Day 3 – It’s official. I’ve joined a cult.

The day began waaaay too early. Like 2 a.m. early. A massive thunderstorm was moving through, and it woke me up, which was actually for the best since I had fallen asleep with my computer plugged in. I assumed the ashram wasn’t much for surge protection, so I yanked the plug from the wall, turned over, and tried to get back to sleep.

spider bite on foot
Seriously, this was two days after the bite. It was so swollen I had to loosen my sandal to make it fit. Maybe not the best decision to ignore it, but now it’s gone down to a bruise. Whew.

My fear of bugs and the super-itchy bug bite on my foot kept me tossing and turning for a while.

When I did finally fall asleep again, I got woken up at 6 a.m. by the quacking of my duck alarm. I reset it for 7 a.m. and went back to sleep.

My original plan had been to wake up at 6 and take a nice long, relaxing walk, shower, and head to mantras and breakfast (with more super yummy chai tea!). But with the rain coming out of the heavens at bullet velocity, I thought staying in my bed and getting a bit extra sleep might be a better option.

At 7, I woke up again and realized I didn’t have the urge to immediately check Facebook or my email. For the first time since I couldn’t remember when. My FB craving was subsiding, although I was still automatically and unthinkingly flipping to it on my phone, but I’d still managed to avoid actually opening it since I had checked in at lunch on Friday afternoon.

I climbed out of bed and decided to run through a quick shower, hopefully a more successful one than on day two.

Aaaaaand I got stopped at the end of the hallway again.

More spiders.

In front of each bathroom door.

Like they were taunting me.

I froze and made some sort of unintelligible sound, which alerted another person near me of the spiders’ presence.

She apparently was not a complete arachnaphobe.

She held them at bay while I dashed into one of the bathrooms – the good one! – and took a fast shower.

I re-read the sign next to the mirror. (I read that sign a lot.)

One of the instructions on the list, all about maintaining the bathroom and the purpose of the ashram, told us to look in the mirror and say “I love you.” I couldn’t do it without wanting to giggle hysterically, so I changed it up a little, and I instead would, after my shower or after washing my hands – point a finger at the mirror and say, “Who loves ya, babe?” Does that count?

The day went too quickly. I spent it reading, writing, drawing, and mostly just enjoying the quiet and peace. I kept realizing I’d be going home the next day, and yet I still hadn’t mastered the greeting of Jai Siddhatma. Maybe on the next trip. Yes, I was already thinking of my next trip.

turtle in the grass
No, I didn’t think about eating this turtle. I just saw him on my walk after the rain and thought he was cute.

Our group had dwindled by lunch, and the hosts, who had previously eaten nearby but not at our tables, came and joined us for food. One of them talked a lot about vegetarianism and how it had come to her. She talked about “eating the suffering” of the animals. Plants, she said, only had one sense – touch – and so they didn’t suffer as much as animals who had all five senses. But when we ate any food, she said, we ate the suffering of it. So if we ate plants, we would not consume as much suffering.

Maybe that sounds corny. I don’t know. But it made sense to me. I kept thinking about it. I had already begun reducing meat in my life – going down to meat one or less time a day – but what if I did more? I hadn’t had a headache since showing up, and I felt good, better than I had in a long time. And I hadn’t eaten meat or craved it at all since I’d gotten there. Maybe…

colored pencils
The most amazingly cute little colored pencils in the universe. With a normal size pencil next to them for scale.

One truly awesome thing happened in the afternoon – my shower savior had borrowed my colored pencils because a friend had given her some for the trip. But they were miniature pencils. Super, super miniature. And while she liked them, she couldn’t use them without her hand cramping. So she asked to borrow my pencils (which were full size), and I happily handed them over because I also had thin colored Sharpies with me. Well, she liked my pencils so much, and I liked her minis so much, that she traded them with me! Super score! She was thrilled, I was thrilled, and now I have cool cool cool colored pencils!

At dinner, we found out that one of the hosts who was in training to be a monk was going to be teaching a free meditation class. It was his first teaching opportunity, and we were all invited.

I’d already been in the yoga/meditation building, and it was an awesome place.

The meditation class was just as awesome. I know it was his first one, and he was nervous, but he was sincere and knowledgeable. I had wondered a bit about how it would go since, when he does the mantras, his voice is always slightly off from the group, but when he was leading the meditation, he seemed more focused, and his voice was relaxing and right on track.

He spoke to us, got us breathing, and then told us to meditate for 20 minutes.

I shifted once – my foot was still bothering me from the bug bite – and only a few minutes after I shifted back, he started moving us out of it.

I had just meditated for 20 minutes! Twenty minutes! How had that happened? Where had the time gone? In the past, when I’d meditated, I’d spent most of it trying to meditate. This time, I thought I had actually achieved it. It was an amazing feeling, and I went back to the ashram feeling refreshed.

Now, I hate to be judgmental and bitchy…no, wait, I don’t. But still. There was one chick at the retreat who was doing a water cleanse. A serious, serious water cleanse. She had done a 20 day water cleanse last year, and had returned to do a 30 days one. Yes, you read that right. Thirty days with only water. We never saw her. She stayed in her room, came out to shower, brush her teeth, get water. That was it. Otherwise, you didn’t even know she was there.

Except for her roommate.

Crazy water-cleanse girl had opted to have a roommate.

But she was crazy. The water-cleanser, that is. She didn’t want her roommate to turn on the light, make noise, or, well, exist.

