In Australia, when the ocean is a mess of waves…
One of the amazing things about living in Byron Bay was the unbelievable beauty and magnificence of the nature there. It was immense, lush and majestic. It presence added breath and depth to my life and to the yoga practice. It helped me tune into my own nature, calm my mind and cultivate a state of open receptiveness that was both nourishing and fulfilling.
Shortly after I arrived in Byron Bay I moved into the yoga shala for a week. The accommodation I had booked online from Barcelona turned out to be a disaster and my new home wasn’t available for another week, so in the interim my teacher offered me a spare room in her shala. I was stoked!
The Center of Balance yoga Shala is a beautliful and peaceful place, backed by woods at the end of a quiet street. Because I had no internet and didn’t know anyone yet, my time was filled with silence. I’d catch myself zoning out, mesmerized by the sounds of nature all around me, they were beautiful, strange, exotic and unfamiliar. I had never listened to such a loud silence!
Each hour of the day offered a different soundscape. In the morning tropical birds welcomed the day with their scandalous racket (listen to them here!) At noon the droning sound of the cicadas was almost deafening. In the evening it was the frogs chirping and later on at night I’d listen to the eerie creaking of the bamboo patch. And, if I listened very carefully, I could hear the comforting sound of the ocean further away across the main road.
As I listened, I noticed that the quieter I got inside, the more I could hear; I couldn’t think and listen at the same time, listening required attention. My mind would slow down and my inner dialogue would lose substance, I felt nourished and fulfilled without doing anything! I loved this place of wonderment. It taught me that contentment was not dependent on doing anything as much as it was the result of just being present and relaxed.
Back to reality!
In contrast, my everyday city life in Barcelona is the opposite. I struggle to find a sustainable balance between being soft and present and and carrying out my work and social obligations. I either feel like there’s not enough time in a day for everything I’ve got planned, or that I don’t have the energy to do it all! I spend too much time preoccupied with what comes next and distracted from what is happening now. Since I’ve been back my mind has grown more scattered and my wandering thoughts feel important again.
Because city life is stressful, it’s important to consistently remind oneself to slow down and do less. It is times like these when it’s helpful to recommit to your daily (yoga or meditation) practice and review the fundamentals. In my yoga practice I apply this by letting go of my ambitions and returning patiently to the quality of my breath: is it smooth, soft and free of strain?
Another way I’ve found to remind myself to slow down is to bring nature indoors. According to Chinese medicine, the liver is one of the organs most susceptible to stress; I learned that one can nourish their liver energy by surrounding themselves with green, leafy plants. If you come to my house you’ll see I have plants indoors and now you know why! They infuse the place with a feeling of peacefulness. Though I don’t naturally have a green thumb, once I figured out that each plant needs to find it’s preferred spot we get along just fine.
Lastly, I like to remind myself to pause and listen to the sounds around me; though they may not be as exotic as in the antipodes, they do snap me out of habitual thought patterns and back into the appreciation of now. As I write this, for example, I can hear the spring rain falling gently outside, far away thunder grumbles intermittently as car tires roll on the wet asphalt. It is a simple, everyday luxury to just pause and be with these sounds for a few moments.
What are your personal rituals and practices that help you slow down and re-establish a sense of peacefulness in your everyday life?