India Battles Her Mind
For eight days I will live without caffeine or meat or alcohol or the internet. This is Day 3 of an eight day yoga and meditation retreat in Bali. I am neither in prison nor in rehab, so I do have the freedom to leave the retreat and order a t-bone steak for lunch if I wish, but I’m choosing to follow the suggested guidelines. Surely I can survive a healthy lifestyle for a week?
Though my muscles are stiff and sore from the unaccustomed yoga postures, my body is happy to be stretched and pushed to its limits. I wish I could say the same for my mind, which has not missed an opportunity to shout out its opinions. “Hey, I didn’t come all this way so I could be tortured”, it has said repeatedly during yoga class. “That hurts! I wasn’t meant to be twisted into a pretzel. You call this a vacation?!”
I’m quickly learning that the real challenge isn’t so much the submission of my body — the challenge is to shut up my doubting, complaining mind.
Overall, I’d say things are going well. I’ve had a few grumpy moments, which are probably due to caffeine withdrawal. But why should I allow something as trivial as a cup of coffee to ruin my day? My mind, of course, has other opinions: “Hey, give me a cup of Starbucks Komodo Dragon Blend coffee, with two heaping spoonfuls of sugar and a big splash of cream, not milk. I want coffee!”
The lack of meat hasn’t bothered me at all, as the vegetarian meals we’re served are surprisingly tasty. Our food is organic and grown locally, and I must say that I feel pretty energetic right now. Lunch is the main meal of the day, while dinner is light — the opposite of the way I normally eat. Last night’s dinner was a delicious pumpkin soup and garlic bread, followed by an evening meditation before bed. It’s really quite pleasant to go to bed with a stomach not stuffed with food and I’m definitely sleeping better than usual. Of course, my mind has something to say about this too: “Do you think anybody’s interested in your bloody pumpkin soup? You might like going to bed hungry, but I don’t. I paid for this trip, in case you’ve forgotten, and you’re feeding me GRANOLA? This isn’t funny.”
Unfortunately, my mind and I are in agreement that sunsets just aren’t the same without a cold beer or a glass of wine in my hand. I tell myself that a cup of herbal tea can be just as enjoyable as a frosty bottle of Bintang beer at the end of a hot tropical day. Sadly, it’s not. And dinner doesn’t feel right without wine, especially in such beautiful surroundings. I’m very pleased, however, that my hands have not shaken and I’ve had no hallucinations, so I take this as an excellent sign that I am not an alcoholic. “Of course you’re not an alcoholic. Listen, why don’t you just slip out and buy a couple of six-packs to hide in your room. Just think how much nicer evenings will be.”
As for the internet rule, you can see that I’ve already broken it. “Oh come on, it’s only a minor infraction. You needed to write a blog post, didn’t you? And on the way to your blog, you briefly checked your email, only looked at Facebook for a few minutes, had a quick peek at your bank balance, checked out the weather forecast for the next few days, had another look at Facebook in case there was a new and exciting post. Totally reasonable stuff. Now you won’t be distracted by wondering if there are any problems on the outside.”
And so I must leave now and carry on the struggle with my mind. I’m feeling a little peckish so may just help myself to another bowl of granola. I’ll let you know how it all works out in the end…