Each time I return to Los Angeles from a trip back to the UK, it takes me a while to get back into the spiritual groove that I have been establishing since I moved here. (It's tough, when you're surrounded by 100 Welshmen spilling their pints of Stella over you as they drown their sorrows at another Welsh rugby loss, to stay calm.)
So when I come back, I have to re-group and immerse myself back in the culture that seems such a far remove from home. My bookshelves here are packed with self-help books, and 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 especially 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.
Outside my local grocery store, I picked up a magazine called Awareness, billed as "California's premier bi-monthly holistic magazine". It's 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 events, including an 'Alchemy Conference'. The only thing that would draw me to that would be if it were to alchemise into a Jimmy Choo sale before I got there. Inside, there were more treats, including a tree-hugging day in Santa Monica.
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 very rewarding – well, not people I hang out with, you understand, just people who don't wash their hair much and prefer a Glastonbury field to a Marriott. Weird people.
The magazine is very big on angels (disturbingly, I really do know people who claim to hang out with their angels), and lists 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 angels 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 gate- keeper". 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, gate-keeper: 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. Niurka, for instance, offers techniques on how 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.
"Make a decision to go deep within yourself," she advises. "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 – well, apart from on the day when I went for my initiation ceremony, couldn't find anywhere to buy the required handkerchief, and nearly went under a double-decker on Oxford Street in my rush.
It's a powerful tool, though. Within an hour of upping my meditation time to 40 minutes from 20, I was in the 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. "You, like the Beverly Wilshire, are part of the group." She countered: "But we're not the Beverly Wilshire." 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.
To read Jaci Stephen's blog, LA Not So Confidential, in full, go to: LANotSoConfidential.blogspot.com