritchat community, Sunday May 29 at 9amET / 1pmGMT / 630pm India. Please come and share some moments with us, as we reflect on the power of silence to heal us. Namaste – @AjmaniK

P.P.S. The USA observes ‘Memorial Day’ this weekend, to honor those who ‘gave their all’ for the country. We also mourn the many innocents, including young children, taken by gun violence in the past week. May they Rest In Peace. Peace. Peace.

A moment of silence… in the company of a dragonfly

On Embracing Diversity

Tags

, , , , ,

Sometimes, all it takes is a few drops of early morning rain falling on you as you walk, to erase the heaviness that you have inadvertently awakened to, despite a good night’s sleep. Little that you realize that the drops are actually harbingers of a drenching which is on the way!

The weekly Friday walk around the lake is colored with a wonderful cool breeze that precedes the warm front bringing a couple of forecasted hot days after some unseasonal coolness. The tree almost sound like the beginning of autumn. The lake surface is agog with waves rippling against the heavy, inch-thick layers of algae, which has taken over two thirds of the lake surface. I pause and lean against the wooden cow-fence, as the seeds of the river-birches welcome me back in much delight and ask – where have you been all week? Why don’t you visit more often? The four wooden and weathered steps in front of me invite me to come closer, so for the first time ever, I accept and sit on then last one step, where if I stretched my legs out, they would touch the grasses growing on the edge. A single goose flies over from the grassy knoll and joins me, loudly announcing the weather coming in as the wind picks up a couple of notches. I wonder if I should head back, to heed the warning of the heavy rain in its way, but I decide to press on. The forest cover will take care of me, I perhaps wrongly presume. In addition, what else do I have to do on this Friday morning?

The same rose-bush that be-friended me last week, grabs my shirt again as i walk by, reminding me of our budding friendship. The tree-lined part of the trail is still heavy with mud, what with all the rain of the past week and the now heavily dense leaf-canopy that prevents the sun from reaching the ground. I pause at the bend, as the swift breeze calms down for a bit, breathing in all the goodness created by the stillness and the soft murmurings of the fledglings from the depth of the forest. More seedlings fall on me on their way to the earth.

If and when we open all of our sense receptacles to it, without any filters, and embrace all of the diversity of the world around us if only for a few moments, it can help lighten our world within. Yes, it is said that what we see in the world around us is a reflection of the state of our world within, and yet, until we get to that stage, the outer can help bring peace to the inner. The diversity of the outer tableau is designed, often by our own selves through our seeking, to fulfill our greatest inner needs. Perhaps that is why some love the water, others the forests, and some are attracted to the mountains, and even the skies.

No matter what aspect of diversity we are attracted to as individuals, they are all necessary in order to meet the need of the hour or season of each individual. Why else would there exist millions of species of plants and animals, with their variations in behaviors in different seasons, if not to remind us of the necessity of diversity and the infinite possibilities of the universe? Does nature not mirror the need for the infinite diversity of humans in the human race, and serve as a reminder that there would be annihilation of any society that is intolerant of its diversity?

Imagine a toolbox with only one tool in it, say, a screw-driver. Can you build a house with it? Imagine eating the same breakfast every single day. How healthy would that be? Imagine having only a single vowel in the alphabet. What kind of communication would be possible? Would we able to write prose and poetry without diversity of vowels? Imagine.

Progress in love, and towards light, is only possible through our embrace of diversity. The diverse streams of life that flow within us, when they mingle with each other, become the universal ocean. Is it not that when we commit to the work of finding the unity within our diversity, that we come closer to the experience of Oneness?

As I walk under the canopy of tall trees on the trail, pausing occasionally to write this post, the rain is getting increasingly heavier. My phone’s screen is filling with droplets of all sizes, varying from about a hundredth of an inch to about an eight of an inch in diameter. The beauty of this impromptu canvas is perhaps living testament that diversity creates peace and beauty. It’s a long way back to the car, so I find a tree with a heavy leaf cover, and try and ride out the downpour. As I wait for the rain to lighten, I am filled with a rush of gratitude for the fact that no matter the season, the diversity of nature has always embraced me, whenever I have visited with it.

Maybe it is in the unconditional embraces of nature where I have learnt my best diversity lessons. How about you?

