Still strangers, the thirty other yoga-teachers-in-training and I gather in a circle around our instructors, David Lurey and Mirjam Wagner. We learn how our days will unfold for the next four weeks: morning asana practice, breakfast, lecture, lunch, siesta, lecture, dinner, evening program.
Dinner that evening introduces our palates to the fresh vegetarian cuisine that will fuel our journey and nourish our bodies while we undergo our training. The next morning I wake to the music of Brazil's southern rainforest. The humming encompassing me vibrates as energy. There, a caw-caw-caw of some unseen bird. Plants, so many plants, growing everywhere, none of which I can name. Except the Flaming Golden Candle plant, whose leaves fold together at night as hands pressed together in prayer.
I sip tea, eat a mango, all in silence, waiting for our morning practice to begin. A cat meows at my feet; in the nearby village, a rooster crows; the forest continues to hum and caw and scream with deep throated exclamations of dawn.
I sit on a couch, every morning, scribbling away in my notebook. As time drips by, I yearn to pinpoint the unfolding happening in each moment: to record the growth and self-uncovering, as if by transcribing the unearthed portions of my inner-world to the page I may be able to make the changes permanent.
How can I trust that the peace I am cultivating here, the contentment, will stay with me when I return home? Already I am fearful of the future, of falling back into old mind-habits of wanting to be better, to do more.
Prior to this time-out from “real life,” I functioned on an old story that in order to be happy, I had to work hard. I had to earn respect for myself by accomplishing things.
A tabby rubs against my ankles, bringing me back to the moment. To my left, the sun rises above tree line and falls upon my forehead. Water droplets glide down an arching palm branch outside the window. The sun shines through them as they move as beads of light, white as the sky. They slide towards the earth, one then another, like notes ringing off guitar strings.
When I allow my mind to dwell in the present, stress seems to glide away. One thought drips, then another, then another. I come back to my reflection on the anxiety I accepted as normal at home, knowing that I am not alone in my struggles to stay happy and healthy when I never felt like I did enough—that I was enough.
Our lives in this day and age appear as a constant battle to stay alive in a culture that asks us to work harder, to do more. How often do I live my life half asleep? How often do I exist on autopilot? My mind always wanting to wander to the past or future, missing, perhaps, the bell shaped flower to my right.
Or then there's the bird in the shadows ahead, elegant legs and storied feathers. These little gems live in the present, and my mind pulls me to the yesterday, or to some imagined tomorrow.
How real these visions feel as my body reacts to the thoughts: my muscles tensing with regret or anticipation. While the world around me seems to ask, what about now? And in this moment, an invitation to relax and simply be—content, perhaps, just the way I am here, now.