Since I have been Ga-Larry-vanting of late, completing my 200 hr yoga & meditation teacher training at an off-grid ashram in magnificent Northern BC, but more importantly since one keen fan requested on the back of this, a new installment to be added to the blog, here I am. And this one goes out to anyone who’s interested but most importantly, this one is for you Helen McDermott so lets hope it passes muster.
We shall start with my greatest disappointment in returning from the yoga retreat so it can only go up hill from here. My disappointment is that despite valiant efforts I have failed to make a tasty cup of chai tea, or even one that comes close to meeting the standards of the one offered there. I have utilised the exact same spices they use ( I bought them from the Ashram itself) also the same coconut milk. The only difference is the tea and mine at best reflects a cup of congealed dishwater with little better taste to it so far. Things to work on. #Emmaproblems.
Beyond that and sticking to my usual favourite topic of conversation surrounding culinary delights, I was hugely inspired by the cooking there. Whilst many people like to give me crap for being gluten and dairy free and minimising my meat intake, I say ‘bugger off giving me shit and count yourself lucky you can eat what you like’. On the yoga retreat I had one month of vegan food that was gluten free, no alcohol and apart from on two days no caffeine, and I can say from a health perspective it left me feeling really, really good. I also have to say that during this month I didn’t find myself with cravings for anything else, save for chocolate, except I didn’t really crave that because we had some super dark, super tasty, extreme American sized choco bars going down in the dorm. Back in the real world the cravings for stuff is greater! I think the out of sight out of mind helped. The goal as ever is to find places selling gluten, dairy and refined sugar free snickety snacks that I can drop into at any time. Easier said than done, and for those who think anything meeting my requirements would be tasteless, I share with you the story of making a chocolate coconut pot for a table full of meat, dairy, gluten eating foodies and the surprised look when they realised it was actually pretty darned tasty – you can’t take that back Dean and Al – I was there and saw the reaction. I should have recorded it though.
In terms of trying to explain the experience of the one month training, well i’m not going to. It’s a very personal thing and it wouldn’t make sense if I tried. I can say, however, that it was supremely liberating to be away from the expectations of ‘normal’ life, to not have to worry for one month about anything outside of my training. It definitely has helped me look at life with new perspective. What I knew but had forgotten is that yoga isn’t about stretching your body, which is what we all typically thing of in the West. Yoga in its true or full sense was, and is, a path (not a religion hence practiced by people of many differing religions and atheists) for people to self-reflect and know themselves better, gaining perspective, to see the universal big picture and thereby embrace the truly important things in life as priority. As an example of what would be seen as truly important read this. The stretching poses thought of in the West as yoga, were actually introduced to help people struggling to calm and focus their mind into a meditative state. So we sure as heck did some self-reflection on the course. It was messy at times, surprising, invigorating, releasing and it was all supported by the most amazing group. If you’re not a self-reflector try it. Self-awareness links closely to emotional intelligence which is increasingly seen as the key to success in many areas. It’s evident across the world that we’re moving away from the premise of only leading with the mind and rationale. The heart or feeling is finally getting the recognition it deserves and I for one am happy about it. Whilst I’m not an ‘enlightened yogi’ (as yet) you can see I gained some level of enlightenment below. I wondered if someone was coming to pick me up, Man would have been so jealous if I’d headed to the stars and become a storm trooper.
My time at Anuttara also brought me wonderful new friends, especially all the ladies who stayed in the dorm room. I had anticipated and prepared in advance for the fact that at least one person in the room would be so different that it would be a struggle to live with them for a month. Hand on heart I can say that all of us hit it off from the very start and we only grew in friendship. Amongst our group of twenty one there were Canadian, French, Chilean, Austrian, German, American and the surprise above all surprises Herefordian! Yes I was in a dormitory with someone who grew up in the same small English town as me and only four years between us. She does currently live in Colombia though so we’re quite the international pair. It occurred to me that there must be something in the two of us coming from the same small town, yet only meeting now for the first time randomly in Northern BC and both being at a point in our lives where in the next 12 months or so we want to set up our own businesses with a desire to be able to spend time in Herefordshire and the Wye Valley (and Canada for me too!). Who knows what may come of our fortuitous meeting – County or maybe worldwide wide yogic & meditative domination? And given that I think of meditation as mind control (albeit control of your own mind) this could play into a delightful Doctor Evil type situation. I’d probably style myself more Cruella de Vil visually mind you – just a thought, moving on.
