My Park Sangha

I had a very moving experience at the park today that I wanted to share with you.

I arrived home from work and felt very motivated to go practice some yoga in the park near my house. It’s just a small green space with grass, some trees and a scattering of picnic tables. It’s a peaceful place away from the main streets and their bustle.

I put on some shorts, grabbed my mat, towel, two blocks, a blanket and a strap. I like to come prepared. I walked over to the park and found it in its normal quiet state. Two older men sat, resting at a picnic table. A small elderly woman, the long pull of gravity having shortened her bones, and a younger woman sat at another chatting quietly. A young woman, probably in her late twenties, read a text on loose pieces of paper, lying next to an old tree on her stomach and supporting her torso with her forearms.

I set up my props and laid down to start settling into my practice. I looked up at the bright blue sky, a vivid colour with just a few sparse clouds floating by at a medium pace in the space between two leafy trees. The late afternoon sun shone through those leaves casting wavering shadows on the grass in front of me as the breeze animated the innumerable leaves, at times moving them aside for the light to pass, at other times pushing them in the way to catch the sun’s nourishing rays.

I am that sky, I thought as I relaxed into my mat, into gravity, into the support of the Earth below me. The whole sky above me resting on my skin, it too pulled by gravity’s attraction. Those clouds are my thoughts, sometimes low and drifting past at high speeds, sometimes very high up, moving only slowly and shape-shifting ever so slowly. The sky is full of potential and even with ever shifting weather patterns; it remains the same sky.

I carried on with my practice, feeling my body moving, slowly at first, just hints of what was to come, then more fully, building up, moving to standing, to balancing, to inversions, to backbends, to twists, to seated forward bends and back down to rest in savasana. Never forgetting the wind, the sky, the trees and the grass around me even as I turned inwards.

I opened my eyes a few minutes later as I lightly moved back to life, wiggling my fingers and toes before stretching and coming to seated. I looked up at the sky to find it now clear; an even more radiant blue than before. I found that my mind too echoed that sky. Clear, bright, all encompassing.

I had been feeling a darkness enveloping me in the past few weeks, mired by injury both physical and emotional, but, just as the sun shone through those trees leaving a dancing show of shadow and light, I’m feeling that the light is shining through that darkness and that it’s brighter than ever.

I closed my eyes and sat for a while. Not really knowing the time. First, I watched my breath. Then my mind turned to the feeling of the breeze on my skin, the ambient noises: the singing leaves in the high branches, the chatter of people, a bird in the distance, the cry of a cricket, the inescapable drone of not-so-distant traffic. It was all there, equally important. I let my attention follow the sounds as they came and went.

I chanted a favorite mantra for a few minutes. “Chidananda rupa shivoham, shivoham”; I am that eternal knowing and bliss; I am Shiva, I am Shiva.

I felt so at peace with myself, with the relationships that had been bringing up anguish, with the world. I couldn’t help but smile, keep sitting and relaxing in the moment.

What was even more amazing though, when I finally opened my eyes and looked around me, the woman who had been lying in the grass reading, was sitting in her spot meditating with me, and the two women who were chatting at the table too had found a spot in the grass to sit and watch their breath!

We sat there together in that park for many more minutes and it struck me that that sky is not just me, but all of us, that we all share this beautiful bright blue consciousness that we call life. That even when the storm clouds of fear, and anger, and suffering, and despair gather around us, we have access to shining light.

I ended my meditation with a metta prayer. First for myself, then for my family, then for my teachers, then for person who has caused me some grief recently but through no fault of her own, and finally with thoughts towards my newfound park Sangha.

I stretched my legs and slowly got up after a few minutes. I packed my props, rolled up my mat, but my shoes pack on. As I trekked back home, I looked back the the woman still sitting by herself by the old tree. She was already looking my way. Our eyes met with a smile. I waved goodbye. She waved back knowingly.

Photo Credit: Coco watching yoga man by tiarescott is licensed under CC BY 2.0 / Resized from original.

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Sangha Without Borders is currently physically located in London, UK