Creating a retreat at home

Every year I spend the equivalent of over a month on retreat. I am very fortunate that I get to volunteer at a retreat centre where I do two of the things I love the most – hang out with like minded, positive people who are committed to their own growth and cook! This enables me to go on far more retreats than I would otherwise, and although I am working, I get to hang out and learn from some of the best meditation teachers. I also go on one retreat a year as a punter so I can participate fully. I also get to spend more time than I would usually in nature, especially around trees.

I should have been away last week so now I am feeling in the need of that opportunity to reflect and go within. When I went on my first retreat 11 years ago, in 2009, I worried about being disconnected from the world. This was only a weekend! The longest retreat I have done so far is 12 days. Even a week doesn’t always seem long enough now.

As soon as I arrive on retreat I sense a slowing down. My mind stops racing, I stop worrying about messages and emails I haven’t replied to. There’s nothing that can’t wait. I rarely read on retreats now because that is just more input which is what I am trying to reduce, to detox my mind. It’s not easy because the mind always wants to be busy. It’s also tempting to find things to do to avoid being with my thoughts.

Sometimes a retreat will go swimmingly and I feel as if I’m on cloud 9 all week and could meditate for hours. Other times I will be dealing with difficult emotions – stuff that is happening in my life or has come up from the past. Over the years I’ve learned to use that as my material to work with. If something is presenting itself to me then unless I face it it’s only going to resurface at a later date.

When I came away from my first retreat I felt so blissed out I just wanted to hold onto that feeling for ever. However, trying to grasp onto pleasant emotions is only going to cause suffering because nothing is permanent. Sometimes it could be quite jarring to return to the ‘outside’ world among people who haven’t been on retreat. I would get frustrated at their lack of self-awareness. That presented more material for me to work with; developing compassion. After all you don’t know what you don’t know.

It’s now nearly 5 months since I was last on retreat so I feel I am well overdue. To that end I’ve decided to create my own retreat, here at home. Over the May bank holiday weekend I shall turn off my phone – or put it in airplane mode so I can still use the Insight Timer app. I shall start at 7pm on Friday evening and continue to lunchtime on Monday morning. I won’t watch TV, check my emails, make any phone calls, read anything other than poetry and definitely no social media!

I’ve planned out the schedule as follows:

Friday 1 May
7pm –  dedication ceremony and short meditation
Saturday 2 May
7.30 am – bodywork and meditation
10.30 am – meditation
4pm – relaxation and meditation
7pm – inspirational readings, meditation and chanting
Sunday 3 May
7.30 am – bodywork and meditation
10.30 am – meditation
4pm – relaxation and meditation
7pm – inspirational readings, meditation and chanting
Monday 4 May
7.30 am – bodywork and meditation
10.30 am – meditation and closing ceremony.

The body work will consist of either yoga, EFT or a do-in, depending whether anyone joins me. Each session will last between one and two hours.
If you like the sound of this and would like to join me I am happy to stream the meditations over Zoom, do some q&a to help you with your meditation whether you’re a beginner of if you’ve been doing it for years. If it’s the latter come and join in the power of collective meditation.

So how will I feel at the end of it? Of course that is unknown because I don’t know what will surface over the 4 days. One thing I do know though is that I will definitely feel better afterwards. My head will be clearer, I will feel refreshed and cleansed. I also won’t be drinking any alcohol or caffeine – I rarely drink these days anyway. I will still go for my daily walks and I may do a bit of gardening because that is my way of connecting with nature.

I’d love to invite you to join me. To make it affordable to everyone just pay what you can afford.

Click the link and pick your price! https://www.paypal.me/happyteachers

See you there!

 

 

 

 

Helen and Bosh Day 17 – Sweet & Sour Crispy Tofu

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Book picture

My tip for a better flavour if you have a juicer – use a fresh pineapple. For much of my life I thought I didn’t like pineapple but that was because I had only ever had tinned. Don’t do what I did though and forget to put the bit aside you were going to chop up to put in the dish! I used the pulp from the juicer though and it still tasted fine. It was rather sweet and I didn’t use tomato ketchup – an authentic Chinese ingredient? Why on earth? I used passata instead and if I made this again I wouldn’t add sugar either. I would also put in more chilli flakes to up the ‘sour’ flavour. It’s quick to make though – not sure why this isn’t in Quick Eats and Pad Thai is. Another tip of mine, there is no need to coat the tofu in cornflour – the flour goes crispy but not the tofu. Simply fry the tofu cubes in some sunflower or coconut oil, saves on washing up too. Serve with some steamed greens. Total preparation and cooking time about 35 minutes.

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Finished dish.

Skill level required: 6/10
Washing up generated: 4/10 bowl, grater, 2 frying pans, saucepan, chopping board and utensils
Portion size: 10/10
Tastiness: 7/10
Will I make it again? Yes with my variations above.

Helen and Bosh Day 16 – Mushroom & Guinness Pie

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Book picture

Of course Guinness isn’t gluten free so I used St Peter’s dark gluten free beer which is available in Sainsbury’s. Again it’s mushrooms so bound to be a hit! I would have preferred a bit more gravy so next time I will add a bit of stock to the filling. That is just my personal choice though – the flavour was great. The phone rang while it was in the oven so my crust is slightly browner than I intended! Although compared to the picture in the book it does look far more appetising than their pale crust. My time saving tip – start cooking the onions first before putting the mushrooms in the oven. The wonderful thing about Jus-Rol gluten free pastry is you don’t have to roll it out! I used soya milk as a glaze. Total preparation and cooking time about 1 and a half hours.

