Each time I go back to the UK, it takes me a while to get back into the spiritual groove I have been establishing since I moved here.
It’s tough, when you’re surrounded by a hundred Welshmen, spilling their pints of Stella over you, while drowning their sorrows at another Welsh rugby loss, to stay calm.
So when I come back, I have to re-group, as they say, and have to immerse myself back in the culture that seems such a far remove from home.
My bookshelves here are packed with self-help books of various sorts. My latest read was Eat, Pray, Love, a rather earnest quest by US journalist Elizabeth Gilbert to “find herself” in Italy, India and Indonesia.
It all sounded a bit energetic for me, and I specially wasn’t drawn to the India bit, where she rose every day at 3am to meditate.
Good grief: I’m hardly ever in bed by 3am.
I’m a bigger fan of Andrew Gottlieb’s take on it – Drink, Play, F@*k – although having no hash key on my Apple computer keyboard (as I have just discovered), I have had to insert a star where a hash should be. Life’s never easy, is it?
Outside my local grocery store, I picked up a magazine called Awareness, billed as “California’s premier bi-monthly holistic magazine”. It’s a rather unprepossessing publication – all muted colours and men who look like aliens on the cover – but I thought it might serve as a pick-me-up for my dilapidated spirit.
The cover provided information about forthcoming events, including a “Raw Spirit Festival” (rustic 100% proof Russian vodka, I wondered? Somehow, I doubted it). There was also an “Alchemy Conference”.
The only thing that would draw me to that would be if it were to alchemise into a Jimmy Choo "all shoes ten cents" sale before I got there.
Inside the magazine, there were even more treats – a tree-hugging day in Santa Monica, for instance. I’ve never quite got tree-hugging. Why would you hug a tree while there are still men in the world? And why is there not a Martini-Hugging Day?
People have told me that tree-hugging is a very rewarding experience – well, not people I hang out with, you understand, just people who don’t wash their hair much and prefer Glastonbury digs to a Marriott. Weird people.
The magazine is very big on angels (and disturbingly, I really do know people who claim to hang out with their angels), and there is even a website on which you can “Listen to Archangelic Messages”.
I don’t think that Christmas is the time to tune in, to be honest, a time when archangels have a habit of delivering messages along the lines of: “Lo, you will become pregnant without having sex and not be able to find a Marriott within walking distance.”
If you’re not keen on chatting to angels, guess what: you can “Get in touch with your personal gatekeeper”. Should you be as ignorant as I am on this, your gatekeeper is “The producer/director of the play your soul wrote before you came into this lifetime.”
Having just had possibly the worst year of my entire life, here’s a message, gatekeeper: you should have done a re-write of the middle act; it’s shit.
Despite some strange practices described within, Awareness is quite encouraging about money and does not rule out material riches going hand in hand with spiritual ones (just as well, the packet these people must be making on the back of the gullible and/or stupid).
Niurka, for instance, is a glamorous businesswoman and author of Supreme Influence; she offers techniques on how to become aligned with your true nature in order to increase prosperity and yet stay true to your spiritual self.
I am quite drawn to this you can have the penny and the bun philosophy, and Niurka has a strong background in NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming), of which I am already a strong advocate.
“Make a decision to go deep within yourself,” advises Niurka. “Focus on the essential nature of your being and everything around you will change.”
My bank balance, in particular, I hoped, although I suspect my damned gatekeeper wrote: “No money. Ever” into my script in his/her first draft.
I already meditate twice a day, but decided to up it a bit, in the hope of changing a few things.
When I first learned Transcendental Meditation, I found that it lowered my blood pressure and made me generally less anxious and depressed – well, apart from on the day when I went for my initiation ceremony, couldn’t find anywhere to buy the required handkerchief on Oxford Street, and nearly went under a double-decker bus in my rush to get there.
It’s a powerful tool, though. Within an hour of upping my 20 minutes to 40, I was in Sports Club LA spa, asking for more information about the Four Seasons Amex special massage offer.
“We’re not the Four Seasons,” explained the receptionist. “Yes, you are,” I insisted. “The Beverly Hills Hotel is, and you, the Beverly Wilshire, are part of the same group.”
“But we’re not the Beverly Wilshire,” she said.
Oh, no, you’re the gym. Silly me.
It’s all very well diving into your psyche in search of greater awareness, but nobody ever tells you that it can make you mad.
Barking mad, if you’re a tree-hugger.