Monthly Archives: December 2014

I Keep Coming Back To Peace

Sometimes I get so overwhelmed with all the things I want to do, all the places I want to see, all the things I want to say.  I live such a jumbled life with so many points of focus, and often I wonder what it would be like if I made one of them my priority.  But when I think of the things I love individually they seem hollow and unsatisfying.

It’s not travel that I love.  It’s the feeling of freedom and endless possibilities, of endless exploration, beauty and wonder.  It’s not jewellery that I love.  It’s the feeling of inspiration that looking at, imagining, creating and sharing beautiful things gives me.  It’s not being a massage therapist that I love.  It’s the joy of bringing a little more ease, relaxation and happiness to someone else.  It’s the undoing of tension and restoring of balance.  It’s peace.  It’s all about peace.

rainbow moonstone

Rainbow Moonstone

When I write, when I sing, when I do yoga.  All of these things are connected by my need to immerse myself in peace and share it with others

I often get caught up dreaming of a far away land.  I haven’t mastered the art of teleportation yet, so it usually leads to frustration.  I want to create a sustainable lifestyle for myself, doing what I enjoy.  If I didn’t it would be easy to save money doing temporary work, counting down the days, to go wherever I wanted to go.  But it would be temporary, and temporary isn’t enough for me.  Temporary does not bring me peace now or in the future.  Wishing time away, waiting to be happy, and then when the time arrives knowing that it can’t last.

I often get caught up dreaming about having a hugely popular website which would enable me to earn money while travelling the world.  Then my temporary dream would be permanent.  This new dream also leads to frustration though.  I see how much work it would take to get to that stage and imagine how long it would take me.  I have to do what I love NOW.

This brings me back to peace. 

The one theme in my life that unifies everything I am passionate about.  When peace is my focus I can do whatever I am doing and it feels good.  I can write about somewhere I’ve been and be transported back there, feeling more alive and joyful than words can describe.  I see all of the beauty where I am now and feel less desire to escape.  Possibilities open up as a result of this, pieces of the puzzle begin to fit into place, things flow more smoothly and I find myself a step closer to achieving all the things I want, even though I no longer desperately need them.

It’s not really the what, it’s the why.  I still end up doing all the same things, but everything becomes so much more fulfilling.  When I let go of fixed ideas about what I’m trying to achieve, everything is easier to do.  Life becomes lighter and things get done more quickly.  Putting the things I love into boxes leaves me feeling restricted by the limits I create for myself.  So instead of lots of boxes, or even one big box, I’m using peace as my container.  It’s an infinite space that contains everything I need and more.

I keep coming back to peace, because:

There is no path to peace.  Peace is the path.

Photo: The Himalayas from the air

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Hampi- An Enchanting Indian Wonderland

When I think back to my time in Hampi, in southern India, I get a warm fuzzy feeling inside.  It has so much heart.  Not the kind that knocks you over with its power when you arrive, but more of a gentle glowing that washes over you without you really noticing, until you’re feeling better than you have done for a long time and don’t know why.

Hampi was a world away from the chaotic towns and cities that we’d spent much of our time exploring.  A land of giant boulders and stunning temple ruins, with the most beautiful intricate carvings that tell enchanting stories.  The pace of life was leisurely, the air was hot and dry, and the landscape was barren yet alluring.

 

We were drawn to Hampi by the prospect of climbing the huge granite boulders, although once we were there the combination of the heat and relaxed way of life meant that I did more sitting on boulders, gazing at magnificent sunsets, than climbing on them.  But that didn’t matter in the slightest because my time there was perfect.

 

We had to wait until sunset to climb to avoid the blazing heat of the day.  I made it to the top of a few boulders and then sat, perfectly content, soaking up the warmth radiating from the rock.  The landscape looked less arid in the gentle evening sun.  The rocks took on a pinkish tone and the sparse patches of vegetation stood out against them, a deep rich shade of green.

The rest of the time we sheltered from the intensity of the sun in laid back restaurants with low tables and cushions on the floor, or wandered around the majestic temples.  Indian tourists outnumbered the foreigners, although there were plenty of both visiting the temples that had been built hundreds of years ago from the rock that surrounded us.  It was easy to find quiet spots to admire the architecture amongst the sprawling temple complex though.

 

We rented mopeds to navigate the local area and found ourselves at a nearby lake.  It was just us, the lake and the boulders.  The water was cool and refreshing, and it was amazing and slightly eerie to have the whole area to ourselves.  Other days we explored the ruins in the surrounding area on foot, walking far enough away from the town that our only companions were the goats that grazed on the land.

