HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) | Updated October 15, 2017 – 12:00am
Sometimes, things can really take their toll on you. The almost non-stop daily traffic can be suffocating as you feel trapped between buses and big trucks for hours. It can cause anxiety attacks especially after a long day at work. Listening to the President on TV rambling on about non-sensical stuff and lying outright almost daily now can really upset you as a citizen of this country. A lot of our politicians contribute to the wretchedness of life with their stupidity, insincerity and total lack of decency. They are liars, cheats who seem to be focused on nothing but ambition and power. The daily news of scandals, murders, and negative news can really drag down your spirit.
I have been living practically alone in our huge house for a month now with my grand daughter Ananda who is out all day in school. On weekends, she has different activities too. Lydia is in Sydney helping our daughter Ala with her new baby. I eat breakfast and lunch alone. For dinner, I practically have to order Ananda to sit with me around the long dinner table. Almost daily, I spend a lot of time at home, except to teach at the Ateneo twice a week, and go to Gold’s Gym near my neighborhood in the afternoons.
The stress, the boring routine and the loneliness can get to me. The political developments have been so upsetting lately that one feels alternating emotions of anger and hopelessness.
Early last week, I thought of going away for two nights and three days and chill out near the beach. I just wanted a change of scene. So last Thursday, I made a quick getaway to Bohol. I took an Air Asia flight to Tagbilaran and checked in at the Ananyana Resort, one of my favorite places on earth.
I left Manila with hardly any sleep, with a heaviness in my heart, and with a disposition bordering on depression and anxiety. I was tired and weary.
It is only a one hour and 15 minutes flight to Tagbilaran. And yet it is a different world. It is refreshing not to hear horns of cars. Driving to the resort was completely traffic free. The driver was pleasant and I did not feel any stress even when he was driving quite fast. No one is overtaking. You can hardly find any big and annoying ad signs dotting the side of the streets that hovers over you and covers the world. There are hardly any people nor buildings. There is so much open space.
When I went down from the car and walked into the resort, I immediately felt my tense shoulders relax as I heard the waves of the ocean and felt the sea breeze. It was very calming. When you are surrounded by things like the eternal sea, and the wind, one can’t help but surrender to them. I did without putting up a struggle. Everything about me felt relief. The warm staff greeted me and I felt like I was back home. I have always enjoyed my stays here at Ananyana.
It is evening. Right now, I am typing this in the open lobby of the resort. There are no walls around it. There is the night wind rustling the leaves and when you look out into the sea, you can’t help but see a few dots of light in the darkness as fishermen in their boats move about the ocean trying to make a catch.
I ask myself, ‘Does it get any better than this?’ The answer right now is ‘no’.
Relaxation is what everyone needs. In the big bad monstrosity that is Manila, everyone seems to be locked into some sort of rat race for more money and things. Everyone is madly trying to make a living to survive or searching for next bigger, better, newer, latest modern thing to buy.
If we only we could all find our own ‘‘sacred space’’ and access it any time we want, the world could be a more pleasant and more humane one.
Meanwhile, we must find a way to cope with all this stress.
I am not always stressed out. Sometimes, I actually feel great and so ‘together’ that I can find and tap my quiet powerful center inside of me and deal with whatever life throws at me. At other times, I can lose it and feel so unsettled that I don’t even realize how much stress has been building up inside. Soon, it takes over and I start getting poor sleep. I wake up two or three times a night for no reason. I also find myself eating without really tasting the food. I gobble it all up quickly. When I ask myself two or three hours later what I had for breakfast, I can’t even remember. I also get easily irritated and lose my patience quickly.
Going to the gym helps me a lot. After a session, my endorphins kick in and it gives me a good feeling about my body. I also do zen meditation and that really calms me down.
More and more, I also turn to prayer. I used to have a hard time convincing myself that there was anyone out there who actually listens. Now I am sure there is. I realize that the two best prayers for me are about forgiveness and surrender. Everything else we need God knows already. We don’t need to ask. What we must do is ask to be forgiven and to forgive others, so we are more humbled. It becomes easier to detect His presence and accept any outcome. Admitting that we can’t solve or control everything is also a good prayer. We must be humble enough to surrender our problems completely and let God figure things out. It is that simple for me.
Lastly, I also try to take care of myself. Sometimes we do too many things for other people that we forget we, too, need care and love. Running on empty can deplete us and make us feel bitter about constantly giving without replenishing ourselves.
I took a 45-minute break from writing this. I walked by the beach and returned just now. There was a little drizzle but the dark and the slight wind were too inviting to refuse. In the dark, you can hear your thoughts better, and ironically, you see things clearer. And you realize your consciousness is as big as the darkness that engulfs you. As you stare at the nothingness, you realize that you are also the nothingness. To me it was a strangely comforting thought. I feel I am in touch with who and what I am on a really basic level.
I came here to Ananyana to de-stress. I know I am not the stress that clings to me. It is something that I unconsciously allow to control me. It is like affectation. It is with you but not really part of you. You only acquired it without knowing you did. If it were really a part of me, then why can’t I feel it right now here in the darkness?
Yes, we must learn to rediscover the enchantment in everyday life to counter the propensity for falling into the seeming meaninglessness of modern living. We need to pay attention more and cultivate self-awareness.
And that’s why we need to have a few sacred spaces to run to, and get our lives back. There are such places. Some are far. Some are near. Some are outside of us, and some are inside.
We must find all of them.