Wonder is one of the wildest elements and qualities on the massive scale of human experience. Just a pinch of it stops time. The world halts. The eyes fill. You become for a small time, everything you truly are – Victoria Erickson, Edge of Wonder.
The Tamboti female leopard is lying comfortably on a low branch in a tree. She yawns and a chorus of applause rises from the camera shutters snapping away in the Land Rovers viewing her. Her sleepy head drops back down to her paw as she returns to her rest. She is indifferent to our keen attention. Her rested frame holds us raptured and there is no shame in her yawn. She is majestic in her simple existence, she is simply being and we are awed. If only we could extend the same grace to ourselves…
What is it that makes us prize our busy lives so much? Why do we battle to pause, to be still, to simply be? Here at Londolozi people come from across the globe to witness nature in all her glory and wild animals in their natural habitat and for most, to find some soul rest. As a masseuse and yoga teacher, I am passionate about rest. It is essential for wellbeing but sadly is so often accompanied by guilt. It has become very hard for most humans to be still, to truly stop. A common behaviour I witness is the inability to lie still and bodies are often tense. Amazingly, most people are unaware of their inability to let go. Specifically, the muscles in the arms and hands are so tense to touch. With a bit of gentle encouragement though, they will eventually release, soften and ultimately surrender to being held.
In yoga, Savasana or corpse pose, at the end of each practice, is vital. It is a posture which is essentially lying prone, with the body rested flat on the back, arms and legs spread as wide as the yoga mat with relaxed palms facing upward. With this posture, tiredness from the previous postures is eliminated and it promotes calmness of the mind. All other thoughts and any psychological effort can be surrendered. It is a time of reflection and is meant to last twenty to thirty minutes. It is interesting to note that in the city, very often some classes bypass this and spend only two to five minutes in this posture. I have seen people rushing off to appointments as this pose is adopted, not valuing it for what it is. Here on the beautiful yoga deck surrounded by trees, looking out over the Sand River, with the sound of distant flowing water and bird song, Savasana forms my favourite part of each class. There is something sacred in those moments of surrendered motionless. My best moments are when guests doze off and truly allow themselves the rest on offer.
The benefits of rest are well documented and we all know what happens when sleep deprived. However, rest is not simply sleep, it is also a posture of the heart and mind. When we are rested, we are ready for all things and more likely to see what surrounds us. With it comes the perspective to access wonder at it all. I am no tracker or guide but my understanding having observed them is that their vision is broad and their senses keen, not merely trained on one thing but noting a range of details, which helps them to successfully interpret the environment around them. I think it is safe to assume that many of the guides are quite likely to be running on a lack of sleep due to their wake up time and nocturnal habits but they generally all have a keen sense of wonder and their thirst for it fuels and restores them all at once. It is infectious to be around. We all need to be awed from time to time.
To see the world in a grain of sand, and to see heaven in a wild flower, hold infinity in the palm of your hands, and eternity in an hour – William Blake
I believe that there is an art to rest and it is a quest for balance unique to every life. My idea of rest, will certainly not be restful to someone else but it’s a worthwhile question to ask ourselves what causes us to stop, to still and to know how we are restored. In an age where anxiety disorders are rife, it has become essential to identify when the world overwhelms us and we need to seek out rest and to reconnect to wonder. To wonder is to witness and to witness we need to be still even if it is ever so briefly. Much like the leopard resting in that tree, inhabiting the beauty of simply being.