The return

It’s been exactly a month since I got back from my trip to South East Asia.  Yes, it already feels like an age ago and that it never happened… the usual feelings that accompany the return to normality after an all consuming experience abroad.  But somehow the essence of my trip stays readily available whenever I think about the ocean, see the sea on TV or online, even when I look at the still waters of the canal on my way to my morning practice.

My trip consisted of various segments: three days to travel just from Singapore to West Papua was a segment in itself, an adventure that consisted of three flights eastwards across the Indonesian archipelago, most of them running way off schedule, a ferry (also late) and a boat.  The destination was more than worth it – ten breathtaking days on the stunning Ural Island – a privately owned island in the pristine, untouched area of Raja Ampat… basic bamboo huts over the sea, no electricity, no hot water, and most wonderfully – no wifi.  I did 14 scuba dives, swam with manta rays, dodged sharks, coasted with barracuda and did my first night dive.  Time became beautifully slow and I began to be able to tell the most important times of the day based on the position of the sun in the sky: breakfast, evening tipple time (gin o’ clock) and dinner time.

I flew halfway back across the archipelago to Bali and met my brother and sister-in-law and my charismatic, almost two year old nephew.  We spent a week together by the sea before they returned to Singapore and I travelled inland to hang out with a close friend.  We yoga-ed, coffee-ed, gin-ed, talked, and had gallons of cold water thrown over us by Bali’s only female high priest in a water purification ceremony.  I then returned to Singapore to spend time with my family – spending more precious time with my nephew and doing the done thing in Singapore: eating.

Going away for four and a half weeks is an interesting experience… from about three weeks on my life back in the UK seemed like an abstract concept and everything about my life in the East was my reality.  Being out of my usual routine for four and a half weeks seemed to have been long enough to forget and reset a lot of my habits and patterns, long enough for the neural pathways between different parts of my brain to weaken.  I wasn’t particularly consistent with my practice while away and didn’t practice with the intensity I experience in the UK so found that I lost a lot of strength and flexibility on my return – an experience that endorsed my sense of what happens when you don’t keep cultivating certain neural pathways.  As is usually the case, what I experience in my practice I experience in others areas of my life – old habits I wasn’t particularly fond of (usually relating to repeatedly checking email, social media, and various apps on my iPhone throughout the day) had weakened yet I felt how easy it would have been (and still would be) to just return to how I was if I wasn’t mindful of doing things differently.  It felt as though returning after that amount of time away was the perfect time to put into practice new habits and new resolutions.  There is the definition of insanity that says madness is doing the same things time and again and expecting a different outcome.  I’m trying to do things differently and trying to stay aware of the different responses I get, establishing new neural pathways as a result.  An ongoing experiment but an interesting one so far.

The moral of the story?  Go away for at least four weeks before setting new year resolutions!