Mindfulness of Nature

A stop-over in Cyprus: out of the mind and into the senses

I stretched my arms towards the sun through the spiny branches of the tree to reach for the ripe, shiny, sunkissed pomegranates. As I twisted each fruit into the palm of my hand, I was unexpectedly filled with childlike playfulness as well as a mysteriously familiar ancestral memory, as if my body remembered a time where gathering fruits was a natural, necessary pursuit for survival. I placed the pomenegranates carefully in a bag and carried them to the courtyard. Sitting in the shade of the balcony, I chopped each fruit into quarters and extracted the arils. Next, I placed the arils into a manual juicer and pressed them. I added sugar, brought the juice to boil and poured it into the glass bottles. This entire process took me the whole day (leading to a huge appreciation for the taste of the juice when it was finally ready!).

This day, shining with simplicity, was one of the many highlights of my trip to Cyprus where I’ve just spent three weeks volunteering in exchange for board – based at Aperanti Agrotourism in Pera Orinis, a tiny picturesque village in the Cypriot countryside.

When I first arrived in the village (having left Cambridge and my job at BirdLife International to dedicate myself fully to Mindfulness of Nature), my mind was extremely restless like a shaken snow-globe struggling to settle.

When I set off with my rucksack, friends and family had enthusiastically waved me off to “have fun”, “enjoy yourself”, “have a great time”… why wouldn’t they? We all want that for those we care about.

Yet, for some reason, I didn’t feel that things were fun and great. I was excited, but a little lost and scared. I now had no permanent job or home, no clear routine or structure and I was far from friends and family –  out of my comfort zone. I’ve travelled many times on holidays, but I’ve never set off like I have now, for an undetermined amount of time.

For many years, I’d been dreaming of experiencing “freedom” –  it’s something I’ve always longed for and deeply feared at the same time. And here it was…. but how do you navigate freedom?

My mind had so many questions and judgements to make. Why did I decide to put myself in a scary situation? How did I get here? How do I go about my days without the structure of a full time job? How do I feel at home if I am moving around all the time? Where will this adventure take me? And most of all, how can I feel so unsettled in this truly beautiful, sunny, peaceful village?

Have you noticed that sometimes when we experience or create change in our lives, the mind takes a little longer to catch up with the ‘heart’? It’s just what the mind’s narratives do – always working hard to analyse, control and protect us against uncertainty, novelty and risk.

I figured that perhaps my mind and its habitual patterns needed time to adjust, and remembered that it was my heartfelt inspiration to spend more time exploring and sharing wild places with others that had taken me onto this path. So, I decided to see if I could allow the mind’s activity to be there, welcome it and accept that this fear was likely par for the course . An integral part of the aliveness of the adventure. Of course, as well as being fun, exciting and enjoyable, it was also going to be scary, right?

Meanwhile, I went for evening walks every day near the village, enjoying impressive autumn cloud formations, night herons, owls, kestrels and big flocks of jackdaws. I sat on top of hills taking in the landscapes and tuning into the incredibly special silence and stillness of the Cypriot countryside. I watched the changing colours of the countryside in the evening light.  And gradually, something began to remind me that despite the restlessness of my mind, this was where I was meant to be – an inner trust I couldn’t quite explain seemed to return (or perhaps was always there). This is what I had chosen. So, instead of dwelling in the realm of my fearful mind, I began to pay attention to what was around me and begin to come back to my senses.

During my stay at Aperanti Agrotourism, my volunteering work involved helping my friends (the owners) Tassos and Sara to make (and taste!) organic jams, juices, liqueurs and fresh halloumi. I’ve never been a natural with practical skills but cooking, baking and gardening were the perfect activities supporting me to tune out of the mind and into the presence of the body and the senses. And there are few better places than a Mediterranean island to melt into our sensory experience…  impossible not to be enticed by the scents of jasmine, thyme, myrtil, lemonbalm and sage – blended in the soft, warm breeze.

Of course, I also led my Mindfulness of Nature events – including a workshop for BirdLife Cyprus (exploring how we can use Mindfulness of Nature to inspire more people for nature conservation) and a 3 day retreat at Aperanti Agrotourism during which we experienced heat, sunshine, hail, thunderstorms and the return of the rivers to the island’s gorges and valleys (more on these events in upcoming posts!).

My experiences in Cyprus turned out to be a perfect sensory stop-over tuning me back into the flow of my adventure before I fly to Chile this weekend, where I will be leading my next event in Huerquehue National Park! 

So here’s a thought for you all:  if you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with thoughts, worries, questions… perhaps it’s time to come out of your mind and into your sensory, bodily experience? After all, this is where true aliveness originates…THIS IS IT!

Why not embrace this beautiful time of year to take a mindful walk through the countryside, fruit picking, baking or gardening? The autumnal wild weather, colours, light, flavours can be wonderfully invigorating for the senses.

What helps you tune out of the ‘radio station’ of your mind and into that of your bodily, sensory, direct experience?  What are your favourite sensory experiences?

Meanwhile, I’m sending lots of Cypriot warmth, stillness and fragrant aliveness to support you on your way…

Claire x

PS. We are likely to be holding a spring Mindfulness of Nature event at Aperanti Agrotourism in Cyprus in 2019 – more details soon!

PPS: THANK YOU to my friends Sara and Tassos from Aperanti Agrotourism for hosting me in beginning this new chapter.

dav

 

 

 

12 thoughts on “A stop-over in Cyprus: out of the mind and into the senses

  1. Christopher Stokes

    Thank you for writing this so beautifully, Claire. I’m particularly thankful for your observations about waiting patiently for your mind to catch up with your heart, and how you began to encourage this process while you were in Cyprus on the first stage of your adventure into freedom. I hope this post is a sign that, as your adventure unfolds, you’ll be posting occasionally here, enabling us to follow your inner journey as well as your travels around the world. Your writing is inspirational for me, and I’m keeping you in my thoughts with care.

