"Looking for volunteers to help out in the garden of our vegan yoga and meditation retreat!" I was already in the car on my way to Otaki, about 500 kilometers south, that's how excited I was when I read the ad. Of course I wrote them immediately, called them up, yep I can be there in a day or two, will stay for as long as possible because this all sounds like a dream!
I prepared myself to move to a beautiful retreat, doing yoga until I can stand on my head, eating only healthy tiny portions of super nutritious vegan food and be completely zen, detoxed, skin glowing brighter than the moon by the time I would float out of there.
There were some rules to live by: no alcohol, drugs, cigarettes or caffeine allowed. The detox to end all detoxes. It was a six hour drive, so I got my car ready for the trip and said goodbye to alcohol by drinking red wine until all teeth were purple.
Early rise and the last, largest coffee of my life before hitting the road. The trip was gorgeous, but all the roadworks easily added two hours to the already long journey. Which made me sleepy. One very last coffee, for the road. How will I be able to break up with this bittersweet black golden love potion, waking me up every morning, warming me on cold afternoons, keeping me company when I'm writing? Always there, every day.
(I would find out the next day, when the migraine kicked in, making me feel so sick I slept for a solid seventeen hours. Way to start a detox.)
I was so happy when I finally arrived after eight hours of winding roads, to the lush greens of Otaki. The retreat magically tucked away behind a gate, on top of a hill overlooking the woods, rivers and ocean. Not too bad at all.
What the ad forgot to mention, is that it is actually a Hare Krishna center. Yoga as a way of life more than exotic poses. Meditation meaning chanting mantras for hours on end. Less downward facing dog, more singing Krishna Krishna Hare Hare together.
On Sundays, there is a big celebration in the yoga center in Wellington, including a ginormous amount of delicious vegan food, an actual yoga class and of course plenty of chanting the mantra while dancing around. I always thought I was a hippie, until I saw the Hare Krishna's chanting the same mantra into infinity while running in circles, all the way to enlightenment.
I know I'm being very skeptical, I'm just not into it. It was definitely an interesting experience, but I realised I don't like to feel like the 'normal' person in the room. I, too, am a weirdo. My weird just doesn't involve Krishna.
I did meet a bunch of awesome people, ate my body weight in vegan treats (they are not shy of sugar and good food. Lots and lots of it.) and enjoyed my one week of being part of the Hare Krishna family. As in, a faraway half-great-great-grandaunt.