Stop fear in its tracks

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By Emily Brett, Yoga Teacher & Founder/CEO Ourmala

4 You see, it's all about material. Paper burns. Sea doesn't.By Emily Brett, Yoga Teacher & Founder/CEO Ourmala

I once met an old fisherman called Mauro in Dubrovnik, who took me on his boat out in the azure waters. He was tall with tanned weathered skin, had survived the bombings of Dubrovnik in 1991, was in his early 60s but was fit as a thirty year old and spoke six languages. Like a mirror under the hot sun, we swam naked, expansive water all around, the shore a black line in the distance, only lapping waves, the occasional call of sea birds and our laughter. Everything hot. Over the horizon lay the verdant island of Mljet, where the beautiful goddess Calypso kept Odysseus as her lover for seven years in Homer’s Odyssey.

We dived for mussels and sea snails, then fried them up in an old pan on the boat, me sitting on deck wrapped in a towel, cupping a tin mug of his homemade red wine in my hands, the afternoon sun blazing. Him in his faded red shorts, telling me about how he had slept in bombed-out buildings after his house was destroyed, how he’d staked out ‘over there’ – pointing to the cliffs – with a gun.

“You know, there is nothing important in life,” Mauro said. “Nothing exists but this. Sometimes fighting, sometimes peace. This is it…” He poured some olive oil and wine into the pan, making it sizzle, chopped some garlic.

In the heat, the cadence of light played over swells of water.

Mauro said he used to live in a street in Old Dubrovnik with Serbs, Croatians, Muslims and Christians, all neighbours living in peace. The shells bombed the Old City, they lost power so that at night it was pitch black except for gunfire. It was the fear that split the neighbourhood, driving cracks between  friendships, separating people into groups labelled by ethnicity and religion, full of hate and suspicion.

I was in Dubrovnik for two weeks on a research trip for my masters. Why write this now? Because I have just finished 84 Charing Cross Road by Helen Hanff, a wonderful book, that includes this quote, from Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1.

“Our revels now are ended. These our actors
… were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air…
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples… dissolve
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on…”

To me, these words reflect the essence of life. I looked out of the window at the sun beaming through the branches of the tree, and felt at once how solid and ephemeral the world is and remembered Mauro. He had been through a lot. His wife was killed in a shelling, as had friends. There was deep anger in him. How could there not be? But he didn’t try to suppress it, he let it out in conversation, talked of things we should be angry about (genocide, ethnic cleansing, rape, torture). And it informed his choices about how to live – simply, in a way that gave him peace because he knew from harsh experience what it was to live in wartime. He was fully aware of his anger but he did not let it embitter him. Nothing new here but Mauro had been through hell, had lived to tell the tale, didn’t dwell on it, and focused on what was peaceful. That takes some attitude.

It’s so easy to get caught-up in the dramatic narratives of the mind that urge us so convincingly to ‘do this’ and ‘get that’, which will apparently make everything better, until dissatisfaction surfaces again. Stillness and peace are qualities of the most powerful forces in existence. Think about it.

Imagine how the stormy sea calms down and then how peaceful it can be. Same goes for our mind. Why give a monkey’s? Because stillness and peace stop fear in its tracks.

Stillness and peace stop fear in its tracks.

One could argue convincingly that there is nothing as important in this world as stopping fear in its tracks. But forget the wars, the terrorism, the bigotry, etc. Start with yourself. This is the key principle of yoga, based on the premise that yoga is stilling the mind.

If you wish, here is an action you can take:
– Write down one thing that gives you feelings of stillness and peace, which is easily doable. Then do it today and do it tomorrow, and so on. Keep it simple, don’t over think it and above all, enjoy it!

#Ourmala #Yogaforrefugees #RefugeeYoga #RefugeesWelcome

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