7 August 2011



Wiping away the occasional tears that blur my vision, I drive north out of the city following the road up to Port Wakefield then down the other side of the Gulf of St Vincent and out into the flat plains of Yorke Peninsula. Some are tears of joy, some tears of confusion, some tears of relief. They're all mixed together.

Why am I doing this trip? I haven't worked it out yet, but there's a reason for it. I know it.

I've taken time out to travel over to this wild and beautiful coastline, to set up camp, to listen to the ocean swell, the sounds of nature, the whispering voice of the wind; to disengage from city stimulation and let the cooling balm of silence and simplicity dampen the fire in my head.

It's Saturday morning. By 11am, I've set up my tent and what I need for the next two days. I lay on my camp mattress and fall into a blind sleep for an hour, waking to the realisation that the sleep provided a passage, a transition from unconscious wakefulness into alive stillness.

Contemplation, quietude and peace.

After one hour of sitting meditation the rubbish pile - my mind - begins to loosen.

The rubbish pile is made up of accumulated thoughts, millions of them that have been used, reused and recycled - they're stuck together with clag, unable to move freely through and out of my mind. There is blockage. Build up. Stagnation.

Alone in my tent, surrounded by coastal bushland, I feel a freedom that I can't explain - there is space and ease, lightness of being, no commitments, no eyes upon me. I relax and the mental glue begins to soften, the thoughts begin to separate and dissolve away one by one.

Tight sticky mind becomes the soft mind.

It is a homecoming - to my natural state of being.

I did this trip to Yorke Peninsula three times earlier this year, but then it was to be alone with my grief and my thoughts of Mark, to create a haven away from my normal life where I could sit still with the intense emotions.

Each trip a different mindstate has emerged. This fourth trip feels like a transition. I realise the grief is gone - no longer am I trapped in the roller coaster trauma of Mark's death. My mind is much more stable and in a sort of holding bay ready for a new phase.

These trips to Yorke Peninsula are more than just a getaway. They've become a pilgrimage.

I leave home, close the door on what is familiar, and journey to a place that is now a sacred haven for me, where I am immersed in nature, distilled and refined, receptive to whatever arises, and where I can listen inwardly and feel the presence of spirit.

Acknowledging this trip as a pilgrimage gives it context and meaning. I'm not fleeing my responsibilities, or escaping society. I am honoring and nourishing what is sacred to me, my inner spiritual life.

The outer physical journey gives symbolic weight to the interior journey. It is sacred traveling, moving away from the noise and complexity of modern life towards the quiet, numinous centre, the intuitive realm.

The purpose of all journey is to arrive home.

Yoga Practice

Sunday morning it is warm in the tent - I do a four and a half hour yoga practice. When there are no time restraints, yoga can be practiced with complete freedom.

Poses are set up carefully, entered into gently and mindfully, explored fully and deepened only as the body naturally allows. Listening to the body, I feel all the gross and subtle sensations, layers upon layers of them, I feel the structural, anatomical and physiological changes taking place as stuck areas release their grip just a little, sometimes complaining as they yield to the compelling force of internal balance and purification.

And I watch the mental activity, the desire to move, the desire to stay, the occasional hint of boredom in a pose, the aversion to uncomfortable openings. I stay in the poses with full and quiet attention, watching and listening...fascinated with the process.

After each pose I sit with the effect. I imagine this is how the ancient yogis identified and recorded the benefits of each pose. When time permits it is an extraordinary exercise to sit for at least a few minutes after each pose and observe minutely the subtle effects on one's physiology, one's emotions, one's state of mind.

I wrote copious notes about this practice but now I can't be bothered writing them up.

I did the entire practice inside my tent, following the Ashtanga Primary sequence of poses. There wasn't enough room to fully raise my arms up so I modified the initial sun salutes to accommodate my tiny studio. Apart from the sun salutes I was surprised to find that all the standing poses were do-able under a low ceiling as they were either forward bending or were low to the ground because of a lunging position.

My toes didn't quite touch the top of the tent in the Shoulderstand but I couldn't hold the Headstand for long because my feet were pushing the tent top up which created a downward force on my head, not a safe feeling.

The long slow practice went surgically very deep. Psychologically it was intense too as I made myself stay in those pain-held places that I don't normally reach in a 5 breath pose.

Some poses present us with pain places as soon as we enter them and staying for 5 breaths is confronting, but nearly all the poses will present pain places if held for a longer time - the blockages are deeper and more subtle and not visible or accessible in a 5 breath visit.

Excavation takes time, courage and patience.

Corpse Pose

After the four and a half hour marathon yoga practice, I lay out in Savasana.

I am exhausted and peaceful.

Releasing my body and soul completely into the earth, I let myself drop down further and imagine the ultimate release: Death...In Savasana I am on the threshold.

What would it feel like to pass over to the other side right now, to look back at my inert body, to realise I have to let it all go now, to accept that it's suddenly all too late: the plans I made, the things I put off, the people I loved, my unlived life...it's all too late.

That moment of passing over into death is shocking, the remorse is painful, there are no second chances to make amends. Death doesn't ever wait til you've finished your business. It cuts your life short no matter how young or old you are.

We are never ready.

If I were to die tomorrow is my life in order?

What business would have been left unfinished?

If I were to die tomorrow would I be embarrassed at what they'd find stashed away in the dusty corners of my bedroom, my bathroom cupboard, my shed?

If I were to die tomorrow would I have regrets...for what I could have done, but didn't?

...for allowing comfort to smother my enthusiasm for life?

...for allowing ignorance to fog my spiritual vision?

...for allowing fear to choke me and inhibit living a full life?

...for allowing laziness and inertia to drag me backwards?

...for believing I had more time while death was at my heels and stepping into my footsteps?

When I get home, I'll be cleaning up the messy corners of my room...just in case....

I'll clean out my house, and I'll clean up my mind.

I'll make a list of all those things I want to get done in this life time - and I'll do them.

I rise from Savasana, it has been a trip into my personal mortality.


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