Time & Connectedness, a Yogi’s love affair with nature ~ By Carter Tracy, M.Div

“I want to feel like this always!”

My final year in Atlanta, every afternoon on my way home from work I would ride my bike to a slender patch of forest squeezed between two expanding neighborhoods. I would lay down upon the trunk of fallen tree and sink into the rhythm of my breath, dimly aware of the sounds of street life meandering through the ivy-covered trees. I would feel my eyeballs finally relax after a long day in front of a computer monitor. I felt my feet attached to my body again, my legs outstretched. My shoulders wriggle away the tension from too many conversations. I would beckon to the Universe, “I want to feel like this always!” Like the crystal rain-drops rolling down the leaves. Like the smooth, damp tree bark against my back. Like the scuttling sound of squirrels scurrying over dead leaves on the ground. Like the quiet. The quiet in which the trees seem to whisper to one another a sad story of their steady disappearance.

I moved to New Mexico, to a tiny spiritual community where every night I could see and name the stars in the expansive sky. Deer galloped across my path on my way to morning meditation and coyotes howled ominous midnight warnings. I walked barefoot in winter weather, encircling a Buddha shrine. Icy sensations in my feet made my whole body tingle. I practiced my vinyassas in a dim-lit Zendo and discovered new strength in my downward dog, levity in triangle pose. Long hours of meditation brought gentleness and quietude. Living in the lap of the natural world, I found rest and wonder and delight.

New Mexico Wild Fires

In my second summer in New Mexico, wildfires devastated untouched forests and threatened to reek havoc on a sanctioned nuclear power site. The rains came too late to nourish the farmlands. The mountain spring dried up. I awoke every morning to a legion of smokey peaks lining up behind the Rio Grande Gorge. Rung to breakfast prayer by a cowbell, I hiked home to my tiny tent each night by Moonlight and the light of the Milky Way. My feet feeling the steep, rocky path, carefully testing the stability of each oncoming step. My arms outstretching into the darkness sensing for spiderwebs and fallen branches, a sudden spaciousness signifying the clearing near my tent site. Laying in my sleeping bag with my cheek against the ground, there were wild winds outside keeping me awake. My tent swaying like the tree branches surrounding me.

This high mountain haven, two hours north of Santa Fe, made no promises to protect my safety or appease my need for comfort. With water as a scarce resource, an uncertain future beckons the land. Yet I found thrill in each new moment, as delighted by the wide night sky as the morning sunrise. I chopped firewood, cultivated chard & kale and learned the names of quirky constellations. In a clearing in the dense aspen tree grove, with the soft, nutrient-rich earth as my mat, I mastered half-moon pose, tree pose, warrior 3 and eagle. Reaching arms and stretching legs into the forest’s stillness, I felt like I was flying!

Connectedness

I live in a city now. My yoga practice is cultivating the lightness and balance I find in deep connection with nature in the midst of hectic city life. It is challenging at every turn. Noise, concrete, traffic jams, fluorescent signs stealing the night sky from the stars, and bad news on the radio all threaten to discourage my hope. Yet every time I return to the mat, I find hope again as the flow of sensation through my body calls me back to the simple equanimity I discovered in the aspen grove, to the slowing down of time and to the thrill of uncertainty. To me, my practice is a form of activism. I am renewing life in simple ways against the background of depleting industrialism.

The Mayans predicted 2012 to be the year time ends. Is it? To me, the end of time is the end of a story – a story of certainty, a story of knowing what happens next. We set our morning alarm clock with certainty that 7:00 AM will happen again and so will our day, our week, our year, our life. In yoga we forget all this. In yoga, we surrender to our teacher’s thoughtful guidance. We gaze inward at our muscles, at our tendons and ligaments and cells. Like listening to the sound of the wind and feeling the sway of tree branches, we observe a flow of renewing energy traverse our body’s core. Like a mountain spring hydrating arid farm lands, we relax, we accept. For me yoga, the trees and the clear mountain springs carry the same truth – energy, uncertainty, surrender. We do not know what the next moment is. Yet we are invited to open to life exactly as it is, flowing with its movements, both gentle and severe. Softly, we guide the course of our experience, inviting simplicity, gentleness, quietude and depth. Time is our medium. It is the space in which experience unfolds and experience is malleable. There is possibility in everything and connectedness is as simple as leaning against a tree.

Thank you so much to Durgaya for inviting me to her blog. Our friendship blossomed during my last years in Atlanta. Living just a few blocks from one another, we’d walk together to her Saturday afternoon yoga class where she’d guide me through quick and challenging vinyassas. Then we’d stroll home, slowly and relaxed, and catch up over a cup of tea. Our afternoon communions grounded me at time when in my heart I was seeking new horizons. Between out-breaths and sips of tea, the whens and wheres and hows of my life did not so much matter and I was happy simply to have a friend.

Carter Tracy, M.Div is an astrologer and an eco-activist. After 18 years in Atlanta, Georgia, Carter moved to Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico and then spent a summer living at the Lama Foundation north of Taos, New Mexico. Carter now lives in Providence, Rhode Island. She publishes the Moon Manifesting Workbook, a guide to co-creating new possibilities with the cycle of the Moon.

Carter Tracy, M.Div

About Carter Tracy

Carter Tracy, M.Div is an astrologer and an eco-activist. After 18 years in Atlanta, Georgia, Carter moved to Upaya Zen Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico and then spent a summer living at the Lama Foundation north of Taos, New Mexico. Carter now lives in Providence, Rhode Island. She publishes the Moon Manifesting Workbook, a guide to co-creating new possibilities with the cycle of the Moon.