Nilambe is a meditation center up in the Jungle Mountains of Sri Lanka, about an hour outside of Kandy.
It’s the exact place you would picture from the book Eat, Pray, Love, and it’s just about 10,000 miles from my front door. The irony of traveling this far to shut my eyes and be quiet is not lost on me.
It’s perched on the side of a mountain with views that rival anything I’ve seen, coming darn close to the likes of Big Sur. ( I will not concede my true love to this place, no matter how beautiful )
It’s clearly an essential element on the hippy trail, and I can picture the backpackers and longhaired seekers who’ve arrived here by bus, motorcycle, tuk-tuk and on foot. All longing for the place that’s already inside of us.
I can immediately feel a deep sacred vibe here.
The buildings are hand made and totally off the grid. There is no electricity, and the buildings are woven together through donated craftsmanship, years and years of time on task and a whole lot of love.
We arrive a few minutes after the morning meditation practice had begun, so we enter quietly and join in.
I can’t help but do more looking around at the people than entering the silence. I knew what it took for me to get here, so the stories and spirits here must be epic.
We do sitting and walking meditation and I don’t like to admit this, but it really is better here. I know, I know. But until you’ve done it, you just don’t understand.
For me, the sacredness was doubled down because this is the refuge for many of my closest monk friends. They came here often from the monastery to do long stints of silence and meditation.
They’d told me so much about their time, shared so much of the wisdom they found here. I was deeply moved to finally understand.
I hiked, walked, read, practiced and climbed deep into the silence.
This isn’t unfamiliar terrain for me, but being here where so many people had been, walking where so many had walked. Feeling and imagining the shifts so many people made within themselves felt so important.
It was a deeper honor than I’d considered.
Upul, this amazingly calm dude, has been here for more than 25 years.
He’s deeply calm.
You’d have to be to spend that kind of time here.
He’s upbeat, warm and the backbone of the place, as far as I can tell.
I imagine the impact he’s made on the world is when you consider the sacred holy space he’s made possible for others to find, feel and access.
You probably couldn’t track all the impact that he has made on the planet.
As we leave, my friend and I run down the mountain thru rice fields and tiny villages.
We talk about coming back, about how we didn’t have enough time here, how we need to come for a week, a month to do a silent retreat, write, meditate and really dive in.
When our driver meets up with us, we climb in and everyone’s still in a romantic silence. It lingers throughout the drive down.
As we find words, we remark on this place and long for it again.
We talk about how it’s so hard to find something like this, how we need it so badly and how the world needs it. We make plans for our return, and even momentarily, talk about altering out trip to just go back and stay.
Judgment moves in about all other places.
I wake up the next morning in a dark, wet motel room.
We gather in an unremarkable lobby to meditate together, and I enter a deep silence even with the noise of the road, the workers and the life happening all around us.
I realized then I don’t ever need to go back to Nilambe; it’s always accessible to me now and it always has been.
In fact, I think it’s accessible to all of us. It’s in bars, bathrooms, boardrooms, commuter trains and rush hour traffic. It’s in pool halls and movie theaters.
When I learned to go within, I realized I was everywhere and could go anywhere.
On the window sills of Nilambe are several, small wood plaques that read:
Come with empty hands, go with empty mind.
Shrouded by darkness, would you not seek a light?
What you see reflects your thinking.
When attachment arises, contemplate impermanence, not self.
If I had the opportunity to add two more signs they would be:
No way out but in.
Wherever you go, there you are.
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Assistant Ed: Kerrie Shebiel/Ed: Bryonie Wise
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