We walk in silence. The landscape is awe-inspiring. It is cold; I can see my breath in the air. The sun is rising. We could have taken an even more picturesque route but I left my walking shoes behind. After two hours, we sit at a round wooden table eating a beautifully cooked breakfast: eggs from a neighbour’s farm, avocado from a local market and bread from a bakery nearby. I feel relaxed and rested: I am enjoying myself.
This is what Rohan Narse is all about. He inspires ‘the art of the slow’ – being in the present moment. I would have expected lots of ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ to come up in my busy mind but they don’t. It’s just what it is – the tasting of deliciously fresh food in the warmth of the cabin in the woods.
Rohan Narse is a controversial man – in the original sense of the word, derived from the Latin words for ‘against’ and ‘turn’. Ten years ago he turned away from the mainstream culture of ‘me-mine-myself’, leaving his investment banking career in the City of London to walk a different path. The catalyst was a near-fatal car accident which made him question what truly mattered in life.
I know his story; I have read his book and articles about him. What I am interested in now is his current journey. I ask him how he engages with the world when he steps out of his ‘programme’. He says he is just being himself. In whatever happens, he is present to the questions, ‘who am I being?’ and ‘am I aware?’
Has he ever considered returning to the corporate world? He laughs: ‘I don’t feel like playing the old game all over again.’ Instead he has gone back to the City in a different role, helping CEOs and leadership teams to find balance in their lives, through the practice of mindfulness.
The core of his message is to become aware of the gap between stimulus and response: to notice what arises as a reaction to an external stimulus and, in the process, observe a gradual slowing down of the mind’s constant tendency to judge.
‘Every moment is a moment to learn,’ he says, ‘but there is no agenda that I need to fix something. In that sense, life has become much more relaxed. Nowhere to go but here. Doing what I enjoy, being who I am and making a difference along the way – isn’t that a blessing?’
He is being a changemaker just by being himself. In a world that is so guarded and fearful, so full of masks, that inspires hope in me.