Meditation is available to anyone and it’s much more than sitting quietly in lotus pose on the yoga mat. We can start to remove barriers created in our minds about meditation by getting creative and finding alternative ways to reconnect with ourselves to find internal peace. For some that might be watching the sunset or listening to the sound of the ocean or to the songs of the birds, or by breathing in the aroma of the trees in the forest. We are encircled by the beauty of nature, we merely need to slow down and pay attention to our surroundings.
Pratyahara* – the ‘going in’ stage of meditation is about closing off external perceptions and opening up to internal experiences by letting them come into our awareness.
A good friend who is currently traveling through northern India (who previously told me that he could not meditate) has discovered that he can while out walking and connecting with nature. His recent journey has taken him through the natural beauty of the Tirthan Valley; here is an excerpt from his experience…
I arrived in Tirthan Valley a few days ago and got very lucky to find a young man in love with this valley! He and his brother have been working for the past four years to create a cultural village/home stay experience for travelers. They have shown me a true Indian experience which I will never forget.
You start at their guest house at 1200 metres elevation and they make you three home-made meals per day – believe me you really feel at home. On the first morning, after a delicious breakfast with ginger tea, we departed for a magical journey through the natural beauty of the mountains.
At 1400 metres we arrived at our first village. On the way up we encountered endless types of incredibly happy people of all ages and plenty of animals from goats to cows to dogs to monkeys. The monkeys were seemingly waiting for the orchard to produce apples and apricots. The villagers proudly sell local produce; they minimize the use of chemicals in their daily lives and have banned plastic bags throughout the entire district.
You can continue hiking up to 3500 metres finding lots of people along the way willing to teach you about handicrafts, local farming or home cooking which includes chapatti, rice dishes, pickles, salad and of course sweets! My guide has created a network of almost fifty villages who are all highly interested to preserve their unique and simple way of life while cautiously opening it up for tourism. From what I have seen the area is relatively untouched.
Yesterday I became the local market photographer and we laughed like crazy at every fruit and vegetable shack taking the photos with the locals. I love the kids here and I’m feeling great, really enjoying life.
You asked how my meditation is going. Well for me I believe being in nature is the best way for me to meditate. Like when doing dynamic meditation from Osho, I feel really in tune with my body, mind and spirit when I’m out walking. During this time I find it relatively easy to leave behind my thoughts, worries, schedule and even joys. I forget about the benefits of exercise and how slow or fast I’m walking, forget about what I’m supposed to be doing and just ‘be.’ I listen to the sound of the wind and the birds; I feel and hear the crunch of snow and the breaking of a twig beneath my boots and enjoy the crispness of the air brushing against my face. I become completely present to the nature around me.
I would suggest to anyone who wants to try a walking meditation to also stop along the way for a moment to feel the rock or earth you are sitting on, touch a plant as you pass it by or stand by a tree and feel the energy it gives you – trees have a very powerful energy field. Take enough time as you need to fully connect with the nature around you then begin a discussion with your surroundings, be it a plant, a tree or a rock. The discussion can be in silence or out loud! Nature is just waiting to be in communication with you. Try asking the tree if it enjoys life where it is or ask whatever comes to mind. Does the tree have a message for you? I believe it will provide an answer to your question if you really take the time to listen…there is wisdom all around us.
I can assure you this is a magical place and you should visit one day. I have realized that people in these remote cultures are an endangered species; for that reason I wish to travel for the next few years in order to see as much as I can. As always the universe has sent some great people my way but I’m not sure yet about my next move so I will keep you posted. G.
If you are interested to learn more about the Tirthan Valley or to inquire about a home stay experience, please click here.
*Various techniques to practice pratyahara will be discussed in future articles.