Skiing is the experience of ecstatic silent joy.
For the last 4 days, Ann and I have been on vacation cross country skiing in Craftsbury, VT. We used to come here every year for a week to enjoy the pristine mountains and excellent skiing. We haven’t been here in 3 years due to scheduling conflicts. It’s especially nice to be back and re-remember the bliss of nature.
I’ve been contemplating the five elements (sky, earth, water, fire, and air) lately since I see this as the basis of the Ashaya Yoga method. We are all made up of the five elements. If you want to know yourself, study the elements. We are part of nature. In fact, we are the highest expression of nature’s capacity to be conscious. We are the only beings with the capacity for reflective self-consciousness. We not only have the capacity to live in the present moment with all of our instincts, but we can draw from our past and consciously create a future. You are the crystallization of the divine’s desire to know itself. You are the sky embodied.
There are so many interesting relationships and teachings to be drawn from the five elements. One of the teachings I love is the notion that earth is condensed sky. Sky represents all possibilities, the infinite, unbounded, luminous space. It’s like an ocean without shores. There’s no beginning and no ending. These qualities are embodied in earth. Earth is the limited version, the finite version of sky. Since we are all made of the earth, we also have the unbounded and unlimited qualities of sky. But we are also limited at the same time. We are a dynamic matrix of all of the elements simultaneously.
The true art of yoga is to be able to use your limits (earth qualities) as the gateway to your limitless nature, sky. All limits, all challenges, all blockages are here for us to be able to rise up and become stronger and wiser. The earth element is loaded with tons of positive qualities as well, not just limits. Earth represents our ability to be steady, consistent, supportive, reliable, loyal, and unwavering in our dedication to the highest. I’ll share more about the qualities of the five elements soon.
Today I was humming along on my skate skiis on a 2-hour loop at Craftsbury. The ski conditions were superb. The trails were meticulously groomed. I was feeling good. Life was good. The weather was cold, 9 degrees, and no one around. I stopped for moment at a beautiful spot deep in the woods where a patch of sunlight beamed down reflecting light off the snow. Blue sky above me, the brown and dark green color of the pine trees surrounding me, the water flowing under the ice in the stream, the fresh rarified mountain air, the heat of the sun, and the heat from inside my smart wool shirt, all converged in a single moment of awareness. I was present with all of the elements.
Just in that moment, I had a deep insight. I became still and listened to the dynamic silence of the forest. Everything was still, yet pulsing. I was transported in my consciousness to a sublime realm where I was able to receive the “darshan” (blessing) from nature. I felt as though I was in the presence of a saint or an evolved being. I’ve experienced this before at the Ashram (Kripalu back in the 80’s) and many times at various retreats and gatherings over the years. The silence was filled with vitality, potency, and wholeness. I was infused with a kind of oneness, no separation. I was one with the silence. The silence was around me and inside of me. I felt a deep sense of spaciousness and connection to life, perfection in the orchestration of the universe to set this experience up for me, and ecstatic silent joy to be awake enough to recognize the beauty and take it in. I was humbled and in awe….I savored it, then released it.
I finished the loop with a glow in my heart and felt such gratitude to be alive. I think the essence of embodiment is to have experiences that move us out of the ordinary into elevated states of higher consciousness. Nature is great way to access this state and feel once again a deep sense of belonging.
Thanks for reading this. I hope you take some time to step outside and just be in the healing presence of nature.