The Art of Relaxation

I’m pretty good at looking after my valuable stuff.

The other day I went to London and from there up to the Lake District, where I attended the first part of my Guide Training course with Way of Nature.

I stayed with Beth’s bro and his wife in London and, as usual, had a lovely time. I left their house and got the tube, paying from my change-heavy pocket.

When I went to pay for some treats at a lovely organic shop near Euston station, I couldn’t find my wallet. I ended up having to put all the goods back on the counter and walk outside to empty both my backpacks onto the footpath. I looked in every pocket twice – three times, digging my hands deeper in, in case I’d missed something. My wallet was gone.

I slowly repacked my bag feeling pretty flat but I also knew I would meet some fellow course attendees on the train who would sort me out. I called the tube people and the bank to report it and tramped on to the train. The wallet had £80 cash, my bank cards, driving licence and some Euros in it. Fortunately my train ticket was on an App.

While on the journey to the Lakes I had great conversation, food and fun and when I got there I jumped in Coniston lake to help me forget about it. While I was down there I spotted a round something out of the corner of my eye – it turned out to be a penny, from 1978. It was exactly the same colour as its surroundings which made me think it had been there a long time. It made me think of Beth as it had Elizabeth on it and Beth was born in ’78. I felt that this penny was something for me to hold on to for the weekend.

There was a great feeling of fun and camaraderie about the Guide Training. We had a day of practice and teachings and conversation on Friday which ended in us each going out into the wild hills above for a 14 hour ‘mini solo’. This meant taking our tents or whatever, with us up the hill, finding a spot, camping alone, without food, without speaking; mainly being in reflection.

We had had some practices shared with us the previous day and they could come in useful to help ground us in the situation. I wasn’t feeling so good though. As Friday progressed I was feeling not really part of it, and like these practices (Qi Gong and presence practicing) were just a load of hippy shit and not going to help me, despite really enjoying them that morning, having had that feeling of relaxation and like something good was happening for me. I found the teachings hard to relate to and judged them to be not useful for me. I’m not sure what I was looking for.

I took all the doubt about this ‘new thing’ up the hill with me on my solo. Lost like my wallet or cancelled like my bank cards, I felt a bit pissed off with my situation but also I had a bit of a knowing that I was doing the right thing for me.

I love the challenge of wild camping, being alone for long periods and, although it’s not the most comfortable situation to be in, I know there is something happening for me in those moments.

I settled down amongst the sheep droppings, heather, bilberry bushes and moss, feeling supported by the landscape and ready for a new experience. Facing east, the arc of the hill behind me advanced over the land, slowly turning the moor-like landscape to shadow. I had a nibble on the plants to see how they tasted and feel more at home. I watched, wondering about time, about how I would survive the next hours, about how slowly the sun sets when I watch the shadow move, how a minute can feel like an hour when waiting for the shadow of the hill to reach the trees. And by the time the last of the shadows had retreated along the landscape, light meeting dark, a bright orange, sun reflecting plane flew across my sky, giving me a last look at the brilliant sunset I had just witnessed. This led me to look up to the nearly full moon directly in front, beaming its presence, its apparently unmoving, solid light catching my wonder. And I had time to wonder.

I was cold and not very comfortable but that was sometimes part of the wild camp.

I looked at the shadow on the moon and wondered how, if the sun has just set, how the light and shadow on the moon stay pretty much the same all night. I imagined a much slower sunset, of the Earth on the moon, an Earthset, creating that shadow. I couldn’t figure it out but I certainly was amazed at the hugeness of it all. I had time to watch, tucked up in my sleeping bag, inside my bivvy bag, sitting on the mossy, grassy ground.

As it darkened I lay back and retreated into my bivvy. The cold began to seep in, and as the hours passed I added extra layers; socks, hoodie and eventually got my sleeping mat out as the ground beneath chilled me. My sleep was restless, going between chill and moon bother. I would wake from a pleasant slumber only to remember where I was, and the physical challenge of being there would dawn on me each time I awoke. A slight dread. I would have a quick look at the sky and the moon, by this time almost too bright to look at, was still in my face. Some hours later I woke to the shadow of the moon casting an arc, just as the sun had earlier and I felt I could finally rest.

Next time I came to, the sky in front was an azure blue with a flat belt of burnt orange pressing down on the horizon.

I opened my eyes again and the sun was fully up. I had survived. I looked at my clock. 6.45. Still 3 hours before I needed to pack up and leave. What would I do for 3 hours?!

I sat up and immediately began a half hour meditation, surrendering to the brightness of the sun and allowing it to sink into me. I don’t meditate much but this felt great, I was really drawn by the sunlight and I made a choice to be there with it and appreciate it for what it is; that amazing centre without which we simply would not be alive. I became calm and felt that this intimate time with the sun was just what I needed. Breaking out of my sleeping/bivvy bag coccoon and pulling off my socks, I stood barefoot and went into Qi Gong and other practices I had learned, trying everything out which might help relax me into the enjoyment of that moment.

And it worked.

And I was free, and in full appreciation of what was before me. This stunning day had dawned, showing me how to feel closer to myself and how to be there with it. I didn’t have to be anywhere else, I had no family expectations in that moment, I was nothing but just there. I felt a presence, a power from within. I was calm and at peace, loving being barefoot, and I really didn’t want to put my massive hiking boots back on to head back down the hill to camp. I decided to try walking without socks and boots, slowly picking my way through the soft, squelchy, boggy ground to the crackly, broken bracken and beyond. Every step was measured and it felt amazing. Then I got to the rocky path and slowly walked barefoot over that until I reached camp feeling blissful and serene. I had made peace with my resistance to what is or may be happening, through nature connection. I had let down my guard and stopped judging myself and the moment. I had finally relaxed and let go.

48 hours later I’m on a delayed train, making my way to Gatwick airport, slowly coming round to the idea that I may miss my flight back home and be ‘stranded’ in London. And I did miss my flight. And the next flight wouldn’t be until Wednesday. And I was letting all sorts of people down by not making it on time. Or was I?

Yesterday, I learned some distinctions. I learned that I am not to blame for my circumstances, although I am responsible for them. I learned that even if people feel that I am lettting them down or doing things differently to how they would, that is entirely not my problem, although I do have responsibility within that. I learned to trust circumstances, not fight them and see opportunities to be friendly and open towards people of worrying and feeling bad about losing my wallet and having to spend more on flights and trains. And I learned to accept the generosity of others without question or resistance.

That money, I now realise, was an investment. I bought myself the opportunity to deepen my acceptance of circumstances, to have a happier, lighter conection with those around me, I bought the time and space to be creative and trust that life will keep bringing me great things.

The only way I will keep evolving is if I give myself the space to do so.

Thanks for reading

The Art of Relaxation