There’s a saying about the chain of Canary Islands, part of the territories of Spain: each represents a sacred part of the human body, a chakra, if you like. There are seven islands, complementing the seven chakras, with volcanoes throughout. I didn’t know this, it was told to me by a local resident from the northernmost part of Lanzarote, the place where I chose to stay.
“You start at the crown,” she said, nodding and pointing to the nearby volcano, implying I had chosen a good place to connect and write. I had searched for a location that would be as far off the beaten path as possible (to a certain degree!). She told me about the saying, hesitating, only after I told her that I had arrived there and felt it difficult to sleep in the usual deep way… my dreams were animated, colorful, absorbing and vivid in a different way. Not disturbing, just distinctive in a way I noticed. Little did I anticipate that my northernmost villa, hardly on any maps, would be at the foot of this massive volcano, a crater in its dormancy, yet still imposing, as I wrote in its shadow.
I was there for writing. I also hiked each day, cooked, went to markets and met farmers, artists, teachers and other locals. Neighbors had been friends of César Manrique’s, the architect who designed and constructed some traditional parts of the island. Manrique had a belief that guided his designs: follow nature, and let the outdoors and indoors combine. Do not go against it, don’t build too tall. Listen to the wind and the earth, and build structures that listen, that have biomimicry in their design. Listen and create something beautiful, something that looks like part of the earth.
Each day, I rose very early, as it was difficult to sleep at the base of the volcano. I imagined I was sensing some magnetic field, if that’s possible. I went outside, to the cliffs, to feel the air, such glorious air that whipped my hair in a frenzy. I’d look over the cliffs, down to the beaches and salt mines below, gazing out at the teal blue sea.
Some mornings were for hiking, some for running. On the hikes, the trail was so dusty I had to dig in my heels to avoid skidding down the cliffside. One gorgeous route, lined with cacti and wild pink flowers, was two hours to the beach, two hours back (if one can hike uphill just as fast). I saw one other person during the hike, and had the white sands of the remote beach all to myself.
This time, this forced quiet, was a meditation for my mind, soul, and spirit. The mind can go on fantastical journeys during these times, and it can also be pulled, with ease, into focus and a mindful zone, tuning into the quality of the wind, and the feeling of each footfall on the trail. The scent of the surroundings, different from any other, with a mix of the spice, the plants, the salt. It was here that I discovered what Plato had shared, that “αἰθήρ” (ether) was a fifth element. It was here, too, that I discovered some of the medicinal qualities of natural, pure aloe. I also spent a good deal of time just letting my mind go off in its delightful meandering way, seeing what it would pick up from its trail of ideas.
On this island, mid-days were for writing, to avoid the blazing sun that would certainly scorch my back. I drank nectars and fruit, ate yogurts and fresh breads with local olive oil. I cooked simple things from the land that were easy to get, Spanish cheeses, olives. I drank endless iced coffees with soja milk, and iced teas in the afternoons.
When sunset would come, I would usually take my camera to an overlook and see what shots I could get of the sunset. Nights were for music, poetry, some form of magic.
This time represented a reconnection. It was one of my first trips alone, all-one, and I didn’t talk much about it in a direct, outward sense. The focus of the time was inward, and looking at the land. Making some art, playing with what’s creative. The destination helped to fuel a form of journey focused on connection. We can each participate in that connection as a daily practice.
One exercise that’s a takeaway we all can invite into our days: Every morning, I stood outside and inhaled deeply, exhaling in a smooth, measured breath, twice as long on the exhale as the inhale. As I breathed, I felt the air filling my lungs, and the easy turn and release. I could taste the air, in a sense, really feeling its quality. We can all do this, each day– it takes only a brief minute. And that minute is a reconnection. The experience takes me back to the the breeze, and the haunted quality of that volcanic energy in the land.