We went to Peace Village in the Catskills this weekend for a vegetarian cooking retreat with light meditation for my mother’s birthday. I have mixed feelings about the experience. I know that everyone in the retreat besides my family (lifelong vegetarians) gained new insights on a different lifestyle. I hiked to the top of a beautiful waterfall near the Kaaterskill rail trail and saw my first actual bear after the retreat ended.
However, I was dismayed to find that the Brahma Kumaris there used some unsubstantiated facts in presenting the benefits of increased consciousness and attentiveness– for example, Dr. Emoto’s pseudoscientific studies on water. To me, the value of a veg*an diet is obvious- no unnecessary torture or killing, health and environmental benefits. Even meditation has obvious benefits to me regardless of scientific studies–ideally, scientific work, if used, would have been legitimate like work that neuroscientists are doing with monks.
…and instead sit outside on the beautiful, mountain-encased grounds.
My favorite person at the retreat was a graceful and unassuming British woman named Colette. She was one of the Brahma Kumaris, but far more inviting than most of the others. A former English teacher in England and later the Bahamas, she described herself as the keeper of the grounds. The Hagrid of Peace Village? She led an hour-long hike on which she walked hand in hand with Barbara, a booming and jovial woman from the Bronx (one of my favorite retreat participants) after Barbara took a couple falls.
One friend we made was an Australian named Michael, there with his Russian girlfriend/Montessori schoolteacher Tanya (I seem to have a history of meeting interesting foreign Michaels.) He had a mane of wavy blonde hair and wore a navy blue button down most of the weekend. He made friends with extreme ease, charming Barbara on the hike and my family on the first night. I would sometimes hear a “Hey, Mishti?” behind me and see Michael asking me questions that exuded a strange innocence, like “So what is the meaning of all this?” Along the pond at the center of the grounds, which countless frogs bordered, he told me the story of his start-up tadpole business in elementary school with his brother. They would sell bottles of one tadpole in an environment of sand and stones, and were promptly shut down by the school and made to donate their 75 cent profit to charity.
Looking forward to going back to the mountains.