The sweet solace of nature

The sweet solace of nature

How yoga teacher and retreat owner Vidya Heisel found joy in nature during the isolation of lockdown

The immense beauty of spring and summer here at Suryalila Retreat Centre in southern Spain, fills my heart with joy.

An abundance of wild-flowers and swallows swooping in great arcs around the property and my spirit is delighted.

We have been fortunate to have had so much land to enjoy during all the lockdowns. Over the last 10 years, we have planted around 7,000 trees and they continue to reach for the sun, gaining height and fullness, embellishing the land that was quite barren when we first arrived. A wild, native forest is patiently coming to life.

During the lockdown, we put the finishing touches on a beautiful new meditation garden named The Garden of Stillness and I love to sit there and drink in the expansive vistas.

The sense of spaciousness and vast horizons has allowed me to feel free and at peace, despite the trouble that has tormented the planet this past year and a half.

This spring, a giant cactus flowered, projecting a huge stem of flowers that shot out from its heart and resembled a brontosaurus's neck. When I looked it up, I discovered that this cactus only flowers once, usually after 40 years, and then it dies! A magnificent explosion of beauty before returning to the earth. I felt blessed to bear witness to this rare and magical last hoorah!

During the lockdown last spring, when leaving the property was not permitted, our head chef created a surprise; a one-night, pop-up bar and restaurant, which she called ‘The Secret Squirrel Café’. It was created al fresco in a hidden valley on our property, where most of the staff had never ventured. Furniture was improvised using wooden pallets and tree stumps and lanterns were strung from the trees. When we arrived, we were handed menus by the young daughter of one of our staff and were invited to order wonderful exotic cocktails and dance the night away, under a canopy of stars. It was such a lovely and unforgettable evening, in a time when restaurants were closed and gathering forbidden.

The sweet solace of nature
The sweet solace of nature

My other solace came in the form of cold water therapy. When we were permitted to go out for walks, I would always head to the nearby wild river Majaceite, that is a wonderful local beauty attraction boasting a myriad of waterfalls and swimming holes as it winds between the picturesque white towns of El Bosque and Benamahoma.

The water is rushing down from the high mountains of the Sierra de Grazalema and is icy cold and clear. I love to imagine that this magical body of water is my own sacred Ganges and that when I bathe in it, I cleanse away all the troubles of the world.

During springtime, my only sadness has been the unfulfilled desire to share this beauty with others.

We humans love to run inside and call someone to share the fiery sky at sunset with, or to coo together at some newly-born chicks or alpaca babies. And whilst we have had staff living here throughout the pandemic, I miss having visitors and guests here to share all this abundance and beauty.

I have been restoring this land for the sake of the planet, but also for the enjoyment of the many people passing through, and I long to see their contented smiles and the tension melting from their shoulders, as they practice yoga and bathe in all of this beauty.

I have a recipe for happiness, which includes eating healthy vegetarian food, practicing yoga 3-4 times per week, meditating at least for 20 minutes or more per day and walking in nature quietly for a minimum of half an hour per day. Having two dogs helps me always remember to walk, no matter how lazy I am feeling, and, after walking, I always feel clear-headed and uplifted.

I worship nature as a manifestation of the divine, which is in all of us. Every breathtaking, perfectly-formed wildflower, every birdsong, rainbow, cloud formation, and magnificent sunset reminds us to keep our hearts open to the present moment and let in the miracle and wonder of life. When we do this, we cease to worry, knowing that life is fundamentally and intrinsically positive and in the end nature will always prevail.

The sweet solace of nature

Vidya Heisel is director of Suryalila Retreat Centre and Frog Lotus Yoga International. Visit:

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