Yesterday morning we had another exquisite yoga session. As the teacher, I find myself quite struck by the depth of our surrender, quiet and stillness in savasana. It’s powerful, how we drop in here. Perhaps it’s the timelessness of the mountains around us. Or the work the Andean Shamans did with us that was, while in a verbal language we didn’t understand, viscerally permeable. Or possibly it’s that most electronic devices that occupy us at home, such as cell phones, don’t work here.
Savasana is the pose in which we practice dying. Translated as Corpse pose, it is a rehearsal of sorts, for our inevitable departure from this world. To internalize this while practicing here in the sacred valley of so much potent spiritual and cultural history transforms the experience. To what are we dying? What must be surrendered? And to what do we awaken when we arise from savasana?
As filled with ritual as the Andean practices are, yoga also utilizes ritual. If you ritualize your savasana and practice it with heartfelt relationship to these questions, there is a powerful transformative opportunity.
To what do we die? We die back to the immensity that sustains us now. We die back to the earth, the sea, the sun, and the stars. We die back to the deep quiet from which we were born. On a daily basis, savasana is also an opportunity to die back to Love; to dissolve any perceived barriers to the immense presence of Love as the force that sustains us. In this regard, savasana becomes a meditation on dissolving. The more we practice, and the more heartfelt our practice, the deeper the recognition of this Love. Ultimately, we then become able to drop into this immensity in waking moments, in conflicted moments, in joyful moments.
What must be surrendered? From a yoga perspective, we surrender our self-centeredness, our self-referencing, our perceived separateness, and our sense of isolation or alienation from Love itself. Savasana is also a time to actively surrender our conflicts, complaints, and habits of contraction. (You can always pick them back up again after savasana!)
Here in Peru, we’ve already committed to the surrender that international travel requires. We’ve surrendered tending to most of the life we live back home (ie I hope the garden is doing okay!). We also surrender too tightly held attachments to the way an activity unfolds (or be disappointed, miserable, or frustrated). While this surrender isn’t limited to Peru or any other destination, travel can really amplify this practice. The teachings of yoga tell us that surrendering our likes and dislikes, grasping and aversion, desire and resistance, leads to equanimity and freedom .
From this surrender, we awaken to experience a state of radical acceptance. Wide-eyed curiosity. A heart open to the world as it is showing up just now. A mind clear and available to what is right before us!
Today we visited the Pisac ruins. For five hours, we hiked the steep mountainside (starting at 10,000 ft, up and down elevation changes of 1000 ft) . Eyes open, heart beat accelerating, lungs pumping the thin air in response to our body’s altitude driven demands. While the physicality of this could overwhelm, simultaneously, the heart is magnetically aroused by the landscape in ways that one can not anticipate. Certainly, my legs were trembling with many of the downhill steps, and a surge of apprehension arose. Yet, the surge of my heart was more a fountain of awe: awe that each of us is such a tiny spec in the universe for such an infinitesimally small blink of time. Trembling thigh muscles were a pale distraction, a whispered reminder that every step on the journey of our short and precious lives is important; while the vaulting rise of mountains around us and the cascade of the deep valley below hauntingly reminds us that we belong to a much greater presence than we could every conceive. My personal prayer: to experience this presence embodied, to learn to love and be loved, to live in uninterrupted respect for all that is precious, and to abide in quiet humility like these mountains.
While we alternately reveled in and struggled with our mountain climb, a local man galloped over the pathways, often appearing on a rise above us, seemingly out of nowhere. The impressive thing about him wasn’t just that he was so light-footed, so quick and delicate, but that he played the flute along the way. Quite beautifully!
We would be struggling with a steep turn, cliffs on both sides, and be suddenly and sweetly serenaded. A reminder to soften and re-commit to the awe of the moment.
On the steepest, longest descent, we could hear him getting closer and closer, the sound growing in our ears. A realization that he was at the bottom of the ravine, when he’d previously been up above and behind us, was a pleasant and quizzical surprise! My trembling legs appreciated the haunt of his music. As I arrived at the bottom of the ravine, he offered me a flute to play.
In spite of my well-worked lungs, with his expert positioning of the flute to my mouth, something akin to music came out! I now have a flute that will play three octaves? Kind of like the height and descent of the hike!
DOGS and WINE
Following the physical challenges of the hike, we drove through the sacred valley to our next destination: The Green House Bed and Breakfast for the group and the Qawana Boutique Hotel for me and my roommate. Upon arrival, we were greeted by Dullio’s (our guide) dogs running alongside the van with the excitement of dogs seeing their human again after many days. At the Green House, three more enthusiastic dogs awaited our arrival. The sweet-eyed small blond dog melted into any opportunity for petting. The smaller red-haired dog showed off her new slipper covering a recent injury on her foot. And the black lab did what black labs do: soak up affection and ask for food. Over at the Qawana, Kim and I were greeted by a puppy with an interest in yoga.
Our hosts at the Green House served us a gourmet dinner of home grown salad, baby quiche with asparagus, a chicken and quinoa dish that included bacon, and apple crisp with ice cream for dessert. We were also offered red or white wine.
Funny how dogs, wine and ice cream can make people feel right at home!
Of course, with travel (and with yoga), we’re encouraged to feel a sense of home on the planet wherever we are.