Regular readers know that I am in my year of turning 50, and that my recent outack road trip was part of marking this major milestone. I wanted to spend a decent chunk of time with my hubby exploring some wild, outback, natural locations. I had the urge to flee far away from the hectic city hustle, willingly place myself in unknown territory and bathe in the soothing waters of nature.
YEP - tick, tick, tick - DONE. 4700 kilometres of less traveled roads and? What did I learn?
After 4 days of driving we arrived to camp in Carnarvon Gorge National Park, in the central highlands of QLD. Carnarvon Gorge is a spectacular, ancient gorge - carved out of towering sandstone cliffs by approximately 30 million years of the eroding movement of water. It's a truly stunning place; abundant bird life, aboriginal rock art, majestic stately trees and awesome, ancient plant life... The views as you walk up the gorge along the creek bed reminded me a little of the scenes from Avatar with the amazing floating islands.
Paradise? YEESSSS, but what about the neighbours? We were camping in a busy national park camping ground, full of QLD school holiday makers. When we rocked up I noticed our camping neighbours' elaborate set up - and I do mean elaborate! All the creature comforts including fridges, flooring, not 1 but 3 outdoor gas heaters and several cartons of XXXX beer, which the men (I noted with a little apprehension) were enjoying upon our arrival at lunch time. OK, no problem, they are on holidays, right? A beer with lunch, a beer after lunch, a beer for afternoon tea... Yep, you guessed it, they continued drinking steadily, getting more obnoxious and disturbing the peace for all of us.
Oh, how wonderful the noise of the thousands of parrots & Currawongs careening around the campsite from dawn to dusk. But those other animals, those shouting, drunk humans enjoying themselves... AARGH, how very dare they!
We suffer because we get what we don't want, and don't get what we do want...
Yep, my idea of enjoying nature was just a tad out of alignment with theirs. Outcome? Stress, frustration and mental negativity... All things will pass, Grasshopper.
As the trip continued and the days flowed by we walked, we drove, we ate, we ferreted around in boxes, we gazed at the view, we lived with various animal neighbours and we began to unwind. Mother nature cast her intoxicating spell and we submitted. The more I settled, the more I became aware of my internal weather and the continuing, annoying turbulence inside. My radar was noticing that it wasn't what was happening outside me that created the turbulence, but that the disturbance was already there, inside me, waiting for every opportunity to whip itself up into a dramatic weather event.
Same old feelings, same old storm patterns, same old grasping mind. I travelled 2000 ks for this? Patience, Grasshopper. The patterns became crystal clear when we arrived at our final camp site which was peaceful, blissfully human free and seemingly all that I was craving for. But still the feelings of fear and anxiety were there. With no external event to attach to they just created fantasy and delusion. You never know, there just might be a wild pig out there hiding in the bushes waiting to ambush you, there may be a terrible storm coming to blow your tent down, you may fall over on your walk and break your leg... and damn those FLIES! Yep, those big, old, inner, hungry wolves are ever waiting to leap out and blow your house down and gobble you up.
It got me thinking about yogis and spiritual seekers choosing isolation to do their work, removing themselves completely from the messiness of everyday life. Why retreats are so precious and appealing. When we strip away all usual complications like family, relationships, work and money, we create a safe and contained space to peer in at the deeper holding patterns and the big fears of life. We notice our deep, ancient layers of rock, which are laboriously slow to erode and transform. We sense our terrifying inner bunyips that are constantly snapping and snarling at our heels. In everyday life we rarely have the courage to feel them, or the time and space to invite them to creep out of the shadows and stand in the light. But if we want to know them then see them we must, own them we must, accept them we must. We must stand and look them in the eyes and witness their fear, their deep loneliness, their weariness and struggle for survival. And perhaps, if we sit very quietly, they may sit down with us and offer their ears up for a scratch.
As a modern yogi , who is unlikely to run away to a monastery, I am interested in finding ways to truthfully witness and when I can, challenge the foibles, the fears and the wild dogs of my messy, ordinary life. The wisdom of Yoga gives me markers on this unchartered life map, points of reference, and roads on which to travel. It helps me to shape the tools needed to traverse my particular landscape, to watch for the shifts in the weather and discover ways to tease out the knots matted in the wild dogs' fur.
And now that I'm back home in familiar territory? I see that I've brought my bunyips and storms with me. They are right here, my familiar and faithful travelling companions. So I settle in, unpack all the boxes and lay all the contents before me, and again and again I muster my faith and courage to come back home to my simple practices of looking within and witnessing... Tenderly, Grasshopper.
Fear has a large shadow, but he himself is small. ~ Ruth Gendler
The drops of rain make a hole in the stone not by violence but by oft falling. ~ Lucretius
© Claire Heywood, August 2013