Wilderness is defined as uncultivated, uninhabited, inhospitable, and neglected. The most benign definition I found in a web-search, was ‘a part of a garden devoted to wild growth’ (Merriam Webster). Oddly, synonyms for wilderness include outdoors, open air and nature, which, to me, are very positive terms. Perhaps the writers of dictionaries and thesauruses have not spent time in the wilderness. The dictionary considers only one kind of wilderness, it seems, and it is not particularly inviting. I respectfully disagree.
I live for times in wilderness; for times of experiencing all that wilderness has to offer. In this way, I define wilderness as a place not visited by many humans, yet richly inviting; a place to be discovered, explored and understood to the best of my ability.
Wilderness comes in many guises. There is the wilderness with which we are most familiar—mountains or deserts, the arctic or oceans. There are other wildernesses, too: wildernesses of the heart, mind and spirit.
Using my preferred definition as metaphor for these other wildernesses, there are places in my mind, heart and spirit that I had visited years ago but had not visited in a long time, losing touch with their depths. We can drift through life sticking to the more comfortable aspects of our psyches. Some of us search out the lesser known parts of our ourselves, looking more deeply, discovering, exploring and understanding our inner wild (our hearts, minds and spirits) to the best of our abilities.
It was with an open mind and heart that I traveled to Yandara Yoga Institute in Baja Mexico to participate in a 26-day yoga instructor training. I expected to learn cues and sequencing in order to teach yoga. I expected to do yoga daily and to deepen my practice. What I did not expect, but so much appreciated, was the opportunity to grow and learn in uniting body, mind and spirit.
Days began with silence. I woke, made tea and walked to the shore, kicked off sandals and walked in the sand to be mesmerized by the waves. Some days I just watched, other days I danced to the waves or painted in my journal. Yoga class began at 7:30. We experienced the absolute best instructors, each with their own style of teaching. Still in silence, we enjoyed breakfast around 9 then instructor classes began at 10am. I came to love the morning silence. It freed me to do what I wanted/needed to do with no expectations or outside influence. Morning silence, which I continue now that I am home, enables me to remain grounded so that I can experience the day with awareness and inner calm.
Our classes varied from learning cues and assists for poses to discussion of the eight limbs of Yoga, to selected Yoga sutras and to the chakras. I learned much, but I realize that there is much that I was not ready to learn and so I would take this class again. We had many opportunities to teach each other and to practice what we learned.
Yoga is a philosophy. It not a religion, nor is it hierarchical. Yoga is a path to unify heart, mind and spirit. We in the west think mostly of the Yoga poses—the asanas. There is so much more to it. I re-learned things I had learned years ago but had forgotten. I explored the wilderness of my heart and spirit, and I have grown in compassion and kindness.
This morning I woke, did last night’s dishes and heated water for tea in silence. Barefoot, I took tea onto the deck and drank, gazing up at Electric Peak. She is in view this morning, light clouds lingering their last over her peak. I breathed, drank, watched the mountain and listened to robins singing their song of spring. My gaze moved to the cottonwoods, beginning to bud out but still clear enough for bird viewing. This. This is how I remember who I am, how I maintain connection with my inner wild.
“Yoga is not about touching your toes. It is what you learn on the way down.” Jigar Gor