Peace over pressure

Posted on March 17, 2014

HDR BuddhaThis past weekend, I spent at KZN’s Buddhist Retreat Centre. A true gem, the BRC sits on a massive country estate, immersed in indigenous bush and forest and overlooking a giant lush green valley that can’t help but take your breath away. A towering Buddha sits quietly within the grounds, a Stupa marks the perfect spot for some peace and quiet, the Zen sand gardens and labyrinth, two further places to relax and reflect. On the grounds alone, are some gorgeous running and hiking trails… quintessential African red sand trails with views as far as the eye can see. I skipped meditation practise on the final morning and watched the sun rise from the most beautiful spot before treading the trails down, up and around before breakfast. Bliss!

My chosen retreat, titled “Classical Yoga & Meditation” delved into the relationship between asana (postures) and prana yama (breathing exercises), two of the eight limbs of yoga. Led by an incredible lady called Katrin Auf Der Hyde, I spent the duration feeling truly inspired by her complete mindfulness, engaging spirit and all-embracing warmth and energy. We enjoyed yoga practise, regular meditations and learnt practical techniques to deal better with the challenges we face in day-to-day life. Beyond the packed schedule of weekend retreats, you can visit mid-week, whenever you wish, for a few days self-retreat. This I fully intend to take advantage of!

The food at BRC is utterly divine and the recipes for all to enjoy with their two best-selling cookery books, Quiet Food and The Cake the Buddha Ate. A kitchen garden on site, grows organic vegetables and the most divine bread is served, soft, warm and fresh out of the oven.

The drive up was full of chatter, which turned out to be a stark contrast from the retreat being one spent in silence… something we learnt only on arrival! Silence turned out to be a total joy and I realise now that if chatting from morning till night, about your work, home, family, friends, lovers and others, how can you possibly be truly present and mindful of the current moment?

Katrin made it quite clear on the first night that being silent, shouldn’t be seen as some punitive measure… and this shift in mindset, lifted the challenge and difficulty for me. In fact, the silence proved to be a wonderful way to connect with others via different mediums. Being a wordsmith by trade, I tend to favour words over all else, but it was powerfully revealing to observe how much you can connect with others by a simple touch, smile or eye contact.

Needless to say, I’m sure, I was the only one who had a giant fit of uncontrollable giggles mid practise one day… I left the room, returned once calm, only to start right over again… such bouts of true laughter are complete soup for the soul!

Yoga, I have long believed works beautifully hand in hand with running. They share so many great metaphors for life. The asanas support our balance, co-ordination and physical strength as well as help us develop a strong mind, focus and determination. And meditation really is a miracle discovery for athletes; it helps us focus, cope with pain, deal with fear, strengthen our immune systems, reduce stress, stabalise emotions, discover our blind spots, amongst other benefits, many others! I’ve often found myself, during long runs up high in the Alps or the Himalayas, when you may go hours without speaking, that you can slow your mind right down and truly focus on your breath. You can shift into a sort of moving meditation and feel like you could continue forever.

I find it fascinating, how putting so much effort into quieting the mind, in reality, gives us so much insight. When I consider my own life, a constant flurry of excitement, to juggle multiple clients and causes, demands and deadlines, travels and adventures, running and relaxing, social engagements and whatever else, my monkey mind never stops. I never stop! Even my own personal meditation, is often interrupted by the ring of a call or a ping of a mail. So meditating a little more formally, guided and supported, was a truly marvelous opportunity to embrace.

Sometimes it takes great discipline to unplug, switch off, chill out and zone down. The irony of course, is that if we don’t do this every so often out of will, we’ll be forced to do it, somewhere down the line, out of necessity… and the latter will probably eat into our training, race and all-round life plans much more.

So the next time you feel it’s time to press pause for a moment, consider a visit to BRC. You will leave feeling renewed, refreshed, reinvigorated, replenished and ready… ready to get back into training, racing, life and living!

Have a wonderful week.


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