If you have not read Part 1 & 2 - you might like to read those part-blogs below first, to provide some context for this post...
Part 3......Life is full of triumphs and tragedies that standout in our personal memories and that we as a spectator, see paraded before us every day in the news highlights reel. Then there are the small but beautiful moments that come and go on the wind, the potent messages hidden in metaphor, poetry, stories, art, music, nature and the everyday moments that we miss unless we are paying attention.
Every journey has secret destinations of which the traveller is unaware.
Sometimes we half-hear these hidden treasures in the stillness of a forest, in a child’s joyful face delighting in discovery, during a glorious sunset or between two waves in an ocean of noise. These precious moments remain unnoticed unless we are looking, listening and being mindfully curious to what our life circumstances have to gift to us and teach us.
A couple of years ago Gabrielle and I guided a group across the Himalayan mountains of Bhutan which were clear and blue against the silent backdrop of the snow-white peaks. After our 9 day trek, we then went across the border into India to see the Taj Mahal - a shrine to eternal love and one of the most beautiful buildings known to humanity. Its beauty was sadly contrasted with the ever grey and polluted sky over India. We thought “perhaps places like New Delhi and Beijing, would never see clear skies again. Then, out of the grey, something unexpected happened. In early March before Australia started shutting its borders, I remember watching the news and being delighted to see clear blue skies in China after a few weeks without cars and factories pumping smog into the air. I thought to myself – “Perhaps Nature is reclaiming its health”?
For the first time in a couple of years I’ve noticed that the dolphins and stingrays have returned to our local beach. The sky seems bluer, the air fresher and the birds have returned in numbers to our garden and the surrounding trees in the neighbourhood. It seems that Nature has renewed its well-being. After the recent rain we had following the bushfires and this virus, greener and cleaner landscapes are returning - perhaps the Earth is healing itself?
I then started to notice the lack of traffic noise in the mornings. It reminded me of the first time I returned from the city to my family home in the country – I really noticed the silence in the morning broken only by an orchestra of birds, the deep rich blue in the sky, the fresh native bush smell of country air. It’s quite subtle but you really notice it when you’ve lived a couple of decades in the country, then move to the city for a time and one day return to a place that your limbic system is familiar with.
Our primitive nervous system through the five senses and some other senses we are yet to fully understand, taps straight back into its deep memory of place. One of the strongest connections we have to nature and to particular places, is through our nose. We can literally smell a change in the air. Terpenes (communication chemicals emitted by trees) speak to our immune system…..perhaps from this viral health threat, we will emerge inspired to spend more time in nature, to stop cutting down so many trees and burning large forests which are the lungs of our planet – perhaps our immune systems will be strengthened by Mother Nature if we give her a break and allow her to heal so she can heal us in return?
As home isolation measures became the norm, I also noticed, as many of us have, that there were more families out for a walk together, more fathers playing ball games with their kids in the park, couples strolling together with the dog - some dogs are freaking out with the sudden increase in their daily activity and some dogs are loving it as much as us introverts are loving some solitude. Old traditions such as having dinner at the table with the family have returned for many, as a result of parents and their children trading peak hour for family hour.
The 9-5 routine book-ended by the daily commute has become a way of life since the industrial revolution… for many it has been like a treadmill that they stumbled onto with a coffee in hand each morning, kept pace with all day and took a temporary break from each night to watch a flickering box before slumping into bed for an often fitful sleep before the next ‘Ground Hog day’.
I know it is not like this for everyone and I am being deliberately provocative with my words because it is 'enough like this' for so many and yet we can’t always see another way. Perhaps, now that we’ve been forced to stop for a while, some will re-evaluate the value of living life this way, Perhaps some will see that we can choose to re-design our lives, even just a little, to emerge happier, healthier, calmer and more alive to our true nature. One only has to spend a week walking in nature at a slower pace to recognise the ancient but familiar 'true nature' within us, reflected in the environment around us as we walk slowly watching our feet, breathing deeply, feeling deeply, listening to life itself.
Working at home is not a foreign concept for myself and Gabrielle as we’ve been doing it for almost 20years now with young ones and now an older one. It wasn’t easy to begin with and still has its moments when we forget that we’re in charge of our life, but working from home has lots of little blessings sprinkled among the self-discipline and the tension between work, family and self-care. For ‘first-time work-from-homers’, there are teething problems and yet there is also the bonus of having a couple of extra hours in their day, not having to drive to and from work. There is time in the morning or the afternoon, to go for a walk or a jog, to do some yoga or just sit and relax with a cuppa if one gets organised and structures their day to suit their personal or family rhythm. If you have more than just yourself to look after, the key is organising structure and routines for all members of the household – a great way to teach self-responsibility to young ones or even yourself.
Those with school aged children have had to restructure their schedule to balance work / family commitments and have most likely become more engaged than usual in their children’s education. This is by no means easy but it is something that many children will treasure when they look back on this time. Being a parent involves sacrifice in good times and bad but if we focus on the blessings for us and our children, we will see in hindsight that this was a unique time in our lives and a moment in our children’s memory where they had more time with their parents and learnt some valuable life lessons by having to be more responsible and by observing how their parents handled themselves when the pressure was on. A child’s values, resilience and attitude to life is often forged in times of adversity and the current situation is one that might just be a key foundation stone of their life.
If we can reframe this time as a healing time, a time to go within and come back stronger, having headed the lessons we are learning while we hibernate, reflect, notice and resolve to change some things, continue with some new habits we’ve had time for but previously neglected while we were on the never-ending treadmill of work, work, work…. Perhaps we will create a new sustainable ‘normal’ that will be healthier for all of us, our families, our workplaces, our countries and our planet.
Most people sense that they are not made for a ‘peak-hour traffic’ kind of existence.
We seek calm more than chaos and yet we are more alive when we are challenged,
pursuing a purpose, living a productive life.
There is a middle ground between boredom and burnout, a place where we can be alive to both sides of our nature. We find optimal wellbeing when we live in this zone of ‘dynamic balance’ between the extremes and yet many of us have been caught on a ‘Hampster Wheel’, going ever faster and with less time for our health and sanity, for our families, our passions or just for being still. When I write, I often have to close my eyes and breath, listen to the birds outside or to my own heartbeat, to find that ‘still point’ from which inspiration comes. Is it possible that more of us will find this place within us that is neglected when we’re busy, this place where we are more able to seize the day and notice the small everyday moments that invite joy, rest, inner peace, insight, beauty and renewal?
My hope is that, whatever the new normal is, we don’t forget the lessons we have learnt about the way we have lived and can live; we don’t miss the secret treasures hidden in the journey we’ve all been on; and above all, that we have gratitude for the transformative gifts wrapped up in the adversity we’ve all had to face together.
WHAT SETS YOUR HEART FREE?
To feel the love of family,
to love, to laugh, to climb a tree.
To sing, to run, to swim in the sea.
To walk in Nature’s beauty to see
the vistas, the life, the energy.
To give to others and know they are me.
These are the things that set my heart free.
In North American Indian culture, the word 'Medicine' is often used to define the unique gifts of each person. It is considered a tragedy when people don't take the time to explore those gifts or don't have the confidence to express them. It is for this reason that I take the risk to express my truth in writing. Some years ago I lost my voice for a time and in the journey back to speaking again, I discovered that 'voicing' one's 'Truth' is a healing and health-enhancing gift that I once took for granted. Writing, art, taking journeys in nature and guiding life-transforming adventures, are my 'medicine'. This blog is an expression of this 'medicine'. I trust that the words I write, might inspire you to think about your 'truth' and your 'gifts' and I hope that you enjoy some of the 'adventures' I share.