I recently took some time out and went on my first self-retreat at the Buddhist Retreat Centre, KwaZulu-Natal for some serious R&R after a very stressful period in my life.
This was the first Buddhist Retreat Centre in Africa and attracts people from all corners of the world. It was created by Durban-based Dutch architect Louis van Loon who bought 140 hectares of derelict farmland and turned it into this tranquil paradise.
“Over the next decade he dug up pine seedlings on the roadside and replanted them on the farm to get a fast-growing forest going. Then he added indigenous trees. There are thousands of them now, attracting 160 species of birds, including the endangered blue swallow. For both accomplishments, the centre has been awarded National Heritage status.” Read more: http://www.southafrica.info/travel/cultural/ixopo.htm#ixzz1Y6vdEAAQ
In search of some quiet and some sanity, I definitely chose the best place for that. Although it is called the ‘Buddhist Retreat Centre’, anyone is welcome and your spiritual/religious beliefs are of no consequence. It really is a place of peace and tranquility, and the most divine vegetarian cooking you have ever tasted!
The recipes used have been so widely acclaimed that they have created 2 recipe books from them (Quiet Food: A Recipe for Sanity and The Cake the Buddha Ate: More Quiet Food – both available on Amazon.co.uk, the links will take you there) and completely epitomise healthy, hearty, fresh meals made with care and love. Lots of fresh ingredients are used, a lot of the from their own vegetable garden, and time is taken to ensure that the end effect is wholesome. I’ve tried recipes from both the books and they really are amazing – even my non-vegetarian friends had a taste of some of these and are currently trying to figure out a way to get their husbands to try it without giving it the ‘vegetarian food’ stigma that most South African men believe. (i.e. that all meals need some meat and vegetarian food is merely a starter)
-Try the Malay-style ‘Bobotie’ with the baby caramelised onions (you’ll need both books for that)
My ears were ignited with only the sounds of birds and wind and I smelt flowers wherever I walked. I can’t even remember when last I experienced that. The staff are the most peaceful and friendly people you will meet and every moment there is just soothing.
I managed to do some yoga on my own in the beautiful meditation hall every day, Chi-Kung in the gardens and tried out meditation. Reading and walking were the main activities of the day, with some really stunning walks and view points of the hills and valleys. A run through the forest in the morning was also an amazing experience. My camera was alive as well and it didn’t get much of a break the entire week!
Read my yoga post for a bit of a funnier side to this whole retreat story… Kiss My Asana.
I’d really recommend this for anyone needing a real break from the fast- paced real world – 4 days is a good period for a mid-week self-retreat.
It really was the best thing that I did for myself and without it, I’m sure I’d be in a far less healthy state than I am in right now. We need the time out for our bodies and most importantly, our minds, to recharge every now and then. With people getting stress-related physical and mental illnesses at an alarmingly younger age these days, we need to look after ourselves!