What else of note has occurred? you ask. Well I saw a bear! I went on a mini road trip around interior BC with the lovely Man. We were heading to the bottom of our B&B garden in Rossland to have a cheeky beveraajay when I noticed movement to my left. I thought perhaps they had a dog until I noticed this nose was too big for a dog and also had it’s own type of nose movement, far too twitchy for any dog that I know of. I checked with Man that I wasn’t going insane and in a very Canadian way he said ‘ouh’ and then we started to retreat slowly. Angela the fabulous and notably English lady, who ran the B&B simply said ‘oh is he back again, don’t worry about him he just wants the apples’ and carried on painting the shed. So Angela painted, we sat on the wall, Gerty the bear sat down and had an apple or two whilst leaning against a tree. Everyone was happy. Ironic that I spent near on four weeks in the back of beyond in a place where I was warned about bears and then I see one in someone’s back yard (not best pic but one needs to keep distance you see for fear that Gerty prefers my carotid)
In other parts of our road trip we visited Revelstoke which was a lovely old town and served gluten free dairy free pizza – no it’s not the same as a proper Italian or Chicago or NY pizza but i’ll take what I can.
Culinary interlude: On the way to Revelstoke we stopped on the Okanagan highway in a small village of unknown name, not even sure you call them villages in Canada? to go to a café called the Salty Caramel Kitchen that I had read about. Yep you guessed it they serve gluten free, vegan bakes and I needed to try them out. Now I’ve ate my fair share of cake so I am very well informed to say what is a good cake, whether a ‘free from’ anything or a traditional good old buttery, flour filled delight. Now I shit you not when I say that this salted caramel blondie was one of the best cakes I have ever tasted. Ever. Even before I had to watch what type of cake I eat. So I have talked the man into a motorbike trip up that way so I can go again. And I have found out which local bakeries and cafe’s stock their stuff just for good measure!
Back to the road trip. We then stopped the night in Nkusp to go visit the natural hot springs. We lazed around in them for several hours and had a beautiful lake view from our bedroom in the Leland hotel, the oldest in the town. Next day we headed to Nelson which I instantly fell in love with. Why oh why you ask? Try hard and I reckon you can guess. Yep you got it, a multitude of sweet treat locations catering to my various requirements. After approximately two days of analysing what they had on offer in the first café I finally set on a zucchini chocolate muffin which was scrumptious.
Side note: Man is a very patient person. He puts up with excessive deliberation around cakes (although he said its adorable so I don’t think he minds too much) and anger about lack of choice (he sometimes has to call me out on this when the anger gets misdirected at him and there’s daggers heading his way). He’s very good that way.
From Nelson it was onto Rossland, where we met Angela and Gerty the bear. We also ate in a converted petrol/gas station called Fuel which served one of the tastiest salads I’ve had in some time. Next morning it was onward to Osoyoos but with a pit stop in Greenwood for a café recommended by Angela. Now Greenwood is a small town and this place was heaving. Good drinks and a miracle. Man had a cake, there was no cake for me, so possibly for the first time ever it was me watching him eat cake and not the other way around. I’m still not sure I’ve recovered.
In Osoyoos we developed an urge to stay in a classic motel, bit run down, cheesy and with space to buy a pack of booze sit on a rusting bench and say hi to folk. Sadly our ideal target the Richter Pass Motor Inn, classily told us via a crumpled sign stuck in the locked reception window that they were full. The next couple were full. Then we tried a couple but the only available rooms were suites at a higher price than we wanted. We tried another available one, noticed something shifty going down and the receptionist conducting our conversation with no eye contact and little notice we were there due to focus on said shifting. We decided a slightly higher price for a nice smile and being able to wake up with all our limbs still attached the next day was preferable. We then spent much of the rest of the evening kayaking around the lake before what was the best burger I have eaten since having to go GF, perhaps one of the best burgers ever full stop.
Next morning we went to visit the local desert. Yes did you know that the Southern Okanagan part of Canada is a desert and an endangered habitat at that, so we were happy to chip in some dollar to learn about it and support it’s protection. Whilst walking around two friendly deer stepped out just ahead of us to say hi with their big ears and big eyes. The second part of the day I shall not go to heavily into – I mentioned how I get upset about food. On this day I got over excited thinking I’d genuinely found a breakfast place with good things for me and Daryl. So lets just say my excitement knew no bounds and i’d been drooling for my pancakes since the night before. Turns out I was wrong they did GF and DF but not together. I was a bit sad about it. A bit meaning devastated to an extent that is totally out of proportion! I think I may have cried on the drive home. This is what happens when you aren’t working. Your focus can sit a little too heavily on other things, so there’s pro’s and con’s as ever.
Since our road trip Man has headed off to work. I am now adventuring Kelowna and West Kelowna alone and beginning the task of setting myself up ready to earn money in the coming months. It has been an amazing opportunity this summer to step away from life as I’ve known it for so long and i’m excited to start anew. Perhaps more will come about that in a future chapter who knows. For now, once more good people, I bid you adieu. Thank you as ever for reading!