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Overcoming Dietary Challenges

Generally speaking, I am not concerned that I am gluten/ dairy free. Even with international travel, I can find a plethora of veggies, rice and nuts to satisfy my hunger. In my experiences, when going on retreats, registration forms typically ask about diet restrictions. So, when I informed the Homeland Retreat of my dietary needs, I was surprised to be told that there is no word in Vietnamese for gluten, and I would have to be responsible to discuss my dietary needs with each kitchen. At first, I constricted and went into a fear space. Then I moved to my control space.....finding a Vietnamese friend who could write a note in Vietnamese that I could hand to the kitchen staff explaining my dietary restrictions. I find when I go into my constricted/

controlling space, I end up in the prison of "being right" vs. the gentle space of being open hearted. Then the experience of "being right" feels like a lonely, isolated closed space.

Upon arrival in Vietnam, all of this changed. Linh, our loving guide, assured me that she would check with the kitchens to guarantee that the food would be safe for me. Michael, one of our practice leaders, was reassuring that we were all in this together. My fears of being alone and isolated faded.

Then, the meals began to arrive. Beautiful, delicious meals, elaborately designed, and perfectly balanced were presented to us day after day. Rarely, do the Vietnamese cook with dairy and also rarely with wheat. Rice is their staple grain. Linh, in her earnestness to please each one of us, was in constant Communication with the kitchen and the dining room, while at our retreat places of lodging and in public restaurants. Trish, our Dharma teacher, was conscientious about providing soy, almond, and coconut milks for our delicious Vietnamese coffee.

This retreat was another opportunity for me to open my heart with trust. I never once needed my Vietnamese note. We were fed with the finest of organic foods, while my body, heart and soul were fed with friendship, Sangha, and Thay's deep teachings.

Camille Kulka

Stillwater, Minnesota Sangha, USA

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