Lancashire Yogi loves this time of year. It’s cold, and the air is crisp and sharp. The sky often open and wide, and stunningly blue. Nature is either moving into hibernation or has already hibernated. The sap in the trees has long dropped. And most of the time it’s freezing. Tree branches are glazed with ice, and grass frozen in spikes. High above and across the sky, flocks of migrating birds swoop and undulate in perfect motion on their way to a warmer, more welcome climate. Sometimes ‘Lancashire sees the birds spell out goodbyes and farewells in the undulating sweeps and swoops. The occasional vapour trail from a high altitude ‘plane spells out migrations of another sort.
It’s a perfect time to get out of the house and go walking. Lancashire Yogi likes to take off over the fells and this year is exploring the Wasdale and Ennerdale valleys in Cumbria. The silence is astonishing: it’s almost as if every possible sound has frozen along with the grass and trees. And the silence hangs heavy in these Cumbrian valleys: heavy and deep. The occasional dog bark sounds like an exclamation mark in the silence. A crow on a tree branch, a comma of the frozen pause that has begun.
Lancashire Yogi always find that through the process of walking in nature, he comes back to himself, and finds his centre. Perhaps he finds his place and along with his pace. The rhythm and pace of his walking are like a metronome guide back to himself, as much as to the destination of the walk. But in many ways, the destination is always only one aspect of Lancashire’s walks in the ‘Lakes. Somehow the forays are always about walking back to himself, and the destination and scenary are simply an excuse to get back to himself.
And what happens when ‘Lancashire walks back to himself? Intriguingly he makes an astonishing and mindblowing discovery – (as Easwaran says in the Bhagavad Gita for Daily Living) – with all this walking and out in the fresh air, with beautiful views and the senses alive to the environment, ‘Lancashire is not this body that he has. It’s an experience thing rather than an intellectual observation or analysis. The body is merely a vehicle to pass through the land, taking in the sights, sounds and smells of the journey. And if ‘Lancashire is not this body ; then others cannot be their bodies either. The outer thing we call a body is simply a jacket or outer covering. It suddenly means we can dispense with our sense of difference about others and ourselves. Without identifying people as ‘bodies’ we can see them as people, souls, perhaps, within a vehicle that is simply just helping ‘us’ get through.
The walking thing then brings about something even more extraordinary realisation – often half way through a nice long walk : we are not our mind either. Because as you walk, you begin not merely to observe your surroundings; you begin to start observing your thoughts. And then you begin to wonder, ‘if I am observing my thoughts, who is thinking?’. If the mind is generating thoughts, and I am observing them, what, or who , is doing the thinking? This perspective means that the you that is observing the thoughts can start responding to the thoughts that are perhaps mistaken or wrong, or unhelpful. And you can begin the process of mind engineering – for example, tightening a bolt here, loosening a nut there, pouring some oil into the mechanism. As an aside, ‘oil’ for ‘Lancashire is repeating mantras. We can watch the torrent of negative or disabling thoughts rush by like a river full of flotsam and jetsam. And we can follow the flow down stream and away out of our thoughts. And as a guide, Lancashire Yogi finds himself looking around to nature, and observing it’s “is-ness”: where it apparantly has no thoughts and no worries: and just ‘is’.
And then, finally Lancashire Yogi finds that actually, there are no boundaries between him and nature, and probably, well, everything. There is a sense that he, and everything are all interconnected. He feels this particularly as he moves through the Cumbria landscape, through the valley, in the shadow of the fells, with the water of the lakes beside him. And if he is interconnected with everything, and indeed, all of us are interconnected – then to put up barriers and create degrees of separateness must surely be an illusion for some reason or other. And if everything is interconnected perhaps we need to cherish life and living things, and value our place in the big scheme of things.
Yes; Lancashire Yogi loves walking and loves walking at this time of year. However walking at any time of year is a good way of coming back to yourself: a sort of going out to get inside. If you are feeling physically, mentally or soulfully cooped up – why not get up and go for a walk – just wrap up warm and enjoy.
The days are getting shorter at the moment. We are heading towards the Winter Solstice: where the sun is at the lowest point on the horizon at midday, as a result of the earth tilting on its axis. The Solstice is not a time for sadness though, even though it is the shortest day in the year. From the Solstice (the 21st December, this year), the days will start to lengthen again. And although most will be rightly celebrating the Christmas and New Year; the Solstice is surely worthy of celebration as it is the beginning of the days slowly becoming lighter and a pointer towards Spring and Summer even in the cold, dark, often snowy days of Winter.