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Oct 2014

Greetings Yoga Friends -

I was sharing a hike last Sunday morning in the Gorge, and in conversation two of us mentioned how, for us, in many ways Walking is our Religion.

It wasn't a very thought out comment. More a kind of enthusiastic declaration to the old-growth doug-firs which rose like sentinels along our path, and to the receding-into-the-mists under-story of season-turning vine maples and early-popping mushrooms.

And then I came home to my email to find those thoughts put into more detail by the minister at my Mum's church. A unitarian congregation in Cambridge, where the minister arrives in black leather motorbike pants, plays jazz (well) on week nights, and unabashedly calls himself both a Christian and a Religious Naturalist.

So naturally Henry David Thoreau is one of his favorite sources of inspiration.

Here was his quote of the week.

"Thoreau’s religious naturalist discipline, that of becoming a watchman continually seeking God in Nature, helped him to see that the meaning of life is not to be found outside the world, in some other transcendent, divine realm apart from our own, but always-already woven through everything. The experience of constant, attentive walking showed him that, even when all was dark around him, something creative, life and hope enhancing would, eventually, always be seen."

And what I understood from Andrew Brown's sermon was that Thoreau was not seeking from walking-with-attention in nature a spigot of good news tidbits to brighten his day, as if it was a version zero of facebook and he wanted all the cute cat pictures.

Rather it is more like the attention that Patanjali calls for us to bring to our yoga practice. Nothing left out. The good and the bad. Or rather, what we would title the good and the bad from the perspective of our narrative, of our ego. Our attachments and our dislikes. To see something more than this duality of our own perspective in the unity of the natural world.

I think that can be how we hold a yoga pose. Not hold as in clinging onto, but hold as in a frame for our spiritual practice. Noticing that today this part hurts, and this part is strong. That the mind is still distracted by the angry thought that churns back around however hard we push it away. And then we simply come back to the breath without fixing anything.

Which is not to wholly internalize the good and the bad. Thoreau, in his time, saw the great moral battle as against the evil of slavery in America. I am glad he did. But if Walking is indeed my Religion, my faith is that the path of attention invites me to get out of my head and glimpse the truth of divine union.

Even in these damp autumnal woods. Even in this slowly-falling-apart and still-breathing body.

Namaste - Eugene