Kumud

P.S. Do join us for our community gathering in our weekly twitter chat, Sunday, May 22 at 9am ET in #SpiritChat. We are a diverse group indeed, and are welcoming of all as we chat over tea and cookies. Namaste – @AjmaniK

The diversity of nature… beauty brings peace

The Big Picture

Tags

, , , ,

And just when I thought that all the light blooms were off of the flowering trees, in the stillness towards the end of the trail, a thicket of tall bushes bearing soft pink petals is still alive and blooming! Not only do they add color to the trail, they also give shade to the young wild roses yet to bloom.

As I start my journey back, the tall trees shower their lightest of leaves onto me as I walk. I can see that the wet and muddy trail is getting covered by a thin, first layer of green. It is perhaps akin to the first layer of the fine carpets that my ancestors were expert weavers of?

A thin branch of a rose brush reaches out and snags its thorns on my shirt as I walk closer to the edge to avoid a puddle. I pause and feel its kind welcome — nature’s hand on my shoulder, reminding me of the bigger picture, lest I rush by. What is the big picture of my existence, it wants me to ask?

My thoughts go back to the lecture hosted by us earlier in the week. Our guest speaker, who has been a Vedanta monk for almost sixty years, spoke about ‘The Big Picture.’ How often do we pause to remember who we are, and our connection to the universe? Why we do tend to so easily get entangled in the small, unimportant things in our lives, and get distracted by the BIG picture of our life? He gave a beautiful analogy to our dilemma.

“We often wander through the WiFi zone of life, looking for the password to connect to the higher network. But we already have the password. We have always had it. We have always been connected. We are just unaware of it!” – Swami Sarvadevananda

I pause again as I walk by the old house, turn around and look back. All of a sudden, I see that there’s green everywhere — green in the grass on the ground, green in the leaves on the trees against the sky, green in the algae on the water. How did so much green get created in a week or so? How much energy did nature have to spend to create this transformation?

I cross the tiny bridge and step out from the shady side of the pond to the sunny side, and the warmth of the sun already crested above the forty foot tree line greets me with aplomb. More questions came. What kind of transformation can I create within me and the world around me, if I focus on the BIG picture of my life and my walk through it? How do I stay focused on this BIG picture?

As if on cue, as I stand facing the sun and the lake, I hear the fog-horn sound of a bull-frog bellow above the birdsongs and the heavy highway traffic nearby. It is perhaps a reminder that a message transmitted with a singular purpose will always make its way through the noise of the world. Yes, I had to cross a bridge, stand in the light, and be in the right heart orientation to receive the BIG picture reminder.

Perhaps that’s the essence of spiritual work, isn’t it? What do you think?

Kumud

P. S. Join us for our weekly #SpiritChat gathering, Sunday May 15 at 9amET / 630pm India on twitter. We will talk about the BIG picture, hopefully with a good WiFi connection, and some cookies 🙂 Namaste – @AjmaniK

Spring flowers… still blooming on the trail

On Mothers and Beyond

Tags

, , , ,

If you live in North America, you are most probably well aware of the significance of the Mother’s Day holiday, which falls on the second Sunday of May (May 8 2022). To be honest, despite living in the US since 1986, I wasn’t much aware of this holiday until about 2010. My awareness probably coincided with my becoming a parent myself!

Over the years of hosting Spiritchat on Mother’s Day, my awareness of the role of Mothers, and the range of emotions that this holiday evokes, has grown tremendously. I used to wear magenta-colored glasses (my birth Mom’s favorite color!) about the all-loving role of Mothers towards their children, and about children towards their mothers. The people of Spiritchat have taught me that there can be a lot more to the Mother-child relationship than the predominance of love and joy.

I am grateful for the education. The truth is that there are many who have never felt the love of a birth mother, and had to find the ‘Mother’ role in another female, or sometimes, male figure in their lives. I have learn that, yes, the ‘Mother’ and mothering role can extend to aunts, sisters, grandmothers, teachers, and sometimes even to neighbors, nannies and maids.

I have also learnt that all too often, there is very little education and training of ‘how to be a mother’, particularly in a society where the majority of households are a ‘nuclear family’. Where does a new birth-mother find good role-models, particularly if their own experiences with their birth-mothers have been filled with pain, anxiety, lack of warmth, and more? How do we break this cycle of ‘mother-child dysfunction’ if we want to have a good chance to raise thriving future generations?

