“The earth, in the way that it spins under our feet, changing while no one is looking, reminds me both that what we win today can be gone tomorrow, and what we lose today can be won tomorrow. The only constant is change. That is nature’s greatest lesson to me- that change is inevitable, and time is unfathomable. It means I can keep going, when all seems to fail and fall around me. Nature is the source of my faith.” -Malkia Cyril
An ecosystem is as a biological community of organisms and their interacting physical environment. It is a complex, interconnected network, always in process, and never stuck in time, or fixed in place. It is constantly in flux, moving from balance to imbalance and back again. The mark of a resilient ecosystem is not one that does not experience hardship, but one that has the capacity to restore balance efficiently soon after. Each and every one of us is an ecosystem. We are, in ourselves, a community of living “organisms.” Through the yogic perspective, we can consider everything in our physical, emotional, and mental reality as a living organism. In addtion to our physical environment, every thought, word, and action; every identity, relationship, and belief system is a living “organism” within our ecosystem - evolving, impermanent, and impacting the whole. The mark of a resilient human, like an ecosystem, is not one that does not experience hardship (we all do, no matter how many minutes a day we meditate), but one that can restore balance and equilibrium soon after.
A plant, too, is its very own ecosystem and we can learn lifetimes from witnessing its life cycle. It begins as a seed. A seed contains everything the plant needs to survive and thrive: the imprint of life. We can imagine the seed as the Source; that which is unchanging, beyond the changing nature of our reality as humans in bodies on a planet Earth. Each and every one of us contains this seed; the true Self; everything we need to fulfill our greatest potential.
If the seed is the Source of it all, our pure awareness, then the roots are our thoughts - the foundation that upholds - the stem and the leaves - that are our words and actions. Our thoughts, words, and actions create our karma. Karma is translated as action and its impacts. Cause and effect. With every thought, word, and action, we have the opportunity to choose which seeds we want to nourish, water, tend to, and make space for, and which we want to weed and let die. If our thoughts, words, and actions, come from the seed of the true Self, we sow seeds not of selfish desire, but of selfless service. And when we forget, we always have the choice to grab a digging knife and pull some weeds!
The plant starts as the seed, grows leaves, flowers, sometimes fruit, and then seeds again. It does all of this, even though it will eventually decay and die. It does not concern itself with past or future. It does not begrudge the process of growth, as it reaches its fullest state. It’s state of fullest expansion - the flower and fruit - is just a mere moment in time, compared to the time it took to seed, root, leaf, grow, decay, die, and seed again. If our thoughts, words, and actions are only motivated by the state of expansion; if the seeds we sow are only motivated by the fruit we hope to harvest, then we may forget to be present with the process that takes most of our time and energy, in comparison. We can learn from plants to act without attachment to outcomes, to hold the moment in its beautiful impermanence, and to act out our dharma, or purpose, without ruminating on the past or fearing for the future. We can learn to let go of our attachments of the way things are or the way we want things to be, and instead be fully present with the unfolding of each and every moment- exactly as it is.
Although we often associate death and decay, loss and letting go, with pain, suffering, anxiety, depression, you name it, the yogi’s believe that it is not the change itself that brings suffering, rather it is our attachment and aversion to it. Change is inevitable. But, with practice, the suffering associated with it can be avoided! The plant reaches its greatest potential and it knows when it is time to let go. It does not clinging to what is, or grasp for what isn’t. Witnessing the plant as it decays, dies, and returns its seeds to earth, can remind us that it is okay to let go, release, and rest, in order to begin again.
An ecosystem is forever in process, and constantly changing. There is no beginning or end. The life cycle of a plant is much like processes that we go through all of the time. In big and small ways, we experience birth, growth, expansion, decay, death, and rebirth, every day. The practice of yoga invites us to witness, as these cyclical processes unfold, time and time again - in plants and in ourselves. The practice of yoga asks us to witness the changing nature of our experience as humans in bodies on planet Earth, so that we can see more clearly, become more resilient in the face of hardship, and connect with ourselves and each other in more intimate and meaningful ways.
May our thoughts, words, and actions become a reflection of the interconnected nature of the universal ecosystem of existence, that we are born from and born into, just as the leaves, flowers, and fruits become a reflection of the seed itself.