“And so it is, that if you believe it you can honestly choose what you want to be. But choose carefully, with your intuition, and have the courage to trust your choice! It is vital that we allow our self the privilege of quiet space, for it is there we discover the passion that drives us to our heart’s desire, to our destiny” ~ Braam Malherbe
I recently finished reading an interesting book called “The Great Run: Conquering The Sleeping Dragon Within: Life’s Lessons on the Run” written by Braam Malherbe. He’s a South African who, along with a friend and support team managed to run the entire main intact portion of China’s Great wall, a distance of 4,500+ km.
Braam describes in painstaking detail not only the events of the whole journey, but also the value and need for all human beings to have some “quiet space” every once in a while; an idea that immediately resonated with me.
But before we get to that, to understand the scope of this massive undertaking, first it must be understood what these men when through to complete this quest.
The journey began in the heat of the Gobi Desert; then crossed the jagged Taihang Shan range before ending in the below zero temperatures at the Bo Sea. Impossible you say? It must also be understood that Braam is both not a man familiar with the word “impossible”. However, he is one who appreciates the introspection and self-awareness that isolated time in the middle of nowhere can bring.
When not getting lost in his quiet time, Braam and his running partner David were running, walking and hiking over 42 km per day; that’s the equivalent of a marathon per day, which they did for over a hundred days (six on, one off) in often gruelling conditions.
Besides being physically punishing, they had to deal with intense weather conditions including heat, freezing, sandstorms and mind-numbingly cold mountain nights. Oh, and let’s not forget the “other” conditions they encountered, including bandits, injuries, lack of food and the odd Chinese official. If these guys grew suspicious of the Westerner, they could have pulled them from from the wall at anytime, putting the run in jeopardy.
As you can imagine, this was a challenge unlike any other; 100+ days of hellish conditions, insurmountable physical challenges, and many, many interpersonal frictions between team members; yet they all persisted and pushed on, eventually finishing the quest and thereby setting a world record as the only people to ever achieve this feat.
In the story, staunch environmentalist Braam says he undertook the quest predominantly to witness the devastation of a country’s natural resources whilst trying to service it’s three billion citizens, plus many more abroad; and in a way, he got far more than he bargained for. The destruction to the environment he saw was absolutely devastating, far worse than anything he’d ever seen. And it was in this devastation where he found his true calling…
The book is well worth the read, even if only for the almost forensic account of the day-to-day account of the journey. For me personally, it was Braam’s (often internal) dialogue that made it such an interesting story to hear. He describes many of the struggles he has which to be honest are many of the same things a lot of us struggle with; suffering and loss, parenthood, long-buried childhood trauma and the state of the planet and how we are treating it.
For me, the wonder of his story is how he used his isolation and to work through the pain, and eventually turn his grief into inner peace, understanding and a way to do good; something I found to be a powerful message of hope and resilience as I too, am struggling with a difficult and challenging time in my own life.
One passage that really resonated with me was when Braam talked about being out in a nature camp, teaching children about the environment as a whole. He was explaining to them how using “quiet time” can help us connect with both the earth, and with each other. He then had them sit down on the ground, close their eyes, and just sit for a few minutes in quiet silence. Then he asked:
- What do they hear?
- What do they smell?
- What do they feel with their bare feet and hands?
- What – with eyes still closed – can they see?
And with this one simple step, Braam helped the kids align themselves with all of the beautiful nature that is around them; he taught them the value of connecting with the earth, with each other, and to relish all the energy that flowed amongst them. And in doing so, he gave them the amazing gift of “quiet connection” not just to the earth and their friends, but to their souls as well.
He gave them an “on-demand” way to be peaceful and calm in an often busy and hectic world; something that I think that I need to give to myself more often…
How about you?
How about now?
Close your eyes for a moment, and take a deep breath… then exhale slowly. With eyes still closed…
- What do you hear?
- What do you smell?
- What do you feel with your bare feet and hands?
- With your eyes still closed – what can you see?
Take another deep breath, and exhale slowly. Relish in this quiet time; connect with your innermost thoughts, and experience the peace and quiet they all bring together.
Feel free to do this as often as you like… Because the good thing is that “Quiet Time” is ready and waiting, whenever you need it…
For more on Braam, please visit his website here.