Parting with fifty euros to take a taxi instead of assembling my bicycle at the baggage claim and cycling to the temple, is by far one of my greatest decisions in life so far. I’m so proud of myself.
The route from Mahon to Sa Roca is not quite the hellish mountain landscape I battled with in Mljet, but it’s hilly enough, and after a five o’clock rise and a four hour delay at the airport, the last thing I needed was to torment myself physically. Plus I really need to stop thinking I’m Lance Armstrong.
So here I am, one thousand three hundred miles from home, three hundred and fifty metres above sea level, surrounded by merry monks and mellow meditators.
The sky is a blanket of blue, it’s almost thirty degrees outside and there’s a softly salted sea breeze blowing through my hair. There’s no traffic, no sirens and no smog. The only sounds you can hear are the gentle rustling of leaves and the fluttering wings of a passing butterfly over the melodic backbeats of Spanish birdsong.
I’ve got to spend forty days and forty nights trapped in this awful place….oh woe is me.
Forty days & Forty nights
If you’re Christian, you believe that this is how long Jesus spent in the Judean dessert when Satan appeared to try and tempt him. And for the next forty days I shall be avoiding all satanic temptations that life has to offer.
First and foremost, not a sip of alcohol will be passing my lips. I think nowadays quite a lot of people have a borderline dysfunctional relationship with alcohol, and I can’t say I’m an exception to that rule.
Being single tends to mean you’re everybody’s Fun Bobby. While coupled up friends might stay in six days a week living the simple life, they tend to want wine involved on their one night of freedom. So when you’re doing the social rounds and going out six nights a week it’s pretty easy to exceed the recommended weekly allowance of fourteen units. And it does not take much to twist my arm.
Secondly, my diet will be meat free. There will be nothing to eat but locally sourced fruit and vegetables, which I’m hoping, after many failed attempts, will coerce my tastebuds into a long-lasting dedication to vegetarianism.
And lastly the dating apps are firmly off – for safety just as much as sanity. Nobody needs to be sent a dickpick whilst on retreat.
After a lifelong rebellion against religion, I committed the very cliché and admittedly hypocritical act of searching for faith in a time of need. Although I wasn’t hoping to connect with the divine almighty, more just looking to rediscover my faith in myself and to take back the power of my mind.
Two years ago, my friend Angela invited me along to a talk about happiness hosted by Liverpool KMC (Kadampa Meditation Centre) at St George’s Hall. And as I’m never one to turn down an event, particularly one that involves neoclassical architecture and educational insights, I went along.
It turned out to be ninety magical minutes of thought-provoking discussion. I left with a little more understanding of human behaviours and feeling more conscientious about what truly makes us happy. And that was the start of my Kadampa journey.
I’ve since been to lots of meditation workshops, teachings and seminars, bumped into old friends and made some new ones. I’ve taken myself off for a whole weekend meditation retreat at the KMC headquarters, Manjushri, in the Lake District. And I’ve tried to incorporate meditation into my daily life – some days it’s easy, other days the hours seem to pass by so quickly I just don’t find the time. But hopefully that’s what I’ll be doing a lot of here. Zenning out.
Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life ~ Buddha