Mindfulness Hammock

I recently had a chance to slow down for a little bit. To stay in one place and let the hustle and bustle of the world flow around me, carrying my worries off with it. I was surprised at the calming effect of an enforced change of pace, and how it made me feel very present. At the same time it also helped me think about priorities in life from a step away from my day to day existence. Made me a bit nostalgic for #vanlife to tell the truth.

I was in Santa Barbara for a paragliding trip, and had been a bit nervous to fly that morning since I was out of practice. However, I had landed safely and was feeling the sort of contentment you get when you are just happy to have both feet on the ground. After the adrenalin faded I was feeling languid, so I decided to take my trusty Westfalia van to the beach. After stopping at a supermarket to pick up food, I lucked out with a free beachfront parking space, and resolved to just hang out there for the rest of the day.

First thing I did was set up my hammock between two palm trees and dig into a delicious lunch of salad, yogurt, string cheese, and a bran muffin. Being rather full after that I think I dozed off a bit, and woke to the sight of palm fronds swaying in the breeze. Without getting up I snapped a picture and sent it to a friend. Doing nothing for a bit had a way of making me feel more social, and I resolved to call some old friends and catch up.

Since I wasn’t doing anything, this seemed like a good time to practice handstands. I planted my hands in the soft grass and kicked my legs upward, trying to find the perfect hollow body shape. Most of the time I wouldn’t get enough height, or I’d jump too much and have to twist out, but sometimes I would feel just a bit of float. I started counting to gauge my progress. A 3 count was easy but I started getting some 4’s and a 5 mixed in so I kept at it. I would jump up and try and feel just a tiny bit of pressure in my fingers to balance. Remembering a slack line breakthrough that happened after pausing to let the muscle memory sink in, I lay in the hammock for a bit and stretched my wrists. One last time, I thought to myself and immediately nailed a 9 count hold. I was pumped! I resolved to practice more often and lock this down as a skill.

I bopped into my van for a bit, leaving the sliding door open out to the ocean and knocked out a few work tasks. My phone was in a semi-dead spot, and loading webpages was insanely slow and frustrating, but this turned out to be perfect, because it completely cut out any desire to procrastinate online. I accomplished what I wanted to without any delays and went right back outside to my hammock. I considered trying to recreate this effect later.

My hammock was right next to the main path, and I watched the tourists go by as I leisurely swung back and forth. So many people passing through. A dad was teaching his daughter to skateboard, a 4-person foot-powered cart carried past a family of 6 with the youngest yelling directions like a little captain, joggers left snatches of classic SoCal tunes as they ran by.

I left my hammock where it was and set off on a wandering photo walk. There was a lot of nice views and some surprises, like a rose stuck in the sand just above the waves. I take a bunch of pictures, knowing I will need to spend some time later deleting most of them, but I want to capture this perfect moment. As the sun dipped lower I came across a man on the beach with what appeared to be a music stand. Investigating further I find it is a laptop and marveled at his picturesque office. We talked for a while and swapped life stories and tips for living outside the conventional path of society. I asked to take his picture. All of a sudden, a pod of dolphins began cavorting right off shore. We watched in silence as they jumped and bobbed and sliced through the waves. I didn’t reach for my camera because some things are better experienced in the moment. Also I knew I’d never capture it without a huge zoom lens.

The sun was getting very low, so I set off to get sunset photos. The angle of the coast here made the sun set right where ocean met land on the horizon, and I was able to capture the light reflected off the slick sand as the waves rolled back. I must have made quite a sight running back and forth with the waterline, taking one or two shots each time. It was a slow sunset and I was able to experiment with different angles and compositions. The clouds cooperated perfectly, giving me an vast colorful canvas to work with.

After dark I made my phone calls, then I headed over to Starbucks to charge up devices and downloaded a fun puzzle game called “The Witness” and played until close. All that was left was finding a quiet spot, putting up the curtains and closing out a wonderful day.

In the end, what I learned is that daily life is convenient, but that upkeep and tasks you keep meaning to do can be a chain too. It is good to mix things up and break your rhythms, at least occasionally. Never stop striving to live the way you want to, or as I like to put it:

Live life intentioned.