I have a strange sense of calm exhaustion today. I’m back in San Gil. I did eventually leave, travelled around for a month, but ultimately my heart led me back here. I am staying at a finca that I have rented with a friend, a ‘fixer-upper’. In the following weeks it is my project to cultivate a vegetable and herb garden; develop the house so it’s habitable for us and guests; build a red tent for women to meet, mull things over and meditate; amongst many other things. My sense of weariness, I feel, is coming from different spaces. I am physically tired from a liver cleanse I have done this week. I am mentally tired through endless questioning; am I in the right place, shouldn’t I still be ‘travelling’? These thoughts, amongst countless others, have been solidly present these last few days, leading my mind to meander away from the beauty in which I am actually sat right now. Conversely, I also have a kind of cosy ‘at home’ feeling I can’t quite put my finger on. Maybe it’s coming down from the uncommonly muted, quietly grey skies I woke up to this morning. I feel at peace; not sublimely happy, but not down and devastated. Maybe this is what it is to be balanced? Is the impenetrably uncoloured sky, and the calmness that I am getting from it, England’s way of calling me back? Is that distant island my real haven? But again, I’m wandering into ‘what if’ territory… If I’m here, I can do this… If I’m there, I can see that… It’s no good, I am here right now. I realise we are a minute tick in the tock of universal time. Our lives ebb and flow around our selves, others, places, things. Yesterday I was in the market, last month I was in Cartagena, when I was 7 I was in Vilaflor. All of these physical places hold everything and nothing of me. Whilst present I was everything I would ever be at that moment. Now, my memory, my smell, me, I am not there. ‘I’. I am here, right now. So never anywhere, as now has already past. In this sense of ‘I’, I do not exist. I can never transcend time, so there is only ever the sensations of this very moment. The spick of rain on that leaf. The click of a chair as that guy in the denim hat moves it. The fluorescent colours of that artistically enhanced cow skull. These thoughts in themselves confuse me. If the ultimate state is to be present, without indulgence in the past, or the future, how can we ever understand anything? Can’t I sometimes fall into the rosy blanket of memories?
“Just as the moon has no light of its own, but can only reflect the light of the sun, so are past and future only pale reflections of the light, power, and reality of the eternal present. Their reality is “borrowed” from the Now.” – Tolle
I am currently reading Eckhart Tolle’s A New Earth, and many of these questions seem to be guided toward answers, miraculously on the same day I have them, by this don. With the small matter of Being, through his writing I have understood that memories in themselves are not the problem, but the indulgence in and identification with what he calls our ‘pain-body’: a build up of thoughts and feelings that we relive and continue to allow to hurt us and others. And so now I see that…
“The past lives in you as memories, but memories in themselves are not a problem. In fact, it is through memory that we learn from the past and from past mistakes. It is only when memories, that is to say, thoughts about the past, take you over completely that they turn into a burden, turn problematic, and become part of your sense of self. Your personality, which is conditioned by the past, then becomes your prison. Your memories are invested with a sense of self, and your story becomes who you perceive yourself to be. This “little me” is an illusion that obscures your true identity as timeless and formless Presence.”
A New Earth nails so many of these questions, about ego and how we can manage our manifestations so that we don’t get lost from our truth. I know as well as anyone that this is so, so difficult to do. But just the awareness of this is empowering, and the brief snatches of time that one can be totally ‘Now’ are so fulfilling that one can only hope that with time and practice these flashes will only augment.
So, with this German master’s permission, I’m going to indulge in a little Colombian memory-lane wandering by way of the photos I took of my month long trip about…. I hope that the snaps of sunrises over the Sierra Nevada following a star-lit morning hike up the mountain, balmy Cartagena nights sipping cocktails on the old city walls, and vistas of the aqua, bath-tub warm Caribbean can portray, through the places and faces, what an incredibly inspiring journey I had, better than my words are able!