After a fond farewell to the SIBA Retreat gang I set off south-west to a town called Stratford (‘on the River Avon’) – not the one over 10 thousand miles away in my home country of England – but its namesake in the state of Victoria (Australia). They have embraced the connection with Shakespeare in this small town and host an annual ‘Shakespeare on the River’ festival.
I met with Amelia, a friend I made at the Easter retreat, and followed her to her rural home near a town called Sale; she was good enough to let me stay a few nights with her and her two housemates.
We hung out, drank red wine (Amelia introduced me to organic preservative-free varieties. Wow, a revelation, no headaches!), practiced yoga, went for a long walk around the Sale Common Wetlands, and attended a meditation group led by Ross, whom I also met at the retreat.
I hadn’t meditated for a while, and found the posture (sitting back straight and legs crossed) quite challenging after the first 15 minutes. My feet felt like gigantic tingling balls; entities of their own. It was no use. I had to change positions and sit in a chair. Easier said than done when your feet feel like gym balls. After manoeuvring as discreetly as possible, I settled into an upright pose in the chair and tried again.
I don’t claim to be an expert on the art of meditation, but seems to be all about calming the mind. Without consciously trying to relax the mind, it is always busy. Whether we are awake, asleep, at work, reading, talking, using our phones, whatever, the mind is active. But with so much use and responsibility – for we rely on our minds constantly – they perhaps need a rest once in a while.
This session was Buddhism focused, which was slightly different for me but very interesting. Whatever the slant though, calming the mind has got to be healthy right?
A couple of nights with the girls near Sale, then off I went 3 hours west to Footscray – a very multicultural suburb of Melbourne. I had booked an ‘airbnb’ room there, as it was actually cheaper than a hostel because I have a car to park.
My reasoning behind stopping in the city for a night was to visit a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner, which I had been meaning to do for a long time. It was quite insightful.
While I was in the city, with foods from around the globe at my fingertips, I tried Ethiopian cuisine for the first time. I had a mixture of spicy and non-spicy (although neither tasted hot) beef curries/stews and a selection of traditional breads. The thick rolled ones had a consistency similar to pancake but with a slightly lemon savoury flavour. I washed it down with ginger tea. Good stuff.
Time to move on further west after one night in Footscray, with Buninyong being my next destination. I was to revisit a previous ‘HelpX’ host family I last saw 3 years ago. I was really looking forward to catching up with such a lovely family again, including all the animals… One of which has an unfortunate history involving me. Hopefully things would be okay this time round…
To be continued.