 

Hampi was the perfect mix of leisure and activity.  By the time we left I felt completely rejuvenated and ready to rejoin the mayhem of travelling through extraordinary India.

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Annapurna Base Camp Trek, Nepal

There’s something about doing a long trek in the mountains, away from modern civilization, doing nothing but walking, eating and sleeping for days on end that relaxes you in a way that nothing else can.  A ‘shower’, consisting of a bucket of hot water in an outdoor cubicle, as the evening draws in and the air rapidly cools feels like a wonderful treat after a day of hard physical exercise.  The mornings so tranquil, the views so consistently spectacular.

The Himalaya are both formidable and beautiful.  To climb to the height we did and then gaze up at the mountains that reached high into the heavens was staggering.  We walked for days and days up steep rocky paths, through some of the most spectacular scenery in the world, and through the loveliest mountain villages, full of some of the most beautiful people in the world.  When we finally reached the outermost point of our trek and looked up at the mighty Himalayan peaks, it was a truly humbling experience.

 

We decided on the Annapurna base camp trek because it was long enough to get us right up amongst some of the most jaw-dropping scenery in Nepal, but not as long as the entire Annapurna circuit which takes around 3 weeks to complete.

 

We observed the contrast between the lush green valleys and forests with idyllic streams and rickety bridges, and the huge rugged snow capped mountains above us, as we undulated and wound our way through the varied landscape.  We sometimes sang Nepalese songs with our guide to amuse ourselves as we walked, other times we were quiet and alone with our thoughts.

 

A natural rhythm brought peace and harmony to our days.  We woke early to watch the sunrise, then set off for several hours of steady climbing to our first stop for a welcome rest.  We would usually arrive at around sunset at our accommodation for the night, which were lodges with very basic facilities.  We exchanged travel tales with our companions, ate mainly rice and dal, played cards and got very early nights in preparation for the early morning starts.

For me the best part was forgetting where I was.  Wrapped up in many layers and a winter sleeping bag for the chilly nights, it would be difficult to drag myself out of bed when it was barely light outside.  I had this feeling every morning, and without fail, every morning, I would be overcome with happiness when I stepped out of the door.  To be greeted by the fresh mountain air and the sun rising from behind the magnificent peaks was the perfect way to start the day.  Not a trace of sleepiness remained.

 

The October skies were clear, so the cool mornings became blazingly hot days, the sun beating down on us as we walked.  We cooled ourselves down by dipping our feet and hands in the icy streams that flowed down from the mountains.

 

By the time we started our descent back towards civilization we were ready to continue with our journey.  After 10 long days of non stop trekking our feet needed rest, our stomachs craved the variety of the delights available in the restaurants in Pokhara, and we longed for contact with the rest of the world again.  We would recharge with some much appreciated home comforts, before setting off for more Nepali adventures.

There was no end to the active outdoor delights available in this beautiful country, and next on our agenda we would be taking advantage of the modern high adrenaline side of the adventure scene… in the form of a 160 metre bungee jump!  Sublime in a completely different way from the tranquil stillness of our immersion in this magical mountainscape.

 

 

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The Amazon Left Me Wanting More

The main reason I had wanted to travel to South America was the Amazon rainforest.  It had captivated my imagination since I was a child.  To me it was the ultimate destination for an explorer, and it has been in my heart for as long as I can remember.

We travelled by land for hundreds of miles to the city of Manaus in Brazil, the main departure point for visiting the jungle.  As I drifted in and out of sleep on that epic bus journey I became very aware that the air was changing.  As we descended gradually into the Amazon basin I could feel the increase in pressure and humidity, along with a less tangible sense of the mystery of this giant forest.  The anticipation gradually built over the coming days as we arrived in Manaus, booked our tour, and began our journey slowly by boat up the river.

Amazon

 

Despite my dream to visit the Amazon I knew very little about it.  I had images in my mind based on various nature documentaries and things I’d heard, none of which really matched up with my experience.  The upside of this was that there was so much that was absolutely amazing and completely unexpected about my trip into the rainforest.

We swam with pink river dolphins, which were more aggressive than you might imagine such a graceful creature to be.  They have sharp little teeth and weren’t shy about using them.  I politely waded waste deep in the murky water with the strange beautiful creatures, not wanting to appear ungrateful for such a special experience, while they head butted me and tried to bite my legs!  It’s a delightful memory though, and I think I prefer it over a more laid back dolphin encounter!

Pink river dolphin

Pink river dolphin

The spiders we encountered were less delightful.  The tarantula our guide poked at with a stick until it emerged from its hole was everything you’d expect from a giant furry arachnid built for ambushing prey, but it was probably much more frightened of us than we were of it.  I have much worse spider memories from the jungle.

