It has been a little while since I last wrote something, but as I sit here in a somewhat unfamiliar but very peaceful and beautifully different setting, I feel completely at ease. I have always found that I am only really able to write when my mind is in a relaxed state, the words seem to flow far more smoothly and the piece almost seems to write itself. Perhaps with a mind full of (mostly) unnecessary clutter I find it hard to let my thoughts flow, which I suppose is actually what this blog post is mostly about. The innate human need for a moment of solitude, a bubble of peacefulness or simply some ‘alone time’. Of course, how we go about achieving this increasingly rare but very important moment varies in accordance with the almost infinite amount of factors, both big and small, that impact our lives on a daily basis.
It can soon become ostensibly true that there is, in fact, no to very little time to squeeze in a moment of solitude in our busy days and weeks. At least not a proper one…but then again, what is a ‘proper’ moment of solitude? Personally I think a very good description can be found in This Matter of Culture, p 89 “…Do you ever go out for a walk by yourself? It is very important to go out alone, to sit under a tree – not with a book, not with a companion, but by yourself – and observe the falling of a leaf, hear the lapping of the water, the fishermen’s song, watch the flight of a bird, and of your own thoughts as they chase each other across the space of your mind. If you are able to be alone and watch these things, then you will discover extraordinary riches…”.
Close your eyes for a second or two and let your soul be transported back to one of your most favourite spots. Somewhere surrounded by nature. It could be the rugged, misty Scottish highlands, the huge expanses of the Australian outback, on a boat floating in the middle of a gently rolling blue ocean or in the untamed wilds of Africa. Somewhere where you feel at complete peace with not only your surroundings but also yourself. Feel the gentle breeze blowing softly against your face, and the ground beneath you, listen to the sounds and let their symphony echo softly in your ears, smell the earthy scent of nature, the sweetness of the flowers. Take a deep breath, fill your lungs with cool air and exhale slowly. You can almost feel the stresses, pressures and anxiety that you carry around slowly start to melt away. That’s just a taste of what you will be able to feel after a true moment of solitude.
Unfortunately of course you can’t simply just up and zoom away to your favourite spot in the wilderness, but the truth is that you don’t have to. Find a tree in a nearby park, a spot next to a river, or even a sunny spot on your balcony and get comfortable. Sit or lie down and try to relax your mind. take a few seconds and focus individually on what you can hear, smell, feel and see. Don’t try to stop thoughts from entering your mind, accept them, acknowledge them and simply let them float away. Allow your mind to wonder peacefully and listen if your heart has anything it wants to tell you. Allow yourself the chance to refresh and reenergise. Breath. Deeply. Quietly.
I am naturally an over-thinker. I tend to over think everything. Very often I find myself being worked up over things that in reality may never even happen, it is just that my mind has progressed 5 steps into the future down varies paths of possibility. I have been like this since a child, I think. It has taken me a long time to regain control on my wildly roaming and incredibly overactive mind, and although it is certainly not a full proof recipe, I have found that a moment of solitude is a good way for me to reset and reign in my thoughts. The advantages of being able to live, and I mean actually live, in the precent are incalculable. I don’t mean that planning ahead in some respects isn’t important, in fact the contrary, planning and being prepared is also important, it is achieving that balance that is vital. And balance is oh so important.
I remember going on a solo walk in the Timbavati Private Game Reserve, Greater Kruger National Park a few years ago. It was another hot and sunny day in the African bushveld and I had no guests. A rare luxury! I felt the need for some alone time, so I set off with my walking stick, my camera and a bottle of water. I wondered around rather aimlessly for about 2 hours before deciding to take a ‘short’ rest break in the cool shade under a large Marula tree near the edge of a small dam. I lay down on the soft, green grass and abruptly fell asleep. I was awoken by a small splashing sound and a few drops of liquid that had landed on my face. I slowly opened my eyes, half expecting a ravenous, man eating lion to be standing over me, drops of drool falling from his fiercely sharp fangs onto my face. Rather fortunately, however, that was not the case, instead there was a beautiful, black and white Pied Kingfisher ‘dive-hunting’ barely 2m away from me.
The sight was truly stunning, the angle of vision that I had from my head still being gently nestled in the pillow of green grass and the fact that the bird was so close to me was incredibly special. I lay dead still and watched, overcome by awe. Obviously frustrated by the fishes lack of cooperation in being caught and eaten, the kingfisher eventually flew off in search of a better hunting spot. I shifted my position so that my back was resting against the trunk of the large Marula tree and I let myself soak in the magic of the moment. I stayed next to that small dam, under that Marula tree until it started getting dark. What a personal and incredibly satisfying experience! I think my soul developed a little under that tree, or rather, perhaps, I just simply got to know myself a little better. Either way, that moment of solitude brought a whole lot of much needed balance to my life at that time.
Best Bush Regards from a very sunny Switzerland!