Volunteering – Hiking and meditation and some work

  • Post category:Travel / Volunteering
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View outside the meditation house
View just outside the house. Winter was still here!

I did some volunteering at places, where I was more or less alone. It was a wonderful experience at all the places so far. For a change, I thought to find some place to volunteer where there are more people to interact with. People in general on the receiving side and also volunteering along with me. Another thought was to be in the Alps on the Italian side. I have been on the swiss side of these snow covered mountains. I thought why not feel these mountains on the other side. Mixed with those feeling, I searched for some projects/places. To my luck I found a meditation community, right in the mountains. After few exchanges, I got the confirmation that I can come and stay as long as I would like. I was not sure how being and working with different people would be. But I was sure that any hike in the mountains would be a beautiful experience. And so, when the time came, I packed my
bags, bought the ticket and took the train to feel the earth, paths and air of mountains.

Place

Old shelters on old paths
An old shelter house only a short walk from the house

As the train left the mainland and hills start to appear, the weather and atmosphere started to change. The final station was coming close and I got the feeling, that place would be beautiful. Host arranged Monte Lema and swiss border are just 5 km of hike! Air is so beautiful and it made it so easy to getup early in the morning.
a pick up at the station and after quick salutations we were on the way. We took some turns to reach the small village, where I thought is the place. To my surprise, we continued and went on a single road going high in the mountains. We finally stopped at an isolated place about 1000m high, where the only man-made structure visible was the house itself. Very simple place, a dormitory for volunteers and some visitors as well. There are private rooms for visitors and of course community members have their rooms to stay.  On the ground floor, there is a huge dinning and living area. It also have a big kitchen where all the food for visitors, volunteer and community staff is cooked. Apart from the house building, the place is surrounded by trees and a small stream flows so close that one can hear it all the time from outside the walls. The place is an amazing starting point for hikes. There are so many paths, marked and unmarked alike.

lago di maggiore
Lago di Maggiore; swiss side view

People

It was my first time ever that I was in a community house to live. It took some time to meet all the people and remember all the names, but I managed at the end. Some people live permanently in the house and some go out for work and some works and live outside and occasionally come to help. Apart from the community members, we were about 4-5 volunteers on average and few of them on long term programs. Slowly, we all built a good connection with each other. Different people brought different personalities to the group. Some played music, some sang songs and some played other instruments. I met mostly people from Italia, of course. But, I also made my first contact with Argentina and Hong Kong.  Mostly people were kind, warm, smiling and happy ones. But variety do not always brings positive connections for all. Some difference are too far to make connection. Which is a normal behavior in any social setup. But overall a very happy group.

Activities

Breakfast table for meditative people
Breakfast table is ready

Work here was in general simple, straight forward and well organized. We as volunteers helped to maintain the place and helped in cooking and cleaning. Night before we get the schedule on who will do what tasks. However, we were flexible to re-assign among ourselves. The day starts with meditation for the people who wanted to do. I would start my day with some exercise and preparing the breakfast for hungry people coming from meditation. We did evening meditation together and some times we also got invited to some events that were actually for the business visitors. Food was always amazing, cooked by a very active volunteer from Sardinia or community people or a guest who used to come occasionally to help. Got a chance to eat variety of food. I mostly only helped in cooking and one time cooked some vegetables, which as expected was too strong for some. While another time, I got a taste of fried rice noodles cooked by a girl from Hong Kong. In the evening, assigned people will clean the kitchen and we get together in living room for some chat. I would get to listen music and songs while warming the place with wood fire. Some people were specifically assigned for wood collection and cutting for heating and they made sure we never had shortage.

Experience

Hiking on the edge on Italian Alps
Hiking on this path was so beautiful

Overall experience was really beautiful. Volunteers I met on arrival were really kind and warm. They helped me settle in the place. I stayed there for about 6 weeks. In this time, there was change in volunteers . As some of them left, some of them kept coming. From singers to musicians to drone fliers to Shiatsu healers to Thai masseurs to yoga trainers to bikers to language translators, we had it all. We shared the space, work, smiles, laughter and discussions. We sat around the fire to keep us warm while drinking tea and sharing stories.

We all were invited to do meditations in the morning and evening. It is optional and one can join or not based on the interest. I joined most of the sessions. However, sometime you come across people who cannot see your viewpoint or they feel they know what is right for you. It is one thing to tell you what to do, but another to press you to do it. We had similar encounter there and it was a special experience. I will probably write about it separately on that topic.

I went for many walks around the mountains. Walking on those paths was amazingly beautiful. After lago di maggiore is also visible. Around the area, there are many old houses in ruins. Deer and wild pigs are the animals that I came across often. After many walks on the italian and swiss side of the border, I thought myself to be strong enough to take the big tour. Finally, I took a day off and went for the day long hike to cover 3 main summits, Monte Lema, Monte gradiccioli and Monte tamaro. It was by far the most exciting hiking experience of my life. With a beautiful path, adventures with snow and breathtaking views from those mountains was beautiful. After making to all the tops, I took a round circle through smaller summit of Monteviasco and back to the place. After about 35 kms, 12 hours and reaching 2000m twice, I reached back very exhausted but excited. It was a beautiful day and beautiful experience. I wanted to do it again before I leave, but my last week of stay was full of rains. May be some other day, some other time.

Monte Lema
Monte Lema

lunch, I would just go out and take a new path almost every time. By the time I left, there were still some paths, where I could not hear my footsteps. I went many times to Monte Lema. From there one can see the Swiss Lugano, while at the same time Italian

Initially I planned to stay there for 2 months. However, as I noticed that I am close to Swiss border, I decided to change my plans and make a visit to Basel. Basel, the place I stayed for a long time to meet some good people. I contacted them and got my place arranged there. Two of my friends drove all the way from Basel to Lugano to pick me up. I came here for a experience and an experience it was. I made some friends with whom I shared smiles and I left them on their journey to meet my other friends who shared their life, their smiles with me before.

lago di Maggiore from Monte Lema
Lago di maggiore from Monte Lema

To all those good souls, I happened to meet and who liked my presence, I hope one day when we meet again, we share the smile as we did in those few weeks.

Love
Arundeep

Mulla Nasrudin is walking past a cave when he sees a yogi, deep in meditation, and he asks the yogi what he is searching for.

The yogi says: ‘I study the animals and have learned many lessons from them that can transform a man’s life.’

‘A fish once saved my life,’ Nasrudin replies. ‘If you teach me everything you know, I will tell you how it happened.’

The Yogi is astonished; only a holy man could be saved by a fish. And he decides to teach Nasrudin everything he knows.

When he has finished, he says to Nasrudin:

‘Now that I have taught you everything, I would be proud to know how a fish saved your life.’

‘Very simple,’ says Nasrudin, ‘I was almost dying of hunger when I caught it and, thanks to that fish, I had enough food for three days.’

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