    1. clairethompson Post author

      Dear Christopher,
      thank you for your kind comments! I really appreciate your support and ongoing interest in what I’m doing. It’s always nice to hear others’ reflections as well.
      Yes, it is my intention to keep writing whenever I can and sharing what I hope can be relevant to others – in terms of the inner and outward journey into nature I am on!
      I also have thoughts of a new book, but let’s see what it all takes me!
      Claire x

  2. Osama

    Thanks Claire for sharing your experiences with such ingenuity
    Your “living aptitude” is really remarkable
    Will keep following until we meet again
    Osama

    1. clairethompson Post author

      Thank you Osama!
      Everyone’s living aptitude is remarkable 🙂 It’s in all of us!
      Thanks for your support as always,
      Claire x

  3. Paul Booth

    For some reason I put off reading your article. I am now on a 3-night break at a retreat centre in peaceful Essex countryside. Before breakfast I went for a walk in the early morning sunshine, delighting in the autumnal colours, blue sky and white dusting all around me – the first frost in this neck of the woods. I am never happier or more at peace than when walking in the countryside. After breakfast I read this. There is a time for everything. Thank you for sharing such a personal account of your outer and inner experiences. I like the way you accept your mind’s deliberations while it hurries to catch up with your heart’s decision! Now is your time for new adventures, geographically, economically and emotionally. Embrace them! I wish you luck and joy. Looking forward to more posts.
    Paul x

    1. clairethompson Post author

      Dear Paul,
      Greetings from Pucon, Chile where I have just arrived today. The sun is shining and the active Villarica volcano which you see towering right next to Pucon is still smoking away! A little shellshocked after quite a long journey and the open roads ahead, but just allowing myself to land!
      Thanks for your lovely message. I am so glad you (and hopefully many others!) are out there enjoying the sights and sounds and aliveness of nature.
      Thanks also for your supportive words, and keep in touch!
      Take care
      Claire x

  4. Tina

    Wherever you point yourself, that is where you are going 🙂 You are an inspiration, following your heart as you are. You have helped me to reconnect with nature and my own heart and to realise what aliveness is. Loved your Cyprus retreat and will try to make the spring one too 🙂 I love that you have chosen a pic which is the spot I sat at and wrote my poem 🙂

    Take care and embrace and enjoy your new adventure each day as it unfurls xx

    1. clairethompson Post author

      Thank you Tina,
      You and everyone I can share the wonders of being in nature with are my inspiration too!
      Take care and look forward to seeing you again soon,
      Enjoy the autumn colours for me!
      Claire

  5. Christopher Stokes

    Reflecting on the posts in this thead I’ve been thinking, Claire, about the meaning of ‘home’. Now that you’re on your adventure you’ve left your home and your job, so in a sense you’re homeless – yet I presumptuously have a feeling that you’ve come home. Maybe the old adage ‘home is where the heart is’ describes what I mean because you’re following your heart, and you’re in the company of people who need you – whether they’re attending your retreats and workshops, meeting you as you travel, finding inspiration in your insights online, or sitting somewhere in the world with one of your books in their hands.

    1. clairethompson Post author

      Dear Christopher,

      Thanks for your thoughts!

      The honest answer is that it is a question I carry with me everyday. I have not found my “home” yet. I usually get a sense of home through being in my favourite wild places – and through people I connect with, through friends, through family and through people who I share my love of nature with in workshops and writings.

      So far, since arriving in Chile, it’s been a challenge to get people to sign up for these retreats further away because it’s the first time I have set them up, and secondly because so far I haven’t found “my people” here yet. I suppose in a way that is part of my adventure and I can assure you it isn’t always easy!

      Still, on Tuesday, I will be going up to Huerquehue National Park with the two people from UK signed up for the event, and I am looking forward to that!

      In short: I haven’t found the answer to your question yet and I don’t even know if there is a fixed one. Something to explore perhaps. Ultimately, the best place to find home is ultimately within ourselves, but I think people and conditions around us can support us finding that and it’s not always easy to find those people and conditions or indeed to keep them with you at all times!

      How do you feel about the idea of “home”? What’s your experience of it?

      Claire

  6. Christopher Stokes

    Maybe the problem with identifying ‘home’ is that we usually use the word in the singular. I feel ‘at home’ wherever and whenever I feel comfortable being myself, which may resonate with your understanding that the best place to find home is ultimately within ourselves. If home is where we find our heart, perhaps we’ll have several homes.

    I’ve found when travelling, however, that I usually need to go through a sense of dislocation, which I find quite painful, before I’m likely to have any inkling that I might be discovering another home. I’ve never been on an adventure like yours, but I’ve always imagined that such an adventure would bring me discomfort as well as comfort while I’m waiting to understand what it has to tell me.

    I’m glad you’re off to Huerquehue this week – in your book you describe how, on your first visit, you knew that ‘This was where I belonged’. This sounds like a description of home to me, and my dearest hope for your adventure is that you’ll discover other places where you belong.

    You’re in my thoughts with care,

    Christopher x

  7. clairethompson

    That is very true. A sense of dislocation before finding new homes. I think it’s something you have to accept when you create any changes in life!

    Yes Huerquehue is magical and I am looking forward to being back there. I am sure there are other places…. In time.

    Thanks for your support,

    Claire

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