Exploring the Intersection of Yoga + Permaculture: Observe & Interact

Up close observation of a dahlia bloom after a rain.

Up close observation of a dahlia bloom after a rain.

“Permaculture is a practice, a way of life, a consciousness based on holistic, sustainable living.” This is a beautiful definition of permaculture that also applies to yoga. And it’s beautiful how the principles of permaculture collide, coincide, compliment and collaborate with the practice of yoga. 

The 1st permaculture principle, observe & interact, is applicable across a variety of life situations. It is amazing to observe a small child, full of wide-eyed wonder, experience a warm welcome to the world. The innocent child is eager to observe how everything looks, feels, smells & tastes. Often as this child matures and goes to school, this wide eyed wonder begins to fade, as the child is influenced by the adults around him/her that no longer see the world that way. However, as we fine tune our personal practice and become aligned with our niche & dharma, we can uncover this wonder and observe and interact once again from a place of awe.

When scoping out a landscape to discern the right protocol for digging, sowing & growing, this permaculture principle advocates stopping to smell the roses, before deciding how best to utilize the gift of these elegant flowers. The invitation of this principle is to survey the land without judgement, notice the qualities, elements, fragrances, tendencies and patterns, over a prolonged period of time, in order to develop sustainable strategies for implementation. The Yoga Sutra’s agree with this approach, stating that “When that practice is done for a long time, without a break, and with sincere devotion, then the practice becomes a firmly rooted, stable and solid foundation.” 

“Observe & Interact” can also apply to new experiences in life. It is tempting and in fact standard practice to draw conclusions based on our assumptions. We can quickly assess a stranger based on appearance, or judge a book by its cover. However, the permaculture approach urges us to first observe qualities, emotions, details, nuances, without judgement or forming a strong opinion. It is then and only then, with accurate, neutral observations established that we can apply these observations  to life with a fresh, vital perspective. 

I once volunteered on a rice field in Nagasaki, with a Japanese woman, who spoke very little English. I was experiencing some intense allergies and Tomoko had just taken a Cranial Sacral course and offered a treatment. I agreed and she began by holding onto the soles of my feet, and then moving to gently hold the crown of my head, as I entered a state of savasana. Though her touch was amazingly subtle, I could feel stuck energy begin to flow, like subtle electrical charges. Intrigued, I asked Tomoko about the practice. She replied that Cranial Sacral is about “no judgement and no barriers”. When she is healing others, she IS the other and is full of love & passionate compassion, allowing all walls fall & disintegrate. She observes the energy, essence and nature of the person, and then interacts with gentle, subtle, graceful movement. In our yoga practice, it is easy to judge our own performance, and compare ourselves to who we were on & off the mat yesterday, or ten years ago, or who we want to be tomorrow or in 365 days. Applying this principle invites us to simply notice how we’re feeling in our mind, our body and in our spirit that day, in that moment. As we witness our own body, our own soul, the gift of our own presence, we can create a deeper connection with our true nature & can interact more fluidly and fluently between our body & emotions, our heart & will. A clear perception of truth and awareness of self gives greater depth to our own yoga practice. “For those grounded in truthfulness, every action and its consequence are imbued with truth” (Sutra 2.36). 

Today, experiment with allowing observations to arise without judgement, in your yoga practice, family life and work. I invite you to greet each day this week with wide-eyed, childlike wonder, eager to open your heart to inspired observations & fresh insight. 

~ aRLi 

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