Yesterday I stripped bare on a secluded beach on the West Coast of Canada and threw myself in the ice cold ocean. I had to shed it. My clothes, my better judgement, the ought to’s and shoulds of culture that weigh on me daily like an ascetics hairshirt. I had to strip it down. The cloak of expectations and duty to a social order that wants to break me of my wildness. I had to become naked and swallowed by sea so I could emerge a starfish, an anemone, a grain of sand and know myself as the natural thing I really am.
As I flopped and swam like a clumsy fish amidst the gentle ripples I looked out across the bay at the volume of water that seemed to pull me like a magnet toward its belly. I went deeper and further until I dissolved completely in the electric sting of cold and salt. I released myself into the arms of a briny god where all things cultural, socialized, contrived were washed from my cells and I became free. An organism in the world of wild things, deeply belonging, entirely home. On a cliff far above the shoreline, the empty window of a half hidden house witnessed my frolic and I pretended it saw me as seaweed – part of the seascape and oceanic vista it witnessed from its place above the grey-tone beach below. So tricky I was, shed of my clothes and my identity this wise old building didn’t know I wasn’t a sea creature on any other day of the week!
Now I am home and the memory of this oceanic experience still remains. Like the mimicked wave in a conch shell, my heart echoes the call of the wild a little louder now. I see more clearly now how my spiritual practice is not necessarily always one of transcendence, but one of deep immanence – of sinking into my self as an organism of the natural world. It is a practice of shedding the many layers of imposed identity and bearing myself naked before the universe. Could there be anything more divine than the untaming of a wild thing? Each yoga practice taking me closer to my beating heart and tingling flesh, each meditation and unravelling of the fabric of my ego. All this, in honour of becoming my natural self – my SELF in nature and AS NATURE, where I belong as completely as a grain of sand belongs in the deepening sea. I am back in the world of duty and obligation but I have brought the ocean with me. I have the sea in me just as the sea had me and, gratefully, I am just a little more uncivilized now because of it.