My take on it is simple – get your own room then! Yes, I know it costs more, but if the cleanse is something so intensely private or if its makes you that super sensitive and cranky, then you need to be alone. But, no, she had a roommate.

And her roommate didn’t want to room with her if she could help it.

I invited her to use the spare bed in my room. Even though I had a single, each room had two beds in it.

And that’s how I wound up spending most of the night with a queer* feminist slam poet (who, btw, is awesome!) in the spare bed. To make matters weird, when I woke up at 6:30, she was gone. I had to wonder what I had done to chase her away. I half didn’t want to ask, but after a walk, shower, and mantras, I asked her over breakfast (super yummy oatmeal with fresh cut fruit) if I had snored too loud or done something weird to chase her away. She reassured me that it was the spare bed – there were no sheets, and the mattress cover bothered her enough that she went back to her room. So hopefully she was telling the truth and I hadn’t been muttering some crazy ass shit in my sleep. It could happen.

*I wanted to note that this was her personal word choice for her sexual identification. I would not presume to call her queer otherwise.

(I’ve been told that apparently I’m mocking this too much…people are asking me if I actually enjoyed it. My response is simple: it was life changing. Honestly and truly. I loved it. It was unbelievably special to me. However, who the hell can take anything that seriously? If you’re looking for something serious, then you’ve come to the wrong place. There are very few things that I take too seriously…)


Yes, I did pawn a shotgun to go on a retreat this weekend. Why? Is that ironic?

Going granola!
Going granola!

Oh my god, I’m so nervous! Three nights and three days at a personal retreat in north Texas.

No meat.

No Starbucks.

Am I going to break down and drive the half hour to Dallas to get a big juicy burger and a mocha?

Will I find the yoga, meditation, and mantras peaceful and keep up with them, even after I come back to my hectic life?

Will I get inspired?

Will I change my life?

Will I hate every second of it?

Will they be pee drinkers? (Yoga Bitch reference – you get 10 points if you recognized it…)

Will I fit in?

Will I fart during yoga? (And what is up with all my thoughts about farting and yoga?)

Will I survive my social media blackout? (Okay, not all social media – I will be spending time writing, and if I post blogs or anything, I will tweet it, but I’m going to turn away from FB the whole time I’m there. If you actually need me, call or text. But be warned that I probably won’t have my phone on me most of the time, so I won’t get back to you right away.)

Will they kick me out for listening to Lords of Acid?

What if I forget the words to the mantra?

What if it’s actually a cult, and I’ve joined it unknowingly, and when I show up they forcibly shave my head and give me white robes to wear?

What if it’s not a cult but I shave my own head and wear white robes all weekend?

What if their “simple” accommodations don’t include toilet paper? Or what if they include really rough toilet paper?

What if they find out that I don’t use Tom’s of Maine’s toiletries and they take away my bath products as not being good for the environment?

What if they believe in living shampoo and deodorant free?

What if they judge me for wearing a bra? Or not wearing a bra?

Will I come home with long armpit hair? Long leg hair? (Okay, admission here: I already have kinda long leg hair.)

What if a crazed lunatic from a local insane asylum escapes and goes on a mad killing spree, like in any number of horror movies?

But, I’m going anyway. I’ll report back. Unless, you know, it is a cult, or unless there is a crazed killer.



Fool Me Once: When the Universe is Really Trying to Tell You Something

The first of...April? (Photo by dhester, morgueFile free photos)
The first of…April? (Photo by dhester, morgueFile free photos)

So when I woke up on Friday, I knew it was the 1st.  And, my addled brain told me, it was April 1st.  Somehow my mind had skipped the entire month of March, perhaps because it knew better…

Not too long ago, I began getting really interested in Buddhist teaching and philosophies and the concepts of using mindful thinking and meditation as a way of reducing stress and improving myself, the quality of my life, and the quality of the lives of those around me.  As part of this exploration, I downloaded a few apps on my phone to help me think of things differently and look at things differently.

One is “Be the Change,” which challenges you to do something to change or affect the world every day.

The other is “Transform,” which is a book by Cheri Huber (the full title of the book is “Transform Your Life: A Year of Awareness Practice).

So on March 1st, not April 1st as my brain wanted me to believe, I discovered that they had apparently been monitoring my emails and personal life because they were trying to fool me.

The “Transform” assignment was to “Today, take a look at some of the familiar, comfortable hells that plague you.”

The “Be the Change” assignment was to “Think about a healthy physical or emotional risk you’ve avoided.  If it’s something you really want…go for it.

As anyone who knows me probably already knows, my own familiar, comfortable hell is overwork and overstress.  I write daily to-do lists that something, when I sit down and figure out how long it would take to actually do everything on them, top out at 25 to 30 hours of work per day.  Definitely a hell, right?  And I’ve been doing it for years.  I fall into it so comfortably.

Well, and what have I been avoiding?  Cutting back and doing things that are healthy for me.  I have been reading “The Buddha Walks into a Bar…: A Guide to Life for a New Generation” by Lodro Rinzler, and I really want to follow the four necessities that should be achieved every day: sleeping, eating, meditating, and exercising.

Apparently, the universe has come into alignment for me, though, and even though it’s only March, I need to go for it!  I need to actually get enough sleep at night, I need to eat right, and I need to exercise and meditate every day!

Will it fix my “familiar and comfortable hell”?  I think so…