Carla thought for a bit. ‘The chance to take a step back. It’s like, you’re stressed at work, at home, whatever, you are the stress. A couple of days here, and the stress doesn’t exactly go. You can just look at it from the outside, see how small it is.’
‘I can’t help feeling it’s a bit selfish, though,’ I said. ‘I mean, I’ve gone on holiday, haven’t I? Without my family. Actually, it’s worse than that. I’ve gone on a holiday dressed up as self-improvement.’
Carla laughed. ‘I guess.’
‘I’m selfish and sanctimonious.’
‘But wouldn’t you be a worse dad if you didn’t give yourself a break now and then?’
We dads, I thought to myself, were generally pretty good at giving ourselves breaks. Still, I took Carla’s point. The idea, it seemed, was to withdraw from the world, for a limited period, in order to return better able to deal with its trials. To inhabit it better. After lunch we returned to the mandala-print room for a body-scan meditation, lying on the floor with our feet slightly apart and a cushion under our heads. Our teacher that afternoon was Yvonne, a woman in her late thirties with a deep tan, a dancer’s lithe economy of movement and an air of vaguely vegan congeniality that repeatedly took me back to my childhood, on the fringes of the hippie-ish self-sufficiency movement in Wales, when I was meant to be focusing my attention on my body. Yvonne’s voice was pitched to the music: soft, rhythmic, soothing.
‘Notice the sensations in your body as you breathe. Notice the feeling in your chest, your back, your legs, your feet. Don’t worry if your mind wanders. This is not a competition. Simply notice that it has wandered, and bring your attention back to your body.’