This feature has been written by a guest contributor Hanne Agatha Magnussen.
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It is a misty morning. I’m walking barefoot inside the forest. Here, in a Buddhist monastery up the hills in Northern Thailand, I stay for Vipanassā* meditation. In total silence, away from the daily woos of the world. The qi** energy in this place somehow fills every cell in my body and morning dew covers my bare skin.
Embraced by Mother Nature, I become intimately aware of every sound, scent, leaf, every colour, every taste. This is my real temple.
Breathing in the flavours of the forest, stepping my bare feet on the roots of trees, I’m walking to find a cave. Every morning, right after the daily food offering to the monks, I would go there to sit by myself, tuning into my surroundings; hearing the sound of water dripping, birds singing, the wind rustling through leaves. Here, sitting quietly on a small chair inside the caves, takes me even further into earthy sensations;
The echo infused sound of dripping water, creating a sense of shape to the edge of the cave. The stillness in-between the drops. Choirs of birds singing so synchronised. The wind spinning, touching different layers and textures of leaves from outside the cave to the nearby hills. The stroking sound of big leaves landing on the ground. Breathing with my surroundings – a strong sense of being a part of it all. The sound of bells ringing while quietly walking back to the forest monastery – just on time for the next meditation.
From one cave to another; this time in the ‘quarantine cave’ back in Norway. Early spring fills the lungs and so does the pandemic that hits peoples’ day-to-day life. Touch and intimacy suddenly become forbidden luxuries. Hugs are banned. Civilization as we know it cracks open and shows it’s flaws. Meanwhile, everybody must ‘stay safe’ behind closed curtains.
Isolation can trigger layers of fear and anxiety that has been deeply buried for a long time. And when we are less numb from outer constant feed, news and distraction, we can reach these hidden layers. I see it as an invitation to listen more closely, lean into the discomforts with love and curiosity.
You see, nature has her way of speaking.
She speaks in outer environments but also in our inner environment; inside the forest of dreams, the valleys of emotion and weathers of the mind. A subtle voice is music for the body, mind and soul.
Music has always been my guide through life. Especially now during global lockdown. For hours and hours, I dived into the spheres of ambient music. I dived into total silence. In the muddy waters and dark woods, I walked, paying closer attention to what arises. Each moment, the pleasure, pain, all the nuances in between. Hearing, seeing, feeling everything as it is.
In this moment, I invite you to take a deep breath. Sit or lay down for five, ten or twenty minutes. Take three more deep breaths. Make a releasing sound out through your mouth. Notice any tension in your body . Lower your shoulders, relax your jaw and your whole face.
Here – notice any sounds around you. It may be far away or close. It may be loud or subtle. Smooth or cutting. Notice, without following or analysing. Simply let the sound be a part of your present experience of being. Come back to this moment whenever you need it.
*Vipassana: A meditation technique slightly different from mindfullness or repeated mantra (transcendental) meditation and is based on non-reaction. Non-reactively watching your mind and senses like on a screen. It is about seeing the true nature of things, freed from the interpretations, judging and arguments of Citta(mind-stuff). To gently sit or slowly walk. No matter how hard it feels for the back sitting still for hours. The eventual pain in the back will often feel worse at first(your mind wants to cling to it) for then to cease as your attention goes into a neutral, peaceful state.
** Qi: Chinese term for ‘breath’, ‘energy’