Brahmacharya, “walking with the divine.” What better way to describe my recent trekking experience, as we made our way along trails high up into the heavens in the Himalayas of Ladakh? This yama has many interpretations, ranging from celibacy, to moderation of desires, to being aware and appreciative of everything around you, to wisely using vital energy and resources. These last two inspirations seemed to resonate the most at some 14,000 feet of elevation.
Years back, there was a time when the same trail would be an entirely different experience: racing against the clock, plus measuring my heart rate, mileage, and speed to ensure I was maximizing my efforts to beat my personal best. The focus was more about training and performance, targets and metrics, and taking my body to its limit; and less about the joy of presence, of being aware and intimate with all my surroundings.
This time it was different. Let’s start with wise use of energy. In this case, climbing mountains at this level of elevation requires conscious breathing and mindfulness with something as basic as walking. Each step, each sway of arms, is carefully chosen to require minimal amount of effort. This time, everything around me – the bluest of skies, puffy white clouds so close I could touch them, warm breeze, wildflowers and grasses, beautiful Tibetans coming out to greet us, clear running streams, birds, rivers – all were a representation of the divine. This intimate connection with everything around me soothed and warmed my heart. And, as a rainbow appeared just over a nearby mountain, tears of joy rolled down my cheeks, feeling yet another welcoming embrace from God. As the tears dried, I reflected on the ways this happiness and peace could follow me beyond the trails that inspired, where, and how to move in such a way to leave less of a footprint and have more connection.
On the mat, I noticed every detail of my breath: the texture and sound, as well as how it seemed to create paths to find the way; the manner in which the palms of the hands connected with Mother Earth while flowing through cat and cow or hovering in downward dog, at peace with whichever way the foot rested along the standing leg, my tree limbs swayed with the gentle wind. I took note of where the body was wasting energy as I struggled with that gnarley boat pose or side plank. Where can I let go?
Off the mat, I’ll take this practice of using energy wisely to my relationship with the earth, trading my fossil-fueled vehicle for electric, and taking steps to use more solar for the house and other devices. As I transition out of tech to my true love, getting back to pedaling from point A to B will be a joy. Completely eliminating plastic and replacing with glass and other reusable alternatives. Need a “new” shirt? Next time I’ll consider purchasing a preowned top. Composting. The list goes on and on. I close my eyes and visualize the bluest skies and clearest streams of the mountains of Ladakh, and recall something ashtangi and teacher David Swenson once shared at one of his workshops… At the end of the day, we just want to make whatever space we come to a little better than when we first arrived… Living the yoga.