Cruising through the flooded forest on a tiny boat was a magical experience by day.  We left our big boat on the wide part of the river and ventured into the unknown, between the trees through ever narrowing passageways.  By night, however, going deep into the jungle by boat varied between being a thrilling experience and a downright terrifying one!  As the forest grew denser spiders from overhanging branches that had been disturbed by our boat landed on board.  My friend and I grabbed the torch from our guide and frantically checked each other for spiders repeatedly until the torture was over several hours later.

Baby python

Baby python

On other occasions we saw a sloth, pythons and piranhas, all of which were so surreal, like something out of a children’s picture book.  The large boat was our base from which we explored.  We had plenty of time to relax on board and soak up the sights and sounds of the forest.  Our guide told us there were alligators in the water but that it was safe to swim nearby, so without giving it a second thought we all jumped in and had a lovely refreshing dip in the opaque muddy water, trying not to imagine what was beneath the surface.

We thought he was joking when he called to us to get out of the water because there was a caiman close by.  We got out anyway, just in case!  We couldn’t believe our eyes when we saw it just a few meters away from the other side of our boat.

By far the most unexpected creatures in the Amazon were on board though.  A rather eccentric dutch girl, a fellow traveller, had acquired some new born kittens in Manaus.  They’d been abandoned and left in a cardboard box in the street.  She’d heard them screaming and couldn’t bear to leave them.  So the kittens got the jungle tour too.  They even camped with us the night we slept in hammocks in the forest.

These were some of the more memorable and unexpected highlights of the visit.  However, the rainforest I’d seen in films, books and documentaries eluded me.  All the time it felt like we were on the edge of something.  After days of journeying we only briefly touched upon the ancient primary forest.  For the most part we were in secondary forest with smaller younger trees.

Amazon

 

The Amazon with huge trees and a high leafy canopy containing an abundance of life that I had anticipated for so long was indeed real, but I only caught tantalizing glimpses of it.  It was time to turn around and head back down the river to Manaus.  It had been amazing, and I’d ticked off a lifelong goal, but we knew that there was so much more than the tiny part we’d had the privilege to explore.

The trouble is with travel, and I’m pretty sure ninety nine percent of people reading this would agree, the more places you see, the more places you feel like you need to return to.  Unfortunately I’ve got this burning desire to go absolutely everywhere, so it’s going to be a while before I get round to revisiting the many places that have left me desperately wanting to return.

Amazon sunset

Sunset on the Amazon river

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When your mind is still you’ll find the answers that you’re needing easily

A mouthful of a title.  It’s actually a line from a song I wrote that I hardly ever play.  Probably because I attempt to fit those 17 syllables into 6 beats which is tricky even for someone with my mad rapping skills.

This post isn’t about singing though.  It’s about inner peace.  Something we take for granted until we don’t have it any more.  Our minds are really really amazing.  We have so much potential, and when our minds are clear we have inspired ideas and know exactly where we’re heading.  But when we’re even a little stressed we feel somewhat less than the amazing creative geniuses that we are.

Unfortunately, for some of us it gets worse than this.  A lot of people are able to stop at the level of feeling a little stressed, and get it together enough to do what needs to be done.  However, if you’re like me and have tendencies towards ‘all or nothing’ thinking, a lightly clouded mind can turn into a raging storm in the blink of an eye.  Your thinking has become so constricted that you can’t even remember that all you need to do is JUST STOP THINKING FOR A MINUTE!

No word of a lie, it took me a whole day of bashing my head against a brick wall today before I realised it shouldn’t be this difficult.  I remembered times when ideas flowed easily and I felt highly motivated and capable.  I knew that I knew what to do, but my mind was going too crazy for me to see the glaringly obvious.

Sunrise on the Ganges river at Varanasi, India.  Now that's what I call peaceful.

Sunrise on the Ganges river at Varanasi, India. Now that’s what I call peaceful.

So I released the straining and the fruitless effort and relaxed.  Almost immediately a breakthrough came.  I know in my heart that I need to make peace a priority, but there’s this little part of me that’s scared it will mean I won’t achieve anything.  So I need to honour that part of me too and be disciplined and focussed towards achieving my goals, while remaining very aware that the best way to do this is by allowing my mind to settle down and my creativity to flow more freely.

How about you?  What are your greatest barriers to peace?  I hope that me sharing this helps you to know that you are not alone, and acts as a reminder (I constantly need reminding!) that relaxation is a great aid to getting things done rather than a hindrance!  🙂

 

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