In my view, most long journeys we take—maybe also the short ones?—are but a journey towards ourselves. Something is missing, there is a hunger, a wanderlust, something needs to change in order for our selves to be acknowledged. I guess the evident thing, at least nowadays, is to go someplace, “change the tapestry”, look around—outside ourselves—for whatever is missing.
As many philosophers, thinkers, wise people or whatever, already have said: what is missing is inside ourselves. Simply going somewhere is not going to fill the gap or still the hunger. It requires introspection, literally to look inwards, to “journey towards our inside”.
I recall a lot of experiments in introspection in my late teens and early twenties, partly thanks to wise friends and family—like my mother during her hippy, Hessian phase, and my sister Juliana, an avid Jung reader, at least at that time—that exposed me to such ideas, partly due to listening to the inherent calling within. After a long time of disconnect with those processes, sponsored by the rationalism of a couple of decades in science, I started the way back to myself through the road of mindfulness, thanks to a chance encounter with a most wonderful being across an enormous pizza, who became my mentor in mindfulness and dear friend (not the pizza, but Gabriela). The path I found was through meditation, through awareness of my body and the space it occupies, its surroundings… Then came yoga, a return to Jung, and, more recently, the intuitive dance of re-connect through nature and the living threads of energy that link me with people.
For beginners like me, there is an enormous hurdle on the way to gain introspection. They require practice, constancy, discipline. All was well when I had a more or less structured life, weekly yoga sessions, a room to myself with space and quiet, away from rain and ticks and scorching sun, a place to go running as often as I wanted, the repetitive cycles of days after days in a known, comfortable environment… in short, a routine.
Arriving to a new place always poses a challenge to any such routine. There are new time schedules, it takes longer to find your way around, there is so much to share, new bonds to tend to, new dreams to weave, you are unsure about where to find a meditation spot, how to be out of the way, how not to appear rude when you want your peace… Well, I’ve been arriving to a new place quite often in the last months. Some are more conducive to such routines than others. And, of course, the longer I don’t practice, the more difficult it gets, and the more excuses I find not to practice on any particular day.
One reason to be here, at the fantastic world of Leewood is that it offers just that, the possibility to get into a routine of practice. With the hope that I can develop myself enough to be able to keep my practice even when the surroundings are not propitious.
That, my friends, is the trick—or at least a good one—to keep sane. No matter if you have started a journey into the unknown to find your way to yourself, or if you are nicely going on about your well-structured life. If you like what you do, or, even more, if you feel you don’t belong… finding space within you will help you be more resilient, build confidence, be happier, live a fuller life.
And what is my routine of practice? Well, it depends. I feel more in tune with my surroundings and myself when I spend some time outside, preferably barefoot and in silence. I pay attention to my breath, preferably both during a given period of time—such as during a yoga session or meditation, and as often during the day as possible. The breath is our link between the autonomic (involuntary) and somatic (voluntary) nervous systems, and thus also a doorway between the unconscious and the conscious. Meditation helps me enormously. Even after a few days of daily meditation (at least one session of at least 20 minutes), I can feel more resilient, patient and kind, both with myself and towards others. Meditation can take many forms, paying attention to the beauty of a flower can bring you closer to yourself!
Mindful exercise can simply take the form of gardening, or walking, but for me it works better if I follow some movement routine with emphasis on strengthening the core and increasing my balance. This also keeps the body prepared for physical work—remember that for a horticulturist the body is the most precious of all the tools!
Perhaps the best practice will be to pay attention, nay, be in awe of the grandiose spectacle of nature, mindfully, gratefully. Stand on this Earth, let the Earth become a witness to our right as a human being to stand here, in the midst of all things, and awaken a wise and compassionate heart…