By Shabad Kaur Khalsa, LCPC, LMFT, E-RYT 500
“The Universe is asking you to confirm with yourself whether you would like to serve the Earth, to save the Earth, be the sage of the Earth. Earth—the Sustainer, the mother of you, which nurtures you—can you serve it back? That which serves you, can you serve it back?”
-Yogi Bhajan, July 23, 1996
Throughout millennia, yogis developed practices by observing all that is contained in the natural world; especially plants, animals, and the elements. The practices of Kundalini Yoga and meditation can help us recognize and embrace the healing found in nature's patterns, rhythms, and truths, and bring ourselves into alignment on spiritual, psychological, and physical levels.
It’s not hard to recognize the sources of inspiration that the animal world lent to the first yogis. We love our frogs, cobra, and cat-cow postures! And as for the natural world, we can look at postures like tree pose and mountain pose. Think of Sitali Pranayam: the tongue is curled and extends just beyond the lips. As the first scientists on the Earth(!), yogis recognized that air, when moving over a wet surface, will create a cooling effect. So we breathe in cooling air, and also reach the tongue out, as inspired by the tendril leaf of a growing plant, reaching for elements of sustenance.
For the first time ever, the majority of the world's population lives in a city, and this proportion continues to grow. One hundred years ago, 2 out of every 10 people lived in an urban area. By 1990, less than 40% of the global population lived in a city, but as of 2010, more than half of all people live in urban areas. By 2030, 6 out of every 10 people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to 7 out of 10 people. (Source: World Health Organization’s Global Health Observatory.)
Yogi Bhajan advised us to “Revolve your life around Summer and Winter Solstice,” and you can see why when you are on the mountaintop in New Mexico, or on the beach in Lake Wales, Florida. It’s a beautiful chance to deeply renew yourself; connect with the rhythms of nature; and retreat in a natural setting with conscious, spiritual community, away from urban stressors of air, noise, and light pollution, overcrowding, and transportation pressures. You open yourself to the elements and access an ancient place within your soul. The Milky Way, as seen from Guru Ram Dass Puri, 7,000 feet above sea level, is essentially the same sky that humankind has gazed upon since our species began.
To achieve sustainability, we must be among the leaders of authentic, conscious living, in both large and small acts. Yogi Bhajan used to say, “If you let the water run while you brush your teeth, you’re letting the world go down the drain.” Individual consciousness leads to group consciousness, which then leads to universal consciousness.
So it’s vital as yogis to embrace our path as stewards of Mother Earth, to honor her deeply, both on and off the yoga mat. Connect regularly with the natural world, and inspire others to do the same. Do your best to not isolate, and encourage people to move beyond futile mind-sets regarding the environmental challenges that the planet Earth now faces.
Find Creative Ways to Help
- Get involved with environmental initiatives whose work you respect. Or start your own!
- Organize a seva project with your community to clean up a blighted area.
- Create an urban community garden.
- Lead 40-day practices of healing meditations for Mother Earth.
- Build a meditation sanctuary or gazebo in a garden or park.
- Volunteer at a local no-kill animal shelter.
- Think about how much you personally consume and how much you release. (Prana – Apana)
All blessings to Mother Earth.
“Look deeply into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
Shabad Kaur Khalsa, LCPC, LMFT, E-RYT 500, KRI Level 1 Lead Teacher Trainer, organizes and leads the Annual Midwest Women’s Yoga Retreat. She is co-founder and director of Spirit Rising Yoga Center and Spirit Rising Foundation. For 28 years she has taught Kundalini Yoga and as a psychotherapist, she integrates the teachings into treatment for adults and couples. She is honored to have served Yogi Bhajan directly and has transcribed, edited, and illustrated several books including his women’s camp lectures, Master’s Touch and Flow of Eternal Power. The health and empowerment of women through the teachings of Kundalini Yoga is a cause that is near and dear to her heart and also specializes in Humanology, marriage, conscious birth, self-care, health and wellness.
One of her favorite nature connections is rising for sadhana when the city is quiet and has the blessing to watch both the moon set and sun rise!