Following my feet, away from the hustle and bustle of the family and all that preparing for a bank holiday weekend at the beach entails, I walk. With only a water bottle hanging from my belt and the dog’s lead held lightly in my hand. Free, my arms swing as I find my stride, my own rhythm. The sun shines, the sky is blue, I enjoy the warmth. A sunny bank- holiday. Perfect.
Not ten minutes have passed, and I descend into thick sea mist, cool, grey and damp. The scene I expect to see ahead of me has vanished. The perfect late spring day of warmth and sunshine, behind me; no rolling hills dotted by lazy sheep and racing frolicking lambs. The panoramic view of the coast, miles of sand, ocean and horizon, lost. There is a sinking realisation that back at home - in land, away from the sea, is a beautiful bright blue day. Yet here, where I have travelled over one hundred and seventy miles to reach my paradise, it might as well be November!
Yet as I walk, my eyes soften as they cease to search for the hidden sights I know and love. My eyes and face relax, I relax – sooner than I might have done. With nothing to see, just the rhythm of my strides to follow, my movement becomes an undoing. Each step is a softening of both body and mind. Enveloped in a soft grey mist, penetrated by nothing and nobody, I feel at peace; calm, quiet. No demands. Nothing to see. It strikes me how my walk into the mist echoes the practice of mindfulness or meditation. How tempting it was to dwell on the golden day behind me, on how had I stayed at home I’d be surrounded by sunshine. How tempting it was to dwell on the scenery I was missing. In accepting the walk as it is, I am living each step in the moment – neither looking back and unable to look further forward than my next few steps. The mist wraps me in the present. With no visual stimuli my eyes rest, my mind chatters less, it rests.
The path descends many steps; walls of mist above, behind and in front – yet what pleasure I find in the here and now. The joyous primroses, so delicate, shining out of the emerald green grass verge, complemented by violets in profusion and a carnival of pink campions erupting down tall stems. Woven between their bases are diamond studded silk webs reflecting what watery sunlight filters through the mist. Such calm contentment and peace can also be found from within when practicing Yoga, Mindfulness or Meditation. Even from a place of thick mind fog. In the words of Yoga teacher Pattabhi Jois: ‘Practice and all is coming’.
The rhythm of my walk continues and rather than follow the path, I branch off below the ridge it follows, through a tiny valley that runs parallel; a secret way beaten through years of brambles and bracken by grazing cows. It’s breath-taking below the mist – humid, warm and sunny, you can smell the fresh new growth. Young nettles, brambles and bracken will soon take over again; but for now, bluebells and birdsong rule. As I venture forth, accompanied by larks ascending I come across a space more special still. A spring! A bog and would be pond. Yellow flag lilies greet me, reflected in the small and muddy pool. Bluebells, pink campions and violets jostle for space in this Eden that Chelsea gardeners would compete to re-create. Time stands still. I am in awe. I photograph the beautiful lilies rising from the mud.
Returning, out of that hidden valley, I re- join the path. Four footsteps along the path and I’m back in the mists. Out of Eden, I’m engulfed. Life! Yet that secret golden place where time stood still is within me.
My walk is nearing its conclusion, down the sand dunes, onto the beach and along the sea shore to find my family. Yet still a last surprise in store. As I walk, seeing only the very edge of the ocean, I enjoy its roar. Though I can’t see them, there are waves to be surfed. Insulated by the mist, I tune into the rhythm of my walk once more. I am my walk. Catching up with other walkers, families passing the opposite way, I notice them, I nod or smile. They appear, I think, as thoughts do during meditation or mindfulness practice. I am undisturbed, I am at peace, ethereal in the mist. Gradually more throngs of holiday makers appear through the mist, a cacophony of noise penetrates, but still I am at peace. I am my walk.
So surprised am I, when suddenly, I recognise a familiar landmark: a house, rising out of the mist marks my destination. Oh! So soon! From the peace of the here and now; refreshed, replenished and relaxed, I re-join the present, embracing the hustle and bustle of the bank holiday beach.
A spring in my step, a secret sparkle in my eye, I know that I can re-visit that golden oasis of calm, where time stands still. I find it within myself. My yoga practice leads me there. My mindfulness practice paves the way. Meditation is the golden key.