If I tell you that this post was almost called Fatties by Gaslight, you might start to get the drift of where I’m going here. And after three days of non stop carbs, you would be well advised to stay downwind of the drift at all times.
Stupidly enough, I presumed that after a few days of no alcohol, meat and general clean living at the Buddhist family weekend, I might even shed a few pounds. Instead, I have puffed up like the Goodyear blimp following three days of bread, crumpets, pasta, pastry, sugar and potatoes. Fling in the odd ice cream, cookie and hot chocolate and call it quits. Oh crap, I forgot about the toasted marshmallows. Stick a fork in me, I’m done.
Clearly, when the sugar that comes with alcohol is omitted, you lose the impetus to reject it in its other forms. Christ (or should I say Buddha?), a gal’s gotta enjoy herself somehow. I understand it this type of cooking though. When you are doing mass vegetarian catering for over 100 people, half of them children, three times a day, carbs are the obvious answer. The food was good, just not my normal fare. I’m sure there was some protein in there, but you might have needed a magic lantern to find it.
Add to that communal bathrooms, sleeping in a single bed and sharing a room with your five year old, and the result is that my sleep and digestive patterns are somewhat discombobulated. I am currently downing a large glass of wine with a steak and salad on the go. Hopefully after a few days of clean-ish eating, I will be less trumpetty than Satchmo at a New Orleans parade, but until then I am suffering. It’s not just me. My friend and others were in a similar boat. Whatever you eat is your choice, but ultimately too much stodge does not agree with our human chemistry.
Perhaps I sound like I am moaning. I admit I struggled at first with the close communal living and the extreme timetabling of the weekend. Almost every hour of the day was accounted for with a ton of activities. For the kids, it was brilliant and they had an absolute riot. For me, it was tough. I am unaccustomed to so much planning on a holiday and certainly not used to going to bed about 9.30pm. I found it hard to be sociable with complete strangers, no matter how nice and well-meaning they were.
Buddhism is not one of the traditional religions of our nation, therefore the people who are into it have not been indoctrinated but have chosen it, generally later in life, possibly searching for some of the answers to life’s tough questions. Those who do might surprise you. They look like everyday people, not particularly spiritual types. There were only one or two hippy types; the rest ranged from irritating middle class Tiger mothers to young working class mums to grumpy, cynical Scots. That last one is me, in case you were wondering. Given that it’s impossible not to categorise your fellow travellers on these type of vacations, I wondered if I might have been dubbed the surly one doing weird exercises in the hall. Of course I kept up my burpees over the weekend. The first day I did them outside, only observed by one person, although I sneaked one in in front of the statue of Buddha, purely for photographic purposes.
On day two, it was raining. I was tired and no longer bothered about what people thought, so just did them in the public hall. By the time I was finished, a few folk were watching and probably thought I was a mad woman. Or that I was battling my own demons that they knew nothing about, so just nodded and moved on.
That, in a nutshell, is what liked most about the weekend. The monks and nuns (okay, the nun with the eye patch was a little bit scary) were lovely and no-one really judged you. Or at least not overtly. If they were anything like me, they might have been scavenging for gossip from their friends in the know – what’s her back story? Why is she here?
There were some activities that focused on the proper meaning of Buddhism, but frankly most of the kids were too young to understand, only caring about the fun and where their next snack was coming from. The meditation sessions for grownups were very basic, just helping you to get very relaxed and learn how to be mindful of your breathing and empty your head of thoughts. As parents, or even as child free adults, functioning in a complex world, that kind of quiet time is just what we need. I found I am getting better at this practice. Progress is being made.
The location and the building was beautiful. The mobile phone signal was crap and there was very little in the way of Wi-Fi, giving me just enough to email a photo or occasionally log on to Facebook, get annoyed by pre-election chat and post a snarky comment. But not continuously. In other words, I was disconnected from the world to an extent, forced to connect with my inner child.
Some of the activities were magical. While it’s fair to say I cursed my son when I was up to my armpits in PVA glue making his lantern, after he’d buggered off to play at ninjas in the hall with his chum, it was pretty therapeutic. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but the workshop organiser took pity on me, patiently helping me out through my frustration until I actually enjoyed it. The last evening, where we had a campfire on the beach, then all walked through the woods with our lanterns is a memory that will stay with me forever.
And I laughed so much. Things become especially hilarious after a few nights of sleep deprivation, when you feel slightly trippy and cannot stop giggling until your belly hurts and tears run down your face. Today I even climbed a tree, sitting quietly as the wind rustled through the blossoms.
All of this without a whiff of alcohol, of which I am proud. I am knackered and fat not feeling particularly zen like. This type of break is not for everyone and I am not sure if it is even for me. I was very out of my comfort zone. If you had asked me on Saturday, I would have said I would not be back. Now I am not so sure.
Sometimes a break from the norm and some creative silliness is all the zen you need.
Until next time,