Taking the first steps
When I first arrived I remember walking my daily path from one hotel to the other where I teach yoga classes. It was my first day, I was unfamiliar with where I was and unfamiliar with Africa in general – the customs, safety etc. I had a vague idea where I was going (a thirty minute walk or so straight down the beach and you will see hotel – these were the directions I had).
I left for the hotel (with about two hours to spare as usual!) excited to see what lay beyond the grounds of where I was going to be living for the next three months. The beach with its soft, white sand – I describe it as feeling like I am walking through flour! The turquoise ocean, a shade of blue I don’t think I have ever actually seen anywhere outside of a postcard before. The palm trees lining the beach and the sound of the waves washing in. It was paradise!
I edged my way slowly up the beach, constantly looking out for any signs along way that would show the name of the hotel I was looking for.
Meeting the local community
I started to walk past some locals who were on the beach, a hello came in from here and there. Mambo seemed to be the word being used, or was it jambo? “Hello, How are you?”. Too preoccupied with my search I kept my head down and raced ahead, avoiding eye contact and trying to remain unnoticed – a tall, glowing white, nervous looking newbie was not going to be hidden that easily.
I could feel myself getting a bit anxious as I looked around for where the hotel was, people calling after me (everyone is very eager to say hi, and run up to you and/or shout after you until you are not in their view!!). I felt a bit overwhelmed to be honest but eventually found the hotel I was looking for and relaxed into the more familiar setting there.
I mean I know it is just walking down a beach but it actually represented a lot more for me. It was my chance to start to really to process the choice I had made to come here, I was sussing out my surroundings, tuning into the place I had decided to come and live in for three months- with no prior knowledge of where I was going. Each step actually felt like my mind and my senses were starting to catch up with where my physical body was now walking.
Seeking the familiar, fear of the unknown
I notice that no matter where I go I will find myself analyzing where I am, the mind seeking out the familiar- because, well, in the familiar we find safety or security as opposed to the unknown. In the unknown then anything can happen and that can be terrifying. So away I went down the beach for the first time, seeking out the familiar, analyzing the new, trying to get a sense of my new home and environment.
Even after that first walk I could already feel my whole body, mind and nervous system start to relax and settle into my new home. By day two or three I could notice myself opening up more to the people and world around me, a smile here and there even!
Allowing myself to consciously tune into my body, any tension in the shoulders, the heart beating a bit faster than usual, what was the mind saying? All of these subtle things can really shape and have an effect on things so simple and normal as walking down a beach – and even more so within broader aspects and times in our life!
There is a form of meditation that I learned during the many silent retreats I have attended and time spent in Buddhist monasteries called walking meditation. You pick a path, about ten or twenty steps and you walk up and down the path -just as you would normally walk, for a period of time (on retreats we walk for an hour per session).
Bringing the awareness to the soles of the feet, or the movements of the feet and legs and also noticing the mind and what comes up there. Similar to a daily yoga practice , or your meditation practice, you bring awareness into it each day and you can start to notice the differing thoughts and reactions from the mind and really look into and question where they might be coming from.
A daily practice
I decided to use this daily walk to and from my classes as a walking path for the three months I will spend here. Each day just noticing what is coming up for me, noticing how I am feeling and what my reactions are to the world that is happening around me and the life that is taking place along the beach. As it is the same walk each day, it is a perfect opportunity to see how something that remains fairly unchanged can be perceived or viewed differently on any given day through the same eyes (in this case, my eyes. )
It is a really interesting and fun experience actually. Through all of this I see my thoughts change each day, watching how I am reacting or interacting and also just observing my mind and body and what is going on there and how may this be shaping what I am experiencing.
Five weeks in and many beach walks later, I am having some nice insights into this dear mind of mine. It is a practice I encourage you try out sometime.
Soon, some actual information about Zanzibar coming – I promise 🙂