Tales from the Trails - The Walk­ing Monk

A well­ness col­umn by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holis­tic healer and a mind­ful life en­thu­si­ast!

Tillsonburg News - - OPINION - Kelly Spencer

A high school friend that I re­cently re­con­nected with on so­cial me­dia asked if I would ever be in­ter­ested in host­ing an event with one of his teach­ers, ‘The Walk­ing Monk.’

The ti­tle of the man had me in­trigued to say the least. His name, Bhak­ti­marga Swami, was a given de­vo­tional name when he en­tered his monk call­ing.

Prior to be­com­ing a monk, he did chores on the fam­ily farm in Chatham, On­tario, lived a ‘party life’ and was a col­lege stu­dent of Fine Arts. He took to a monk’s life in 1973 as a youth­ful 20-yearold young man.

The Walk­ing Monk first stepped onto the trails as a marathon walker in 1996 to hon­our the cen­ten­nial year of his guru for pil­grim­age and con­nec­tion to the Di­vine through na­ture. Since, he has walked across Canada four times and ad­ven­tured abroad walk­ing the lands of Ire­land, Poland, Ivory Coast, Figi, Trinidad and Is­rael. Last year he trav­elled the USA and this sum­mer he com­pleted a walk from NYC to San Fran­cisco and hopes to walk the Camino de Cam­pastella in Spain. As well he would love to do the en­tire Bruce Trail in South­ern On­tario.

Ad­mit­tedly, I didn’t know much about monks and why some­one would de­vote over 20 years to walk­ing the Earth solo, but I sure was ex­cited to find out.

Prior to host­ing this event, I sent him some ques­tions to see just what made this man tick. My first ques­tion: Why be­come a monk at 20 years old? His re­sponse, quite sim­ple, was “to seek higher con­scious­ness and to pur­sue a sim­pler, yet deeper way of life.”

Well that res­onated with me. With stress be­ing one of the largest forces of un­health or un­hap­pi­ness, sim­pler makes sense. I am a lover of trav­el­ling the globe so I was nat­u­rally in­trigued how he had been trav­el­ling for two decades, as it was my un­der­stand­ing monks don’t have an in­come source.

“I’m quite ac­cus­tomed to camp­ing out, how­ever in the US, many have opened up their mo­tel rooms and homes. Events are of­ten spon­sored and peo­ple may of­fer do­na­tions,” he replied.

Just cel­e­brat­ing his 65th birth­day, I ques­tioned him why he con­tin­ued this jour­ney and if he found it lonely to be sin­gle, celi­bate and walk­ing the world on his own.

“I’m an ad­dict. Walk­ing is nat­u­ral. Ther­a­peu­tic. It gives you the time to dream, plan, and process. There are peo­ple who join me on the walk from time to time. I have a sup­port guy that trav­els with me but it never gets lonely on the road when you re­al­ize that there’s a wit­ness in your heart. There’s also al­ways peo­ple com­ing for­ward to in­ter­act with you. Some­one to of­fer a ride (which I don’t take) or food. Walk­ing is fun, and so when you have fun you’re not lonely. You are shar­ing the road with mil­lions of peo­ple. There’s a lot of mo­torists out there, and some days I’m wav­ing at peo­ple like crazy.”

I asked him to share one of his fa­vorite or pro­found jour­ney sto­ries from his trails.

“One morn­ing I prayed to see a bear, and the great Cre­ator re­sponded al­most im­me­di­ately. It was a griz­zly, and he was big, and I was walk­ing with my sup­port guy, and the bear be­came clearly in­ter­ested in us. The road was lonely, no peo­ple around. Shout­ing wouldn’t help, so we said mantras of pro­tec­tion. Fi­nally, a mas­sive truck came and scared the bear away.”

(Be care­ful what you wish for, is com­ing to my mind.)

Re­cently the Swami came to Till­son­burg and I fi­nally got to meet him. He is playful, whim­si­cal and cheer­ful. He jokes a lot, and shares when on the road in his or­ange Monk robe he has been called many things - from a prison es­capee to mov­ing py­lon, to a Kevin Spacey monk. (He to­tally looks like Kevin Spacey.)

When asked at our meet-the-monk event to speak about one of his most pro­found spir­i­tual ex­pe­ri­ences, he shared the bliss and sim­plic­ity of walk­ing in a for­est and of the un­com­pli­cated yet pro­found beauty of the colors of the leaves and crea­tures and cre­ation, all around him.

He was asked if he walks the world to share his re­li­gious points of view. He smiled and replied no. He ba­si­cally de­scribed how I feel: That at the base of all re­li­gions is the spirit of good­ness, kind­ness, com­pas­sion and love for one and an­other and that it is in the spir­i­tu­al­ity that all of cre­ation is con­nected. Swami told a story of a young ‘Bob Mar­ley’ look­ing Rasta­far­ian man, who he en­joyed walk­ing the roads with for some time.

“I just like con­nect­ing to na­ture and to peo­ple and pro­mot­ing a greener way to live, through walk­ing.”

His an­swers were sim­ple, hon­est and can­did and al­though I wasn’t about to be­come a monk (can women even be­come monks any­ways?), I did take away from my brief en­coun­ters with this man, that keep­ing life sim­ple, holds great value.

“Life is re­ally sim­ple, but we in­sist on mak­ing it com­pli­cated.” - Con­fu­cius.

I started to think more of how non-walk­ing-monk-folks can cre­ate sim­pler, health­ier, less stressed and hap­pier lives. Here is my sim­ple short list:

1. Ap­pre­ci­ate na­ture and its beauty more.

2. Chill out: un­plug and go for a walk.

3. Be kind, com­pas­sion­ate and lov­ing to ev­ery­thing.

4. De-clut­ter: home, mind and so on.

5. Clar­ity: know what is im­por­tant in your life?

6. Mind­ful­ness: savour each mo­ment.

7. Grat­i­tude: ap­pre­ci­ate your bless­ings.

8. Give: how do you make the world a bet­ter place?

9. Peo­ple, places, things: do they ex­pand you?

10. Joy: find ways to feel good and be playful.

11. Set high in­ten­tions with low at­tach­ments.

If you would like to see an ar­ti­cle on a spe­cific topic, please email kelly@in­digolounge.ca.

Con­trib­uted photo

Kelly Spencer (left) with Bhak­ti­marga Swami, 'The Walk­ing Monk.'

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