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What it looks like

Skill level required: 5/10
Washing up generated: 7/10 baking tray, oven dish, frying pan, chopping board and utensils
Portion size: 10/10
Tastiness: 8/10
Will I make it again? Again pasta and sauce is a regular staple so I will be making my usual variations depending what veg I have in!

 

Helen and Bosh – Quick Eats Overview

So that’s the first chapter finished! To quote the title page of the chapter ‘get it done quickly.’ Many of the recipes in this section, although delicious, were not quick to make at all! Some were very fiddly which is not what you want when you are hungry. If you are an inexperienced cook don’t let this put you off.

There are some strange instructions like peel ginger with a spoon – use a knife or peeler it’s much easier or squeezing a lime into your hand – a citrus squeezer is a standard piece of kitchen equipment and you get much more juice from it! Also be aware in several recipes the instructions are not in a logical order, for the most part it makes sense to chop everything before you start cooking.

Onto the next chapter now which is Big Eats!

Helen and Bosh day 15 – Creamy Mac & Greens

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Book picture

Can’t really go wrong with macaroni cheese! Their recipe for the ‘cheese’ sauce is very similar to one I use. The first time I tried it I couldn’t believe it was vegan! I didn’t bother with breadcrumbs – I’m not sure what is special about ‘panko’ breadcrumbs but they aren’t gluten free. If I want a crispy topping I use crushed ready salted crisps. There is no need to heat up the milk in the microwave. I have managed without one for years now and they really aren’t good for you. A very substantial meal. Total preparation and cooking time 40 minutes.

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What it actually looks like

Skill level required: 5/10
Washing up generated: 5/10 2 baking trays, bowl, oven dish, 2 saucepans, jug, chopping board and utensils
Portion size: 10/10
Tastiness: 10/10
Will I make it again? In some sort of variation most probably.

Helen and Bosh Day 14 – Jackfruit Tacos

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Book picture

Jackfruit is a weird one. It is not something I would choose to eat because there are plenty of better alternatives. I’ve seen people rave about it but I don’t really see what the fuss is about. The tinned version (I have not tried fresh but I imagine that is completely different) is pinkish and similar in texture to artichoke hearts. It doesn’t have a huge amount of flavour. I would prefer to fill tacos with chilli but they are not something I would normally eat. You can’t go wrong with guacamole though! Fairly quick to make for a lunch or snack but they aren’t very substantial.

 

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What they actually look like

Skill level required: 4/10
Washing up generated: 9/10 2 bowls for guacamole & salsa if making from scratch, frying pan, baking tray, chopping board and utensils
Portion size: 4/10
Tastiness: 410
Will I make it again? No.

Helen and Bosh Day 13 – Crispy Chilli Tofu

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Book picture

Can’t believe I am 2 weeks in! If you are a fan of tofu this was far better than the Pad Thai. I used freshly squeezed orange juice – you will need 5 or 6 oranges for 250ml. It gives the dish a far better flavour than stuff from a carton. It was nice cold for lunch the following day too. Total cooking and preparation time about 40 minutes.

 

 

 

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What it actually looks like.

Skill level required: 6/10
Washing up generated: 10/10 plate, frying pan, chopping board and utensils
Portion size: 10/10
Tastiness: 10/10
Will I make it again? Probably, the more tofu dishes in my arsenal the better!

Helen and Bosh day 12 – Portobello Burgers

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Book picture

I love anything with mushrooms so these were bound to be a hit. Use a garlic crusher to mince the garlic. I learned something today – I had never heard of balsamic glaze before. It’s easy to make just heat up some balsamic vinegar and sugar in a saucepan until it has reduced by half. I personally don’t like ketchup – why spoil the delicate taste of the garlic mushrooms? Mayonnaise on its own is fine or add a little bit of chilli sauce for a bit of a kick. I served with sweet potato wedges.  Unfortunately I was unable to locate gluten free burger buns that were vegan so I used Schar ciabatta rolls. Cooking and preparation time about 30 minutes.

 

What they actually look like
What they actually look like

Skill level required: 1/10
Washing up generated: 10/10 baking sheet, chopping board and utensils
Portion size: 10/10
Tastiness: 8/10
Will I make it again? Probably

Helen and Bosh Day 11 – Pad Thai

Book PictureMy this was fiddly! If you do make this my advice is to chop everything you start cooking. One thing I have noticed about these recipes the instructions aren’t always in a logical order which is fine if you are experienced but not so good for people who aren’t so confident. Depending what noodles you use you may need to cook them fully before adding them to the stir fry. I love tofu but this is not a quick meal! The chopped peanuts are a nice touch as it adds a bit of crunch and texture. Total preparation and cooking time about 1 hour.

 

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What it actually looks like.

 

Skill level required: 10/10
Washing up generated: 9/10 2 bowls, wok, plate, chopping board and utensils
Portion size: 10/10
Tastiness: 8/10
Will I make it again? Very fiddly so probably not

Helen and Bosh day 10 – Easy Peasy Pasta

Not sure about the name – it doesn’t have peas in it! Cooking and preparation time was about an hour so not that quick. If I made this again I wouldn’t put passata in with the veg in the oven to get a better roasted flavour. The Bosh boys seem to have their favourite ingredients! I would probably put some aubergine in next time as well. I used proper tomatoes cut into 8 pieces each rather than the cherry ones for a heartier flavour. Don’t bother to chop the spinach it’s not necessary! It was very filling, no need for bread!

 

Skill level required: 4/10
Washing up generated: 10/10 oven dish, saucepan, chopping board and utensils
Portion size: 10/10
Tastiness: 8/10
Will I make it again? Again pasta and sauce is a regular staple so I will be making my usual variations depending what veg I have in!