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Published: April 13th 2005
Deep breath. Dearest friends and family,
Let me begin by giving a gentle reminder to all who have the luxury of having the Internet at their fingertips with little to no agony. Don't take it for granted! When I have a keyboard underneath my thirsty hands, I feel as though I've hit the lottery (even though it costs an arm and a leg.)
New Zealand is not a cheap place, by the way. Everything, especially food, is just as, if not more, expensive here than in the good ole U.S.A.!
Back to the juicy stuff. Here I sit, in the cramped upstairs internet room of a coffeeshop in downtown Auckland. It's roasting hot up here, and damn, does this diet coke taste so nice and frosty cold, considering that I haven't had the joy of ingesting this modern vice for a couple of weeks now.
Yes, that's right. I've had the most beautiful, surreal, wacky gorgeous time at a meditation center for mindful living. Imagine a beautiful sanctuary in the woods overlooking a perfectly still bay with gentle, green rolling hills coming out of the water. It's quiet, except for the call of the birds, of which you can hear about ten different varieties. Two wooden buildings of perfect symmetry made of fragrant timber with 20-foot-high vaulted ceilings sit next to each other. One is the main house, the other is the meditation room. An immense organic garden shaped like a sunburst sat at the bottome of the property, and it was there that I would sweat and slave away every day.
The name of this magical place was Dharma Gaia Gardens and it focused on living mindfully.
I can imagine the reaction -- what the hell is that? I'll just give an account of a typical day, which I think will pretty much describe it all.
6am -- Outdoor gong rings. Wake up and do yoga in the meditation room. Incense, red oriental rugs, cushions, fresh flowers, the works.
7am -- Sitting meditation. Here, Anton, the guy who lives there, would ring a bell and we would breathe in and out, living "moment by moment. Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile."
7:30am -- Walking meditation. Walk very very slowly three times around the room, contemplating every step. "Feel the full imprint of your soul touching the earth. Peacefully. Step left, arriving. Step right, home."
8am -- Breakfast. A silent breakfast of fruit and yogurt. We don't talk at all.
8:30am -- Work for me. Composting, wheelbarrowing, weeding, gardening wholesome outdoor work. I got to wear a cool rice paddy hat :-).
1:30pm -- Lunch, and free living for me.
9pm -- "Silent Time." No talking!
It was cool because I got my own room in the woods, a little wood hut to myself. After staying in backpackers where we'd sleep up to 10 in a room, this was a major, beautiful plus. (Last night I had the joy of staying up all night because of ONE snoring lady!)
So that was Dharma Gaia Gardens. And the weird thing was, it was just me, Anton, and the guru of the house, a lady named Shalom. Quite a cozy, strange triangle. Every time a bell would ring (clock or gong) we'd stop what we're doing to come back to our true selves. There were these quotes all over the place saying "The best way to care for the future is to take care of the present," on the door, "A lotus for you, a Buddha to be," and, above the bathroom sink, "I wash my hands skillfully so that I may use them to care for the earth."
Ah, what a life.
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