So, what seems a long time ago now, I stayed in a Shaolin temple in remote southwest China. I had always been fascinated with eastern culture and thought I would go on a retreat and immerse myself in temple life.

It was intense. The day consisted of getting up at 4am. Attending the temple prayers and some moments of contemplation. Then some stretching exercises before running to the nearby river which was at the bottom of the mountain (which was also where we would bathe). I was then directed to find the biggest rock that could be managed to be balanced on my head and walk briskly up what seemed like 10,000 steps back to the temple. 

Then it was a light breakfast, more like a broth with vegetables and then it was training. It was Kung Fu, which involved a lot of stretching, before learning combat.

If I am in anyway giving the impression, I was doing very well at all of this, that would be utterly wrong. Think less Bruce Lee and more Kung Fu panda…

After hours of training, it would be Lunch. It was light but satisfying, mainly broths and handmade noodles by the resident monks with mountain herbs and freshly picked mushrooms. 

After lunch we would all have a rest. My room was pretty rudimentary, but the temple was some thousand years old and seemed like little had changed in those years.  The bed gave the impression that there was a mattress, but it was an illusion! It was a piece of wooden board with some light material tacked onto it.

In the afternoon there was more physical training, punctuated by Tai Qi and other health promoting exercises such as Qi gong.

After being physically exhausted it was time for meditation followed by dinner. The evening would involve prayers at the temple and then chatting with the local monks and some of the guests who had come there for the experience too.

There were many realisations I gained during this whole experience. I think one of the most important was that mediation is great, but…. it was so much more powerful after doing exercise.

In the wellness space we are encouraged to meditate when we have difficult feelings in order to find some sense of inner peace. Although in the temple after undergoing quite intense exercise I really noticed that physical training went a long way to helping my state of mind and to feeling good. Once my physical body was stretched and exhausted, I found mediation much easier and really beneficial.

Many of us experience difficult life experiences and we also have to contend with our own mind. However, overthinking is itself a potential cause of more problems. Ultimately stilling the mind is helpful and there are many techniques such as mindfulness that helps us do this. This isn’t always easy and from the wisdom of Chinese philosophy we should start moving, stretching and release these thoughts and feelings that get stuck in our physical body.

Once some of the emotions have been moved our mind can often calm down and then meditation is incredibly helpful.

Get in touch

Have questions about the clinic or need further information of the products we stock.