Readers Write About Enlightenment
Four Walls Do Not A Refuge Make
BY MAGAZINE CONTRIBUTOR ALISON ROGERS
The violets in the mountains have broken the rocks.
The alarm beeps at 7am. My plan is to do 30 minutes of yoga this morning before getting started with the rest of my day. I look at my sweet yoga corner with its purple mat, and little altar. The mala beads from teacher training hang surrounded by rose petals strewn at our feet during graduation, and a small feather given to me by my beloved teacher. So inviting.
But then I look up and out the window and see the mountain.
Just like yesterday and the day before and the week before that, I heed the call of the mountain. Rather than put bare feet to mat, I put on my boots and head out the door.
I would have thought that during this major life transition when everything is so new and challenging that daily yoga practice would be the cornerstone of my well being. For my entire adult life while juggling children, marriage, career, I found yoga to be a refuge; a way to turn inward and reshuffle the cards. I needed four walls, a mat and quiet to reconnect with breath, my body and my core values.
I moved to a new city a few months ago to launch a new career. My children grown now, I had the freedom to return to a place I knew a long time ago, a place that feels like home. Part of the replant process entails more solitary time than I am used to, too much, to be precise.
To be voluntarily surrounded by four walls and quiet is no longer refuge.
Up and Away
I am at the trailhead in no time flat and I begin up the steep trail where Ponderosa Pine and Juniper grow alongside Rose Campion and Larkspur.
Lizards and crickets, butterflies and birds, are great company. I run into friendly faces and their canine sidekicks and I smile and greet them warmly. I pass a woman in her twenties with long blond hair in a skirt and hiking boots. She looks so young and fit and happy, until she gets closer. Then I notice the tears in her eyes, she looks down but not before making eye contact.
In that nano second I try to say with my eyes “I see it hurts right now, kinda sucks actually, but you are not alone.” Connection.
I watch with admiration, the guy carrying more body weight than most on the mountain, as he huffs and puffs up, one step in front of the other. Then there is the new mom with a baby on her back, undeterred by incline. Thumbs up to her.
Sense of Place
There are always the friends and couples that immediately evoke envy and then a litany of self-doubt. “Look at them, they have friends, or they are happily married, what did I do wrong.” It is the stuck place that makes me see all the people that have what I think I don’t have at the moment.
Interesting, at one time it was the women alone, free of the noise and chaos of children that I coveted. Note to self—there will always be plenty to envy, no doubt about that. I am curious about them all, what their lives are like, whom they love, and what their sadness’s stem from.
There are the inevitable brief conversations about weather, wildflowers, and dogs. I have the opportunity to tune into their voices, rather than my all too present thoughts, to really attend and listen. Some of these people may turn out to be friends in a year, or maybe not.
As I inch towards the top, I can see miles and miles of plains stretching out to the east, and to the West, Indian Peaks.
For me, this combination of big views, other people joined in a similar pursuit, breathing hard while carefully placing my feet on the sandstone and clay, pulls me out of myself and reconnects me to something bigger, broader. It reminds of why I made this move (when sometimes I think “what the hell am I doing”), and why I do the work I do.
It reminds me that just because today I feel lonely, doesn’t mean I will feel lonely tomorrow.
As a matter of fact I never feel the same way coming down the mountain as I did going up.
Maybe I do have a regular yoga practice after all. Mountain Yoga.
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© 2011, The Magazine of Yoga, LLC.