One of the biggest takeaways for me from our Philippines trip was finding some solid rhythms and disciplines.
Particularly in the second month which we had put aside to write. Val found us a stunning spot in Honda Bay on Palawan Island and we moved in for a month. For me the main focus was on finishing the race book i had started a few years ago that had just been busied away into a corner. But having so much time in such a beautiful spot [our cottage door probably twenty meters away from the sea] meant that we settled quickly into some really great disciplines and daily rhythms, which i am hoping to keep going now that we’re home.
WALKING AND EXPLORING
Every day Val and i [or sometimes just me] would take a minimum of a 2km walk along the beach, usually to the right as it yielded more rock pools and the chance of spotting more exciting sea life. From stunning coral and a whole host of creatures [fish, crabs, snakes, starfish, sea cucumber, sea slugs and more] to interesting rocks and beautiful shells. The walk to the let was a lot more stoney and so we only did it two or three times because it was a bit more effort. But every day to the right would be different depending on what the tide was doing and what had been washed into the pools. There was a stunning mangrove we passed that way which was also exciting to explore with eels and hopper fish [that bounced on water and then landed on rocks for a bit and then bounced back into the water] the main attraction.
So the exploring was a bit of a bonus but just the idea of a regular walk in terms of exercise and breathing and hanging out and catching up was a much-loved part of the day.
READING AND PRAYER
i wanted to use the Philippines trip to get back into a more regular reading of my bible and i managed to do this, working through Matthew and Luke for two different flavoured versions of the Jesus story. And then i got started on Isaiah which i am still working through now. But having the time and making the effort to get into the habit of reading some of the Jesus story and reflecting on His words and actions was really good. Spent a lot more time praying than i have done for a really long time which was also good.
Beyond that i also worked through a number of other books from the Voices of Liberation: Chris Hani edition which i really felt helpful and learned a lot about the armed struggle aspect of South Africa’s transition and history which i hadn’t known as much about before; to Reflections on Robert Sobukwe by a variety of people in a book put together by Benjamin Pogrund which was also really inspiring; the novel Nine Perfect Strangers by Liane Moriarty [Little Big Lies author] which i had bought for Val; and then a number of African short stories in different books and a very interesting G.K. Chesterton novel called ‘The Man Who Was Thursday’. Val is normally the book machine [and still read a whole lot more than me in this time] but that is the most books i have finished in such a short space of time for a long time.
Having so much time available beyond that set aside for writing, meant there was a lot of time to just lie and read, especially at night before bed.
One of the things i was hoping to do during this time was to write some poetry, which i enjoy doing but am not particularly good at, and just never make time for. So it was good to spend a decent amount of time during the trip writing some poetry and the more i wrote, the better i found myself getting. The discipline of having a poetry mindset meant that each subsequent poem would tend to go a little deeper or be a little more challenging. i really loved this and came up with some poems that i really think are pretty decent. One of them ‘The Very Worst of Me’ i actually ended up writing two versions or perspectives of, and then crowd sourced to try and find out which one was better. i settled on this one, which was the one i preferred but the crowd support was split largely down the middle which was super interesting.
What i enjoyed about the poetry was challenging myself to not just write what i am comfortable with or what comes easily. So i tested out a number of different styles and forms and had a lot of fun with it. Since coming home i bought a new journal with the hopes of continuing this as a serious discipline!
Also i found that the majority of the poems started writing themselves. An idea would generally strike on a walk and so when walking home it would be working itself out in my head. This happened with a number of them which meant i rarely sat down thinking, “Okay let’s come up with a poem” but rather worked on the poem that had presented itself to me. That was new. And very cool!
Another rhythm we had going in Honda Bay was with our meals. They were part of the package we got at the place we were staying and so early morning coffee in the restaurant [usually post-walk] followed by a late morning brunch and then a mid-to-late evening supper. Two meals really worked for us in that context and we are thinking about whether that is something we want to continue. With the walking and the two-meal combos i came home about 6Kg lighter [then quickly lost another two thanks to the virus] which i am super stoked about. Just need to figure out if it will be healthy enough cos traditional thinking seems to be more smaller meals/snacks than less big ones… but that worked over there at least.
So by the time i got to actually working on my book each day i had typically already been for a 2.5km walk on the beach, read some bible and some book, written a poem [every second or third day], prayed and reflected, and eaten breakfast with Val. With such strong disciplines in place, it made for quite a settled mind and general state and so the race book writing tended to flow well from there.
BACK IN SA
To have a whole month to establish and tweak and play around with various disciplines and rhythms and see what works and what doesn’t was an absolute gift. But returning to South Africa [apart from the little road bump of the sickness we faced and so are still waiting to hit the ground properly running!] it is important that we adapt as quickly as possible instead of just returning to life pre-Philippines.
i definitely want to continue with the Bible-reading and the poetry-writing and the regular walking and the meditation/reflection/prayer. The sickness has made it a little hard but once i’m fully recovered i will no doubt start getting up at 5am again and then the time is really there and it’s largely around intentionality. i think it’s going to be good.
What about you? Do you have rhythms and disciplines that you’re intentional about or simple a bunch of stuff you’d like to do that sometimes you do and sometimes you don’t? It definitely makes more sense to try and get some rhythms going because once the momentum is there it is much easier to continue, but if it is haphazard and every now and then with no regular intent, it is a lot easier to miss or ignore or forget. i would love to hear about some of the things that are part of your regular week that bring you life and thrivement.
[For another Philippines Reflection, this time on traffic and aggression, click here]