The shady terrace of an old house in a Berber village, deep in the folds of the hills overlooking Marrakesh, was the perfect spot for a week of yoga. I was there with my daughter, who is supple enough to take the lotus pose and can stand on her head at will. I can do neither, or not without some inelegant heaving and hoicking first, but I’m ready to give anything a try and hence the week’s retreat. I’m still a newcomer to the asanas scene, having only taken up yoga last Christmas – rather unwillingly – as an alternative to running and rock climbing, which are the activities I really love. But past the age of 65, I glumly discover, the knees and hips start to get rickety and the spine painfully compresses as the discs lose their spongy resilience. There’s not much to be done about it – just try to find something to do that doesn’t demand so much of the brittle body.
This retreat was quite a forgiving one. There were no rules about turning vegan, or forbidding a margarita at sunset. Classes ran from 7.30 to 9am and 4 to 6.30pm, so there was plenty of time in between for sunbathing and exploring. The daughter and I pushed on at our different ability levels, and for the rest of the time we read or talked. I devoured three books from the Man Booker list – Howard Jacobson, Ali Smith and David Nicholls. All good. I liked How to be Both best of the three. It’s got an interesting structure, and a kind of fierce delicacy about it. This is by no means a book blog, but it’s the title off the list I would recommend. That said, I still haven’t read the winner, or Neel Mukherjee.
Emptying the mind during the meditation sessions was much harder than taking the crow pose. There’s always some little voice inside my head. Hello? Listen to that bird. My nose is itchy. Will there be pancakes for breakfast? Especially now. It’s a month since I sent in the completed manuscript of DAUGHTER OF THE HOUSE, and I still haven’t heard anything from the publishers. They are busy people and have to go to a lot of meetings with each other, but a month feels a really long time to be left in a state of anxious suspension. What if they hate it? What if they’re trying to find a way to tell me? Maybe it’s terrible. There’s that bird again.
According to our excellent teacher, you are supposed to gently acknowledge the intrusion of the thought, then bring your attention back to your breath. Slow inhale, hold, slow exhale. Slow in, hold….
Well. Maybe I have learned a little.