Do you have a happy place?
When you're stressed, scared, sad, or bored, do you ever close your eyes and imagine a beautiful setting that fills your heart with peace and joy?
I have been practicing this technique for many years and it often works for me when I'm at the dentist or dealing with a difficult transition in life.
After my recent travels, and reading the book, The Art of Travel, I have been reflecting on the beauty and love in this practice and how it relates to both yoga and art.
In Alain de Button's book, he discusses why we travel and the process of the imagination. Traveling has been a thriving activity for thousands of years. Humankind has the urge to explore and see new things. Tourism is the #1 industry in the world today. Often times this urge is based in finding peace, beauty, inspiration or love.
Sometimes we want to escape ourselves and our current situations in life to find a Happy Place.
Alain de Button states, "The longing provoked by the brochure was an example, at once touching and pathetic, of how projects (and even whole lives) might be influenced by the simplest and most unexamined images of happiness; of how a lengthy and ruinously expensive journey might be set in motion by nothing more than the sigh of a photograph of a palm tree gently inclining in a tropical breeze.”
Sometimes it can be just as refreshing to just close your eyes and imagine the breeze on your skin, tasting the salt of the ocean, hearing seagulls and waves crashing, and watching the water meet the horizon line of the sky with a contrasting balance. When we focus on this balance in nature, we can re-align the love and beauty within ourselves.
When you are mindful and aware of your surroundings, you can capture this beauty and keep it within you where ever you are.
But first, you must experience this place. It doesn't have to be traveling to a far away destination, but some of us are drawn to the exotic. You can find this experience in your local park, backyard, or even in the comfort of you own bedroom (I will explain this theory more in the following blog posts).
The whole experience of traveling to this place rarely ever meets our expectations of continuous bliss. There are struggles in getting from point A to B through uncomfortable airports, planes, trains, buses, car rides, climbing stairs, expensive taxi rides, and trekking on foot. However, “The pleasure we derive from journeys is perhaps dependent more on the mindset with which we travel than on the destination we travel to.”
This in-between journey is an opportunity to reflect, learn, and grow.
My most recent experience with this philosophy was in Croatia. One of my favorite parts about traveling is to start studying about a place and to imagine what it is like (building expectations). I look through guidebooks and online resources to decide where to go, how to get there, and how to find the beauty.
I learned of a place called Plitvice (PLEET-VEET-Suh) Lakes. This oasis of waterfalls is potentially the most naturally beautiful place in all of Europe. It consists of over 16 lakes and hundreds of waterfalls made possible by the travertine landscape, terracing of limestone through the flow of mountain run-off water. These particularly sensitive barriers are the result of an interaction between water, air, and plants and create over 50 shades of turquoise ranging from sea-foam green, to royal blue.
However, we found it quite a bit tricky to get there. After a long flight to Moscow from Los Angeles, I flew into Budapest, Hungary and stayed there for a few days with my boyfriend, Kevin. Next, we had to take a very early and old train from Budapest to Zagreb, then wait several hours for a bus to Plitvice Lakes.
Accommodations were also a struggle to book as I began to learn how popular this destination actually is. The pictures look blissful: hundreds of waterfalls and multiple lakes surrounded by forest and wildlife. What the pictures are not telling you is that it is packed full of tourists!!! This destination is a far cry from undiscovered! Even though only 25 years ago, this was a war zone in Croatia.
When we arrived at the National Park the next morning, we were greeted with a line of about 100 people, just to buy a ticket into this park. Then we had to follow the crowds along the pathway/platform to wait in line for each "ride" (photo opportunity for each waterfall). Needless to say, we felt like we were at an amusement park. I remember feeling disappointed that place is lacking the peaceful feeling of solitude that the photos promised.
However, we did find some nature trails, off-the-beaten path, away from the large waterfalls. This was an unexpected chance to observe the beauty and details in small trickles of streams, individual trees, vines, ducks, butterflies, dragonflies, trout, and even kittens.
Although I did not have the chance to stay and meditate in front of the most grandiose and impressive waterfalls, I did get to briefly feel them, then snap a photo and quick video. These moments now have the power to stay with me. I study the photo's details in the rocks, moss, and color every time I'd like. Now, when I close my eyes, I can hear the water rushing and moving, I can feel the mist on my skin, I can smell the clean air, and I can see the power and movement of earth.
So, I ask myself, was it worth the struggle and disappointment of not exactly meeting my expectations...ABSOLUTELY YES!
The beauty in this experience is now a part of me and the struggle to get there makes it even more valuable!
I'd love to hear from YOU!
What's your happy place?
Please share in the Comments section below!