When I was little, I grew up on an Albertan bison ranch and grain farm. My mother’s garden had a larger footprint than the house we lived in. I think my first job was collecting the potatoes my mother dug up and placing them in a little red wagon that my sister and I would pull to the cold room. On my farm we grew all the vegetables we ate. Our meat and eggs came from our chickens, as well as our grass-fed bison and we baked our own homemade bread from the grain we harvested in our wheat fields.
It would be a lot easier to simply shop from superstore where everything you want to eat is at your fingertips. Caring for a large garden all summer isn’t easy and neither is the harvest, it's hard and extremely busy.
Not only do we harvest the vegetables but we spend hours preparing the food to last throughout the winter as jarred preserves or chopped and frozen. However, when you choose to invest your time and energy into something, like nature, it translates into a special understanding and appreciation of that focus.
Where does one get their appreciation for nature and what does appreciation for nature look like? My appreciation for nature developed during my younger years on the farm. You don’t need to grow up on a farm to understand where your food came from or to develop a deep earth-loving attitude. You do, however, need to spend some time outside learning how to invest in the environment and practicing to care for it.
I moved to the big city of Vancouver, B.C., for college, which was a big change from my small-town farming community. What Vancouver has that my prairie town does not are these big beautiful mountains, alpine forests and clear glacial waters. This world unlocked a new door of how to interact with nature. My early appreciation of the natural life was determined by the value nature had to serve me by feeding me. This new experience of seeing big beautiful mountains – which I had no part in growing or making – challenged my perspective on how nature earns value. Actually, in this sense nature does not earn its value at all. At least not in the farm-to-food sense I had experienced before.
This time nature was awe inspiring by just being. I did not work for this beauty nor did I get any nutrients from it which is precisely why these mountains earned my respect – I can’t build a mountain so tall it disappears into the clouds or plant an alpine forest that provides home to so much life, nor make a clear glacier river clean enough to drink. The scenery makes me wonder and respect God who creates things not under my control. It also challenges me to treat people with a new respect, not only for the amazing things people achieve but also for the value instilled in their being by God who created them no matter what they do or produce.
In my yoga practice, I often come to a place of thankfulness, intentional care and peace that mimics the deep rooted feelings I have gained through my experience in life and in my interactions with nature. When I am on my mat, I breathe out negative thoughts and experiences and inhale thankfulness and peace. My mind and heart are stilled when I am on my yoga mat. I am able to be thankful for the hard the work that produces so much good – much like farming and gardening. I am able to focus my attention on the people who I am thankful for and remember those that I could reach out to and lend some help, love and forgiveness. I am able to invest my heart and mind in the practice of humility and thankfulness that produces care; the more you invest your time and energy into something, like nature or intentional thought of remembering others, it translates into a special understanding and appreciation of that focus. On my mat, I am able to sink into the grandeur beauty of life and my own inner person – much like gazing at a tall strong mountain and recognizing its due respect and becoming inspired. Intentional practice of yoga can connect us to an attitude that deeply cares for oneself, others and nature.
Recognize that you and each person around you has immense value; because you are a unique human and, like a mountain, simply earns respect by being. Invest also in researching where your food comes from so that you can grow in your appreciation for the environment and the food you eat. Maybe learn how to care for a small plant like herbs; grow your own cilantro or basil. Watch how that piece of nature responds to your care or lack of care. Recognize how you can take those small skills of caring for the earth and translate them on a larger scale to understand how you can positively impact the world.
To all my fellow yogis, I challenge you to practice intentional yoga. Invest the time in your practice to cultivate a caring attitude and become aware of yourself from the inside out; to develop into the person you want to be.
By Luminary: Alison Jackson