By Ven Canda
On June 22nd I returned from my first tudong or ‘faith walk’, physically tired but spiritually nourished. My trusty companion and I covered 8-9 miles a day and received kind support every step of the hilly, winding way.
Equipped with a tiny yet robust tent, we stayed in some unusual places: the mouth of a hermit’s cave in the narrow limestone valley of Deep Dale; the splendid grounds of an ecumenical retreat centre in Whaley Bridge; and at the home of a lovely Christian couple in Mellor, with panoramic views and welcome hot showers to warm our aching wet limbs!
We were amply supplied with food throughout. Rosie and Ian sent us off with a hearty meal in Bakewell, ferried our backpacks on two occasions and greeted us with hot food in their camper van mid-week! In a Buxton chippy the young Kurdish workers made us right at home, offering two kettles of boiling water for making tea (after we failed to light a fire in the damp morning air). And Steve met us with a picnic near the Mersey valley, where a gentle man collecting litter ‘appeared’ during the meal blessing- and spoke thoughtfully of compassion for those who do harm.
Our walk culminated at the Manchester Centre for Buddhist Meditation, where we were warmly greeted by some of the Samatha tradition’s most committed long-term members. Ajahn Brahm took his first retreat with this group in the early ’70’s, so being able to offer a Dhamma reflection here was an honour and a fitting expression of my gratitude. Meeting this lovely new Dhamma family – and three surprise new Anukampa volunteers! – was the highlight of my trip and I hope our connection will deepen and grow. You can check out the centre’s activities and renovation project here.
I was surprised that even this short period of tudong was a powerful practice for becoming present and opening to the unknown – with confidence, but without expectation. Depending on others for basic food and shelter as an alms mendicant stimulated gratitude and allowed kindness to flow, until boundaries between giver and receiver blurred. Tudong was indeed an act of faith for me – faith in human kindness, compassion and trust – and I’m pleased to announce those qualities are alive and well in the Peak District!
Heartfelt thanks to Laura Bridgeman, who continued her tudong in Scotland, with Ajahn Candasiri from Milntuim Hermitage.