Can You Feel the Serenity?
Last week we were in New Zealand, as you'll probably have seen from our over excited photos from Instagram and Facebook.
It was a brief and magical trip that was supposed to culminate in traversing the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in the centre of the North Island (a dual World Heritage Listed National Park hike that sits near the top of many peoples top 10 single day hikes in the world), needless to say it's been on my bucket list for a while.
That was until 24 hours out from leaving home I started getting a nagging pain in my foot, which turned out to be ‘planta fasciitis’ – a common injury with runners (whoever said running was healthy!). The foot just needs a few days to heal but it crippled my ability to walk long distances for the exact period of time I needed to walk long distances. This certainly isn’t the worst thing in the world but it forced me to embrace a philosophy that I've recently begun to realise is a big part of a healthy mind:
“Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” (Reinhold Niebuhr)
As a result of accepting that the walk wasn’t going to happen we ended up doing and seeing jaw dropping stuff that we would otherwise have passed on.
This included visiting one of the best museums I’ve been to (Auckland Museum – it has a fantastic Maori section and an insightful temporary exhibition about Women and Equality in New Zealand), we also visited the Waitomo glow worm caves (which is without a doubt one of the most mind blowing things I’ve ever seen – looking up at the cave ceiling is like looking up at the night sky from the middle of a desert). The world never stops surprising me! PS: We couldn't get photos in the cave but google it!
Beyond the things we did we also had a lot more time and space to practice those things that make for a healthy mind - mindfulness, meditation, slower living, sleep... hey I even managed to write another blog much earlier than expected.
Meg said to me at the end of the trip, "I really the think that the way we've adopted the slow living approach (thank you Brooke McAlary) has been one of the main reasons we've had such a great holiday."
What we've discussed above is a microscopic example but I think the ability to slow down helps to uncover that mental calmness (serenity) from which we can accept those things we cannot change.
This philosophy for life is best summed up for me by Brooke McAlary and her Slow Home Podcast - please, please go and have a listen to one of her podcasts if you get a chance. I don't think that living a simple/slow life is easy - in many ways it is against the grain and takes effort to pull ourselves back from our impulses to do more, better but finding the space allows that serenity to grow and with that comes a change and a courage that I'm just beginning to explore but one I can't wait to explore further.
The courage to change the things we can is a tough one - all too often we see courage as a soldier in battle, a steely resolve in the face of danger or a firefighter rushing in to a burning home - these truly our courageous acts but I'm learning that courage comes in many forms. No more is that more true than in mental health - with the stigma attached to it linking depression and other mental health struggles to weakness/surrender it is all to easy to hide away in the shadows, not open up, drift apart from our friends and family. Yet fighting against all of that, opening up and picking yourself up time and again in spite of societal expectation or stigma is a form of courage that I find more inspiring.
It's easy to be a hero in a heroes world but courage drawn from where no one expects it inspires me every day - so thank you to all the other people who struggle with mental health and share their stories every day. I keep finding my courage from you!
Now for the wisdom! I'm currently reading the book Waking Up by Sam Harris and he says:
"...wisdom is nothing more profound than an ability to follow one's own advice."
As I read my blog back I'm hoping it doesn't sound too preachy and it definitely shouldn't because I'm one of the first ones to fall when it comes to following my own advice. As I head back to work tomorrow I certainly won't be living slowly or meditating but I'll be trying where I can and picking up where I left off if I don't.
Fingers crossed as we keep on growing, learning, exploring, falling and getting back up to fight another day together we'll heed our own advice more and more - old and wise doesn't sound too bad if it this last week in New Zealand is anything to go by!
Having a very brief glimpse in to Maori culture I think a blog on serenity, courage and wisdom makes for a pretty fitting end to the trip. Kia Ora!