I love lying in our hammocks - one each in Eugene and Sedona. You can lie lengthwise in them (the usual way), or sit in them with your legs on the ground, gently rocking yourself in the soft cradle of the hammock. It's very relaxing - you can nap, read, or just daydream. Perhaps lying in a hammock takes the brain and body back to being rocked in a cradle as an infant, soothing the nervous system very naturally. In fact, just trying to describe the experience of being in a hammock makes my mind and breath shift to a feeling of calm well-being and peacefulness. Even thinking about being in our hammock makes my breath slow down and start rising and falling more deeply.
This image itself captures for me some of the serenity of lying in a hammock. The calm late afternoon angle of the sun creates an almost tangible softness of light, and the long shadows create a sense of evening approaching. There's a living stillness to it.
As I got out of our hammock on this particular afternoon, my eyes were struck by how the late light illuminated the browns, reds, and yellows of the maple leaves on our slate patio. My eyes were drawn not just to the collage of colorful leaves, but also to the unique angles of the slates in the patio, and the combination of the corner of the hammock and its beautiful and mysterious shadow. I had my iPhone in my pocket, and as usual I felt the urge to make a photo that captured what I was seeing and experiencing in this late light. I framed it not as a picture of a hammock, but of all the elements on our patio that created for me a sense of quietude and a feeling of being in the presence of the nature's living beauty.
As I think about this, I realize that the deeper aspect of being outdoors in a chair or hammock is that of becoming quietly immersed in the indescribable essence of nature, of sunlight, and of the movement of fresh air. There's a subtle aliveness in nature that goes beyond the livingness of individual plants and animals. In India, the sages refer to this essence as prana, the life force that permeates earth, air, water, fire, and space (or ether). Haven't you noticed that an open window (at least in warm weather and in places not affected by traffic) has a different quality than air in a closed room?
Even in closed spaces, we can raise our vital energy by breathing more consciously, holding our posture in a position that makes room for deeper breathing. Perhaps you might experiment with gazing at the photo at the top of this page and breathing deeply in a relaxed way.
What are some of the ways you pause and become aware of your body, your breath, and your simple sensation of being alive?
with warm regards,