The Path To Bodhichitta

You start where you are, the practice will meet you there.

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Location: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Saturday, August 11, 2007


Great Wall Yoga

China has never held a tender place in my heart. So when I heard that I had to be in Beijing for business twice over a span of two weeks, I was dismayed. Then I received the itinerary. It turned out that the client had requested that the 2-day training program be conducted at our Jinshanling centre instead of in the city. Jinshanling is located at one of the various foots of the Great Wall. I had only been there once, years ago, but had never delivered a training program there or stayed there overnight. Thus, the first flame of intrigue was sparked.

12 hours after arriving in Beijing, we were trundling along the highway to Jinshanling. The participants were bouyant and I was relieved to leave the polluted cityscape far behind. Within an hour, the air lifted and colours came sharply into focus. Pressing my nose against the window, I could almost smell the crisp country air and the subtle drop in temperature. 3 hours later, 30 rumbling tummies were filled with a succulent barbecue spread. Sipping an ice cold Sprite, sitting under the stars in the courtyard of our training centre, I suddenly suspected that I would be liking this trip a lot more than I expected.

That night, we slipped into warm clothes, shrugged on backpacks ladened with sleeping bags, foam mats and pillows, and began the 20 minute trek up the Great Wall. Apart from the whispers and crunch of gravel underfoot, we were completely surrounded by the music of the night. And when the full moon slid out from beneath the clouds, we dutifully turned our flashlights off. We finally reached our bedroom - a part of the wall high up the mountain with a spectacular view all around. Slathering mosquito repellant on every exposed bit of skin, we unpacked our bags and made our beds. That night, under the golden glow of the moon, I slept like a baby.

Dawn came way too early, though! Light creeped beneath my sleepy lids at 4.30am, though I didn't need much encouragement to turn around and fall back to sleep. By 6.45am, we were ready to head down and stop at the best open area for a spot of yoga.

I decided to hold the class at the first open space. For one, it was still very high up the mountain which meant fresher air. Secondly, I didn't want the particpants to tire themselves out even before the class. The group unfurled their mats and sat down corss-legged, looking at me expectantly. Only two in the group had dabbled in yoga and this class was an impromptu surprise. It wasn't on the session plan for the training, but to my delight, it was heartily welcomed.

The class started with pranayama and moved on to the basic forward bends, balancing, backbends, side stretches and twists. The group was laughing at each other at the start, but halfway through, they quietened down and began paying attention to their bodies. As I padded down each row, gently making adjustments, my heart swelled. Here was a group of people who only met me yesterday but yet had their eyes closed in complete trust and their minds open in complete surrender. I looked at those who's fingers barely scraped over their knees in Paschimottanasana and those who were comfortably holding their feet, and I felt pleasure at both. As they fixed their gaze on the horizon during Vrkasana, I wondered if the view they were focusing on would be forever embedded in their minds. When the class finally ended 30 minutes later, I bowed to them and they recipocrated. A group of Chinese, for whom bowing must have been extremely alien, actually felt comfortable enough doing so.

Once again, I realised the power of yoga to transcend all boundaries - whether imagined or not. The night before, there was an invisible chasm between the participants and I due to language. After bending their bodies this way and that, the chasm had all but disappeared.

My fellow teachers exclaimed in envy over my Great Wall yoga class. But for me, the experience went deeper than the wall. It was about reaching out and connecting with strangers in the most amazing setting. To me, the Great Wall now has another reason for being one of the Wonders of The World.

2 Comments:

Blogger Melanie said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

2:20 AM  
Blogger Melanie said...

Tres bien!

2:22 AM  

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