Friday, 6 November 2009


Reading Dostoevsky is good for considering the balance of one’s soul, and while I haven’t been reading Dostoevsky recently, I was in desperate need of a punchy-literary style soul related opening to this piece. Taking a balance of my own lilywhite soul recently, I conclude that it’s a little on the skimpy side, with precious little hope of barging its way to the front in any bouts of afterlife queue jumping.

This in mind, I resolve to save myself from the hellfires of eternal damnation and become a Buddhist. A rather heavy drinking and smoking Buddhist, that is, and one who is partial to the odd carne do sol and chips every once in a while, and one who has from time to time fornicated and plans one day to fornicate again (sorry Ma, but fornicate is too good a word not to use every once in a while). Do Buddhists fornicate? I remain unenlightened. Isn’t Roberto Baggio a Buddhist? And didn´t he shack up with Madonna for a bit? Which seems like it might be quite conclusive evidence for the Buddhists-heart-fornication bumper sticker argument.

So if I can’t be a proper Buddhist, can I at least be a Buddhistant? A medium to hard drinking Irish Protestant who thinks Buddhists are nice, but isn’t going to shave his head or give up any of the good things in life like cigarettes and booze and carne do sol any time soon? Maybe. But so far my Buddhist conversion hasn’t got much further than liking incense because it makes the house smell less damp and - stifle the sniggers at the back, please - um, going to yoga classes.

Because it’s nice to go to yoga classes! It’s nice to ride my bike (with its shiny new Santa Cruz stickers) along the beach at seven in the morning and wander still sleepy into the Buddhist temple! And it is a real life Buddhist temple, with monks and everything (though from the outside it looks a bit like a Job Centre in 1980s Chelmsleywood) and which smells of incense (obviously), and has instructions over the bathroom sink about how to wash your hands in a proper Buddhist way (wrists are more important than I realised). It’s nice to take my shoes off and put on my rather fetching white Buddhistant yoga pants! It’s nice to sit next to my companions (nine ladies of a certain age) on a little blue mat with my legs crossed!

Though, try as the monks and the little walnut-faced maybe half-Chinese Buddhist yoga master might, Buddhistant or Buddhistolic (I remain unconvinced that my colleagues, probably good Brazilian Catholics, have given up booze and fags and meat either) yoga in Brazil is still, well, rather Brazilian.

At the beginning it´s all very much as you might expect – we all sit on our little blue mats and do some stretching. Don’t push yourself too hard, the yoga master, whom we might call Yoda, tells me. It’s your first time. Do as much as you can. Yeah right, grandma, I think, looking at my creaky-hipped competition. Then there’s a bit of put-your-left-leg-in-and-take-your-left-leg-out hoky coky action, and the Atlantic glistens outside the windows, and the palm trees rustle in all the balminess, and the big bright blue sky glows above all of it, and a few Buddhist statues smile beatifically down as though to say could be worse, couldn’t it? And I agree – it could definitely be worse.

But it’s a stressful business, yoga in Brazil. Yoda speaks very quietly, so I have to keep opening my eyes to see what’s going on. And I keep thinking about things that I have to do, like cut my toenails and wash my socks and ring The Argument. So it’s quite hard to concentrate, really. Outside doesn’t help. Just as everyone is getting all nice and relaxed, and the only sound is the pan-pipes or the whale mating ritual or whatever it is on the Ministry of Sound Presents The Clubbers Guide To Buddhism CD that’s playing, a car passes in the street playing Avioes Do Forro’s post modern rendering of the Faust myth - olha a barriguinha, olha a barriguinha (look at the little fat belly, look at the little fat belly) at teeth-crunching volume. The windows in our little Buddhist sanctuary shake. The car seems to have parked up outside the Buddhist temple, because the music continues. And continues. In the military transit hotel across the road a gang of squaddies are doing some kind of work which involves hitting hammers against metal very hard. Two men in the street are talking in very loud voices. Cabra safado, I said, cabra safado! (Naughty goat, I said, such a naughty goat!), says one. The other one laughs. Another two men are having an argument about money. Their voices grow louder. There come two loud retorts like the sound of a pistol being fired. Some of the less focused Buddhistants or Buddhistolics run to the window to have a look. Just a car backfiring, laughs one of them, sitting back on her little blue mat. Yoda glares at her. Order resumes.

I try hard to get into the swing of things, but I am having difficulty aligning little fat belly with a sense of inner calm. And wondering just who has been a naughty goat and what he did to earn the title. I close my eyes very tight, though I can’t hear a word Yoda is saying, what with the banging and the music and the shooting (sorry, car backfiring) and the yelling. Still it is nice to sit in the big bright room and feel the warm air pass over my face. But everything seems to be taking a very long time. I start to thing about things I have planned for this morning, and wonder if the supermarket has opened yet.

There are a few minutes of silence (inside at least). I wonder has Yoda fallen asleep. After a while, when I hear a general rustling, and I think everyone is probably standing up, I stand up too and stretch my leg out in quite an ambitious fashion. Check it out, grandma, I think to myself. I open my eyes. Grandmas 1-9 are doing headstands. And I can’t remember the words to ommmm.

The Buddhistolic (or Buddhistant) bastards.

NB: Readers are advised to enjoy all this levity while they can, because next week it’s really going to kick off with the next instalment in the gringoism series…

1 comment:

Darren said...

Don't worry,
Richard Gere is Buddhist, and despite having rodentesque features, managed to fornicate regularly with Cindy Crawford.