After nearly a month of daily meditation, yoga, and mindfulness, I’ve reached a point in my thinking where nothing in my life is coincidental. So it was no surprise that completing my Seva project for my month-long yoga teacher intensive during my final week was somewhat of a divinely illustrated metaphor. That’s right… even picking up trash somehow turned out to be a lesson I needed to learn.
I chose to head out to the Spring Creek Trail with nothing but a couple of trash bags, some good music in my headphones, and a strong will to clean. Before the intensive, I made a pact with myself to bike to the studio everyday. The four miles between home and Holistic were a fairly moderate ride, and part of the journey took me along the Spring Creek Trail. Each day as I biked, I noticed more and more garbage caught along the small rapids and rocks or strewn across the banks of the creek. At lunchtime, I would bike back up the trail a bit to a small park to lay out my blanket, read, and dip my feet into the chilly water, and again, I got distracted by the somewhat ridiculous amount of litter lying about. True to my problem-solver nature, I decided to Seva the heck out of that creek.
So when the final week of the intensive rolled up, I realized I needed to get to work. On a hot evening after a long day of study and yoga, I loaded up on my bike and left the studio with garbage bags in hand. My first stop was the park that had been my home during lunch each day. As I began to load up my bag (really wishing I had planned ahead more and brought gloves), I felt incredibly overwhelmed with frustration at how much trash there truly was. My mind began to race with thoughts of “how could someone just toss this here?” and “what is wrong with people?” As my anger built and the sun shined bright, I realized I had worked myself up into a bit of a frenzy. Instead of mindfully doing good with my Seva, I had inadvertently added my own litter. My bag was full of other people’s garbage, but my mind was accumulating its own.
Realizing how mindlessly upset I was being, I sat down, slipped off my sandals, and dipped my feet into the creek. The cold water brought me back to stillness, to mantra, and to mindfulness. I thought about how easily I snapped back into being the seeker, the reactor, and how it had impacted my body. My breath was short, my heart was pumping, and my body just hurt. I moved my awareness to mantra and focused on being the watcher. I asked myself “What would the impartial witness think and do in this situation?” The answer was quick and clear. They would simply pick up the trash, put it in the bag, and move onto the next piece of trash. They wouldn’t judge or react to the people who put it there. And if they did, they would notice that thought and let it pass. I slid my sandals back on and got back to work.
In my new, more calm state, I noticed how incredibly beautiful it was. The water was flowing gently, birds zipped between trees, and every time I picked up a piece of trash I was able to appreciate the simple fact that I was adding to that beauty. After my two bags were full, I loaded up on my bike and performed a bit of a balancing act until I found a dumpster to drop off my collection. I tossed the trash in and breathed in stillness as I pedaled away.
I’ve been reminded, once again, that if we pay attention and are present in each moment, we will find there is a lesson to be learned, an experience to live, and a beautiful way to grow. I uncluttered the creek and, in the process, uncluttered my mind. I think we both feel much, much better.