Thursday, March 15, 2012

Expand into Nature + Walk Until Your Mind Shuts Up

There is a monstrous difference in our energy when we are indoors versus being outdoors in nature. Even if you don't think of urban or suburban sidewalks as 'nature', being outside period invites our energy to return to its natural expansive state.

The Yoga Spanadakarika calls the state of self-consciousness and ignorance we typically live in a "constriction of shakti", or life energy. When we are in a state of yoga, or harmony, our shakti is expansive, we are unbound. It makes perfect sense to describe it this way: if you watch your experience, when you enter inside from the outdoors, even more noticeably when you enter a public place with chaotic energy, such as a mall, and feel your energy.  When you are anxious or uncomfortable in any way, watch your energy, the sensations you experience. Feel how your body tightens up, draws in towards the center, tenses. Our creativity is restrained, our attitude is not as positive, our confidence is often retreated within itself.  When we are feeling whole and harmonious, we tend to feel open, light, free, inspired, creative, bold, literally expansive. When we go outside, we can feel this shift, from the walls and ceilings constricting our energy to the buoyant lightness, freedom as we unfurl and merge with the sky. This is perhaps a very poetically subjective way to state the experience, but try it for yourself when you are in a sensitive state of awareness.

Being stuck in our thoughts is another form of constriction of shakti. As we withdraw into our own heads, we withdraw from our connection to the world and beings around us. As we become more openly aware of internal and external at once, more present, we expand once again to a more natural state and frequency of our energy. Walking briskly outdoors, while consciously feeling posture, breath, air, and drinking in the scenery with your eyes. Every time you notice that you are participating in thinking and the inner conversation, as soon as you are aware, come back to even just a moment of taking in the scenery with your heart and senses wide open, only space, no thoughts. You can't push the thinking out, but you can get used to not paying attention to it unless its functional. This allows you to tune your attention to a different wavelength- the wavelength of being present. After you walk a while and practice this, you will find more and more space in between the thoughts pervading your mind. You will feel less constricted, less congested, less cluttered and flustered, and instead calmer, more focused, more peaceful, energized and grateful.  It depends on how long your mind needs to settle in, but 20-60 minutes is best.

Touching nature is always beneficial for our state of mental and physical health. Try to make some sort of contact everyday, with fresh air, sunshine, movement outdoors, and walk everyday if you can. Walking is the greatest natural anti-depressant. Whenever you feel stressed, just get outside and walk until your mind shuts up.

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