Going Within: Another Kind of Journey

Lotus Blossom with Buds ©Lynne Buchanan
Yoga teaches us that life is a constant process of expansion and contraction.  For much of the past year, I have been traveling–my three month cross country voyage of self-discovery, trips to New York, North Carolina, Italy, and Greece–and opening myself to the energies of these new places. Now is the time to bring all that material back into the core of my being and integrate it in a meaningful way.  It is also time to go within and experience how all these shifts have altered the layers of my being.

This summer, I am staying close to home and have been rediscovering the beauty that always exists before our eyes when we step outside.  Paynes Prairie is stunning in the summertime.  When you drive down Highway 441, both sides of the road are dotted with lotus blossoms and pickerel weed.  It is fascinating to watch how the appearance of these beautiful flowers is altered by the light and different weather conditions, just as the light and beauty we each shine offers up different facets depending on how we choose to perceive ourselves and how the world reflects back our light.  

Lotus blossoms have always been very inspirational to me and are among my favorites teachers.  They open up to offer such pure beauty even though they grow from and are in fact feed by the primordial muck of swamps.  I also admire them because every phase of their growth cycle is expressive and carries its own meaning and beauty.  The seed pods are like little faces that as yet have no expression; the buds hold so much nascent energy within their soft, shielding petals; then they open to a phase of perfection, an ideal of beauty we delight in seeing though we know it lasts for only a moment; and, of course, the sensual unfolding into the moment past their prime which is still filled with so much beauty in the undulating lines of the petals.  They know how to age with grace.

Pickerel Weed with Lotus Blossoms ©Lynne Buchanan
Summertime is also when Paynes Prairie becomes a carpet of purple pickerel weed.  The first time I drove by the prairie, I could not believe my eyes.  The flowers extended for as far as I could see.  Pickerel Weed is a challenge for photographers, though not for itself.  The plants only completely open during the middle of the day in direct sunlight, which are the harshest conditions to make images under.  This challenge is a blessing, because it motivated me to keep returning to the prairie under many conditions and become intimate with the landscape.  The image above was made just after a big thunderstorm.  The light came back enough for the flowers to stay fully open, but it was not at its harshest.  I admire the lesson these flowers teach me too, which is that it is possible to keep shining your inner light even when the light outside is so bright that nothing is hidden from view.  Often I have wanted to shrink from the spotlight or public scrutiny, but the desire to shrink comes from fear and is an artificial construct of my mind and not what my spirit seeks to manifest.  These flowers are not afraid of the light, they withdraw into themselves only when it is time to rest.

Paynes Prairie with Cattails and Clouds ©Lynne Buchanan
Though I have been told it is a little unusual to have quite the number of storms we have been having here, and that it may well be due to climate change, the clouds that have been forming are stunning.  There has been so much movement in the sky.  It is as if spirit is brushing the earth.  Everything feels alive.  And experiencing the returning sun after dark clouds feeds my soul on a continual basis.  It is enough to be present and experience incremental changes in weather and light and to see how nature embraces these changes and creates new harmonic compositions.  The tapestry of life before my eyes inspires me to adapt more gracefully to every little shift in my universe, allowing myself to be blown slightly off course while still holding true to my center.   This is the birthplace of creativity and growth.