Monday, 13 February 2017

A Zen Walk in the Golden Mountain

It was supposed to be a nostalgia trip but it ended in a wonderful zen walk. It was completely unexpected, so that made it even more enjoyable.

This post is about a walk in a forest and my understanding of a "Zen Walk".

If you are visiting the tiny but charming city of Schio, about 30 kms from the better known Vicenza in the north-east of Italy, you might want to visit this wonderful forest around the hills known as "Monti D'Oro" or the Golden Mountains!

Zen Walks

For me, a "Zen Walk" means a walk where I am focusing on where I am going and what surrounds me. From personal experience, I can say that a good zen walk can take you to a state of meditative bliss, it decreases your stress and makes you feel refreshed.

Normally when we walk, we are often lost in our thoughts, thinking or talking about other things and not really looking around us. On the other hand, the zen walks are characterized by mindfulness. However, it is difficult to ensure intense focus on something for a long period. Thus, it is important after some time, to change the objects of your attention.

Personally I find photography with a zoom lens, as a useful tool to help me focus on specific things in the surroundings. However, just clicking random pictures left and right, without stopping to focus on and think about, can become a distraction.

I hope that by looking at some of the images from this walk shown below, you can get a sense of what I mean by "mindfulness".

Discovering the forest of Golden Mountain

In Italy our home is in the tiny Alpine town of Schio, under the shadow of the imposing Pasubio mountain. A few km from our house is the tiny suburb of Torre Bel Vicino, where my wife used to go as a child to her maternal grandparents' home.

On one summer day we went to visit Torre Bel Vicino. After visiting that old town and listening to her childhood stories, I suggested that we should look for some place for lunch.

"Let's go to Trotta. As a child, I used to go there for eating out with my father", my wife suggested. That restaurant was famous for their "trotta" (trout) fish.

So we crossed the bridge over Leogra river and then took the Rillaro road. From here a narrow road goes up in the mountain-valley. We went up this road, with a mountain stream on our left side and an occasional mountain house. We reached the end of this road but didn't find the "Trotta" restaurant.

The road ended at a small group of houses called Carolla. Beyond, we could see a path going along the hill. A tiny board informed that this was a bio-geological reserve area. Even though we were hungry, we decided to take a short walk along that path.

It was really quiet in the forest and we did not see any other person. With a tiny mountain stream running along the path, creating small waterfalls at every 5-10 meters, the only sound we could hear was of the running water.

As we ventured inside the forest, I was struck by the quantity of bright green moss, almost phosphorescent, on the rocks all around. This meant that there was a lot of humidity in the area, almost like in a tropical forest though we were in a temperate mountain zone. According to my wife, every time it rains upstream in the mountains, the tiny mountain stream running through the forest becomes a thundering torrent and thus the rocks get wet.

I felt as if we were in some magical place, the only human beings alive in an abandoned world.

The Zen Meditations

I want to share with you four images that represent the "Zen-ness" of this walk. Even now, many months after that walk, observing the details of these pictures brings back the feeling of joy and calmness, I had experienced during this walk.

(1) The sight of dead and decaying leaves floating on the still water: it made me think of the circle of life that goes on, passing through the trinity of creation, growth and destruction symbolized by the figures of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva in the Indian mythology. At a more ecological level, it must have had a distinct bio-sphere with hundreds of life-forms that grew and lived in this place.

(2) The play of light and shadows, accompanied by the gentle sounds of the leaves moving in the breeze, insects buzzing around and the rich smells of the humid earth, flowers and leaves: It was like an intoxicating poem written by the wind and sun on the trees. It was as if the whole forest was alive, whispering to me.

(3) The gentle sound of water as it flowed around and carved the stones into round smooth pebbles: It was mesmerizing. It made me think about the briefness of life - nothing was static, everything moved and changed with the flow of the water, creases opening and closing on its silky surface. It also made me think about the continuity of life with those rocks that were gently caressed and shaped, their jagged edges smoothed over periods of years if not centuries or millenniums.

(4) Everything seemed so rich in colours and details: The different hues of the flowers, the blood red berries shining like red beacons, different shades of the moss, the diverse textures and colours of rocks telling stories about rivers and torrents that could arise suddenly - there was so much to look at.

For example, just look at the leaf fallen down over the rocks and observe the shapes and colours it carries. I can see pigs, flying eagles, standing bears and so much more in those shapes.


It was a short walk in the forest, but I loved it. I am curious about going back to explore "our moss forest", as I have started calling it. It is a protected nature-park and does not have many visitors, so it is particularly suitable for zen walks.

And I also want to explore the mountain stream better. Perhaps in the next spring, the forest will be different. I can't wait to find out!


1 comment:

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