Meditations on Being Alone

by Brian on February 16, 2010

in A Parent in Israel,Just For Fun

My wife left me this week. Don’t worry – it’s nothing serious. Jody is participating in a week long meditation retreat at Kibbutz Hanaton in the Galilee. That means I’m home alone with the kids (not a problem) but also alone in the kitchen (bigger problem).

I have never been much of a whiz as a cook. I can stick a sandwich in the “toast” machine and I’ve been known to whip up an omelet under distress. My saving grace is my Shabbat cholent, which is reputed to be the best in Baka.

So Jody had lovingly bought exactly the right ingredients for the list of meals she’d prepared in advance. Nice wife, huh?

But for our first meal alone, when I opened up the fridge, it was nearly bare. Jody believes in the Japanese model of “just in time” delivery. If she’d specified one salad for the week, then there was only enough lettuce, cucumber and tomato for that.

This model is great for saving cash (Jody’s specialty in her work as a financial coach: why stock your pantry to the brim like some kind of second supermarket, she advises her clients, when you could leave that money in the bank where it can keep working for you).

But the kids wanted more than one day’s salad, no broccoli, plus we were already out of bananas.

I decided to call Jody on her cell phone. She could advise me on where to find the freshest vegetables that wouldn’t take too substantial a bite out of my wallet (note to self: not Super Moshava on Emek Refaim) or she could recommend an alternative recipe from our food bible Kosher by Design: Short on Time. But it was to no avail.

You see, Jody was on a silent meditation retreat. Seven days of no talking. She had showed me the schedule. The wake up gong sounds at 5:30 AM. First sitting is at 6:00 AM, followed by morning prayers and a meal eaten in complete silence – you’re not even supposed to look your dining partner in the eye.

Then more meditation, more meals, more prayer until 9:30 PM when it’s lights out and the whole process starts over again.

The silent part also applies to cell phones. Fine, I could always SMS, right? Wrong. The retreat leader had advised participants to turn of their phones completely for the duration of their time away.

That seemed a bit obsessive to me. Even when Jody and I have gone away to far-flung places like India and Egypt, our cell phones have always been on for emergencies. This was like going back to the 1970s when using a payphone was considered a extreme sport.

But I suppose it will be a good experience. Kind of like one of those wilderness challenges where you hike for a month and have to fend on your own, eating berries and hunting bunnies. The kids and I will tough it out. Learn how to cook soup. Even follow recipes with more than three steps.

Or we could forget about the missing cucumbers and order a week’s worth of falafel and pizza. You know, that actually sounds pretty good…just don’t tell Jody!

A slightly shorter version of this article originally appeared on the Israelity blog.

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