By Gregori Savva, Aug 29 2015 09:11AM
Sometimes when I am feeling melancholy and notice my mood is drawing in, I take myself off to a quiet retreat in a nearby park. There’s a nature reserve set aside on a leafy island, between two channels of water that once fed an old watermill. It’s a very simple place: reachable by a small wooden bridge and overgrown with shrubs and brambles. I stroll along a muddy track through the trees, taking in my surroundings until I reach the end of the island. Along the way I notice the sunlight, wind or rain in my face, depending on the interplay of elements that day.
Eventually, I find my usual spot beneath a low hanging tree, sitting on a square hewn log by the river. I wait a while for my senses to settle, close my eyes and start to inhale and exhale, using long drawn out breaths. At this point I feel both relaxed and enlivened. My body is alert, my mind focussed. I become totally immersed in the present moment and allow the plants and trees to close in around me. I can already sense the first stirrings of my melancholy lifting. As I observe the shifting sensations in my body, I can feel my muscles relax, the fresh air fill my lungs and my head becoming lighter. It is a good feeling and I endeavour to stay with it awhile.
Breathing becomes my guide to patience and relaxation. As soon as I have found my rhythm, I remind myself of the practice that has become my familiar routine. At first I focus on the sound and sensation of my breath, before turning my attention to concentrate on listening to my body as well as picking up on the sensations of the external world. It’s important for me to listen with clarity and precision, to select out the different sounds and identify their distinct characteristics even as I listen to the blended tones and notes as a whole.
It’s also vital to pay attention to the constantly evolving movement of the sound as it finds its own rhythm, cadence and harmony. Each sound I notice, has its own mood and sentiment. As the sounds filter through the trees, I am already attuning myself to the flow of nature’s sensations. The chime of the river as forks to the left and ripples over the rounded stepping stones. The wind passing through the bull rushes and dangling vines of the weeping willow. The sudden flutter of pigeons ruffling their feathers and taking flight. The songs of birds and squawks of parakeets. Even the whoops and screams of children, or the distant swish of traffic. And the occasional drone of a plane in the background.
If I remain true to myself, I can maintain my attention for reasonably long periods of time. I forget about distractions or following unnecessary trains of thought. I let go of the noisy chatter in my mind. At this point I am perfectly poised on the cusp of sensing and perceiving, somewhere near the intersection between my innermost self and the external world.
This is where I want to be…