Nature as my Altar
Updated: Dec 4, 2020
Hola and Namaste everyone,
I write this as I sit on my front porch listening to the calmness of the rushing ocean waves and the mantra of melodic black birds in my front yard. In back, I hear a howler monkey vocalizing the dawn of day. It’s a little early for the leaf cutter ants to be out scurrying but they will be here very soon along with the iguanas searching for the perfect tree or roof top to sun bathe. I love Nature! I haven’t always. Most of my life I was pretty much a city girl with the occasional weekend camp out with family and friends which I enjoyed but there was always a distraction by conversation and socializing.
So this blog is about my spiritual processes and finding Nature as my practice.
For well over twenty years, my spiritual path has been YOGA. I have been to India thirteen times (many of the trips were leading students on a yoga journey) and each trip I would return home with a suitcase full of dieities, Siva, Durgha, Ganesh, Krishna, Hanuman on and on. My altar at Shanti Om was (and still is) filled with Saints and Sages and without my teacher Swami Satchidananda, I would not be here right now. I love them all!
But there is one spiritual path that contains all others.. and one which conflicts with none. It is Nature! Nature doesn’t require me to believe in any deity. It is not dogmatic and it doesn’t judge or damn disbelievers. Nature gives us all we need mentally, physically and spiritually!
Over the past few years of my Ayurveda studies I felt myself becoming more and more connected to the elements of Nature within myself.. and all around me. In my meditations I found myself not looking or thinking of any specific God or Goddess but connecting to the elements (mahabhutas) within ME and feeling more connected to all of Nature.. Us as One.
Not that I didn’t bring along some of my deities to Costa Rica. Statues are sitting in every corner of my home and certainly Swami Satchidananda has made this move with me, thank heavens! However, I use nature more now as my Altar. Hence a big reason I chose to move to Costa Rica. When I left the States I left a lot of students and yoga connection which was new for me and little scary but deep down I knew I wanted-needed more space and silence. I needed my relationships to change in many ways. And this was all for my Spiritual growth. It also meant setting boundaries with my time, with people, including my husband and my (very often needy) little dog. I have come to realize that I need to work less… on everything, I need more silence, I need to walk in the woods, I need to swim the ocean, I need to ride horses. And of course I need to practice yoga and Ayurveda.
Please know that I realize how blessed I am to be living here in Costa Rica with the richness of nature. What I experience even in my front and back yard is enough to make the most doubtful person believe that there must be Divine order. My husband and I joke about the critter of the month club at our home. We have howler monkeys from November through June, Iguanas all year round and the most amazing order of Army ants that come to clean our house before summer sets in. I can not count how many species of insects we encounter on a regular basis, some so stunningly beautiful, others super creepy yet equally amazing. I have seen more pain (and often death) here in this Nature than I have ever seen in my entire life and it has taught me that there is a natural rhythm to everything and it not only makes sense but there is an alliance to it. I practice non-violence (Ahimsa) whenever possible yet I am not here to change what is in Ones Nature.
I walk the beach twice a day- around sunrise and at sunset. During my walks I see so much beauty on the earth, up in the sky and out in the ocean. Witnessing the daily rhythms of the horses, the packs of dogs, the crabs, iguanas and the multiple species of birds are a daily inspiration. And Nature is everywhere. In urban areas a squirrel doing gymnastics on the telephone wire is just as impressive as the monkeys in my backyard. Or a story I read recently about a goose planting herself in freeway traffic refusing to leave her dead mate while risking her own life not to abandon. That story is amazing and it touches my heart so deeply. The Yogis say enlightenment is a state of perfect awareness. From my perspective enlightenment is what many animals already have.
The plant life. Wow here in Costa Rica the earth is so rich that it produces the most amazing wildlife of plants, trees and medicinal herbs that you can imagine. I am learning about so many unique and healing plants that I cant even begin to tell you.. but again isn´t the tenaciousness of a weed or blade of grass literally pushing itself through a cement wall or stone walkway with its gusto for life super amazing? Nature is everywhere when we look for it!
The first few months I was here, on my walk each morning, I would make a fun little mandala out of nature…out all sorts of things on the trail or on the beach and then I would watch how that mandala would change each day.. or be washed out to sea. In the same way, I witness the change of the plants and trees through the seasons (which is only two here-rainy and sunny) but I am impressed how the same one plant or tree will transition and change with each day with each rain fall or sun shine.
I have learned two important things about my walks: the first is to walk alone and the second is to sit. As much as I enjoy my friends and my husband´s company walking in nature, there is something special when I walk alone and in silence. Pauses are as important as breathing and silence as important as speaking. When I stop, pause find stillness and listen, that is when I feel most connected from my core to the entire planet.
From the beach, I enjoy observing the stones and how the weather and the salt water gives them a refined beauty each so unique in its own way. It reminds me of how we as humans are also shaped by the heat, the waves, the storms, etc. and not only outside but inside too. The ocean reminds me that I have to flow. I have to ride the waves in this sometimes crazy world as best I can.
When I left the Shanti Om Altar and my spiritual community (Sangha), I almost felt like I was betraying something. I felt apologetic to my Guru and teachers for leaving what I felt was my lineage but after all, Yoga and Ayurveda are built from Nature.. from the yoga asanas to the Ayurveda herbal decoctions! The Yogis have been doing what I am doing for over 5000 years. So I now realize that this is where yoga has led me. This is where my teacher Swami Satchidananda has led me. And I often imagine Him with a big smile on his face seeing me now. I imagine Him saying to me.. ¨this is what it is about! You got it Bhakti .. you finally got it!
Deep Pranams to our Mother Earth and ALL that She gives us!