I just returned from Germany where we had our annual youth retreat entitled ‘The Festival of Inspiration’. The location was a remote part in the West of the country where we have a temple nestled in the countryside hills. It was extremely isolated. No signal on the mobile phone and internet connections were few and far between. For the city slickers who were brought up with the sounds of motorbikes, police sirens, TV’s, building works, and crowds of people, it was quite a culture shock. The first few days were refreshing, but thereafter I did start feeling a little out of place in such peaceful surroundings. Serenity and calmness forces one to reflect deeper – something we may neglect in our hectic city lives.
The past century has seen incredible technological and economic advancement. Consequently, most of the developed world now lives in a high-speed culture. These are the times of fast food, multi-tasking, conveniences for everything and instantaneous global communication. As soon as people rise, they are ‘on the move’ busily engaged in various activities.
While boarding the ferry back to London I reflected on this. As a hovercraft moves swiftly over water, only skimming the surface, our hurried lifestyles may be preventing us from deeply thinking about the decisions and directions we take in life. Despite the comforts and amenities around us, the anxiety, complexity and feelings of emptiness that many experience cannot be denied. It seems as though urban lifestyle is specifically designed to keep us busy and stop us from thinking too much. With so much focus on the externals of body and environment, are we forgetting to address the needs of the spiritual self? Stepping off the treadmill and regularly retreating to a far and distant place to get some perspective in life may not be a bad idea.