Ten days ago I hurt my knee. It’s a recurring injury exacerbated by car driving. The repetitive tension while pressing the gas pedal has caused inflammation of my knee tendons. Hmm. Am I the only one seeing the metaphor?
Being the obstinate sort that I am, it’s taken a while for me to accept that I might need to slow down a little. I really don’t want to. I have so many plans and ideas, and I’m itching to bring them to fruition. No chance right now. My knee has given up the ghost, temporarily at least.
So, with all this immobility, there has been time on my hands for a little reflection.
A few mornings ago, I took time to stretch my ailing leg. Stepping onto my wooden platform, I struck a few yoga poses. I inhaled the clear, late-spring air. Looking over the yellowing hill, a slope that was as verdant as a rainforest a month ago, I was reminded of how quickly things change. This plot of land, the valley, in fact our entire worlds are perpetually dynamic pictures.
As I finished my yoga session and lay in relaxation, I heard a flurry of activity from the pine tree next to my kitchen. A swirl of bee-eater birds rose like a plume of electric blue smoke. The cloud pulsed in the air. It looked like a genie, inhaling and exhaling.
Bee-eater birds migrate from Africa in late spring. As their name suggests they munch on bees. My village holds a huddle of bee-keepers, which is why these attractive and vividly-marked birds grace us with their presence. Naturally, bee-keepers and bee-eaters are not the best of friends, and the locals will routinely pull a shot gun out whenever they see a bee-eater swarm in the vicinity. Seeing as both bees and bee-eaters are dwindling in numbers I’m ambivalent about the ethics of that. But I’m not of the shooting disposition. And the bee-eaters choose my pines to overnight in.
As I lay on the platform post-yoga that morning and stared into the sky, I was mesmerised by those bee-eaters. They circled and dove directly above me, creating a living, moving display of such beauty and precision it was almost hard to believe it hadn’t been choreographed for the purpose.
My mind returned to my knee and the gas pedal, to driving at break-neck speed after goals, to all the grand plans of my life, none of which have ever turned out how I thought. This adventure, the mountain-house adventure, is an anomaly in my life. It was never planned for. It was never on my ‘to-do’ list at all. I had no great vision of building my own home because I had never considered such a thing could ever give me so much pleasure. But this space apparently didn’t need a plan. It was almost as if it grew by itself, a little like the wild grape vine next to my toilet.
Before this home, I thought I had to do yoga, to breathe and meditate, and follow a set path, in order to find peace and happiness. I was driven, hot on the trail of the elusive goal of enlightenment that so many people bang on about. But awakening is everywhere. It surfs along the sunlight that illuminates the leaves, it flirts with the movement of the air, it thrives in the plants bursting through the soil, it lives in us too.
It’s all quite peculiar really. My bank balance is fairly pathetic. I have no romantic relationship, no prestigious job, no luxury car. In fact I have none of things the powers-that-be would have us believe we need to for success or happiness. None of this matters one iota, because however it appears on the outside, on the inside I feel overwhelmingly complete, almost as though I’ve made it.
I think life is like the bee-eaters. It swirls and dances and makes us gasp in wonder. Things appear and disappear in their own time. Often when we look back over our shoulders, we haven’t a clue how it all came to be. It’s almost as if it just ‘happened’.
Even so, every now again I’ll still kid myself into believing there are things I have to do. I’ll look life in the eye and issue it a few ultimatums, things like, ‘the kitchen MUST be finished by next month.’ or ‘We’re going to get that plaster on, whatEVER it takes.’
And life looks at me, nods ironically and grins. ‘Really?’ it says. ‘You think so?’ Then it’ll give me a knee injury. Or send a deluge of rain. Or make my car break down. Because the picture of our lives can’t be forced or mapped, or even perhaps imagined. We are both creators and creations simultaneously .
I still do yoga and meditate. I still drive too fast as well. But honestly, it was participating in the creation of my home – a home that listened to the Earth – that was ultimately the most enlightening.
Atulya K Bingham
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