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This weekend I was privileged enough to stay at Samye Ling a Buddhist monastery in a remote Scottish village. I’ve been there many times before but each time I see something new and different. This weekend I was there attending a Compassion in Action retreat organised by the Mindfulness Association.

The monastery is set in a beautiful landscape of quiet and stillness. A river runs along the back creating a natural barrier between this peaceful sanctuary and the outside world.

On the first morning I got up in time to take a mindful walk along the river, it helps to ground me in preparation for the day of teaching. Silence is practiced after 10pm every evening until after our first tea break, breakfast is taken in silence. You can tell who the newbies are because they say good morning or look uneasy at not talking. Silence is part of my daily routine it no longer phases me, so I continue my walk in silence.

The Mindful Walk

As I walk along the river I see a statue of a man practicing mindfulness, he is so still that it takes me a while to work out what it is. I don’t want to disturb him so I decide to stand still and watch the river flow. I listen to it, feel it and watch what it has to teach me, right there in that moment.

It flows naturally, it knows how to just flow with little effort. However when it hits the bed full of rocks it’s flow is disturbed. It pushes on, finding a way either over the rock, around the rock or even under it but it persists until it finds a way through.

The river doesn’t stop flowing, it continues to flow through the disturbance and when it finds another rocky bed it does exactly the same.

And once it gets through the rough, rocky patch it flows gently again. It’s calm, flowing without questioning the destination or even judging what it went through, it just flows.

Looking ahead I notice two things:

The Crossroads

I see a point where the river meets a stream. The stream rushes downhill, charging to meet the calmer settled river below. And when the two hit there is turmoil. The two directions of flow meeting, the stream wanting to find it’s space in the river and the battle goes on until the stream settles into the flow of the river.

There is no other choice really, the stream has to become part of the river for the flow to continue and while it’s battles at the crossroads, going left and right, eventually it finds it’s way. It passes and settles.

The Bend in the River

My attention goes to the bend in the river further down. I can’t see past this point, there’s no evidence that the river continues further than my eyes can see. I’m assuming it does but that’s just my perception. Nevertheless, the river continues to flow.

It doesn’t stop flowing because it can’t see what might be around the corner nor does it hesitate in fear of what might be, it gently flows with complete trust and meets it’s destiny.

I see the similarity between this river and my life, I’m guessing it’s the same for most of us?