The Misty Road to Refuge

Törbel, Wallis

It’s been a whole year and my broken heart still hasn’t been healed. Stubbornness, sometimes can be one of my personality traits. When running out of ways, the only thing I could think of was go on the spiritual path.

It was misty the whole time up in the mountains, where a meditation retreat was organised. The theme was “refuge in Buddha, Dharma and Sangha”. I wasn’t familiar with Buddhism nor meditation. But my hopeless heart brought me there.

The venue was located in a small ancient village with about 500 inhabitants. A church, a cemetery and a temple shared the same piece of land, so harmoniously.

Our accommodation was in a several-storey building next to the temple. It was simple and humble but had everything that we needed. Three vegetarian meals a day and tea and coffee were provided in the canteen. Again, simple and humble but it was everything that we needed. We had 8 sessions and during the breaks we could enjoy reading in the library or take a walk outside.

On the first morning before waking up I was very surprised to meet an old schoolmate / friend in my dreams. I dreamed of myself walking through some high waste water to look for something. After fetching it I went to a fountain to rinse my legs. When I looked up I caught a sight of Kai, passing in a narrow lane. “Did I see it right?” I thought to myself. “It’s been ages since I have last time seen him.”

I dried my legs and went somewhere else. Then suddenly he appeared in front of my eyes! Kai! Yes, it was Kai! My old dear friend from the university. We had got along so well and at one point we even joked that we would marry each other if we would still be single at 30. He was smiling at me and looked radiant. I smiled back and walked towards him. Before I could say “hello”, he first said to me:”Have you seen my wife?”

“Oh right!” I thought to myself, “He is married. He didn’t wait until we would turn 30. But look at him, he must be happily married.”

I hadn’t seen his wife. Before I could answer him, my alarm clock pulled me back to the reality. I saw my dear Kai again, although it was brief in a dream. My heart was delighted.

But I have never met his wife. About 6 years ago in a morning when I woke up in my Zurich apartment I received a text message from her, informing me that Kai had passed away due to cancer. She told me that Kai had told her a lot about me and when he was suffering from cancer, he didn’t want to let me know. She also said that in Kai’s last words he hoped that I would become less stubborn and capricious. I remember during my last communiation with Kai (now I know he was actually coping with the chemo at the time!) he said to me his wife was the most wonderful person in the world. Yes, now I know why he didn’t wait until we turned 30.

I’m just a little spoiled child, naive and playful, always wishing to be carefree, still on my way to grow into an adult. But I know, my inner child is wounded, always wanting to find protection and healing. Therefore, here I was, in the refuge to Buddha. And meeting Kai in my dreams seemed to be the confirmation I needed.

The first morning started with the precept of no speaking at 7am. That was the time our breakfast started as well. I somehow was very excited about this entirely new experience, therefore, I greeted everyone I saw in the canteen in three languages: “Good morning! Bonjour! Guten Morgen! ” (as I wasn’t sure who could speak which language)

No one answered. Then I realised: no speaking. Awkward. But Buddha would understand, obviously.

Sitting like a buddha wasn’t easy for me, either. But time went by swiftly. Outside the temple it had become foggy. My eyes were completely misty when I arrived and I took up 3 merit jobs to keep my mind busy. At the end of the last session, I was able to smile again.

According to Buddhism, the only way to be liberated from suffering is to renounce.

When leaving the temple, the sun broke through the clouds and brushed the valley with a golden touch. My heart found its temporary ease.

Renunciation. That was the answer I had been looking for, perhaps. My spiritual journey has just begun.

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