I woke up today wanting to go outside. The morning was beautiful: sunny and soft, with a veil of fog drifting in briefly. My husband put me in charge of watering some stuff in the garden, so the dogs, me & my tea headed out onto the damp morning grass. It is such a profound pleasure to see the yard so beautifully green after a year of drought & dogs tearing around had turned it to brown dust. I watered seedlings and small basil plants, greeting potato plants, nasturtiums, cabbages and kale along the way. My task accomplished, I took a stroll around our acre.

Strolling about on the property is still a relatively new thing for me even though we’ve lived here for almost two years. The year we moved in was unusually rainy–it rained every day in July, a freak occurence in Central Texas–and so the better part of the yard was an inaccessible jungle. And then last year was so bloody hot and dusty brown that I mostly stuck to the back porch. Right now the yard is so very pleasant, and so is the weather, that it’s time to break out of old patterns and enjoy it while this delicate balance of near-perfection is being offered to us.

I have noticed for the past several days that I tend to spend most of the day inside, even with this riot of gorgeousness going on outside. It has felt like spending too much time stuck inside my own head: confined, thoughts stuffy, ambitions restricted. This morning I stepped out onto the grass and immediately felt I was part of something bigger, which made me feel light and happy.  I tossed sticks to the dogs, sipped my tea, and looked about for a spot to make a meditation station outside. (I think I found one.)

I remembered last summer when I took a workshop with Donna Farhi, how she told us that, for a year’s time, she made a commitment to herself that the first thing she would do each day, regardless of weather or moods, would be to go out and muck the horse stalls. Every morning she made manure her spiritual practice. This morning out on the grass, it made sense to me.  For the spiritual practitioner, having to get out of the house first thing to tend to the needs of living things other than oneself, whether it be the garden or horses, does something invaluable: it gets you out of yourself, out of your own head, and connects you to the world around you.

For me, the goal of spiritual practice is to realize the unity I share with all living things, and to live more fully in that realization. Stepping outside, hearing the songs of birds, tending to growing plants, creates a context for the nuts and bolts of my practice, for my sadhana which immediately follows. Once on the mat I don’t have to strive so hard to find that unitive state because I have just experienced it directly. My practice just flows sweetly out of that experience.

After my little walkabout, I took my mat and cushion out to the back porch to practice outside. I don’t know whether to attribute it to my outdoorsy morning, but I had a very centered, very present practice that was enlivening and renewing. Though I had to stop often to blow my nose and sneeze (definitely a minor drawback of the unitive state–pollen allergies!), being outside, under the fleeting clouds, feeling the breeze, catching a glimpse of the mockingbird and a pair of scissortail flycatchers, again made me feel part of something larger than myself, which in turn made me feel as though I am wider and deeper than what is confined to the envelope of my body. Sitting in meditation, I came upon some luminous realizations that floated up whole, complete, from some space deep within. On a morning like this, it’s pretty easy to think, Yes, this is what it’s all about, I want to live like this everyday.

But like all lessons worth learning, I expect this one will have its fits and starts. I’ll get lazy, it’ll get hot, I’ll spend more mornings farting around on the computer too much. (Remember my great big walking realization? Yeah, that was short-lived.) But I feel a seed has been planted, and that I can make mornings like this more a part of my routine, more a part of my practice. Maybe all I need are some goats and chickens out there to generate some manure for me to tend to.