Catch up corner – from the Syrian/Israeli border to a Tibetan monastery

Catch up corner – from the Syrian/Israeli border to a Tibetan monastery

Whilst I went to visit the Syria/Israel border, one of my best friends, Lu, went to visit a monastery in Tibet. She was going for spiritual enlightenment whilst I was hoping for political enlightenment.

The phone call on her return didn’t sound like a ringing endorsement.
‘It was certainly different but I won’t be going back. See you in 30 mins!’

She finished the call and jumped in her car. Lu is car crazy. She loves cars, and now has a car she loves – as she puts it ‘I haven’t worked all the hours God sent for 40 years without managing to get the car of my dreams!

Cars aside Lu has wanted to go to Tibet for ages. It even made it on to her bucket list. Safe to say it’s off the bucket list and won’t be getting back on it!

Lu meditates every day, has done for over 20 years, she attends regular classes on it, she even got me doing it. Lu swears by it as a way of reducing stress, decluttering the mind and staying fresh. She also reads every type of spiritual self-help book there is, listens to self-help CDs when driving and watches DVDs on the subject when at home. There isn’t much she hasn’t done or read about meditation and spiritual enlightenment, but working daily with people with obsessive compulsive habits, I won’t say disorders, she felt there was more she wanted to discover hence she booked herself into a Monastery in Tibet.

If Lu is anything she’s a self confessed obsessive compulsive herself. Always doing, always searching, always learning and always looking for the new. This repetitive cycle is what makes her successful.

But if Lucinda meditates then I cook. The action of chopping and peeling sends me into my own meditative state. It ‘quietens my mind’, ‘provides me with a greater degree of calm’ and, depending on the resulting dish, ‘removes anxiety’!

So before Lu came round I’d made lunch – some dishes from my trip to Israel. I love collecting fresh, simple, wholesome recipes and usually I can just eat a dish and know what’s gone into it.

Now I don’t have much time so I like dishes that are either quick and simple or something I don’t need to watch over, something I can put in the oven and forget about.

So chopped salads, a quick homemade humus, baked Aubergine ie Baba Ganoush and a spicy roasted chicken was in order.

Simple chopped salads, cucumber and tomato with finely chopped parsley, coriander and mint, squirt of lemon and olive oil. A basic green salad, chopped leaves, onion, coriander and celery with lemon and olive oil.

Bake the Aubergine in the oven for as long as you possibly can (you can cover in foil and heat over the hob, but much simpler to cut in 2, place on a baking tray and leave in the oven until the Aubergine inside has gone to mush and the skin is black). Then scoop out the soft inside and mix with pulped garlic, lemon juice and tahini, sea salt optional (my dad doesn’t do salt).

Once you have the tahini and garlic out, and the lemon and olive oil on the go, you might as well crack open a tin of chickpeas and make your own simple humus. Zap these ingredients together in the blender and within seconds you have homemade humus. Taste and add more lemon if you feel it needs it or a bit more olive oil if you want a runnier consistency. Add a tiny shake of paprika on top if you fancy, I like the smoked paprika, but each to their own.

Pop the chicken in the oven, I stuffed mine with a lemon, an onion cut into 6, a garlic chopped in half and 2 red chillies. Then on top I put a squirt of honey and a shake of thyme and rosemary (I always have dried herbs and spices in the cupboard).

If you don’t like wasting time or a hot oven then put some potatoes in too – jacket potatoes last a day or two and go with anything.

Lu arrives, we eat, she tells her tales of 5am starts, breakfast of oatmeal, morning meditation followed by yoga, exercises, meditation class, a banana, afternoon exercise, meditation, soup for dinner and a mediation before going to bed at 8.30pm and no speaking. You heard – no speaking – and a 30hour journey home.

So not for the faint-hearted or the talkative! And Lu is the most gregarious, talkative person I know, how did she survive? Turns out, only just, and by talking to herself!

She said she wouldn’t have missed doing it, but never again. She hadn’t found the greater meditative experience she had been hoping for. The views and environment were beautiful but looking back, she had built the expedition up so much that she could only ever have been disappointed.

Her hopes of finding a purer form of meditation, a different type of spiritual enlightenment didn’t exist. In the end she had it all within herself and having spent more than 2 decades meditating with different teachers, she was never going to gain any greater experience on a 10 day trip, no matter who it was with and where on the planet it was.

As for me, what had I learnt from my amazing trip to the warring borders? That the problems of the Middle East require a thousand seeds to be planted, a thousand seeds to be sown and then maybe, if those seeds fall on fertile ground and are fed a daily diet of optimism, then blooms of peace might flower. The leaders need to be nurturers, need to lose their ego and become farmers of peace and of the people. Then peace will be found on that field on that border. I took heart from seeing such seeds being planted.

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