Home » Blogs » Therapy Unplugged » Buddhist Boot Camp

Buddhist Boot Camp

The loss of childhood, for many reasons, can never be found; except sometimes as an adult when one develops a child-like mind.

It was last weekend when I truly realized what a blessing it is to see the wonder of nature, not through the tired, jaded eyes of a forty-something adult with a hefty mortgage, three teenage children, lost job opportunities, estranged relationships and long-term, free-range mental health issues.  I had been dancing so fast I could not stand still long enough for the dust to settle in one place.

Last weekend, our local Buddhist society organized a weekend in Dwellingup at Nanga Bush Camp, or as I christened it on the first evening – Buddhist Boot Camp.  It was quite a scary concept for me because I am solitary by nature and I would be sharing sleeping arrangements and meals in an open plan cabin, sleeping with only a thin curtain between me, my snoring and farting – and them.

The first morning my husband woke me up at the crack of dawn and showed me the swirling mist outside.  I got so excited I raced downstairs and watched it rising off the river and I breathed in deeply to capture the vapory essence in a visceral manner.

Several kookaburras came down to say hello and posed quite shamelessly for my camera.  Later on we canoed down the river, followed by several long uphill bush walks.  Then we had lunch and shared meals where we had brought boring food and ended up eating some very exciting and exotic dishes with many delicious, unidentifiable smells and tastes, as there were two families, one Vietnamese and the other Sri Lankan sharing the weekend with us.

I did my own thing, and not what I thought other people wanted or expected and because of this an amazing thing happened.  I felt popular and fitted in because I had literally peeled the onion, that “false self” that Donald Winnicott talks about, and allowed myself to be emotionally exposed.

I was true to myself and my sensitivity, I let myself cry at the immense beauty of the surroundings and I was in touch in an authentic way with these like-minded people whom I had never met before.

I felt safe enough to go for a walk with my new friends down to the river and it was there the biggest surprise of all happened; as it was meant to be, the unfolding of pure synchronicity, or the witnessing of God, as my Christian friend gently reminded me.  I had literally rediscovered my precious and treasured childhood in its pure and unadulterated form.

The natural pool below the camp was the place where we had bush-barbecued, dove in the river, swam and threw ourselves off the banks via a thick rope back in the late sixties/early seventies.  We have home movies of these family gatherings and I have spent the past forty years looking at my lost childhood through the static lens of an old movie projector, searching wistfully for that elusive place of peace again.

The next day, while the others did a formal meditation I went down to the natural pool to reflect and think about my life, where it’s been, where it is now and where it is going.   It was an overwhelmingly powerful and precious experience to sit where I had sat before, to stand still long enough for the forest to find me and give me back that elusive feeling of child-like nature, of the spirit of who I really am.


Stand still. The trees ahead and the bushes beside you
Are not lost. Wherever you are is called Here,
And you must treat it as a powerful stranger,
Must ask permission to know it and be known.
The forest breathes. Listen. It answers,
I have made the place around you.
If you leave it you may come back again, saying Here.
No two trees are the same to Raven.
No two branches are the same to Wren.
If what a tree or bush does is lost on you,
You are surely lost. Stand still. The forest knows
Where you are. You must let it find you.

David Wagoner

Buddhist Boot Camp

Sonia Neale

Sonia Neale was recently awarded the Inaugural Barbara Hocking SANE Australia Fellowship to study and research Borderline Personality Disorder overseas in the USA, Canada, UK and Ireland. Her previous Psych Central blog was called Therapy Unplugged. She is the author of two books, The Bad Mother’s Revenge and Death by Teenager, both published by ABC Books/Harper Collins. She lives in Western Australia, is married with three adult children, has studied psychoanalytic psychotherapy, has a Certificate IV in Mental Health and is studying for a Psychology/Counselling degree. She currently works as a peer support worker in the mental health field. Please email her on davson at

5 comments: View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Neale, S. (2010). Buddhist Boot Camp. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 30, 2020, from


Last updated: 13 Sep 2010
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.