My Ground Truth

Psychologist | Military-Grade Mindfulness Trainer & Coach | Carsten J. Grimm

What You Find When Not Looking

Up on the Hill

Samaipata was a bit of an oasis of truth for travellers like me who were seeking but weren't too sure exactly what for. In the town at the time was an Austrian gestalt psychologist who ran a Tai Chi school and would take numerology readings on the side if you were really curious. The crew I was hanging with all had readings done and we would discuss and debate the findings at night after Tai Chi class over good salads and good company.

Outside of town Sukhiwat Dharma Centre was a small organically run farm and retreat set in the highlands of Samaipata, in the exact same countryside as what Che Guevara would have used to hide out in when he was nursing his revolutionary ideas. We heard about it by word of mouth around town and decided to walk up there one day, into the hills, and see if we could find the monk who ran the place and if we could convince him to let us stay for a while. 

We found the small thatched community of huts, perched sleepily on the side of some rolling hills, and knocked on the door of one of them, nobody having any clue what to expect or what we might find. And that's where we met Da-Dennis, the one-legged ex-Buddhist monk, who opened the door to us in his peering kind of way with his eyesight going, and calmly answered the knock, "Yes?". 

Seven of us arranged to stay with Da for an undetermined length of time. We would rise early to meditate in the dark, and afterward Da would have us write and reflect on our experiences and what we noticed. Food was spartan, potatoes, salad, and we would help around the farm in the afternoons mending mud walls, or harvesting sourgum, in between meditation sittings, and noticing, noticing, noticing. 

Gradually our number dwindled to just a couple-of-us left on the farm. Some had had enough after one week and found the silence too defeaning. One day I followed Da out on his crutches as he hobbled over to fix an irrigation pipe that had blocked and in a small-talk kind of way I offered to him about something that "ah well Da, everything happens for a reason." And at that he stopped his hobbling, turned to face me only inches away from my face so his eyes could focus, and expressionless he bore into me with; "nothing happens for a reason." And then turned to move quietly away, with my view of the world shattered, but with new unexplored rooms opened up in my mind for the very first time.    

It is hard to leave Sukhiwat Dharma Centre sunrises and solitude, after just a-few-weeks stillness it becomes difficult enough riding down off the hill into the ‘rush’ of Samaipata village to pick-up groceries but after a while it became time to get back on the road. Leaving Da-Dennis and all his rambling-gems-of-teachings is emotional but it comes time to sow what we learned in the safe solitude of the mountains into the busy reality of everyday. Reunion dinner with the original-crew back in the village is last supper and next morning I am up sunrise-early and saddled, anxious and eager, ready and not, for Bolivia Phase Two.

Me with my teacher Da-Dennis, Sukhiwat Dharma Centre, Samaipata, May-June 2010 - cjG.

Me with my teacher Da-Dennis, Sukhiwat Dharma Centre, Samaipata, May-June 2010 - cjG.