There is a train that speeds past the front end of the Villa de Zoysa property in south western Sri Lanka several times over the day and night. Over the three occasions that I have stayed at Villa de Zoysa, each time for a two-week retreat, I have not ever worked out what the exact timetable of this train is. Of course there is one, but I must say that I have noted anything from a 10minute interval in the morning, to long stretches for hours and hours of silence over another morning.
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The neat and ordered black lines on the page of the novel I am reading bleed into one another. Fatigue draws my eyelids to shudder and then close, like a banged up 90’s Ford Escort attempting a hill start before silently rolling downhill. I am warm, comfortable and relaxed. The day has been full and my muscles feel that satisfying light ache of excursion. The room is quiet and uncluttered. It is a reasonable hour in the evening - perhaps 10pm. All the ingredients for a good night sleep are here with me. I switch off a bedside lamp and snuggle into my duvet. I pop in the earplugs I have come to trust for their utility and comfort.
When deciding on how to best spend my time, I often ask myself to isolate what my purpose is, with the intention to then set out tasks that are in line with this. Seemingly such a clear and obvious path, and yet, this often leads me to want to spend more time writing, reading, training in line with copy writing and editing. But then also yoga! Everything to do with sharing yoga. And painting! And artistic expression in general. But, then I think, wait, I studied my ass off for years for a PhD in History, so shouldn’t I be working on post-doc fellowships and research proposals …
One of the most luminous and profound commencement addresses I have ever seen was by Parker Palmer. Palmer was being awarded the first ever honorary degree at Naropa University in Colorado in 2015. Naropa was founded in 1974 by the Tibetan Buddhist teacher and Oxford alumnus Chogyam Trungpa. The university was intended to be an experiment in the synergy of contemporaryWestern scholarship methodologies and timeless tenets of Eastern wisdom. Palmer’s speech draws on a life of experience - he is in his mid-70s - and snatches of what can only be transcendent insight to layout his six pillars of meaningful human existence.