It’s still hard for me to describe the time that I spent in the Galapagos Islands.
I remember using the word ‘espectacular’ a little too often, partly because mi espanol es un poco limitado but mostly because I spent most of my 7 days there in a state of stupefied absorption with the incredulous beauty of the place.
I was travelling in this part of the world in November 2014 as as part of a pilgrimage with my teacher Bhuvaneswari Devi, under whose guidance I am studying meditation, natural medicine and modern forms for spirituality. The Galapagos trip offered the opportunity to explore the original essence of creation in a diversity of landscape, flora and fauna unlike anything I have ever seen.
As you may know, the Galapagos Islands are famous for inspiring the work of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The Islands are named for the large turtles which inhabit the Islands (‘galapagos’ meaning turtle in Spanish). Located off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, the Islands were discovered by an archbishop travelling from Panama to Peru in the 1500s. When his boat went off course, he landed on what he believed to have been Hell (think fiery volcanos of Dante’s inferno and surviving off spikey cacti for weeks). Today, the Galapagos Islands are world reknown for its diversity of wildlife, and are a Mecca for eco-tourism and environmental studies.
In terms of human consciousness, Galapagos is unique given that it has no original inhabitants. When we travel through Canada, we can perceive that the land holds the markings and memories of our native people, as well as those of the early Canadian settlers. The Galapagos, however, has only really been inhabited for the past 50 years. The first recorded inhabitant was (I am proud to say) an Irishman (we are built to survive anything) who was marooned there for 8 years. “Irish Pat” survived by gardening (!) before escaping to continental Ecuador, and his stories inspired some of the works of Herman Melville.
In other parts of the world that I have visited, such as Asia, Europe, or the Americas, the trappings of human history are evident on both a physical and energetic level. The stories of suffering, corruption and violence run deep in these places, and to be there is to understand part of what the people have lived. During our layover in Bogota, for example, our taxi driver showed us several areas where there had been recent uprisings and revolutions. As one who has grown up in a very protected, affluent family, I have always felt that visiting these places has matured my understanding of the world and our current geo-political context.
What makes the Galapagos so unique, in comparison with these other historical places, is that it has no ancestral lineage, no significant human history, and no traditional prayers or forms of worship. The Islands are relatively untouched by any significant human imprint. Energetically, this makes them a powerful source for understanding and working with the original essence of Creation.The air, the water, the land and the animals are pure, vibrant and protected, and hold a wild, authentic vitality that is beyond what we normally experience on Earth. The animals and the insects are not afraid.
In spirituality, we talk a lot about ego, which, in modern times, is often misunderstood.
Perhaps the ego can be most simply described as the voice in your head that tells you that you need to be more than what you are: more accomplished, more powerful, more correct, more resilient, more brilliant, more popular, more wealthy, more normal, more respectable, more beautiful, more, more, more, more.
The problem with the ego voice is that if you let it boss you around (most of us do), it will have you running on a permanent hamster wheel of guilt, obligations, duties and efforts at self-improvement. You will always feel that you should be different, better, bigger, smaller, rounder, flatter or more. Running your engine on ego-fuel (which is very different than having a vision or direction for your life) makes for a rather exhausting life journey. You will feel overextended, uninspired, exhausted, or unsupported by life. Your life will lack beauty, poetry, sparkle, magic, depth, cohesiveness and the really authentic belly laughter that is your birthright.
The good news about ego is that it can be overcome, which is what many great souls have been trying to teach us since the beginning of time (a.k.a. the Buddha, Christ, Mahavira, Mohammed, and all of other great Masters throughout the ages). Spiritual practices, such as yoga, prayer, meditation, martial arts and some forms of art and dance, are designed to lessen this sense of separation from life so you can operate from your more authentic sense of knowing. They serve to retrain your mind from this sense of a a separate self, so when life throws you a golden opportunity, you recognize it right away and are wearing the right shoes. When practiced on a regular basis, spiritual practices serve to enhance natural human qualities of intelligence, collaboration, compassion, graceful expression and the ability to see things from a broader perspective. As with the animals of the Galapagos Islands, they infuse your body, mind and emotions with a natural trust toward whatever life brings, and toward deliberate relaxed action.
Our retreat to the Galapagos Islands was not your typical yoga retreat or ashram. Our ceremonies and meditations were infused with the wisdom of the animals, plants and landscape. From our poolside classroom, we explored the themes of kundalini energy, the multi-dimensionality of the collective, the original essence of creation and the re-emergence feminine wisdom. It was like living in the Garden of Eden, but in some forgotten, original version where everyone knew that no true God would ever really condemn us for our misunderstandings or mistaken actions.
We sat in the majesty of 130 year old turtles for inappropriate lengths of time just because we had never felt an animal breathe like that before. We were delighted by the graces of the pink flamingos (their colour! and their little knees!) and then, moments later, were laughing at a friend who just had a sea lion steal his bench. We climbed volcanos, then drove for miles through a desert landscape where no life could possibly ever survive, only to arrive at a snorkeling destination at a coral reef teeming with penguins and crabs and sea turtles and starfish.
I am totally grateful to the Galapagenos (in animal, plant and human forms), as well as the Ecuadorians and the Otavalenos, who spoiled us with their culture, their patience (still working on my Spanish) and their kind smiles: esperamos regressar pronto a su pais magnifico y incredible, and I keep your country and its people in my hearts. Muchas gracias tambien to the kind people we met along the way from other parts of the world (Italy, Bolivia, Germany, Spain), and to my darling travelling companeros y companeras, for the laughter, the song and dance shows, the gourmet meals and chocolate over camping stoves and for reflecting the wisdom and wealth of the multi-dimensional self; and to my teacher, Bhuvaneswari, whose guidance and vision goes beyond what is describable in words.