By I-LING CHEN
PhD Candidate, University of Queensland
Many Taiwanese backpackers had meditative and mindful experiences during their visit to Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park.
A meditative and mindful experience is about being in the moment, aware of the surroundings but not being judgmental about them.
This type of experience is preceded by viewing “big nature”, awe inspiring scenery and the transient beauty of a sunset or sunrise.
Visitors who had such a mindful experience often reported personal benefits such as relaxation, personal insights and vivid memories.
The landscape and nature of Central Australia is very different from that previously experienced by Taiwanese people and adds to their appreciation, engaging them in contemplation.
Research by the university involved in-depth interviews, and the visitors told interesting stories about their experiences.
One visitor described their four-hour long walk around the Rock during the heat of the day. They reported that Uluru represented a magic place pregnant with life: “I felt like I was on a pilgrimage around the huge rock and its surrounding environment.
“During my trek I felt the ‘The Rock’ was not only a stone but also a live entity, there were trees on it!
“It was unexpected and amazing that the bare rock could allow life to survive. There were pools and a whole ecology.
“Although I didn’t totally understand the history of the rock, I did think that there was a deity inside the rock, and that was the reason why the rock is so holy to the Aborigines because it is a place that is pregnant with new life.
“The thought triggered devout feelings in me, and I walked around the rock rather than climbed on it. I cherished the magic power embodied in the rock.”
A second visitor reported that among the most beautiful ways they found to experience the beauty of Uluru was from the lookouts, especially during sunset and sunrise. The changing beauty engaged them and led to a sense of relaxation and calmness: “Watching the sunrise in front of Uluru was a special experience; like looking at a performance.
“The rock was like a leading actress waiting for the sun to uncover her. The other lights and shadows were like the director, conducting the rock’s actress to display her different looks. I could feel the actress – the rock – was speaking.
“I really concentrated on the changes during the sunrise. It seemed like a spiritual art performance on a stage that was different from looking at a picture or books.
“I felt peaceful, beautiful, and nothing interrupted me. It was beyond my understanding and imagination, and gave me a sense of peace and ease.”
The travel to Uluru for Taiwanese backpackers awakened their senses and provided a rich experience that may be quite different from how it is traditionally “sold” to Australian tourists.
Most of the backpackers I interviewed were aware of the sensitivities of the local peoples and engaged with the destination.
In talking to visitors about Uluru, we should be aware that they may see it in different ways from what we are used to.
PHOTO: The author is pictured at The Rock.
By I-LING CHEN