The importance of soul spaces

Piha from the hill

This world can be incredibly fretful and noisy at times – Thomas Hardy had it right when he entitled one of his works Far From the Madding Crowd (which you have to admire for being a literary classic  in which sheep bloat is a major plot device).

Sheep bloat may have diminished as one of life’s challenges, but our modern consumer culture is awash with noise, and daily life can often overwhelm us with all the chores, obligations, and expectations that seem never-ending.

We all need somewhere to escape to – a refuge and sanctuary – and as I get older the value of these quiet spaces becomes more and more evident. When we get stressed, we often run to the easy comforters – the internet, sex, drugs and alcohol – that diminish the noise until they in turn become their own problems. However, over the last few months, as I’ve worked to find balance and recover from trauma, I’ve sought healthy regular practises that take me away from the noise and give me breathing space.

During the day at work, I head out of the office and walk around the Auckland waterfront – as a sea person just being near the water helps me de-stress. Escaping the office environment, even for 30 minutes, does wonders for the brain.

On the weekends, I head to Piha – either to go surfing or just for a walk. This is a place where just by being there, I feel happy. The big open blue sky, surrounding hills covered with bush and the steady roar of the surf all work to rid my mind and body of aggravations and calm my soul. Even the drive out there helps to bleed off the cortisol levels driven up by the week’s aggravations. Instead of the stop/start annoyance of commuting, I get to pretend I’m a rally driver in my red Toyota Yaris – no traffic jams or red lights, just the  tourists on the weekend who get the odd toot for going too slow around the bends. As I come down the hill, and catch the first sight of the sea through the bush, straight away my mood lifts.

If you don’t have a place like this, find one, and if you already have one, go there as often as possible.