The Dharma Dynamics Online Programme
Walking my talk
I was feeling the need for a reboot and a recharge. It was the end of a few busy months of meetings, consultations, writing and workshops. I thought it was time, but things got busier. “I can’t stop now,” I said to my wife and partner Lalita. She gave me a look that told me I should know better. “What about your Dharma principles?” she challenged. “Are you following the Dharma principle of effortless effort? Wouldn’t a break help you refocus? You sometimes tell me that I have to ‘stop in order to go again’. What about you?”
“It looks like you have a good grasp of the Dharma principles,” I replied, swallowing a taste of my own medicine. We had just started to talk about where to go and for how long, when my old friend Brajanath called to invite me to a 10-day retreat in the mountains of southern Switzerland, near Locarno. It was being held at Ananda Dhama, a sanctuary dedicated to meditation, chanting, reflection and prayer. Lalita and I looked at each other, recognised the synchronicity and agreed to leave in a weeks’ time.
Little did I realise how much the journey and the experience would be themed by the Dharma principle of Effort. We landed at Zurich and drove south 200km the following morning, passing through the Gotthard tunnel and arriving at the base of the mountain where we were to meet a helicopter that would ferry our luggage, and maybe us, up the 800-meter ascent to Ananda Dhama. We met other ‘pilgrims’ at the ready with hiking boots, hats and walking sticks and getting in the mood I decided to join them on foot — after it stopped raining that is.
The eight of us began a four-mile climb in which I was always the slowest. The views and beautiful pristine nature offered respite and purpose to what would take us up 14,000 steep steps that burned off 2,400 calories (courtesy of my Fitbit).
The climb proved a useful meditation to prepare us for our arrival at the idyllic retreat. Every step helped to clear my mind of its useless chatter and helped me to focus on deeper thoughts and feelings. It seemed that the exertion of each step took me closer to what matters most within myself. It was as if nature spoke to me through bird song, slippery rocks, rushing waterfalls, roots and foliage and weather that changed from sunlit dappled forest floors to sudden but brief downpours. Everything had a symbolic voice that echoed something in me, making me aware of my soul’s need to connect in love with the divine.
It wasn’t an easy journey up that mountain. At different points I doubted whether I would have walked it, had I known how difficult it was. When I arrived at the top, I knew I would do it again if I could. As the wooden sign marking the entrance to Ananda Dhama came into view, it became clear to me that with effort we shed what is unwanted in us. With such effort we arrive at the gates of self-discovery, lighter, perhaps purer, but certainly more open to what is possible within us.
I am glad I chose to take the hard route up the mountain. I learned a lot in the process. It readied me for going further into myself and the 10 days of reflection and sharing that followed. As I lay on my bed that evening, feet sore, tired but elated, I appreciated the value of effort and its power to transform.
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“Being well. Doing well.”
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