The great thing about me keeping bees is that my apiary is in the beautiful Cheshire countryside. It means that I get away from the city. I don’t entirely hate cities, and apparently the particular part of Manchester where I live is supposed to be very desirable, don’t you know. However, the fact remains that I live on a busy road in a very crowded place. At 3pm on weekdays my driveway becomes a parking space for parents collecting their offspring from the nearby school, whether I agree to that or not, and the sounds of police sirens, aeroplanes and the heavy bass from a passing car radio form the soundscape of my world. So yes, driving out to a peaceful field with horses nearby, and birds, and the occasional low rumble from a farmer’s tractor is a very welcome escape.
I did not realise until I actually had bees just how meditative the experience of inspecting a colony can be. To some, the idea of poking around in a box of 40,000 flying stinging insects may not sound like the most relaxing of pursuits, but don’t knock it until you try it. I just get lost in the wonder of the hive. The smell is amazing and the combs of perfect hexagonal wax cells are hypnotic. Each cell has a purpose, which could be to store pollen or nectar, or to house the developing larvae of future worker bees. The whole system evolves over the season and to the experienced eye it is easy to spot how well the colony is doing by checking the activity at the hive entrance and glancing at a few frames from the brood nest.
But wait, we are in November, and popping the lid off a bee hive now would do nothing but harm to them, letting out precious warmth and no doubt prompting an angry reaction. In fact, there isn’t any reason for me to inspect a bee hive until around March. How am I to get my peace of mind and escape from the city?
For this walrus the answer is regular attendance at the local gym followed by meditation. I have found that the kind of meditation I prefer is the lazy kind – the one where you put on your Dr Dre Beats headphones and listen to a soothing voice – otherwise known as guided meditation. I just lay there with my eyes closed and follow the magic soothing voice, which takes me through some relaxation exercises before lifting me to imaginary worlds, sometimes in the ocean with dolphins or whales, sometimes in jungles or deserts or mountains, and sometimes high up in the sky, soaring like an eagle with wings of thought. Imagine that, a flying walrus. Invariably at some point I start snoring, which means that I got a little too relaxed, but for some of the time I like to think that I was meditating, not just having a nap.
There are many different forms of meditation so there should be something to suit everyone. Last April, Mrs Walrus and I spent a lovely week in Andalusia at a beautiful place called Finca el Moro, and we tried out a yoga class where they did the “chanting” type of meditation. That seemed to work for me too, although I didn’t quite get the hang of the chanting, not being familiar with the Sanskrit language, so I just listened, and let the vibrations from the others’ chants go through me. If you want a relaxing holiday surrounded by nature then you could do a lot worse than pay the owners, Nick and Hermione, a visit.
I have recently been reading “The Blue Zones” books by Dan Buettner, which look at and study communities in the world where the people are measurably happier and/or longer lived than the rest of us. The research clearly shows that meditation has huge benefits. Another of my bedtime reading books, “Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers” by Tim Ferris is made up of interviews with a diverse group of high achievers, and over 80% of them have some form of mindfulness or meditation practice. So there you have it; if it’s what the happiest people, the longest lived people and the highest achieving people do, then it’s what I should be doing too, at least until I can inspect my bees again.