Sunday, December 11, 2011

A Final Lesson from the New Zealand Bush

I ended my epic adventure around New Zealand’s south island in what is perhaps the least exciting and interesting place on the island – Greymouth. It is the largest city on the West Coast, a part of the country known for rugged beaches and rugged people. It is wet. The weather can change in an instant. And it looks out over the awesome Tasman Sea. And I use the awesome in the sense of awe-inspiring. New Zealand is a place where "least interesting" is still amazing in its own right.

The Great Tasman Sea

I am glad I ended my trip in Greymouth. After the sheer beauty of the rest of the trip, it was a nice reminder that New Zealand is not all gorgeous snow-capped mountains and lakes that defy any definition of blue I had ever before imagined. But even in Greymouth, I was able to see the parts of New Zealand I am going to miss. I think chief among those is the New Zealand bush.

Here in New Zealand, what we Americans would call a forest, they call the bush. It is full of trees and plants found only in New Zealand, birds chirping, and my absolute favorite – the koru (Maori word for the birth of a fern), but that is a topic for another day. Today I want to talk about mud. That’s right – with all the mountains, oceans, seas, rivers, lakes, and forests, I want to talk about mud.

You have to understand, I am not a fan of mud. It’s wet, and I don’t particularly like water. It’s cold, and I don’t like being cold. It’s squishy, and that’s just, well, gross.

It may come as a surprise that I decided to walk into a NZ rainforest, up a big hill, in my non-hiking shoes, especially considering they have holes in them. Let’s just say I did not think this through very well. Back when it snowed in Dunedin, I talked about how we can face anything life throwsour way when we prepare. But what happens when you are stuck walking through mud in a pair of holey shoes? It’s simple, really. You put one foot in front of the other and keep on moving.

With each step into the squishy, wet, cold mud, I cared less and less that my shoes, socks, and even pants were getting dirty. The shoes had been destroyed for awhile, and I was already planning to get rid of them, and socks and pants can be washed. My aversion to the mud lessened, and I was able to enjoy the walk, enjoy being in the NZ bush, and enjoy looking out over an overcast view of the great Tasman Sea.

I told you they were gross

Like many lawyers, I tend to be a bit Type A. Yoga has definitely helped me slow down, relax, and enjoy the world around me a bit more. But as much as I have talked about these lessons off the mat, it took a month without much asana to actually find these lessons all around. It took hiking in rain, walking over swing bridges, and hiking through mud to realize our general aversions matter a lot less than the beauty that surrounds us each day.

I still think it is better to be prepared and ready for what life might throw our way. But I have also learned that when we are not prepared for particulars, the more our reserve bucket is full of internal preparations, the better we really can cope with anything. Sure, all I had to cope with was a bit of rain, a lot of wind, and some nasty mud, but a year ago, these things would have brought me to tears (or at least close). Now they bring a smile to my face and a sigh, “yup, I’m in New Zealand!”

I finished writing this while sitting at the Auckland airport waiting to board my flight back to the United States, and the departure screen listing the flights telling everyone what to do is right in front of me. The flight for San Francisco currently says, “Relax.” Fitting, really. A year of being upside down and trying to find yoga in everyday life on the other side of the world has taught me that we can learn to relax, smile, and remember that we can handle whatever life throws our way.

 Departure Information

Kia Ora, New Zealand! I will be back, but until then . . .


© Rebecca Stahl 2011, all rights reserved. 

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