Thirteen years ago, I arrived in paradi. My husband had convinced me to quit my job, rent out our flat, don a backpack and head to South East Asia for six months. After a long flight, the craziness of Bangkok and a miriad of saeng taws, ferries, night trains and tuk tuks, we finally emerged into my personal utopia. A perfectly white, sandy beach and balmy waters were held in a tight embrace by huge, softly shaped rocks and a jungle adorned mountain rose magestically behind us. My heart soared.
A sprinkling of simple beach huts adorned the sand and cliffs. We approached one, idyllically perched on one of the wave worn rocks, jutting out to sea. The owner gave us s price within our tight budget and we lugged our heavy back packs inside.
As I dropped my backpack, my heart sank in synchrony. The place was a derelict shell. The window: a gaping hole in the wall. The bed, covered by an I'll fitting, worn sheet and moth eaten mosquito net, homes a spider the size of my hand. The back wall, only partially patched, sported a forearm size lizard and the bathroom had been equally reclaimed by the inhabitants of paradise. My panoramic vision closed in on these unnerving details and anxiety rose like bile in my throat. I can't stay, I sobbed to my husband, this was a mistake. I would have to go home.
Ten minutes later, my vision opened again to the panoramic post card view. Surely, paradise and I could find a way to make things work.
I decided to look around for a bit where I would feel less exposed. The first place we looked at was perfect but way out of our budget. It gave me hope though. I spotted a sign for Silver Cliff Apartments and began the sweaty hike up a steep set of steps where I found a picturesque bungalow which provided some semblance of protection from the prolific wildlife.
Fast forward thirteen years and we emerge onto the same beach, this time with our three children. They are excited to begin this utopia which we have talked so much about and we are excited to share it.
This time we have splashed out on a slightly more luxurious, family bungalow on the rocks. We have hot water and the electricity stays on all night!
We dump our bags gratefully after our long, sweaty journey and head for the glimmering waves of the ocean. Within seconds, all three of my children are crying. I become aware of the stinging sensations all over my body: jelly fish larvae! Like a scratch in a record, it seemed like paradise had, again, vanished. Our vision closed in from the panoramic of paradise to the irritants in the water.
Defeated, my husband and I slumped down in the shade with our sobbing children. Their disappointment felt like stinging criticism.
We underestimated them.
Before long, they were braving the water again and, later, they discovered the perfect spot where the river fed into the sea and we could all bathe comfortably in the refreshing fresh water.
In my experience, paradise is more a state of mind than a state of absolute perfection. There are always compromises and adjustments to be made and it's important not to get drawn into the details, losing sight of the beautiful panoramas of our lives.
Foveal vision or centrally focused vision. In the west we use this a lot, focussing intently on what is directly in front of us, our computers, our phones or whatever task is immediately in front of us. Using foveal vision is associated with the sympathetic nervous system or fight or flight response and tends to trigger the release of stress provoking hormones. Widening our vision to include the full panorama of our peripheral vision connects us to the parasympathetic nervous system which is associated with calm and healing.
Try to notice when you are using foveal vision and take peripheral vision breaks or use it as a tool to snap you out of anxiety or stress.
Take a deep breath while focusing on a central point.
Keep focusing and allow you eyes to soften and relax. Soon you will notice your field of vision starts to spread.
Become conscious of aware of the colours and shapes above, below and either side of your central vision, whilst not looking directly at them, just being casually aware.
Notice the effects on your body and mind.