Monday, July 18, 2011

A Burger a Day...

(Written on 5/7/2011 from Desert Ashram (Shitim), Israel)

I’ve never wanted a burger more in my life than I do right now.  A big, fat, juicy, medium rare, dripping with grease, topped with crispy bacon burger.  I apologize to the vegetarians in the world, but after living like one for 24 hours…I just can’t do it. 
Beyond the food (which is mostly bland vegetables and rice), the Ashram itself is a whole new experience for me.  Let’s just say that “blending in” aren’t the first few words that come to mind.
After we caught a bus in Eilat, it dropped us off in the middle of nowhere in the desert.  Robin and I walked 3 minutes from the road to the Ashram.  It looked like a green oasis in a sea of brown mountains, rocks and sand.  And as we arrived in the “check in” area with tents and mats on the ground, there was no obvious place for us to scream from the mountain tops (or the valleys of the desert) that we had arrived.  As such, we just asked the first person we saw – a young man with a lengthy beard, no shirt, some comfortable linen pants, and a teddy bear.  The guy stared back at us like he had seen ghosts...then walked away.  Welcome.

We were later informed that there was a workshop at the Ashram and most of the guests had taken a 7 day vow of silence.  Great.  Robin and me with a bunch of people who won’t speak to us.  This should be interesting.

On our first evening, after roaming the desert a bit (which we later found out was a military firing range....awesome), we attended a meditation session - a Kundalini style with 4 stages during the hour.  The first is to shake your body, the second is to celebrate, the third is to sit down and the fourth is to lie down and feel the earth below you. 

Meditation was interesting to me…I do believe in its powers, but obviously there are many different forms of meditation.  I’ve heard that you should try different methods and meditate multiple times before finding comfort and peace in it.  So at least this is one down and many many more to go.  J
Fortunately, not everybody had taken the vow of silence.  And at dinner we sat in a circle, blessing the bread and food that we would eat since it was Jewish Shabbat.  We sang songs (Robin and I mostly nodded our heads and hummed to the Hebrew) and shared bread and a sip of wine. 

Since hunger struck early in the day I was ready to stock up on dinner.  To my unfortunate surprise, dinner was exactly what we had for lunch (rice, vegetables and salad), plus a little pasta and tomatoes.  Apparently the workshop required a strict diet, and we all ate together.  (My friend who had been to the Ashram before claimed the vegetarian dishes were delicious and flavorful and I wouldn't have a problem....but it looked like I wouldn't be trying that food.)  Every meal was the same - unsalted and unflavored. 

Lunch, dinner, lunch, dinner, lunch....
Clearly, the lack of meat and variety is killing me.  I’m trying to be at peace with the food – and focus more on the company during meals (which is also lacking since more than half the community is currently in silence and isolation).  It’s hard to make friends when you’re told not to speak with or look at half the people here.
One person who could talk, our meditation instructor (an older gentleman from Greece who seemed to float around like a fairy, with shoulder length gray hair, a white linen shirt and no shoes) tracked us down after dinner to chat about our meditation experiences.  He told us it’s a beautiful thing to be young and curious.  He said we should learn as much as we can about different countries, different foods, cultures, languages, meditations, religions, people, and different boyfriends (that one was funny as he lifted his eyebrow and gestured toward a young guy walking by - cue girls giggling like teenagers). 

And he’s right….even though this experience may not fit in the confines of “my norm” it is a great way to experience a different way of life.  The more I know about how other people live, the more I can discover about how I want to live..
After our second meditation of the day, while we ate dinner Robin and I asked our (one) new friend why the workshop people were on such a strict diet.  I supposed it was some sort of cleanse or for nutritional value.  Why else would food be so limited, lacking in variety, and totally bland?
Hanging out with our one friend!
I was wrong.  He told us it was to keep the people from returning to their habits - if they rely on coffee, or bacon (okay…maybe that’s just me), or ice cream they can't fall back on it.  It's to keep people from their coping mechanisms and away from their normal ways of life.  He added at the end…. “And to break them.”
To break them?!  I started laughing so hard….these poor people who are stuck in this workshop for 7 days without being able to talk to anybody or look at anybody are also expected to eat crap for food?  Just to BREAK them??!  Okay….well….that being said I am 5 mundane meals in and have already been broken…
Robin and I decided our first order of business tomorrow morning when we depart the Ashram is a burger.  Bacon burger if possible. 

Death by food?
Dining room at the Ashram

Leaving the Ashram through the rainbow tunnel...
Even though I don’t think Ashram life is made for me, I’m happy that I came and had this experience.  It is important for me to try to understand and live like others.  It seems like these people in the workshop are searching for something.  They are on their own journey to find something.  Maybe much like I’m on my own journey…and I hope and pray that they find what they’re looking for. 
Thought for you today…what can you do to shake up your routine?  Draw yourself away from your habits and see what you discover or experience differently.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...