A few weeks ago I nearly died.
I was snorkeling off the coast of Gili Air, Indonesia when I saw a school of small sword fish swimming towards me. I suddenly thought about the last words Seamus said to me before he swam back to shore: ‘watch out for boats‘ and so I lifted my head out of the water only to see the front of a 30-seater boat, no more than a metre away about to hit me head on.
I used my split second of time to move my head away and swing my right arm around to create just enough distance to avoid a full on collision. My legs were dragged under the boat by the force but I somehow managed to stay calm and the boat left me, floating, completely unharmed. I took off my mask and stared as the boat continued towards the shore. Two young lads stared back at me. They didn’t stop, they just stared.
After a few minutes I swam back and I think I just remained in some absurd-like shock for the rest of the day until I burst into tears in the early afternoon. I think it was a combination of having had a sudden brush with death and realising some sort of inner tension and anxiety that had been building up for little over a week. I couldn’t relate this mounting anxiety to anything, which was weird. I was excited about coming home again – if a little apprehensive, I had plans, I would see my friends, my family and I knew I was going to be OK. Yet this tension was just growing, leaving my chest feeling tight and heavy, and I would often wake up in the middle of the night, struggling for breath.
Looks like you’re all blocked
On the Island of Gili Air is a Yoga retreat called H20. I went there before my near death experience for a Chakra reading. I think I just wanted to take myself somewhere a bit Zen to calm my nerves.
The 7 Chakras are the energy centres in our body in which energy flows. It is believed that blocked energy in our Chakras can lead to illness and so to check whether energy is flowing through the body, a healer of some sort hovers a set of crystals on a pendulum above certain parts of your body. Movement of the pendulum means energy is flowing, however if the crystals are still, it means energy is blocked.
I lay down on a bed in a bamboo hut in the camp. “Now let’s start with the Base Chakra” said Sarah, the Island’s Reiki healer. “It’s located at the base of the spine. It’s also called the Root Chakra as it grounds us. Yes you have a good energy flow here.”
“Great” I exclaimed, as I peered down to where an amethyst crystal pendulum was swinging vigorously around in circles.
As the crystal moved further up my body, it came to a grinding halt.
“Now we are on the Sacral Chakra, also known as the Naval Chakra. This controls your emotions, sexuality and lower organs…that’s blocked.”
She moved the crystal up further to my stomach. “Here we have what we call the Solar Plexus Chakra or the Control Centre. It represents general health and the control we have in our every day lives…that’s also blocked.”
She moved the crystal up again to my Heart Chakra. Now, she probably felt a bit sorry for me at this point and gave the crystal a little bit of a wobbly nudge, but it made a few little circles which was good enough for me.
“Moving up to the Throat Chakra which plays an important role in communication and expression.” I went all cross-eyed as I checked to see the progress of the crystal. Dead still. “Blocked.”
“And now finally your Brow and your Crown Chakra…” My third eye and spirit….don’t tell me…”Blocked”
Urggghhh so I’m just basically dead from the waste up?
Not only was I blocked but I was tense and anxious. Well at least I had a massive cry following the boat incident, allowing some of the tension out.
But I figured I’d better go and sort this shit out.
A Focus on Mindfulness and Meditation
These past 9 months my focus has been on everything that is external to me – different countries, communities and people. I’ve enjoyed different sceneries; beaches, waterfalls, cities, canyons and mountains. I’ve tasted some INCREDIBLE food and some seriously shit food. I’ve fed my senses in every which way imaginable and I’ve got some great pictures to immortalise every one of my experiences. But with all that I’ve neglected one huge thing – my self.
I can recognise all the external things in life, and the people who make me happy – I can write a list as long as a wave. A few examples – friendships, exploring, photography, art, music, excellent food, wine, sunsets, moons, stars, mountains, valleys, lakes. These things feed my happiness in stages when they are available, but I’ve placed all my focus on these things as a means to making me happy.
What happens when they’re not there and I don’t get that ‘happiness’ fix I need? What happens when I’m on an Island for 2 weeks with shit food and where people leave me for dead?
A New Start at the End
I went back to Sarah, the Island’s Reiki healer to get healed, I suppose. I had to try something. I won’t go into it in too much detail but the experience was overwhelming – one I’ll never forget. I was pretty sceptical going into it but I left feeling completely bewildered. The physical sensation was like going on the world’s biggest, fastest rollercoaster. My stomach flipped inside-out – the same physical sensation you get when you’re falling from a massive height. In the real world, all that was happening was that I was lying down and Sarah had her hands over me.
Later that day I went for a meditation session at the centre. It was amazing. I tested out different styles of meditation and found one that fit.
The lady leading the meditation said that it takes 21 days to create a habit. In Zen meditation you are encouraged to start mediating every day for at least 21 days. I had exactly 21 days left until flying back to the UK. What better time to start.
Happiness is a combination of many things but I need to move away from the external environment and take the focus inside. I can only truly be happy if I know who I am and learn to listen to me, instead of distracting myself with things that are around me. I don’t want to come across as some sort of hippy here but something just ‘aint right, and if I’ve had my fill of adventure, travel, scenery, experiences, moments and I still feel a bit lost, anxious and tense – well, there’s something missing right? And I guess there’s only one place left to look.
It’s been one last incredible travel high. I finish Japan in a place called Koya San, not far from Kyoto and Osaka. I’ll be staying with some Buddhist monks in a temple for a few days, joining them for morning prayer and sitting in their lovely garden. I’ll be by myself for a bit and I’ll have time to meditate and reflect before going back to Blighty!
In Japan I’ll end with me – or to put it a better way: I’ll make a start with me – at the end.
Ps – what’s more perfect is that I will be making my way to the starting line with Seamus by my side – as my fiancée.
The future is an exciting, magical and unexpected place.
Check out my highlights and travel tips for everywhere I travelled to in the world: Cuba, Mexico, Colombia, Ecuador, The Galapagos Islands, Argentina, LA, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia and Japan.