“I can’t be worried about that shit.The Big Lebowski
Life goes on, man.”
The route through a tiny fishing village on the Bay of Banderas has taught me more about life than any yoga class.
The path through town, although literally set in stone, is cobbled and uneven. The width varies, sometimes only wide enough for one person and then opening up again. The path is impeded daily by various elements.
Dogs and cats, sunning themselves, stretch out for me to step over. Piles of wet cement often greet me as I get to the edge of the pueblo. A delivery of eggs or bottled water or cases of beer may show up to block my path. The four wheelers, the mules, the horse shit and the dog shit (although it gets cleaned up daily) are also present to keep it interesting. The obstacles keep me alert and give me the opportunity to actively engage with my surroundings.
There are natural and daily obstacles here that feel benign – helpful even, because these obstacles keep me present – and yet when looked at from our antiseptic, totally measured and manicured Western lifestyles, these impeding forces can seem threatening.
Back in the U.S., it’s easy to check out. We’ve engineered and demanded uniformity in everything. We demand smooth highways, even sidewalks, level floors, guard rails and “danger” signs.
We value consistency above all else, confusing this for integrity.
We end up ossifying and become hardened in our need for comfort. We get rigid and set in our ways. We celebrate those who are the best at being rigidly who they’ve defined themselves to be because it feels reassuring to go to bed and wake up with exactly the same person.
What is much truer is that we all wake up different. I wake up as a different person than who I was the night before. Last night I finished a book that opened my mind in a way it had never been opened before. Last night no coati mundi woke me. Last night the earth rotated to give me a new and unique relationship with the sun and the moon. The sky shyly offered another glimpse of herself to me.
This morning the tide is low, there are new snails covering the rocks along the shoreline. The current is flowing in a decidedly different direction than it was yesterday.
Today awaits. The cobbled and obstacle-strewn path through the Pueblo invites me to walk with both eyes open, blinders off, guard rails missing, safety measures non-existent.
“I must admit my many inconsistencies. But since I am called ‘Mahatma’, I might well endorse Emerson’s saying that ‘Foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.’ There is, I fancy, a method in my inconsistencies. In my opinion, there is a consistency running through my seeming inconsistencies, as in Nature there is unity running through seeming diversity.”Mahatma Ghandi (YI, 13-2-1930, p52)
Everyday at the beach I order salsa.
“Salsa Picante” is what I order to differentiate it from pico de gallo. And every day they bring a different salsa. Why? Because every day they take what is available, what is ripe and what is fresh, what is ready and what is PRESENT, and make their salsa picante from scratch.
Yesterday was orange and HOT as hell and so delicious, even if the texture was slightly too runny for my expectations.
Today it is red, green, and white, chunky and crunchy, made from serano chilis, fragrant tomatoes, and onions. So spicy, so chunky and so delicious, even though I missed the specific hot taste of the habanero.
One day they served a salsa that was oily and smoky; I didn’t enjoy it the way I had the others, but it was perfect for the “taco de pescado” I was eating and I never would have tried a smoky salsa on my own.
I quickly learned I couldn’t rely on getting the salsa I loved; I had to stay open to what showed up.
There’s no culture of “sameness” here; it’s not built into societal norms. They don’t adhere to the McDonalds’ culture; there is no formula except to use what is fresh and what is present. And because of that, I’ve now experienced an array of flavors, textures, colors, and burning sensations just by sitting on a beach ordering salsa. And I’ve learned a profound life lesson: there’s not just one way to enjoy salsa.
“The mind’s subconscious physical memory was so powerful, so adroit in its calculations, that climbing only two or three stairs set the formula. When a step of a slightly different measure was encountered, a person was sure to stumble over that fraction of space not recognized by the body’s swift memory.”Sarah Stonich, These Granite Islands
Here in Mexico stairs have their own personality.
The stairs I walk daily to and from the beach (a la playa) require my full attention. I’ve started to get to know each step and have even named a few of them. One is tall and wide, another only half covered with cement, one side higher than the other. The next step is so short my toes hang off it, and the next step shallow enough to have me teetering precariously for a moment. The next step feels deep in comparison. As though I’m stepping into an abyss. Then the stair seems to rise up and meet my bare foot, reassuring my body that it was there all along.
Each stair offers itself up to me to be known and seen and understood. Each step requires my full presence. The stairwell, a mish-mash of personalities, the very opposite of “formula,” keeps my mind checked in.
This to me is the perfect walking meditation. Perfectly manicured zen gardens, fabricated labyrinths, and expansive parkways pale in comparison.
Walking HomeWarsan Shire
later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
where does it hurt?
I walk home from dinner in the moonlight, with my trusty headlamp and flashlight, to the sound of the surf crashing right along the rocky path I’m traversing.
Many times the waves wash across my feet, which is why the only shoes I wear here are flip flops.
Tonight the ocean is very rough and the sea itself covers the path in certain places. A large piece of driftwood bars my normal route. I take off my shoes to have even more connection to the sandy, gravelly, uncertain way home.
I climb over the driftwood carefully, feeling proud of myself for navigating this treacherous path so gracefully. Before this thought leaves my head, my bare foot slips on a rock. As I land on my ass and continue to slide toward the sea, I notice I’m laughing. “Pride cometh before the fall” I yell into the abyss.
Now I have a scraped up butt cheek, a bloody foot, and another tangible lesson in life. No matter how careful, how prepared, how confident I am, I will encounter rough seas. I will meet obstructions on my path. I will think I’m totally capable, and then I will fall. Life will hurt. I may get bloodied; I may feel broken. And then I’ll get up and continue home anyway.
“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountain top is going home; that wilderness is a necessity.”John Muir
“Be in your body.” When I was younger, I thought I knew what that meant – and for me it was running or hiking or lifting weights or . . . well anything active.
I didn’t realize back then that intention played such a large role in what effects I could expect.
I had two major intentions in my twenties when it came to my body. I stayed constantly active to distract myself away from what my body was truly feeling. I ran marathons to run away from my pain. And I exercised because I was never truly satisfied with the way my body looked. At that time, I had no clue I really had an “inner body” to hang out with and get to know.
I got into Yoga because I was stiff and getting injured. I stayed for a very different reason. To make a long story short, I found out what it really means to be in my body, truly experiencing (moment by moment) what my body was experiencing. Watching sensations rise and subside with my breath. Finding a really lovely place inside to call my center.
I realized that intelligence resides in every cell of my body. And that doing yoga was practice for doing life. So now, as I walk through the jungle, toward an oasis of a cool waterfall, I move my body to immerse myself in my experience rather than run away from it.
This shift in perspective allows me to notice the snake that looks exactly like a vine hanging from the thorny tree rather than speeding by it. It allows me to stop and watch a thousand spiders emerge from a hollow log, rather than watching my heart rate. It means I count how many macaws I see in the trees rather than counting how many calories I’m burning. It means that both my soul and my body have been moved today.
About the Author:
D’ana Baptiste is a teacher, trainer, author, and influencer, and pioneer in the yoga community, D’ana inspires others to find their own way in the “mind-body” world. She organizes regular workshops and retreats in North America, and is a co-founder of HelloYogaWorld. She’s the author of four books: The Yoga Sutras: One Woman’s Personal, Practical, and Playful Perspective, Sutra Study Guide: Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, The Real Yoga: Life, and Practices Inspired by the Sutras: The Companion Book