The Gorge – A life lesson

This is a story by my good friend Declan Coyle of Andec Communications and it was recently published in a book by Colin Shaw, “Revolutionise Your Customer Experience”. Declan first told this to me back in 1997 and it is as impactful now as it was then.

Declans Story…Declan Coyle at Avoca
A few years ago, when I was in Taiwan, we were staying near a wonderful part of the world near the Taroko Gorge. We had been visiting there for a number of reasons, but one reason was to look at the whole subject of Buddhism and enlightenment. But on this particular day we had decided to take the day off and three of us had decided to walk the Taroko Gorge. We learnt from the locals that it normally takes about five and a half hours to walk the gorge, but we decided to set ourselves a target and walk it in five hours, we were going to beat the average.

We set off at a great rate of knots, stomping loudly through the terrain. After an hour or so the sweat was pouring from us and I remember looking at my watch and thinking we were making good time. As we came up to small hill I looked down to my right and saw about eight Chinese Buddhist nuns sitting by a stream. I remember thinking “What are they doing, they are very still?” Coincidently our path led us right past them.
As we were passing, one of them said, “Just a moment!”. I stopped immediately as I thought they may be in some sort of trouble. “Yes can I help you?” I asked.
The smallest non turned to me and look at me with a hint of anger on her face. “Excuse me” she said “but you’re missing the Gorge.” “What?” I said somewhat surprised, “missing the Gorge?” How do you mean, I’m missing the Gorge?”

“From the moment I saw you coming along in the distance, I knew you had to be from the West as you were walking at such a fast pace. You are missing the Gorge!

I was shocked and somewhat annoyed she had stopped me to tell me something so ridiculous and I was going to miss my target if I wasn’t careful. “Missing the Gorge, missing the Gorge, how can I be? I’m in the Gorge, I have cuts on my leg from the Gorge, how can I be missing the Gorge?” I said rather annoyed.

“You are missing the Gorge” she reiterated, “please spend a moment and sit down with me and I will explain”.

I looked up at Tommy and Larry as they were disappearing into the distance and I remember thinking “I will have to job to catch them up”, but I decided to sit down as she intrigued me. “Please sit down and close your eyes and listen”, she said.
“Listen to what?” I asked “this is silly” I sat down anyway and did as she asked. “I want you to hear the Gorge I want you to listen to it” she said calmly. My mind was telling me that there was nothing to hear, how can you hear a Gorge! But them it happened and I started to hear things. The water running by the side of the stream, the birds chirping in the distance, the rustling of leaves in the bushes and trees, the wind blowing past my ear, my heart beating, my breathing. Suddenly I started to feel serene. Then I realised … I was listening to the Gorge. I could hear all the sounds that I hadn’t heard before. I could feel the sun on my face, the wind gently caressing my skin, the beads of sweat dripping down my face.

“Now open your eyes, look and see, really see!” I opened my eyes. I saw the blue water of the stream, the white foam as it raced across the rocks, the wonderful colours of the rocks, the plants and trees coming out of the crevices. Violets and pinks. Then I looked up and saw the blue sky like a dome above. “Now breath in deep … breath the Gorge!”.
I filled my lungs with air. Fresh air. I realised … she was right… I had been missing the Gorge, this was wonderful. Only now did I realise what she meant. She spoke very softly, “do you see what I mean; you were missing the Gorge”. “Yes” I replied. I didn’t want to move. Then she said something that was to hit me like a sledgehammer.

“I hope your action today is not a symbol of your life?” “Are you missing the Gorge in your life, rushing from one thing to another without thinking?”

It was like one of those moments when everything comes together and I thought “my goodness, she’s right” .. I am missing the Gorge in my life!… a sense of enlightenment came over me. I am not spending the time to see all the joy that is happening around me. I am so busy rushing from one thing to the next that I had missed the Gorge.

Everyday since that day I now spend time thinking about what I am doing, trying not to miss the Gorge. So let me pass on the favour the Nun gave to me, “are you missing the Gorge?”

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