When It Flows, GO
By Kimberly Zanger
One of the joys of Wanderlust is having room in your agenda to, well, wander.
My first opportunity came at 6:30 this morning, when I found myself wide awake and unable to get back to sleep. On a normal day that would piss me off. Good thing today isn’t a normal day, and I woke up at Wanderlust.
I'd scoped out the premises the night before, so I slipped out the back door of my room, over a low stone wall, and out onto the patio to my first destination: the hot tub. (Can I get a hell yeah?)
I slipped into the steaming tub just in time to enjoy the last moments of orange Alpenglow on Snow King Peak. As I watched the sun rise over the ridge of the valley, the knots of tension in my body – put there by yesterday's drive and last night's sleep on a narrow Therm-a-Rest – dissolved into the warmth and the stillness. (Note to self: acquire a hot tub as soon as possible and start every day there!)
I had planned to crash a 10:00 a.m. hike, but since I was unexpectedly ready to get on with it by 7:45, I decided to try for one of the 8:00 a.m. hikes instead. I figured my pale Irish skin would thank me for avoiding the prime sunburning hours.
At the base of the gondola, a crowd of 35 or so participants gathered around hike leaders Demetri Velisarius and Shiva Rea. Technically I arrived a few minutes late, but it felt like perfect timing.
“Nature is filled with shanti [peacefulness], but our task is to take that peace with us when we return to the world and the marketplace,” Demetri explained. “Can you have the same state of mind at the airport as you do on the trail? That’s the challenge.”
He's right, of course – it’s easy to feel at peace when peace surroundeds you, but it's much harder in a crowded world full of distractions and external stimuli.
This point was rammed home rather quickly at the beginning of the hike. On the way to the trailhead, a crew of construction workers was doing road work. The noise of the heavy equipment was loud, aggravating, and pervasive, and I found myself getting annoyed already. I wondered whether this noise would follow us up onto the mountain.
Shiva, with her characteristic tranquil positivity, addressed this as we formed a circle at the trailhead.
“You can hear the OM in the machines. It’s very deep,” she said with a grin. Shiva invited us to consider, while hiking, the ways in which we try to “push the river of life” (the name of this hike was The River Flows on its Own). I immediately thought of relationships! Don’t we all try to push the river of life at some point in our own love lives? (And how well does that work?)
Shiva led the group in chanting our own three OMs, and soon enough the sound of the heavy equipment blended into the landscape of nature, movement, group energy, and interconnectedness as we began our ascent.
We hiked at a leisurely pace through the pine and fir trees until we reached a small stream with a waterfall. Before the members of the group fanned out into the woods, each to find his or her own “seat” for silent meditation, Shiva gave us one last gem of guidance using the silent language of the body. She gestured expansively and mouthed the words to us: “Feel the river in your heart!”
And so we did. Basking in the stillness of the mountains and the gentle flowing of the stream, we allowed the peace to permeate.
After 20 minutes or so of silence, the Demetri and Shiva drew the group back together for a few final minutes of unified intention. They encouraged us to pray and feel compassion for the victims and even the perpetrators of violence and suffering in the world, and to dedicate a portion of our meditative energies to silent prayer for their uplift – and, by extension, the uplift of the entire world.
“Peace, happiness, well-being, and freedom from sorrow and the causes of sorrow,” was Demetri’s elegant invocation.
We rounded out the group meditation by chanting the ancient mantra loka samasta sukhino bhavantu: may the whole world and all its beings be filled with joy and peace.
Later, as we wandered back down the mountain at our own pace, I reflected on the ways that I try to push the river of life. I resolved to take my cues from the gentle flow of the mountain streams and the trees, plants and animals that surround them: witness the flow, and take part in it without attempting to push it in any direction other than the way it’s already heading. I know that doesn’t just mean letting the current take over, however. Instead I’ll stay attentive, seated upright in my own one-woman kayak, the oars in my hands gently guiding me around the rocks.
My lessons in flow continued as soon as the hike was over, at my first yoga class that day: The Flow Practice with Nikki Costello. She’s a certified Iyengar Yoga teacher, and as a long-time Iyengar Yoga practitioner myself I was curious to see how she would teach a flow class in a yoga style that is not commonly known for doing a lot of continuous movement from one pose to another.
As the class moved from one pose to the next, Nikki encouraged us to think about a river. Just as a river flows between its two banks, so should the river of energy inside each of us flow between the “banks” of the river that we create for ourselves: the structure of our poses. Aha! The river flows by itself, but when the river is inside of us, WE can create the conditions for its optimal flow. We do this, Nikki explained, by creating the best “container” possible through correct alignment and the mindful positioning of the body. Aha. So that’s where the classical precision and attentiveness to detail that Iyengar Yoga is known for comes into play in a flow practice. Leave it to an Iyengar Yoga teacher to bring structure to the satiety!
I left the class feeling energized, refreshed, and ready to go. That is, ready to “flow” to the next Wanderlust adventure, wherever it may be.