Back to Nature by Fiona Stang

Sept.1 , 2018

I always feel nostalgic during that last weekend before school, marked by Labour Day. Our month in Whistler is ending and it’s back to school for the kids. I feel reflective as summer draws to a close and we leave our retreat in the woods and mountains.  

For our family, the entrance of our children into the world was a rebirth of the importance of nature’s power in our lives.  When Ambrose & Viveka arrived into our world, the need to share traditions and rituals suddenly became important. I returned to my own youth and recreated many of the same traditions that had been passed down from my parents to me.  At the same time, the need to dig deep into their beings and plant strong seeds was an important foundation for us as parents.

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Nature had been an intrinsic part of my life since I was a child.  I used to play for hours in the vast woods of my backyard. I learned to ski and loved the freezing cold, wintery New England air.   So much so that I chose a University that was situated in nature and close to mountains. It was at university where my love for nature was awakened through hiking, skiing, teaching skiing, and the constant retreat into the mountains.  

My first overnight hike was during my freshman year.  I had never slept in a tent nor had I hiked up mountain peaks with a full sized, heavy backpack.  But I was ready. It snowed during the weekend and the quiet of nature brought my nervous system to a place of great deep and still peace.  At this point, I had not found ashtanga yoga or reiki or shamanic healing; these were all experiences which happened later in my life. I had experienced journal writing and intensive competition in the various sports I played. These endeavours had become ways to look inside. And now, nature became another way to look within, to delve into my self.

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As a woman of eighteen years old, at the time, nature stripped me back to my core.  Utter simplicity – a tent, sleeping bag and the clothes on my back and a few additional layers I slept in.  It was bare bones and straightforward – just mountain air, the sight of water flowing in the creek, snow flakes settling on the path ahead – all gifts from Mother Nature; never planted just existing.  These were all sights that had penetrated my soul. It was several years later that I discovered, Reiki, Shamanic healing and eventually yoga. I noticed that from these various practices, the outcome was similar; the same potent energy overtook my body, mind and soul.  What made yoga unique is that it involved a regular daily practice. From a young age, my children probably believed that everyone had a daily yoga practice. It was something they witnessed. It was a part of our lives watching Julian and I on our mats day in and out. The early “yoga” teachings for our children, came from them watching us.  But it also seemed natural to share other experiences of “yoga” with our kids. Mother nature’s power called deeply when our children arrived into the world. Julian and I retreated to the mountains and it was only natural for our children to follow.

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1 yr old Ambrose with Viveka on the way.
Ambrose in headstand
Ambrose at 12

 When Ambrose & Viveka were young, we wandered into the woods; first with baby carriers, then strollers that acted like mini SUV’s and then, when the kids were walking, with small pedal-less wooden bikes.  Eventually the woods led to mountains where we would ski in the winter and hike in the summer. Retreating to nature was another yoga for my soul and also a gift of yoga for my children’s souls. Different from an Ashtanga practice, yet still yoga in that nature was another way to help Ambrose & Viveka delve into their higher selves and tap into their inner knowledge, intuition, and strength.  Putting Ambrose in nature freed his wild and energetic soul. In nature, there were no limitations for a spirited boy. He was calm and focused and I had some of my most favourite chats with him during our regular mountain treks.

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Last Fall marked an important turning point in our children and our life.  Ambrose had been asking us all summer about an overnight hiking expedition.  Ambrose organized the entire expedition. He helped us accumulate the necessary gear, he planned the route, and off we hiked one Saturday morning.  It was a gruelling hike with a heavy, heavy pack. In fact, I could not even lift Julio’s pack. But, as a family, we made our way through a valley and up and up to a beautiful crystal clear alpine lake and then up and up again to yet another still lake.  Fall was arriving and the brush wore colours of red and golds. The air was crisp and once we found our campsite perched just above a beautiful little lake, the stillness and vastness enveloped us. My hips were sore and tight from the heavy pack and we all layered in fleece, down and toque’s as the autumn sun began to set.  There was no access to the internet and we were 12 km into the wild. The most simple dinner of veggie hot dogs and wraps is a completely gourmet experience when you are sitting in the woods bundled up in layers. The stars overtook the evening sky and it was one of those perfect expeditions. A memory that none of us will every forget.

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The yoga practice, for me, was so much more than just a physical practice that trip.  The practice, for me, was watching the stars, seeing my children laughing their heads off as they ran down the deserted path to our tent, drinking the most delicious hot tea for breakfast when I was freezing cold, playing go fish with Viv in our tent that night, lit up by the glow of our headlamps.  The “yoga” was creating memories and a tradition that the Deck Stang family will remember. Once again, we will return to the woods.

 

There are many forms of yoga practice – practices that take us into our self and ask us to be aware, look within, and listen.  These forms of practice have become certain rituals in our lives. Patterns we, as a family, like to create and repeat, again and again, as reminders to connect back to our source and delve within, helping us return to the simplicity and beauty of life in the moment.

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