Before I left for my holiday my yoga theme in practice and teaching was about examining preferences. I was mostly thinking about how to learn to let them go, following the philosophy that preferences are a cause of suffering, preventing one achieving the equanimity that the Bhagavad Gita teaches yoga to be.
Now I’m on holiday in a place familiar to me and it feels like a joyful return. I’m finding that my activities here seem to be all about preferences as I revisit past pleasures. I have only a week, so I’m maxing out on my favourite things: the beach I love so much, the restaurant with the best veggie-friendly food, the way I take my coffee in a Greek summer, catching up with an old friend who lives here and we see annually at best.
And then there are the unexpected extra pleasures that this holiday in particular brings. The car rental upgrade to a convertible was nice, of course! Much more than that, running into a familiar waitress from last summer now serving in — you’ve guessed it — my favourite beach bar and being recognised by her made me feel so welcome and accepted here, despite my clumsy language skills and uptight Anglo behaviours! 🙂
So far from letting go of preferences, I’m indulging them to the max. I’m also enjoying the very fact that I have such strong preferences in this foreign country, that I feel so at home here that I know exactly what aspects of it I crave and miss when I’m away. I’m loving the sense of belonging my preferences offer. Right now they don’t seem like a klesha, a cause of suffering, at all!
And it’s not all material pleasures that I’m indulging. I realise one of the most significant experiences for me is the feeling of greater joy in my body and my physical existence than I habitually feel when I’m in my home country and my everyday routines. Here my senses seem heightened. I’m so aware of the smell of the grassy vegetation dried out by the hot sun, loudly singing cicadas, the feeling of the intense heat on my skin most of the day followed perhaps by a cooling breeze in the evening, the characteristic scents of pine trees and fig trees, the delicate mauve of the sky at dusk, the silvery-green colours of the olive trees as their leaves flutter in the wind, the blues of sea and sky. These aspects of the natural world, and me in it, give me such joy.
And in my body, a slower pace of walking and a feeling of greater fluidity in my body, without the habitual rush towards appointments or bracing against deadlines and perceived stresses. I gesticulate more broadly with my hands while I talk; my eyes smile. My hair goes crazy-curly from the salt and my skin glows from exposure to the sun. I walk barefooted, comfortable in just a bikini. In swimming my hips seem mobile in propelling me through the water, in my yoga practice there’s a lightness of heart as much as a deeper flexibility in warmer, relaxed muscles. On the beach I happily kick up into thin air exploring how a handstand balance might one day appear, without any of the fear that keeps me firmly at the wall when I’m at home. Perhaps I should dig a sandpit in my back yard!!
I feel more at home in all ways here. How could I not prefer that? Equanimity doesn’t sound so much fun!