[Ed. note: This post is authored by ATL guest columnist Hope Winters. Hope is an early retired lawyer, turned Senate staffer, turned corporate lobbyist. She lives in Washington, DC. Read her previous work here.]
Well, as I told you in my last piece, I have been desperately searching for inner peace during these incredibly depressing times.
I decided, however, that I needed to amp up my desire for such peace. Meditation class was increasingly becoming too easy, and I was now ready to become a guru of inner peace. So, my friend Olivia and I packed up our car, left the comforts of our urban existence, and headed out to the great unknown. The Ashram.
I had found the Ashram online. It was a place where we could find balance, do yoga, and eat organic vegetarian meals. And it was dirt cheap, to boot. Girls, in case you missed the Times piece, ashrams are the new spas. We all have to cut back now. And isn’t it about time we work on our insides instead of outsides? Don’t worry. Those saddle bags are going to whittle away anyway due to scarce food supplies forecasted for fourth quarter ’09.
“I didn’t know it was a silent retreat all weekend. I thought that was just on Saturday.” Olivia, already breaking the rules, whispers to me upon arrival.
Oops. I forgot to shepardize this case. I don’t recall reading that part on the website.
More after the jump.
Oh well. I shrug my shoulders and motion for her to shhhh. We got to respect these yogis; the stern guru hanging on the wall in an orange robe is looking me dead in the eye and, allegedly, he has some deep connection to God.
“Look at the bright side,” I whisper back, and this will be my last whisper. “You don’t have to talk to anyone at lunch. Fantastic.” There is nothing that I loathe more than having to engage in banal chit chat at lunch. Or any meal actually.
I return to Suzannah at the registration desk. She’s also known as “Prini”, and she instructs me to use that moniker. She is tall, soup kitchen thin — her hair is sunflower yellow, coarse like hay. She doesn’t have that “glow,” though; her skin is too sallow, due to eating nothing but kale and chard her entire adult life. She, like everyone else here, is dressed in a white jumpsuit. Good lord. What has happened to me? I spent my entire college career wearing plaid Madras shorts and Tretorns, running away from the creepy culty Hare Krishnas, and now here I was paying to be around them for four days.
But Prini emanates light even from her deeply recessed, lavender-lined, malnutritioned eyes. There is something there. There is something that is just peaceful and kind and open. I want to add her to my Facebook page. Prini does not seem like the type that would defriend you. And in 2009, there are a lot of people I want kicked off my page. But I can’t ask her if she wants to be my virtual friend because we’re not allowed to talk. How in the hell am I going to meet my Deepak or my new Lululemon gal pal? I’m not going to make one new blissful friend. I’m going to be stuck with the 2007-2008 toxic ones in 2009 too.
And by the way, Olivia’s enthusiasm is already starting to irritate me. She’s such a joiner.
So Olivia and I head over to icicle yoga. It is absolutely freezing in the basement makeshift yoga studio, and I can’t even ask anyone to turn up the heat. Maybe if I curl up in a ball and shiver like a fetus, I’ll get what I want.
I have never been so freaking cold. I don’t know where or how you find “enlightenment” — but there’s no way I’m going to obtain enlightenment in an igloo. No one else seems to mind; these people are all about suffering. You’re not allowed to want anything — not even a blanket. (I want a burger and a blanket). But the white jumpsuit lady, Veni Devvi, begins the class with a soothing voice, soaked in peace and detachment, and then she stretches my gimpy neck pinched tight from annoyances of corporate America. It feels better immediately. She’s magic. Me likey Veni Devvi. As the class progresses, we warm up, but mainly, we’re just rolling around on the floor like toddlers. This whole thing is just really weird.
Interestingly enough, all the effortless yoga makes us really hungry. You have no idea how much energy all that rolling around takes up. Plus, I’m actually really psyched for the organic/locally grown everything vegetarian dinner. As we walk into the dining hall, shoes first removed — these people just love being barefoot; I can’t believe there isn’t a foot fungus pandemic in this place — we pick up a round wooden bowl and hold it close to our hearts. I mean, that’s what everyone else is doing – so we follow.
As I take my place in line, I look around the room, and it feels like every communist here is staring right through my vacuous soul. Like they can read my mind – I hate this place; I want to put my shoes on; I need a cigarette and Frappucino and also a glass of Cabernet. I feel like I’ve just been admitted to a low security women’s penitentiary. I’m just waiting for someone to pull out the blade and stab me in the rib cage. I mean, it’s not like they conduct a background check before admitting people here. And a lot of these guys — with long hair and faces unshaven for years faces look just like Charles Manson, and, over there, I see a Squeaky Fromme. I just know this was a huge mistake. Thank God I brought eager beaver Olivia with me.
I exit the line holding my wooden bowl closely and sit down quietly at the long rectangular table that faces a stage. I look over at the left corner. There sits what looks like a baby Jesus in a car seat. Not a very good Jesus. It looks like a girl. Not a very good manger either. I take out my notebook and draw a cross and write “NOT.” I point at the paper, grabbing Olivia’s wrist and nod at the stage. What a disgraceful depiction of our Main Man.
The walls are draped with black and white photos of the spiritual types: Gandhi, Martin Luther King, the guru in orange (he gets a lot of press here), and someone who looks like the Ayatollah Khomeini. (By the way, when did we decide that Iran was “peaceful”? Didn’t they take our people hostage?)
And then… there is that girl doll in the car seat. I suddenly feel fiercely protective of my Christian roots. Jesus is getting screwed here. But I keep to my bok choy, kale and chickpeas. I look for the butter and salt and pepper but there isn’t a condiment to be found. They don’t go for condiments here. If I keep eating this bland food, I’m going to drop five pounds in four days. Excellent. Olivia shoves the chickpeas down her throat with glee. She’s so annoying.
“Are you kidding me?” I write on my notebook pad. I refuse to remain silent. “This food is awful. ”
“Thank God I brought my Luna bars and all my pills. I am going to knock myself out when we get back.” I write her another note.
Muscle relaxer + Lunesty + (Zanny if things get really bad).
We have been here 2.5 hours.
The quest to find enlightenment during the recession continues later this week.
Earlier: The Depression Is So Freaking Depressing (Part I)
The Depression Is So Freaking Depressing (Part II)