Outside a gentle rain is falling on the tin roof of the cabin. Curled up in bed with my laptop, the slanted ceiling of the bedroom loft is alive with the sound of rain. My gaze lands on the sloped hillside outside the second story window where the colors of fall light up the landscape even through the rain. The leaves of the trees blow freely in the wind. I am present, tuned into the clicking of the keys as I type, the rhythm of the breath inside me, and the changing beat of the drops on the roof. In this moment, the world is safe and quiet, a simple heaven of sight, sound and touch.  

This week I am spending a few days in a cabin in the woods, hiking, writing, and watching the stars. For a time, the rhythm of the days are not determined by the ping of the phone, the arrival of emails and the busy preparation for yoga class, offering my energy and presence to others; for a time I am offering the gift of presence to myself. The reward of this attention is clarity, inner quiet, and the exquisite sweetness of moving slowly. The morning rain is an added bonus, a message from nature to take my time.

When the days become turbulent, whether it is due to the external chaos of world events, the action of “others”, or due to attachment to my own thoughts and feelings, I can only find sanity by seeking respite within my inner sanctuary. As a natural Pitta (fiery temperament), it is easy to become sharp, opinionated, and judgmental when the world around becomes demanding. I often respond by overwhelming myself with busyness, working myself into a frenzy through doing or by incessant thinking and worry. Over time I have come to understand that I can only stay balanced through the daily practices of yoga and meditation and regular withdrawal into the sanctuary of nature, where my attention is demanded only by the beauty of nature and the rhythm of my footsteps on the hiking trail. At times this may mean a walk to the neighborhood lake or trip into the local forest. Other times like this week, removing myself from my self-created busyness allows me to restore and renew myself physically, emotionally and energetically as I commune quietly with the natural world.

I don’t have to tell you that it’s been an intense few weeks, making staying centered challenging. Developing a non-reactive mind is harder and harder in today’s tumultuous times when violence in both actions and words assault us from all sides. At any moment a new headline, text, message, video or email threatens not just to inform me but to pull me off center into a state of panic, anger, fear or even hostility. The question is often asked, “How do we find peace in the midst of such chaos without being uninformed?” I do not have an easy solution, but Yoga offers some sage advice. Yoga asks us to practice non-harming and to practice balancing our energy while practicing discipline, self-study and connection to Higher Consciousness. (Wow, no wonder it is a lifelong practice!) That’s not asking for much is it? Yet the fruit of the practice is not only escape from reactivity so our actions are from awareness, but the sweetness of the present moment. The gift of the practice lies in the ability to narrow our attention and connect with “Being” rather than “doing”. Perhaps the sanity only lies in the discernment to know when it is time to act and when it is time to center and seek refuge in practices that sustain so that we can go out and act again and again and again when needed.

Last night we lay under the dark night sky, huddled under sleeping bags, to watch the stars. As darkness settled, hundreds then thousands of bright stars appeared. Under the moonless dark sky the Milky Way was visible as star after star blurred together into one streak. We began to talk of distance and time in light years, stretching to comprehend millions and billions of stars burning across the cosmos. In that moment the troubles of the world vanished into the eons of time and space and my mind expanded to comprehend the meaning of pure existence. One by one shooting stars hurled themselves across the sky like tiny rockets. For a moment I was timeless. For an instant I expanded beyond my identify and into pure awareness. For a heartbeat I was enlightened, suspended in timeless attention, sipping in the sweet nectar of the Now.

Jai Bhagwan. Victory to the Light of Consciousness in each of us. May that Light shine brightly.