When you get to the end of a year it’s almost inevitable that one takes oneself back over those previous twelve months in your mind, a taking stock as it were, I’ve covered a lot of ground in mine, twenty thousand plus kilometres. I’ve walked in the Himalayas, swum in the Nile & the Ganges, cycled across the Pyrenees & the length of Spain, swum in Italian lakes & rivers, worked for a month helping to grow vegetables under a hot Italian summer Sun and learnt to dive in the Red Sea. I end the year living next to the Indian Ocean, much of my time spent in it, or exploring the coastline or on a Yoga mat. Taking stock and thinking of the year to come and where I will head next in Body & Mind. Of course I am looking for something, at times I’ve been frustrated that I have had no idea what it is I have been looking for, but I know I need to find something. But then every once in a while, somewhere, in a moment of quiet, in a place of serenity there I glimpse it, the thing I’ve been looking for all these years. I don’t think I can give it a name or describe it, it comes in different ways, sometimes it is an understanding, sometimes its a feeling, sometimes a bolt of realisation, but however it comes it gets me deep down. I hold it there for a while and then it quickly floats away like a puff of smoke. And then I move on.
The Dalai Lama said something about the importance of a playful, light heart. I think the Big DL was exactly right, you need to have a light heart, this I find a struggle, I carry mine around and it is too bloody heavy, I havent worked out how to make mine lighter. If you find yourself blocked it always seems to me like a good idea to find a way round, to move & change, by reading or looking at others, learning from them, one day recently I am having my breakfast, in a little cafe in the south of Goa, I have been to my Yoga class, my current m.o. for improving myself, but there I sit, thinking about my heavy heart. Into the cafe comes a pretty young girl, she sits at the table next to me, says hello and smiles a beautiful smile. Now there I think is somebody that has it sorted, has a light heart & knows how to feel happy. I ponder on her, is it just her youth? Is it simply the positivity that comes with youth, where blockages and set backs haven’t been experienced, where all things seem possible and the world and the future are open books?
I talk to the girl with the beautiful smile. She is from London, twenty-two years old, she tells me she is from Chiswick I ask her where she went to school, when it transpires she went to the same performing Arts School as my son my ears prick up, how small the world can feel sometimes. I decide that I know all there is to know about this young girl, she tells me she is taking a year to travel, I decide she is a stage school luvvie kind of girl, from a well off background, easy life, why wouldn’t she be happy? I ask her if she is following a career in performing arts, she pauses, well, no, its all a bit complicated to explain, but no I am not. I am just travelling for a year. I am curious and get her to explain. Well, I had to give up stage performance, she tells me, I loved it, I got a scholarship to Drama School, it was the love of my life, it was all I ever wanted to do, but I became ill & couldn’t carry on. I have just spent the last six months having tests in London, the doctors couldn’t tell me what was wrong with me, it was so frustrating she said. Then finally I was diagnosed with a rare form of muscular dystrophy. So I decided I would travel whilst I can. Hearing this shocked me a great deal, this pretty young thing with her world and future in front of her is diagnosed with a disease that as yet has no cure, that can be and often is fatal, a cruel disease that wastes the muscles, heart & even brain. I am struck by the un-fairness that life meats out, the pain and suffering. Perhaps it is our humanity that wants and needs to find reason & fairness, some sort of natural justice in the world in which we live. The folly of this of course is entirely human. We think of ourselves as the most important piece of the jigsaw that makes up the world, that we are the top of the tree, that we deserve. Nature & life and the world is not made for us, it does not revolve around us, we are part of it, there is no concept of justice in nature, there is simply life in every colour & shade, there is no right or wrong, these are concepts created by man. There is cause and effect, action and reaction, life and death & the spinning of the spheres. The girl with the beautiful smile keeps her heart light, that is the only way she can make her way, ahead of her lies uncertainty, she heads there with a smile, I wish her a beautiful journey.