After a full meal a large raptor soared skyward with the unconsumed portion of his prey. As he rose above the trees crows appeared from many directions. The crows flew at the raptor, diving and striking. They called him names and swore at him. He flew only with great difficulty because of the heavy corpse and his full stomach. The crows were making his life hell, but he stubbornly continued to cling to his burden. Finally, he had to release his prey in order to flee the annoying crows. As soon as he let go of the prize, the hungry crows followed the corpse down, leaving the raptor alone in the sky. He flew away having attained freedom from suffering by letting go of greed.
It is a yogi’s job to look deeply into things in order to discover the root causes of suffering. The first people who questioned the nature of reality looked carefully into their relationships each day with the forces of the Cosmos, of Nature and all other Earthly beings for answers to those questions. When they reflected on these experiences they received insights that were much more profound than the apparently simple nature of daily events would indicate. The planets, stars, winds, waters, plants, mountains, deserts and especially the non-human animals spoke to them. These enlightened predecessors assembled the first wisdom traditions and preserved them in oral teachings, including philosophy, spirituality, magic, dance, music and the healing arts. The essential tools of these classic teachers were parable, story and scripture, or example, reflection and insight. These teachings would draw one’s attention to the minutiae of daily life interactions with the natural world around us and how with careful observation, they can reveal the infinity of existence.
Many of us find ourselves spending too much time in an all-consuming relationship with a sense-numbing virtual entity of web, cell, GPS and digital TV, and less time appreciating the rich landscape of our first-hand interactions with others. Walk through any town or city on this planet and you will likely observe humans watching plasma screens and talking on cell phones and depriving themselves of the preciousness of the living moment. They inhabit a virtual realm filled with beings that don’t bite back, talk back or look back. The loneliness and helplessness that each of us feels because of a deep disconnection from the events of our lives is testimony to the merits of the world we are creating where nothing is everything.
We may not be aware of the raptors and crows in our own lives – of the parables and metaphors of the passing days. Perhaps we all need to be reminded of the imperishable beauty of the interconnected net of existence, where each intersection, each living encounter, is a glittering jewel, an encounter with Divine Intelligence. Stories can help you push away from the screen and take a walk in the immortal and real presence of the teacher in each encounter. It is always an honor to sit at the feet of the teacher and marvel at the stories of life. As you go through your day, be attuned to these stories – whether told by a teacher in a yoga class or by another spiritual guide, or revealed in your interactions with the natural world. Let these stories deepen your appreciation of life, so that you are encouraged to experience it directly, reflect upon it and receive insights, and share your insights with others.