These days, I spend a lot of my time in a forest off a small village in the south of India. This is where I do my spiritual practice for months at a time, so I can bring that grounded and peaceful energy into the teachings I share with you.
A requirement of being a yogi and following the yogic path is to spend time in silence and around other yogis or gurus doing Sadhana (spiritual practice). Every teacher should have a teacher of their own, so that the lineage and guidance is never broken. This communion also helps to keep the wandering mind out of mischief and away from the desire for too many worldly pleasures.
Being in the forest is how most of us lived thousands of years ago — living off the land and moving during the seasons like the nomadic people we truly are. The contrast of the city and forest are quite amazing — natural living vs. artificial. Forests are made by nature, while cities are made by man. Each has its merits, but the energy is very different.
Ultimately we should be able to get to the point that no matter where we find ourselves — be it in the city or the forest — that it all becomes the same to our peaceful and ever-present mind. This is when we know we have reached a state of oneness with all of creation.
So just what have I learned from living in the forest?
1. Nature is not just outside of us.
In the forest, the nature outside really becomes a reflection of our nature inside, as Mother Nature becomes a mirror of our inner being. We realize that we are actually at one with everyone and everything around us. In this state, there is no separation from anything. This is a state where we know ourselves beyond our name, body, or mind.
2. We already have everything we need because nature has provided it.
Air, food and water are all we really need to be able to exist. In the forest, it really becomes evident that everything else is just extra. In the city, our mind always tends to want more. But because life in nature is simple and allows us to live with the basics, the mind is much more at ease and has very few cravings for anything of excess.
3. No one is asking each other where they get their protein.
Everything we eat is vegetarian and freshly picked from the trees or ground. You can really feel the nutrition of the food being converted into energy inside your body. We eat to survive, rather than eat for just pleasure. What the earth gives to us in that moment is exactly what we eat, and nothing is brought in from anywhere else. This type of consumption is true, seasonal and organic, with zero carbon footprint.
4. Life is everywhere and I am just a part of it.
When we are in the city driving or walking about, we are all in our own world: running errands, running to work, or generally just running.
In the forest we are all part of one larger unit, and no one is more important than anyone or anything else. Also, there is no need to run about as you will only be running into a tree or plant. Or sometimes, an elephant.
5. Making plans or lists are not part of the forest life.
We really thrive off having the same routine everyday in the forest. Doing the same things, like eating the same basic foods, sleeping at the same time, and following our Sadhana two-to-three times a day (sunrise, noon, and sunset) removes all need for planning. Life becomes simple, with rituals and basic routine.
6. Silence is not so common.
You would think that being in the middle of a forest is a place of utmost silence. It is to a degree, as you don’t hear the voices of others, but the surrounding wildlife sure makes a lot of noise, chatting away throughout the night. But this kind of noise really only helps to put the mind to rest. I get the best sleep in the forest of any place I've ever traveled to.
7. Monkeys will steal your stuff.
These lovely creatures will come out and play. They will break and borrow your things if you leave your doors or windows open, no matter how high or low your dwellings are. The last few items of mine that were taken included lip balm, essential oils of lavender and sage, and a teeth retainer. There is now a monkey wandering the forest smelling exceptionally spiritual — and with perfect teeth!