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Rewilding the Imagination

Rewilding the Imagination

Rewilding the Imagination

Rewilding the Imagination

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The Moon, the Sun and the Earth are in relationships that involve gravity and movement that help us mark day, night and the change of seasons.

This beautiful interplay, I experience as a dance and a love letter to the Universe.

People from the beginning of time have observed with wonder and awe, the natural cycles of the Earth and found interconnection with this cycle and the diversity of species that responds to these changes.

There is with the rising of the sun, a dance that the moon witnesses in the sky for a bit, lingering before she turns away, the awakening of the day that the birds usher in with a symphony of song.

This is soon joined by the swish of traffic, us humans in our metal boxes, with steaming cups of coffee and  morning show hosts, through our radios and podcasts,  barking their certainty and self perceived cleverness in our ears as we start our days, most of us unknowingly brainwashed to preserve the status quo.

Co-existing with nature, as nature, in outdoor public spaces, with other humans and other species, to me, is a dance of bringing awareness of this connection to everyday life.

Teaching yoga, in spaces not purely designated for yoga, in outdoor public spaces where other humans, and various species may show up plays a part in me rewilding my imagination.

This term, Rewilding the Imagination,  is a term that I have learned from students and teachers of deep ecology, such as Joanna MacyRising Appalachia, as well as adrienne maree brown Emergent Strategy that looks at merging biomimicry with radical imagination.

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This past year, my husband and I spent five days in Chincoteague, Va and Assateague Maryland in pine forests, marshes, wetlands, bayside and oceanside, all teeming with ecosystems that supported and spilled into each other.

We beheld a giant snapping turtle who has billions of years of evolutionary wisdom on us. We were surveyed by a bald eagle, perched high on a tree looking out over the boundary of the pine forest into the marshes for possible prey. The majestic bird regarded us with what I felt, disregard. We were neither threat, nor food, so we didn’t matter at all to this bird. This felt so right. Our species could stand a bit of humility now and then.

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Yoga Mornings at Sandyvale

Driving the five minute drive to arrive at SandyVale Memorial Garden Park, windows down, the already warm morning air streaming in, I resist the urge to put on the radio and I breathe driving through the neighborhoods of my beloved city of Johnstown.

Walking through the park whose gardens are cultivated by our local garden club, deep purple flowers, orange tiger lilies and various grasses greet my eyes. I walk towards the greenhouse as a couple unloads bicycles from a bike rack. A slightly built middle aged man who drives a red pickup truck that is always bright and shiny, is there every Monday morning when I teach, walking a couple small dogs. They appear to be quite old, possibly blind as he often redirects their wayward wanderings.

I set out my yoga mat, my flute, shruti box and small metal bowl. Allowing myself to slowly become part of the landscape here, my nervous system, activated slightly by the sheer effort of navigating here, settles as all around me, birds are pulling worms from the earth.

Participants arrive with mats and early morning bedhead. Slowly, we remember that we too, are nature. We breathe, we stretch, we practice paying attention to being alive on  this living, breathing organism we call Earth.

A bald eagle soars high in the sky above us, soaring in circles over the Stonycreek River, a river that in my childhood and through my young adult life was orange from the sulphur spilling into the river from acid mine drainage. We stop, smile and resume our practice, grateful to be sharing space with this magnificent creature. More people start to enter the park, walking, and biking. Dogs chase frisbees. The birds take their business elsewhere as the ground is warmed by the sun.

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Yoga Mornings at Stackhouse Park 

The stately elms, 195 of them, that grace Luzerne Street in the Westmont neighborhood of Johnstown resemble an entrance to a naturally occurring cathedral that travels down the length of the street. Right at the threshold of this oft photographed space is one of many entrances to Stackhouse Park.

I park across the street. Millhouse Cafe is starting to serve an assortment of lovely snacks and beverages. Luzerne Street is populated with morning dog walkers, and joggers.

Walking down the gravel path, I nod to the ranger, whose cabin sets back right around the corner from the entrance. Backpack on back, yoga bag on shoulder, shruti box firmly in hand, I continue the ten minute walk into the forest. The trees tower high overhead, it is cool and dark with splashes of sun twinkling through the  elms, maples and mighty oaks.

Mountain laurel, the state plant of Pennsylvania is plentiful, its dark green leaves peering out from the hillside.

A young doe peeks out from a group of trees not fifteen feet away. Her ears flicker several times as well as her tail. My ears do not do this, nor do I currently sport a tail, so I speak softly to her of the blessing she is offering me with her presence this morning. Her ears flicker again and with a flash, she is off into the forest.

Continuing my walk until I reach the clearing in front of a small stream that separates the field and a pavilion with a large stone fireplace and well used picnic tables.

