A Walk in the Forest with Sharath Jois

A Walk Through Time – with Sharath Jois

There was a Moon Day in the first leg of Sharath Jois’ U.S. tour, beginning in Stanford.

Sharath – known for his strong appreciation for nature and preservation efforts – planned to spend this day off visiting the nearby Muir Woods National Monument.

I find that these days, spending time outside in nature is as vital as anything else that feeds me. And more often than not, it’s where I go to be with me – outside has become my gateway in. So I was really happy to have Meghan and me invited – I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the day, nor with better people.

One of the first displays we came to in the park was of an ancient redwood tree. Its rings revealed more than a thousand years of life, surviving not just the logging industry but other historical events of epic proportion. Though it was actually John Muir’s quote written below that made us all take pause with a solemn recognition. Words still so relevant, over a hundred years later.

God has cared for these trees, saved them from drought, disease, avalanches, and a thousand straining, leveling tempest and floods; but he cannot save them from fools—only Uncle Sam can do that. – John Muir, 1901

I think the struggle of today is new, but it’s not. Conservation is not a new battle. The fight between those who want to strip the land and those who want to preserve its natural beauty didn’t begin with Bears Ears National Monument. We’ve been here before. Many times, I suppose.

Just as the battles of discrimination, genocide, religion, poverty, and so many others  The fight continues.

And yet, it all feels so fresh right now. The schism in our country cuts deep but we are not the only ones suffering. I turn on the news and there’s an attack in London.  Every day, I wrestle with my own sense of responsibility and purpose. And yet, more and more I feel helpless to the gravity of my own inadequacy.

How did we get here? And what do we do now? 

These were the questions posed to Sharath while we were in Mysore this past January, days after 45’s  inauguration.The election wasn’t just a battle – it was a war. And we lost.

I remember feeling slightly disappointed in Sharath’s nonchalance as he spoke about the patterns, encoded in nature and the cycles of change. He talked about the natural process to this world that includes being born, living, and dying.What goes up, must come down, he told us (a concept he spoke more about in our podcast).

Time doesn’t change, it simply continues. The predictable passage of night is marked only by light. We didn’t start somewhere nor are we headed anywhere. We simply go around, tethered to a wheel that’s continuing to circle.

In the heat of the moment, this all felt grossly unsatisfying. But the truth often does. It would take me more time for the comfort of such insight to sink in.

Sharath told us to revisit the Bhagavad Gita, a recommendation he would repeat in nearly every conference. And I was happy to have followed his advice. But that wasn’t all he told us to do. He told us to be steady and rooted in our sadhana, a daily spiritual practice.

The Yamas. The Niyamas. Practice. These aren’t levels to complete, but ideals to continue and uphold.

Every week in conference, we are reminded in conference that the very best we can do for ourselves and for our world, is remain devoted to a life that is loving and pure. This isn’t just how we find our own happiness, but how we will bring happiness back into the world. Or as Scott Johnson recently put it:

I believe the heart of yoga practice, and life, is basic goodness, love and generosity. As they evolve in our lives these are the things that we can share, and the fruits of our practice we can give away in helping others. This is a place we can move from.

Never was there a time when I did not exist, nor you nor these lords of men. Neither will there be a time when we shall not exist; we all exist from now on. As the soul experiences in this body – childhood, youth, and old age, so also it acquires another body; the sage in this is not deluded. (Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 2: 11-13)

I look up and for a moment I wonder, Is this really why Sharath has brought us here? To literally show us the forest for the trees. Because I for one have been so distracted and caught in a roller coaster of my own emotions, I’d stopped seeing an even bigger truth:

My practice is part of a bigger plan – as am I. Love matters.

I’ve never quite considered the concept of reincarnation, yet it’s hard to ignore a certain synchronicity over the course of both space and time and a collective dharma or purpose that spans generations.

John Muir’s efforts to protect the land … Jesus’s message of inclusiveness and love … Arjuna’s struggle to do the right thing continues through us. To deny our own significance is to deny theirs as well. This isn’t a path we started but it’s a path we must continue.