Recently I went camping in Los Padres National Forest. I had never been and was awestruck by the range of natural beauty it offered. From amazing views gained by mountain hikes to rock hopping along the river bank, it was a great weekend getting back to nature.
And birds. So so many birds. Each morning I would awake to the sounds of birds and those songs would continue past sunset. Everywhere you went you would hear birds eagerly singing out to the world.
One of those places was a small lake. Walking around it, with no trees to impede their chirps, you could hear a clear and resonant call of red-winged blackbirds perched upon a single reeds, bending in to support the gentle weight.
However I was with a large group and hushed bird watching was not the main focus. It was a party, a friend’s birthday. Lots of talking and laughing, moving fast with loud foot steps. Far too many entertaining distractions to choose over the lake and it’s bird songs.
So after we returned to camp, I resolved to head back to the lake. I wanted to experience it distraction free, with no jokes or questions to call my mind away. No footsteps to drown out the call, just sitting and birds.
Free of distraction, I was able to experience the blackbirds’ beautiful song. I could track them swooping into the reeds only to reemerge a minute later and zip over to another spot. I heard songs from unseen birds in trees surrounding and listened to their warble echo across the lake. It was one of my favorite moments of the trip.
Usually when I think of meditation, I think of it as sitting down and being quiet for 10 minutes or so. The transition from preparation to meditation is so quick that I rarely have thought them as separate. But in this case I feel as if the meditation was the walk down to the lake. Meditation was the action to clear my mind of all the distraction and to allow something greater to reveal itself to me.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Krishna instructs his faithful discipline Arjuna “When meditation is mastered, the mind is unwavering like the flame of a lamp in a windless place. In the still mind, in the depths of meditation, the Self reveals itself.”
The ‘reveal’ is not meditation. Meditation is the work to free oneself from the constant distractions of the mind, from the constant wind against the flame. Meditation is a practice to suppress the mind chatter so that we may experience the reveal. It is not a specific thing that we experience in our chosen seat, it is the practice of taking the seat and stilling the mind.
And if what is revealed to you happens to be soundtracked by a choir of birds, so much the better.
Josh believes in the importance of moving yoga beyond the studio and into everyday life. His strong and even-tempo flow based classes focus on consistency of effort, and attention to breath. Beyond yoga, Josh spends his free time biking, swimming, and listening to hip-hop.