Setting up for practice, morning joggers and dog walkers are also showing up on the path by the stream. The water flows and provides along with birdsong and the rush of wind through the leaves, a soundscape of aliveness. I connect my breath and my body to this aliveness, laying on my back,  allowing myself to be held by Earth, six thousand miles of Earth holding and cradling me as I look up at the tall oaks extending up to the vast, blue sky. Here I am with my one wild and precious life.

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Yoga Evenings at Sandyvale

Hot, humid days often usher in early evening thunderstorms. These are often isolated in clusters and I check in often with  the radar on my weather app on my phone as this changes rapidly.

Sandyvale is a short distance from my house, so I often will drive there under threatening skies, with low hanging, dark ominous clouds which often open up revealing blue sky above the low hanging mist. There is just enough day and sun to burn off the mist and invite people out to the park.

These  kinds of early evenings find this urban green space full of kids on bikes, people walking dogs and occasionally, folks sitting under trees with picnic baskets. By the time we are finishing up class at 7:00 PM, there are but a few people scattered throughout the expansive space that hugs the river on one side and the railroad tracks on the other. Several evenings, our yoga class has observed with awe, the sight of a bald eagle and a juvenile eagle gliding low over the river, perhaps looking for food. This sighting never gets old and is met with cries of delight.

During meditation, the birds sound farther away, preparing to nest for the evening, the hum of the insects soothes my nervous system to the point of wishing I could curl up in a sleeping bag and remain in this peaceful spot for the night.

Many of us linger in the blessed coolness and chat in the parking lot. Several of my students come from Spanish speaking countries and gather together speaking in their native tongue. The rhythm and cadence of the language is compelling and my ears and brain recognize words and some phrases.

The purples and yellows of some of the flowers are popping, saturated in the dimming of the light.  The first firefly appears in the ornamental grasses.

We take our leave of one another, the park quiet behind us.

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Yoga Evenings at Stackhouse Park

The only possible space to practice Yoga in this park of 277 acres with 7 miles of hiking and biking trails is a relatively level area near the heart of the park where many of these trails intersect.

This is true public space.

Sharing this space with groups of walkers/hikers, families with small kids running all around while parents adhere to the straight and narrow path, to me, is lovely. Everyone is respectful and willing to be in space with one another.

There are dogs of all breeds and sizes, Gen Z’s with hoodies even in the heat and Band of Brothers, a Shakespearian theater company, founded by dear friends Laura and Brad Gordon, rehearsing in the pavilion beside us.

We practice, facing one another and the stream and  forest, hearing without seeing, some of the activity that sporadically happens around us.

One of the teachers I have studied with, Susanna Barkataki, speaks often of Yogis traditionally sharing practice under trees, by rivers and streams rather than  hushed, sanitized environments. Practicing with the intention of sending the energetics of the opened and awakening heart to all who pass by our yoga space to me, feels connecting.

Unlike the indoor spaces of quick coming and going, the walk back up the hill is lengthy. We walk up together, sharing life. There is a point during hot, humid times, where the coolness fades.  Reemerging from the forest, from sharing practice, sharing life, we go our separate ways, until we meet again.

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 Rewild the Imagination!

  • The bald eagle disregarding my husband and I on Assateague Island.
  • The bald eagle and juvenile eagle that are roosting, feeding and living in our beloved city.
  • The red headed woodpecker, despite its petite frame, echoes throughout almost 300 acres of forest.
  • Deer, shy and interested.
  • Ducks, geese, robins, starlings, bunnies, insects, and dogs.
  • Humans. Old, young, and in between. Shades of beige/brown/black. All shapes and sizes/gender expressions.

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Rewilding the imagination to see ourselves as nature.

Rewilding the imagination to explore ourselves as part of the diversity of species on this living, breathing, planet.

Rewilding the imagination to see the interconnectedness of species in smaller and larger eco-systems, rather than the planet as commodity or resource to exploit.

Rewilding the imagination to simplify and orient ourselves towards being relational rather transactional.

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Continue your own list.

Rewild Your Imagination in ways that make sense to you!

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ABOUT AUTHOR

Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen, B.A. Political Science/Sociology, is a Certified Music Practitioner, Sound Healer, Reiki Master, and Registered Yoga Teacher with a trauma informed/social justice framework. She has 20 years experience of working with some of the most amazing people on the planet; hospice patients and their families, patients in a variety of health conditions, survivors of sexual abuse, adults with mental illness and most recently, incarcerated women. Rachel is also passionate about supporting and working with caregivers to reduce burnout and compassion fatigue. Locally, Rachel teaches Creative Movement at Saint Francis University in Loretto, PA. Regionally and nationally, she teaches and presents at conferences and retreats, weaving live music, yoga, and creative movement into themes of compassion, self acceptance, and transformation. Rachel is committed to engaging people from all walks of life in the healing arts to create healthy, diverse, and joyful communities.