We often jest that there is no ‘guidebook’ to parenting – you are supposed to learn as you go! While that may have some truth to it, we can do better. What if we were to raise the value of the role of the ‘Mothers’ significantly higher than what we currently assess it at? We can debate about the ‘how’ of doing this, but unless we know the ‘why’ to do it, we won’t get out of the starting gate, will we? One small thing we all can do, and it doesn’t incur much cost, is to educate ourselves about the current contributions of those in Mother roles in our societies.

Here are some numbers for the USA. There are an estimated 85 million mothers in the US. In 40% of households, Moms are the sole or primary income earners. 80% of single parents in the US are mothers. 56% of working mothers have children under the age of 18. Hopefully, these statistics give us an idea of the extent of the contribution of Mothers to US society. What do the numbers in your country look like?

I know that I am far out in left-field from what I had initially intended for this post to be about. But, as often happens, the heart’s current is driving my fingers as I type, and so, here it is. Mothers Day. A day for remembrance, for healing and forgiveness, for awareness, for empathy that will create compassion which will translate into action. What will we do and/or be as individuals, as societies, as the world, between this Mothers Day and the next one? That is the question I am considering. How about you?

Will we be inclusive and have loving understanding of those who aren’t Mothers, and may choose not to be one? Will we pause for a moment and send love to the Mothers of the disappeared and the ones who lost their Mother figures over the last year, so that they can heal and hope? Will we give thanks to the Universal Mother whose grace and abundance flows to us constantly, whose kind gaze soothes us like the coolness of the moon, and whose loving light warms us in every sunrise and sunset? What else can we celebrate about those without whom love and life itself would not be possible, in this, our temporary home of a physical body, as we walk our path towards our permanent abode?

Thank you, to all my Moms. I am fortunate to have had many who filled that role, and continue to do so. My gratitude for all of them knows no bounds. Namaste.

Kumud

P.S. This was supposed to be a short post. Oh well! Do join us for our weekly twitter chat with the #Spiritchat community, Sunday May 8 at 9amET / 1pmGMT / 630pm India. If you would, bring a memory of your Mom (or your kids if you are a Mom :)) to share. I will bring some tea and cookies, and maybe a question or few 🙂 – @AjmaniK

Mother Nature… grateful for her omnipresence

Sources of Wisdom

Tags

, , , , , , , ,

A single pear tree is planted in front of each house by the developer, after the construction of each new home is complete. The trees bear beautiful flowers every spring, and for a few days, the streets are resplendent in white during the morning walk. Then, just as quickly they bloom, the small petals are shed by each tree in the span of a few days. It is a sign that spring is moving towards summer, the work of the flowers is done, and the tree is transitioning to the next phase of its life.

Nature does so much work to create the beauty of flowers, and yet, the pear trees do not cling to them. When it comes time, the trees readily let go and move on. The process of nature is a source of some great wisdom for us humans, isn’t it? How often do we hold on to those ‘flowers’ in our life whose work is long done, and hold back our ‘fruit’ in the process? Are there any other wisdoms that we can learn from observing the march of spring?

In addition to observing nature, there is much wisdom to be gleaned from watching children at play. The chalk art they create in the driveways, the impromptu baseball games in the parking lot next to my house, the kid practicing hitting a ball off the tee as he waits for the school bus in the morning, and so much more. There is much fun, simplicity and lightness about a child’s play which we ‘adults’ could benefit from bringing back into our lives, yes? How would our inner condition change if we were to do some ‘chalk’ art on paper, find a playground and go down some slides or get on some swings, or even jump in some puddles?

There are many more sources of knowledge and wisdom that we can think of. We have our wisdom that comes from books, our favorite speakers and artists, our friends, our teachers, mentors and coaches, our parents, and yes, occasionally, even some relatives and co-workers! Who or what did I miss?

Perhaps most importantly, if and when we learn to trust it enough, one great source of wisdom that is always available to us is our heart. Each of us has unlimited capacity to refine the wisdom within our heart through our daily practices of kindness, empathy, connection with kindreds, small acts of service, and more.

When our heart thus grows lighter, it fills us with peace and light, connects us to higher wisdom. Clarity of mind follows. With clarity, we can make better decisions on what to keep and what to let go of in our hearts. Can you think of some more ways that we can make good use of the (sources of) wisdom available to us in our lives?

Do share.

