Lessons of the Forest Part 2: Rest Your Weary Bones
-By Rheanna Chen
The three of us, Tracy, Gesiye and I, were tired. It was the last day of our six day hike across 25km of Trinidad’s Northern Range. We climbed the mountain- feeling it in our hamstrings and chest. The strong “buddup buddup” of my heart thumping; I was in awe at my body’s strength to carry me such a distance. Around the corner, I could hear the sound of the waterfall below. I had remembered seeing it at the beginning of our journey; it seemed even more appealing now. I tried to convince my two friends, “Just a dip, wouldn’t that be nice!”. It must have been close to 4pm, and one thing about the forest- it gets dark faster. The sun would soon set and we wouldn’t want to get stuck to find our way home? With the wisdom of Tracy, the experienced one among these trails, she urged us to stay the course. Disappointed, I learned to let it go, and so grateful that we did.
The last few years, I’ve had recurring dreams of always missing a flight. It’s often that I get distracted with another task and rush to the airport to be told, “It’s too late, the plane is gone”. In addition, I can’t get my money back or change it to another date. Sometimes, I do make it in time. However, in the last-minute nature of getting there, I’ve forgotten something important like my passport. It is always a stressful dream with great anxiety, guilt and shame. Carl Jung who is known for dream analysis, saw dreams as the psyche’s attempt to communicate important messages to the individual. It keeps replaying, until the message is received by the dreamer.
On turning 30 earlier this year, someone special described me as “intuitively impulsive”- I wasn’t sure if that was a compliment. For someone on the yoga and meditation journey since age 14, the truth is, I can be as “mindful” as I am “forgetful”. I can easily forget my course and priorities. I become habituated to the “doing”, and forget the value of simply “being”. There is a sacred art to pausing which breaks the habit of chronic doing or being tethered to the next exciting opportunity that comes my way. With the light of awareness, one can stay the course to ask, “what truly matters?” and instead proceed from that place of knowing. Like the dream where I get distracted and miss the flight, I almost got tempted by the waterfall which would have sacrificed the safe return home. Where in life do we sacrifice long term gratification for something short- lived or fleeting? If we had gone into the waterfall which would have cooled us down, the night would have come upon us, we would have been cold and navigating through the dark forest would have been a nightmare.
“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom” Viktor Frankl
When is the correct time to pause? When do we push ourselves just a bit further to reach our goal or turn the world off for peace of mind? It’s not always easy finding the delicate balance between going into the cocoon to rest then coming out. It’s not always easy making that decision when managing the expectations of others. Where there is the limbic brain driven ego for survival, there are also opportunities to relax into tenderness- the being that naturally cares.
Before making our journey home, we decided to take an extra day in Petit Tacaribe to rest. This was the best decision. The campsite before was at Grand Tac, where some old and new motorbike friends adopted us. We were spoiled- they made the bonfire, had plantain shepherd’s pie and a proper camp set up. What was a brilliant bay- with bioluminescence and a sky full of stars. A sweet night to a bitter sleep ahead. With the rotten luck of not setting our hammocks up properly, Tracy & Gesiye got completely soaked by the rainstorm and no sleep. In the morning, we put our clothes to dry on the rock, and after hot chocolate, started our muddy hike back to Petit Tac. Tired and miserable, making the most of it.
Deciding to spend not one but two nights at Petit Tac with Tracy’s Uncle Lester, was truly special. We listened to our bodies and knew we needed more rest. We pitched our hammocks up in the hut, sheltered by rain but still some sandflies. The sound of the waves lulling us to sleep as my body curved to the hammock allowing the aching bones to rest. We chewed turmeric every day since the journey, in an effort to reduce inflammation; not sure if it helped but our toothbrushes definitely turned orange. However, staying still to enjoy this special place allowed Tracy to reconnect with family, we shared conversations with hunters, watched rainbows form after the rain and I even had time to finish the first novel of the year, Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey. In past hikes, I’ve never stayed more than one night in the same place; in doing so, we never really got to fully enjoy the space. It was always moving from point A to B which is never a great way to experience a place; you miss out on a lot.
We woke up on the final day feeling nourished. Work smarter, not harder. Luckily, we were able to catch a boat ride to Paria Bay, which saved us hiking the muddy steep hills. Once we walked along the beach, the biggest ascent up the mountain was to begin. My memories in the past have been painful ones; of really struggling, huffing and puffing. This time, whether it was because my body had rest or I had the support of two other strong women, we were able to do it smoothly. We took our time and went slow and steady. We were making good time, as we planned. When we passed the waterfall, I could not help but be tempted. I am glad Tracy encouraged us to keep going. We could come back to the waterfall on another hike. Not everything needs to be done now. What truly matters? There are only 24 hours in a day, there is no need to do it all. There can be another day. Know when to rest, know when to move forward, stay the route.
NOTE: All images that are not explicitly cited from an external source were created by the author.