I am writing this having just braved a swaying footbridge high across the River Ganges. The term ‘foot’ bridge is clearly a loose one as I have dodged cows, monkeys, motor bikes and a sea of people to get across.
Thankfully I escaped two rutting bulls that created mayhem the day before.
I am in Rishikesh, India, which is billed as the yoga capital of the world. It became famous in the West in 1968 when the Beatles made a much-publicised visit to the ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi after denouncing drugs in favour of Transcendental Meditation (TM).
Sir Paul McCartney is still practising TM today.
As it is my 11th trip to India I have been able to cope with the seeming lack of order pretty well.
Rishikesh is rather special. It is revered as spiritual by Indians who visit to bathe in the Ganges.
Nestling in the foothills of the Himalayas, near to the river’s source, the waters are clear, turquoise blue and full of fish.
I went white water rafting and saw chunks of glacial ice floating by.
This place is full of contrasts.
The noise never stops, yet by the river and in ashrams you find places of stillness, where people sit for hours.
Even where there is mayhem — such as on the seven-hour car journey I endured from Delhi that included an extended game of chicken on a single-track road by a river, full of amorous monkeys, cows, hay carts, motorbikes and cars — people remain upbeat; relaxed even.
How can this be?
Five minutes of that traffic in Newark and tempers may start to fray.
The answer is relatively simple. It is all to do with quieting the busy mind.
From personal experience, and as a therapist, I can confirm that most people never have much stillness in their minds.
They are a whirligig of worry that they cannot calm, even at night in order to sleep.
It is exhausting.
I saw Ruby Wax at the Palace Theatre, Newark, in her Frazzled show and she recalled how she sat on a beach, watching the total eclipse of the sun and all she was thinking about was how the White Company had delivered the wrong size duvet to her home.
She missed the moment.
During my visit to India I learned these nuggets of wisdom from a guru, a middle-aged woman from America.
She said: “I’m perceptive because I’m not thinking.”
Her advice is to stop identifying yourself with your thoughts. Acknowledge them and then let them go.
Instead of living in a terrible place of worry and judgment inside your head, get out and be absorbed in the utter wonder of nature and life.
There are many ways to learn mindfulness and they start with the breath and being present, so you can start that now.
Any time your thoughts start to run your life, just stop and square breathe by breathing in for three counts, holding for three counts, breathe out for three counts and hold again for three counts, drawing an imaginary square with your breath.
As you breathe in you can say to yourself “let” and, as you breathe out, say “go.”
Focus on something directly in front of you, be it a pen, a poster, a painting, a tree.
Look at it with a curiosity you have not had before and then after about three minutes return to whatever you were doing.
Do this three times a day and see how much more relaxed you feel.
Rosalyn Palmer is a rapid transformational therapist, clinical hypnotherapist, certified weight-loss practitioner and coach. She is a member of the General Hypnotherapy Register and National Council of Psychotherapists with practices in Newark and London. For more information go to rosalynpalmerhypno.com
Photograph: Ursula Kelly Photography & Video