After a few wrong turns and the help of some friendly natives, I arrived in Cloona at 6.45pm on Sunday. As it had been a good friend’s birthday in Galway the night before, I had been compelled to drink copious amounts of prosecco and vodka, as well as eating burnt sausages as if they were going out of fashion. Not to mention the cake. Sunday started off in a similar vein with a fry and two cups of coffee before a glorious sea swim worked up the appetite for something a bit more healthy, which I sated with banana bread. And more coffee… Anyway, no point worrying about that now.

My little room at Cloona

On my arrival, I’m met by Dhara Kelly, who runs the centre, having taken over from his mother who founded it. He was very welcoming and showed me to my little room which is simple and monastic with a sink, a single bed, a chair and a locker. And a painting of a naked lady. So far, so good.

There’s an introductory talk with Dhara at seven so I shuffle down to meet the 10 other participants who on this occasion are all also female. A mug of herbal tea and a chorus of embarrassed ‘hello’s from those already sitting in the requisite semi-circle and we’re ready to go.

The talk lasts an hour and a half and I’m delighted to find that not only is Dhara all the things one would expect – zen, kindly and bursting with knowledge – but that he also has a great sense of humour and an awareness, somewhat lacking in other purveyors of the good life, of the realities of modern living and all the things that go with that. He talked us through the week, explaining what we’d be doing and why and I found myself really looking forward to it.

Toxins, he explained, like sugar, caffeine and alcohol, confuse the body and agitate the nervous system, thus inhibiting the natural rhythm. Digestion slows right down (a typical Irish dinner of meat and two veg can take up to 36 hours to digest when the body is backed up – or even longer), sleep and mood can hugely affected and the body’s own messaging system is unable to send out the correct requests for things like water or healthy food. In detoxing, we would enable the body to work on healing itself rather than breaking down food (once all the old stuff is cleared) and this would be helped along by a daily diet of light fruit and vegetables as well as wheatgrass, yoga, walks, saunas and massages.

When Dhara talked about the importance of getting the right sleep, i was fascinated to learn that the old wives tale is true and that sleep between 10 and 12 each night is actually the most beneficial and restful, as this is when our melatonin production peaks. Working til half ten at night and commuting for nearly two hours wouldn’t be great so…

With the talk and a quick demo of the juicer for the wheatgrass in the morning over at 8.30, a few of the group headed out for a walk but the 4 o’clock dancing from the night before was catching up on me and my little bed was calling. With a magazine flicked through, I was fast asleep by 10, soaking up the precious high-octane melatonin, for the first time in about 20 years.

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