Kumud

P.S. Do join us and share your wisdom sources, and your wisdom with us in our weekly twitter chat with the Spiritchat community on twitter. We will meet at 9amET / 630pm India on Sunday, May 1 2022. Namaste – @AjmaniK

A pear tree in full bloom in mid-April…

On Spiritual Practices

Tags

, , , , ,

This week’s blog post consists of some ‘live’ musings and observations on spiritual practices, derived from my walk on Earth Day, written while on my favorite trail. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, April 22 was Earth Day. So, rain or not over the past three days, there was no question that I was going to walk the trail that I walk every Friday. Thinking that my regular route would be really wet, I decided to go clockwise instead of my usual anti-clockwise route. This led to perhaps my slowest walk around the trail ever… partly because of the wetness of the earth, to the extent that much of the trail seems almost impassable. I had to walk the edges, sinking in mud on occasions, but I kept going. Practice? You may need to slow down on occasion , particularly on unfamiliar routes, but keep walking.

I almost turned around in retreat, until I saw a small bridge in the distance – this meant that I could go to slightly higher ground and then double back over the bridge, back onto the path, about a quarter mile downstream. My walk could continue, instead of me having to retreat. As I walked, I was grateful for the person who had the foresight to put the two disparate pieces of wood together to create the makeshift bridge. Practice? Be a bridge-builder when you can. You never know who will benefit from it.

Some beautiful blues and greens came into view, which made me pause, even kneel on one knee at times… to watch, and gently touch the new leaves emerging from buds. Yes, I am welcomed by the tiniest of thorns too, as I gently hold the edge of a soft branch swaying in the wind in order to still it – so that I can take a better portrait! Practice? With new growth will come thorns too – there are blessings in them all.

The pond is gorgeously clear after all the rain of the past few days… and the Sun rising above the tall trees scatters through some of the clouds, spraying whiteness everywhere, as I marvel at the next bridge that is going to take me across… Practice? Look in all directions as you walk, and occasionally upwards too.

And as I pause on the other side of the second bridge, looking at the sun, I am right upfront with a tree that is already flowering. The faintest scent of the flowers awakens me yet again to a different sensation – a reminder that truth, awareness and bliss are everywhere to be found – that is the reality that we need faith in, along with faith in our path and faith in our guide(s) – when we have all three, then there isn’t any energy in the universe that can stop us from rising. Practice? Be ready for surprises. They will often come when you are in alignment with faith.

The lake is amazingly still and full of light. A bench by the lake invites me to sit. I accept, and sit, and wait for any geese or ducks to show up and swim in the empty lake. After a while, a single goose walks up to the shore in the distance, enters the water, and takes ownership of the lake. His swimming sends ripples through the stillness of the surface, changing the nature of the reflections within it. And then, a little bit later, perhaps encouraged by the goose, a pair of mallard ducks leaves their refuge along the shore and decide to take a swim too… safety in numbers? When one decides to be brave, others get courage… Practice? Watch the ripples and disturbances of the mind – stillness and clarity go together.

And now, as I’m ready to finish the walk, it’s time for two tiny swallows to practice skimming, and even dive the lake’s surface… more ripples, more spreading of joy, more emergence of sunlight from beyond the solitary cloud as the breeze warms up a bit as it picks up speed… but the windmill by the lake barely moves – it is still largely unimpressed. Practice? Keep your heart open and you fill find joy rush in through the smallest of things.

As I was finally leaving, another tree and her blooms invited me closer – and I literally walked up to her and laid my face ever so gently into the arms of the flowers – it felt so soft, loving and gentle – a beautiful reminder that the Earth and her love for us knows no bounds. All we need to do is pause, embrace and remember.

As I returned home to a book that I had received as a gift on my recent India trip, this message about spiritual practices came from my post-walk reading…

“The real spiritual training is which makes our mind disciplined and regulated, restores moderation in senses and faculties, and creates lightness of spirit. Then alone internal peace and calmness is ensured and a higher approach is possible.” – Babuji in Reality at Dawn

I wish you all the best in your spiritual practices. I hope that they bring you internal peace and calmness as you move higher. Namaste.

Kumud

P.S. join us for our weekly twitter chat with the #SpiritChat community on twitter, Sunday April 24 at 9amET / 630pm India. We will discuss spiritual practices – old and new, simple and complex over tea, cookies and questions. Namaste – @AjmaniK

Some of my new friends – from Earth Day
The bridge – that kept me going…
The Sun sprays cloud-light upwards…
I sit with the stillness… before the goose and the ducks arrive…