Posted by: Sarah Lidsey | July 15, 2011

Traveling Meditations: The Nyika National Park

One of the joys of travel is discovering little recognized power spots.  The well trodden path can be awesome, but so can the remote and unsung corner.  One such place is the Nyika National Park, a huge tract of land in Malawi of around 3000 squ. km., situated at the southern end of Africa’s Great Rift Valley. Its borders are with Tanzania (in the North), Zambia (in the West) and Mozambique (in the East).  I traveled to the Nyika with friends to explore it on horseback. 

Having flown into Malawi’s Lelongwe airport, we changed to small charter planes, flying on for nearly 2hrs over the country’s heavily populated central area, to the relatively empty highlands of the North and the Nyika game reserve. The Nyika is an area that has never been effectively highlighted on the tourist radar, and as a result it has really only been visited by handfuls of hardy travelers a year, since the 1920s. Many of those come specifically to see rare migrating birds, like the Blue Swallow and the Wattled Crane. Today it feels untouched and pristine although it is under pressure from the surrounding communities who struggle to feed themselves as their population booms.  Some of them once lived within the Park’s boundaries but were forced to relocate as the vision of the National Parks to preserve this scenic area came into being.  There are few big game animals to be seen in the Nyika due to high levels of poaching and insufficient staff to tackle the problem. Elephant run scarred, and indeed there are only small herds scattered over the entire area. But the park is rich with beautiful herds of antelope, an obvious temptation as a food source for the local population.  In a single day’s riding we cleared four poacher’s snares at a remote, river-crossing. They had been camouflaged with such skill that one of our front riders nearly stepped through the wire and into the trap.

Led by David Foot, a skilled trained guide, eight of us set off, firstly on daily explorations from the comfortable lodge at Chelinda which overlooks a vast expanse of rolling plains stretching as far as the eye can see, interrupted only by the occasional large, low, rock formation.  Later we rode out for days, camping each night in remote valleys on our way to an area of this vast park that even David had not had the opportunity to visit for two years.  We carried all our possessions including our rubbish in and out of our campsites with us, so that the land remained as unsullied as we found it.  Our intention was to leave as little evidence as we could of our presence, so we washed in the rivers and cleaned all our dishes using only the pebbles and sand from the riverbeds that we camped beside.  The route itself was often impassible, over-grown with vines and tall grasses which our crew had to clear in order for us to continue.  They kept a sharp eye out for small seemingly innocuous streams which can cause fatal injuries to horses carrying weighty human loads. 

Our days were always exciting, and each one brought new adrenalin activating challenges.  One evening, arriving late in the area we were to camp after a grueling descent on foot down a steep escarpment, we surprised a small herd of elephant. We were up-wind of them, and it was our horses who first alerted us to their presence before the sound and movement that they made, as they foraged just feet away, reached us. What we didn’t immediately realize was that we were in a place close to the apex of two converging rivers, and that the elephant could not pass us without retreating past us along one line of this triangulated area.  It was a dangerous situation, one in which they might rightly have felt cornered.  We watched spell-bound, knowing that a fast exit would have been extremely difficult for us, as we could only go in one direction … backwards! … and it would not be easy or speedy as we’d ridden in through a tall, thick reed bed close to the river. Horses are very fearful of elephant, and ours looked at them with ears pricked, quivering from head to tail in alarm.  Our challenge was to keep them calm and static, and to be ready to react FAST if the elephant exhibited serious signs of charging.  It just worked….But only just!  A single young male elephant picked up our scent.  He raised his trunk to smell us, and spun in a dummy movement of threat, snorting, tossing his head and flapping his ears in a show of alarm.  As elephant have poor vision but an acute sense of hearing and smell, David flapped his arms in a grand gesture of movement and slapped his hands loudly on his thigh, to alert the herd.  Now realizing where we were, they moved off at the run, trumpeting as they went.  Fifteen elephant stormed by within feet of us, ears flat back and tails raised in classic signs of their alarm.  Meanwhile, I sat on a pirouetting terrified mare who wanted to run anywhere out of the vicinity herself.  It was a thrilling, exhilarating experience.  We all knew how privileged and lucky we were to see elephant in this area, and how rare it is have such a close encounter with them anywhere in Africa. 

Two years later I went back to The Nyika with the same group of friends, leaping at the chance to reconnect with this incredibly special place – a place that is so pure that one can be transported into another reality with consummate ease. David and his wife, Robyn, had announced that they were leaving the Nyika later that year, taking their horses with them on a long trek down from Malawi to Botswana.  Chelinda lodge was to be closed. The Parks had decided that they could no longer afford to run it.

This time we rode to other parts of the plateau, along different river valleys and into varied and equally beautiful lands.  We found areas of standing stones on high grounds that seemed to be charged with ceremonial gravity. We had new high adventures tracking elephant after a night of intense commotion close to our campsite in which our alarmed horses broke free from their temporary coral, sensing the presence of a herd nearby.  The next morning we followed the elephant’s tracks, this time stalking them and eventually losing them in dense old forest growth in a steep valley. 

On our last day we found a place of such profound potency that I was almost moved to tears by the connection I experienced at a huge and powerful natural portal, where creation frequencies stream unrestricted into the Earth.  I felt completely humbled by this enormous, relatively flat stone area, which I’ve come to think of as ‘The Anchor’.  It looked like the bow and body of an enormous ship riding the undulating waves of a great sea of billowing grasses and ferns.  You could say these were fanciful, intuitive thoughts, but I trust my senses, and I recognized in this place in Africa why the Great Rift Valley has the reputation of being the seat, the cradle of life on this planet. 

