Today I’m nursing my first motorbike injury. Despite all my rides and hitchhiking habit, I’ve never had so much as a scratch before: and I’ve had some wild rides, including on a bumpy dirt road with two large backpacks and a ukulele, plus my driver and his bag.
It’s nothing major; just a burn from the hot metal of the exhaust. But I’m appreciating how bad these burns can be. A second of contact on what felt like a tiny point on my ankle, has turned into a swollen bruise-coloured blister, half the size of my palm.
I arrive home to find the WiFi is down. My phone isn’t even picking up 3G signal, although my current accommodation has been the best for mobile (and internet for that matter) that I’ve had in a long time. Perhaps a tree fell on some cables somewhere – that’s not exactly uncommon out here in the jungle. I’m quite remote. My town doesn’t even have an ATM, which is why I’d been hitchhiking to the nearest bank – most places only accept cash.
I sigh and give up trying to load my WhatsApp, to send a few messages I’ve been meaning to send for a while. I’m obviously not meant to be doing that right now, though I’m impatient to set up a meeting with the vendors of my dream property, and get back in touch with an estate agent – we’ve been continuously missing each other, like ships in the night. But there’s no use fretting over what can’t be changed, so I surrender into the blissful detachment of being offline. Tired and ravenous, despite it being only 11.30am, I decide to prepare an early lunch.
I start meditatively halving cherry tomatoes that are already so small you’d ask why I would bother, and reflect on the morning, wondering whether there’s a lesson for me. I used to roll my eyes at hippies who’d say: “everything happens for a reason”. Now, I find it is actually quite a useful practice – whatever you might believe – to pause and ponder whether there’s anything that a situation can in fact teach.
A voice in my head whispers: “slow down”.
I’d been in a rush to get back from the bank and get on with my day. The driver I’d waved down wasn’t even going very far in the direction towards my home and the bike didn’t have a second pair of foot pegs for a passenger, yet I’d jumped on anyway.
I’ve also been in a rush all week. I’ve been impatient to implement my dreams, and to somehow raise a ridiculous amount of money to buy land for a healing sanctuary and conservation project. I’ve been obsessing over how the hell I’m going to do this, as well as dealing with a long list of “life admin” jobs I’ve been putting off for far too long and couldn’t ignore any longer.
Compared to my former life in the city, my life these days is pretty slow. I practice yoga and meditation most mornings, swim in the ocean pretty much daily, and am always cooking up a storm so that I eat nourishing meals for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yet the more I slow down, the more I realise how slow life ought to be so that we can take the time to be present and mindful in every single moment.
It’s so easy to lose sight of the present, because we’re so focussed on working towards some future goal or destination. But when we’re caught up like that, forgetting to live in the here and the now, before we know it time will have flown by. Maybe we’ll have attained our goal: but the human ego will always fixate on another future thing to do or accomplish. We’ll have missed out on the rich, expansive tapestry of life itself, with our existence marked only by a relatively short list of things we’ve achieved. And not only that: but if we’re not present, we won’t truly notice the things in our life that are not satisfying or serving us. This is rather important, because awareness of those things is what we need in order to make positive changes for our wellbeing.
Yesterday, I was so caught up in my to-do list that I nearly said no when a man I love dearly asked if he could come and visit next week. The explanation for my reaction is a little more complicated than the mere fact of me being busy. The nature of our relationship feels too vague to be defined and the last time we shared space was kind of a difficult time, before he left Costa Rica to go to the United States for medical reasons.
The night before his hospital visit was the peak of the Geminids meteor shower and I was watching them from a hill in the middle of nowhere. For every single shooting star, I whispered another prayer for health. The sky had been exploding with light.
That feels like ten years ago now, though it was less than two months. Since then, I’ve spent a week in feverish hallucination after an allergy to a scorpion sting, almost driven off the edge of a cliff when lost in the mountains at night, travelled to opposite sides of the country, and swam with whales.
I’m processing a myriad of deep emotions, trying to let go of expectations, and give openly and unconditionally whilst respecting my own boundaries. I’ve also seen how relationships act as a mirror, and can provide a beautiful opportunity for us to deeply examine ourselves. What we want or crave to receive from another person, may reveal a part of ourselves we’ve actually been neglecting to love and nurture. Similarly, what we want to give to someone else may provide insight into what we really ought to be giving to ourselves.
The burn on my ankle is on fire. My body’s protective outer shell, my skin itself, has been melted away. I feel myself softening, dissolving, breathing deeply in the cooling breeze that’s swirling around me as I sit here on my balcony gazing at the distant ocean.
As a friend put it to me tenderly a few nights ago, through the misty fog of spiralling incense that separated us, it’s better to open your heart and be vulnerable, than not to feel at all.
It’s kind of linked to taking it slow. Only when we slow down can we really feel: through savouring and appreciating the present moment.
It’s kind of important to do that, because only the here and the now can be guaranteed.
And if you don’t like your present reality, then I urge you: don’t waste any time changing it.