Another day off has arrived, marking the half-way point in the advanced 300 hour yoga teacher training course I am undertaking in the sticky but spirited city of Ubud. Some new learnings will follow but first, a story:
Me and five of my fellow students decided to take on an early-morning (3:30am) trek up the active volcano Mt. Batur in hopes of seeing a glorious sunrise over the Balinese countryside.
I'll cut to the chase: we made it to the top (barely) but there was no sunrise. Rather, the view we had climbed steep and slippery slopes in total darkness for nearly two hours to see was clouded by a dense fog.
Once our bellies were filled with tea and banana sandwiches (actually yum btw -- literally just a banana between two slices of white bread) we started the long hike back; albeit a little defeated. To our delight, about half-way down the mountain the clouds parted and we managed to take in some of the incredible views of the rice fields, hills and lake. It was beautiful.
Ok, the learnings:
Part of our course involves diving deep into the more advanced philosophies of yoga, which provide theories on how the human psyche develops and how we approach every day situations. One such example is represented by the Sanskrit word "samskaras".
In simple terms, samskaras can be understood as mental impressions of our past experiences that influence how we operate as human beings in the world. Unlike the movie Inside Out, where old memories eventually get sucked into a vacuum never to be recalled again, every one of the hundreds of thousands of experiences you have had (good or bad) gets stored in your physical and mental body and subtly guide how you approach or react to future situations. As we increase awareness of our actions, -- often a natural result of practicing a yogic lifestyle -- we can choose to be led by our true nature, rather than just the constructs of the mind.
Having navigated the way up Batur with nothing more than a small flashlight revealing less than a two-foot radius of terrain around us, daylight revealed the shocking scale of the cracks, crevices, slopes and stones that we had to climb to get to the top. The sheer magnitude of our adventure only revealing itself when we could actually see with our eyes what we had conquered. It had me wondering whether I would have been so keen to climb it in the first place, had I known just how treacherous the trek would be... Whether seeing the obstacles would've made it much easier for me to find a reason not to go. Whether my samskaras would have kept me from an amazing adventure.
While chatting with our guide on the way back down the volcano I learned that he would often make the round-trip trek twice a day -- first in the total darkness before dawn, and second in the dead heat of high-noon. A fellow trekker suggested he must be quite strong to manage the effort, to which he replied: "Legs aren't strong. Mind is strong".