A number of years
A number of years ago I went on holiday to a beautiful part of Portugal. We stayed in a converted farmhouse in the middle of a national park. The farmhouse was in a valley. We arrived in the evening when the birds were just starting to roost. It was still warm and the air smelled sweet with pollen. You could hear the hum of crickets. A small river flowed through that valley. We opened a rickety gate and crossed a small wooden bridge. As we walked along the narrow path that led to our house I had a clear vision of what my morning routine would be like for the next fourteen days. I had been working hard for the last few months and I felt tired. I wanted this holiday to be a mini retreat. I would wake up early each day when it was still quite cool and I would meditate for a while. I imagined myself sitting in a peaceful spot, my mind calm, my body relaxed… listening to the river flowing, hearing the birds and wildlife starting to stir, feeling the first rays of the early morning sun hit my face as it rose over the top of the hill. Present. Even as I write this now, it sounds like paradise to me.
I work up early the next morning and it was just as I imagined it would be. There is nothing like the stillness of the early morning. There was a gentle, peaceful feeling that enveloped me. It didn’t come from me but seemed to come from the earth and the river and the mountains. Everything was clearer than usual. The mind wasn’t racing here and there the way it normally does. I had never been to this place before but it felt welcoming and familiar. I found a spot to sit quietly. I could hear the faint hum of insects. The air was very still and there was only an occasional gentle breeze. A fly landed on my face. After a moment or two I carefully lifted my hand and gently ushered him away. Then another fly landed on my face. And another. And another. The feeling I had experienced a few moments ago was gone. I endured thirty minutes or so of mild torture that first morning before I admitted defeat and retreated to the farmhouse.