I’ve been practicing yoga outside a lot. More often than not, I drive up to the Redwood Park in the Oakland hills, wander off the path a bit, and find a nice secluded spot.
Sounds amazing, doesn’t it? If you want, you can imagine me holding a bottle of kombucha in one hand while balanced in natarajasana while the sun rises, and the mist lifts, and the birds sing. Except that’s...not really what happens. Ever.
More often that not, outdoor yoga comes with its own set of challenges and meditations. For one, nature isn’t a nice wood floor. Or paved, for that matter. So more often than not, there are sticks and rocks and bugs under my mat, and the ground is rarely level. But hey, why not? Why not have yoga at a slight (or extreme!) tilt, with a rock that seems to move to just where you put your hand in vasisthasana, or a sharp piece of who knows what emerging triumphantly through your mat (whoops).
It’s all yoga. It’s the little teachers everywhere that help us cultivate that calm and balance, just like those nights when there’s flamenco across the street during the meditation. There’s no need to get worked up about it. You just come back to the breath, and adjust, and balance, and gently move a rock out of the way, or leave it where it is. Because you’re here, and That Dang Inconvenient Thing is always going to be over there, or under there, or next to you, so you might as well just come back to the breath, and take it all in, because you might not get another moment quite like this one ever again.
Today, my mat was covered in ants.
I spent a valiant 5-10 minutes trying to gently guide them away, then flicking them away, then even stood up and shook out my mat.
Ants, in case you haven’t noticed, are persistent.
They returned in under 30 seconds.
So I came back to the breath, and I quit trying to control the natural world (and the ants) that were thoroughly content to keep doing their own thing. I got a few ants on me. I probably squished a couple, despite my best attempts at ahimsa, non-harming.
And you know what’s great? It was fine. Everything was, and is, fine. There were a couple of ants on me, and it wasn't the end of the world, or my practice.
Even when we find ourselves swarming with tiny irritations, it’s all still okay.
I just came back to the breath, over and over and over. It's so simple, and so challenging. Instead of the incessant coming and going of thoughts, nature rewarded me with an incessant coming and going of ants.
How wonderful! A new mantra: it’s all ants.
So, as always, thank you teacher, thank you ants, for giving me this opportunity to reconnect with my self, with my breath, with this world.
I’ll be back for more, ants and all.