To those who are able to, traveling by horse can be a wonderful way to journey in a foreign land.  Of course, you have to like your horse and s/he you, but the potential for adventure and discovery is terrific. By traveling without engines, taking all the supplies you will need with you carried by pack mules, or traveling with the bare essentials in your saddle bags as we did, the feeling of the ancient and the sacred rise up in whispers from the silence, and harmony with the land comes naturally. 

Where my first impression of the interconnectedness of the Nyika Game Reserve had been one that expanded my senses and awoke me to the universal nature of this great tract of land, the second time I visited it was a sense of connecting to the heart of the world, in the heart of Africa – a land close to my heart – that was so overwhelming.  I felt the rhythm moving through the land, like a steady beat of creation, and felt how deeply this part of Africa was assisting in maintaining our equilibrium and evolution.  It is not just a place of isolated local power, in my opinion.  It is a place of great significance for all species, a place of connection and grounding from the center of the earth to the higher dimensions of existence held by creation. 

Traveling Meditation on Horseback

I find great companionship traveling and exploring on the back of a horse.  Sometimes riding is about adventure, dashing off, feeling the exhilaration of the wind and the ground tearing by underfoot.  At other times the pleasure is in settling into a place of deep contemplation at a rhythm and pace that allows really profound connections with the land.  A feeling of total synergy and oneness that brings out indescribable feelings of the joy of simply living! 

Before going out riding, I send out my prayers.  I spend a minute or so silently communing with my horse, saying hello and connecting personally.  I ask that my horse helps me to ground in a way that is just right for us both, so that we are in alignment with each other and the land we are to ride across.  Then once this connection is present and before I mount, I call in universal laws.  In every aspect of my life I invoke and engage the Universal Laws that inform and regulate life.  Apart from Spiritual Law itself – which is a major law that allows us to maintain the fluidity and sanctity of our energy field as well as a harmonious relationship between spirit and matter – the most important of these laws for me when riding, is the Law of the Land, so that both my horse and I can be in tune with the land that we pass through, and can interconnect in a way that serves, protects, and nurtures us both.  

I also generally ask that any and all leylines and other lines of magnetic frequency that are not healthy for either of us are sealed from us.  I do this by calling on the regional Devas who watch over the area I am in and I ask for their blessing and protection.  Even in the most sacred of places there can be portals and lines of potency connecting to lower distorted vibrational existence, running cheek by jowl with places of the purest highest nature.  In the Nyika we came across just such a spot in a small valley where there were a group of Hyena dens. I have absolutely nothing against hyena, in fact studying their behavior and family relationships is fascinating, but the pall hanging over the land at this place was like a dense cloud.  Death hung in the air, and vultures hopped around on the ground reinforcing the distorted frequencies that coated the small valley that housed their den.

Once you have called in the laws that inform your day – Love, Creation, Grace and/or many more – and the spiritual beings who you are asking to assist you that day – perhaps Devas, Angels, dimensional or inner planes guides, guardians of the land and the plant and animal kingdoms, your own guides and teachers – then you can bring your full attention to your experience knowing that you are being supported and blessed!

The Meditation

At various times during the day when the terrain or the temperature dictates, you may travel over some distance at a walk.  It will be obvious to you that you aren’t suddenly going to be surprised as your companions careen off.  They are probably all in ‘the zone’ too. Take advantage of these moments to meditate and contemplate!  The meditation that I share here is a wonderful for experiencing yourself at one with your surroundings while remaining fully aware, with your eyes OPEN!! 

Drop into a place of silence.  Allow your horse to fall into its natural cadence.  Be sure that you aren’t ‘working’ in any way, and let go of all impulse to be controlling.  Allow your body to move easily, letting go of any stiffness or holding.  Become aware of the rhythm as you walk and tune into it. 

Take in the beauty of your surroundings.  If you get distracted by your thoughts, just notice what is around you and come back to the moment.

Connect with the feeling of gratitude.  If you are not already feeling it, take in the awesome qualities of your surroundings and allow gratitude for your good fortune to emerge.  As you feel gratitude notice how your heart opens. 

Notice how your internal rhythms synchronize with the rhythm of your horse, and the rhythm of the land itself.  Become aware of the Elements as they affect the land you are riding on, and activate your senses more deeply.  Listen to the sound of your horse’s hooves as they connect with the ground, and brush through any grasses or sink into the earth, and let this deepen your internal sense of the rhythm of the land.  If there is a wind, notice how the grasses are moving around you and appreciate their rhythm too.  If there is sunlight or clouds racing across the skies, notice how their light plays on the landscape around you.  If there are birds calling listen to the sounds of their song.  Look at the entire landscape and how it naturally forms a container for all of this, and for you.

Feel the Joy of living. Let your heart energies flow out into the world nourishing yourself and your surroundings.  Notice how connectedness brings forward natural feelings of harmony within you and towards everything around you.  Notice how an inner silence emerges.  Let the silence radiate out from your heart center to include your entire body, your horse, and all the land around you.

You and your horse are united by rhythm and movement, joy, contentment, and by your gratitude.  Even as you move away from the conscious aspect of this meditation, allow this state to continue with you as your day progresses. 

For some more information on Spiritual Law, read my posting Traveling Meditation: The Indian Ocean, May 2011.

For information about riding, walking and birdwatching safaris in East Africa with David Foot, email davidandrobynfoot@gmail.com.

©2011 Sarah Lidsey. All rights reserved. www.sarahlidsey.com


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