Hello there. So to start with, I think we should all leave our current lives, and run away to the Swiss Alps. You see my recent time there has taught me a few things. Firstly, I will never be as fit as the 80 year old local alpine women. Secondly, yodelling is in fact a real thing (never underestimate a yodeller). Another thing I learnt, and wish I hadn’t, was that going for a dip in a glacial stream, is never a good idea. But I think it was the random lady on the side of a mountain face (whose name was probably Gretal or Heidi – lets go with Gretal), that taught me my most treasured lesson. I’ll tell you a bit about the importance of Gretal.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I often live at an 8/10 on the stress scale. It came in the form of hyperactivity – always being busy. I just thought, well this is life. After a long and stressful university semester, I arrived in Switzerland, mentally fatigued. You see, no matter where I am, my brain always seemed to be thinking, planning – ticking. Tick tick. Whether I was thinking about flights, accommodation, dietary requirements or money – I managed to ensure that there was room for some stress in my luggage.
Mornings in Rosenlaui (a small Victorian hotel tucked deep in the Swiss Alps), were the best. I would wake up to find myself staring up at dramatic mountain peaks towering over me. I would open the windows and inhale what can only be described as air so crisp and pure, that it couldn’t possibly be normal air – no no, it must be air directly filtered down from heaven. Perhaps God makes special air for Switzerland, to say thank you for the cheese.
The scenery was indeed spectacular; waterfalls pouring out the side of the mountain and into sparkling glacial streams. Valleys filled with unrecognisable (well to my eye anyway) wildflowers, inhabited by bees and exotic butterflies. It was a morning bliss that lasted only a moment, before my brain would start to tick. Tick tick.
We set off on a hiking trek from the bottom of the valley, up to the Hutte, (a small cottage in the mountains). My competitive side kicked in, and I attempted to race my dear cousin (whose legs reach my belly button) up the mountain. Tick tick. We were off to a good start; taking the route through the cold mountain caves, slowly ascending next to the most tremendous waterfall. It was almost hypnotic watching the water burst through cracks in the rock, cascade down through the mountain and plunge into the mist of the glacial stream below. Tick tick.
Out in the open again, we followed a narrow trail through pine forests, over bare mountain faces and through meadows so beautiful that you could not believe they exist in our world. I was trooping along quite nicely – brushing off the heat and laughing off the fatigue. We climbed higher and higher, slipping on glacial rock and scaling across mountainous rubble with only thin rope to cling on to. It was exhilarating. I was exhausted; physically and mentally. Tick tick.
One hiking boot in front of the other, we climbed a narrow and rubbly path, taking us up to a meadow over looking the alps. I used my last ounce of strength to push myself up the altitude, and into the most picturesque meadow. Looking around, I noticed a person sitting near the edge of the cliff. It was here that I saw Gretal overlooking the alps, reading a book. Her shoulders were relaxed. Her breathing was steady, and her demeanour was nothing but peaceful. She was absolutely still – almost monk like. Whether it was the altitude getting to me, or the absurdity of this woman reading alone in the alps, I found her level of content and tranquility magnetising. I couldn’t help but wonder, was this stillness the answer? Had I – the hyperactive busy bee, overlooked the importance of stillness?
This is something I have contemplated for many weeks following my time in Switzerland. I now set aside time each day for stillness. You see, you don’t always have to be racing up a mountain, doing overtime at work or redecorating your house. The ticking can actually stop. I think the happiest people aren’t always the busiest, most organised or most successful people. Yes, I do believe in making the most of each day, aiming to achieve and being your best, but does this mean sacrificing time for stillness? I hope not. And if it does, well I know what I choose.
So my dear reader, I encourage you, no, I challenge you – wherever you are in the world, find time each day for stillness. And to my darling Gretal – thank you for helping me realise this. I hope you enjoyed your book.