The first day, we were told that we had a 4 hour hike after a 4 hour van ride to get to our destination.
I was pretty confident that I could do the hike, I considered myself to be relatively fit, even despite the fact I hadn’t hiked more than a few hours in years.
So as we began the drive out, the roads were much more windy and treacherous than I could have imagined. The twists and turns were so sharp, the bus would have to honk before each turn to make sure there was no oncoming traffic. We passed the highest point on the drive, over 4,500 m or close to 15,000 feet and could really feel the altitude. As we descended I began to feel car sick. It fades in a few minutes. We go farther and farther with no more villages in sight.
Finally we arrive to the end of the road and the next challenge begins. We start to walk away from the small group of buildings where we stepped off the bus and out into the jungle. It gets steeper and steeper down the hill and our legs begin to tremble. After about two hours, the bottom of the ravine is still far off. It ends up taking close to 5 hours to reach the land where we will be staying for the next 2 weeks. We crossed a hanging foot bridge, the path was no more than 1 foot wide at most the whole way. I was depleted and worn out at the end of the hike. The coca leaves helped with the altitude but…
It was without a doubt the hardest hike of my life.
Little did I know that would be the easiest part of the whole 2 weeks.
Shortly after arriving, we were welcomed into a temple area. There was very little communicated to us and my questions started to flow. When was dinner? Where was my hut? Where was the shower? I bubbled with anger, impatience, and my indignant attitude felt totally justified. I HAD just hiked 5+ hours, didn’t I get a free pass?
I could simultaneously feel this attitude and also feel how it wasn’t serving me. It was actually making me suffer.
The next day we went straight into a sharing circle. Breakfast started on time, but the circle started late, with no information communicated again about the schedule of the day or when to expect our meals.
I thought this must be a fluke and we would be “on schedule” again soon, but as the day went on, I realized this was going to be my main lesson for the trip.
Being able to sit with myself no matter what came up and no matter what amount of information I had.
So I began to relax into this.
What I began to experience was that when my mind was simply present I was able to be in the moment without suffering. I was able to actually contribute to the people around me with my presence and to be contributed to as well.
By the end of the retreat, I didn’t need that knowing anymore. I was actually at ease.
But it quickly faded as I have integrated back into the world of schedules and calls and yoga classes for which you can’t be late.
It was a priceless glimpse though. The memory of this patience is there. It does show up from time to time, when I am less reactive with the kids, or able to wait more patiently in line at the store. Its the small changes that make a difference after all, I suppose.