I've spent the last week in a rather fabulous retreat in the mountains outside San Diego. Of course they are just quite pathetic hills but in true American style they don't much like to call things by their real name.

Everything here is Zen-tastic: you enter over a bridge through golden doors (hence the name Golden Door, clever, eh?) to find yourself in a stunning Japanese complex with beautiful gardens boasting rivulets, waterfalls, stone temples, carp ponds and magnificent boulders in extensive sand pits ready for therapeutic raking. Think Lucy Liu scene of Kill Bill with more green, less killing and a whopping bill. To keep ourselves at peace we walk round in only gym kit and wrap arounds during the day and dinner is attended in Kimonos. After dinner we are gorged with fascinating sessions on The Art of Zen, The History of Zen, The Ultimate Zen, To Zen or not to Zen, Finding your Zen (even though you didn't even know you'd lost your Zen or, indeed, that you had one - in which case you go back to session 1). Evening films include Once Upon a Time in Zen, Breakfast at Zen's, the more recent but hugely appropriate Eternal Zenshine of the Spotless Mind, the ever popular classic Butch Cassidy & the Zenshine Kid and, of course, nominal pieces such as Zenman, The Zen and Zen I, II & III. Feel free to add to the list.

It's really just Zen-bootcamp here: " If you don't zen when I tell you to zen then I'll stick my zen where your zen don't shine! Now drop it and give me zen!"

.... all delivered in syrupy voice that either sends you to sleep in seconds, makes you want to punch someone or, oddly, lends an urge to pee.

Upon arrival I had to go for an informal interview about what I hope to gain from the week to come. "So you're main aim, it says here on your sheet, is rest and relaxatio? Stressful job it is you have then?" "Actually, I've quit my job and am going travelling so sod the relaxation. I hope to achieve cardiovascular supremacy", said I with determination.' Excellent. We can offer aerobics?' - 'no' -  Spin ?- 'No' - 'Run clinic?' - 'Are you insane?????' 'Anything with heart rate over 120?' - 'Absolutely not.' 'You're really making this a bit of an uphill struggle, Miss Winkler...' 'Don't be ridiculous', say I, 'I don't do struggle! Yoga, fine. Pilates, if I must. Tai Chi, now you're talking, ...but do keep after lunch free as I'd like to spend the afternoons dreaming I'm in a food coma.' Always open to new experiences, me.

Being fully aware that I have not moved more than one muscle group at a time for years I still arrogantly assumed that, 8 years junior to even the youngest chickadee here, I would leave them all my dusty wake as I ran the 5am 5mile hike with ease. Note to Ego: there is something in the silicone - they are all bionic. Even 87 year old Gloria has a Bob Fosse tap-dance repertoire you would't believe.

I'm not really meant to be making notes to Ego, or acknowledging him at all in fact. Success in life, apparently, is all about letting go of and losing your Ego. Well, I've let go but losing the crafty little bugger is much more challenging. I've probably lost more calories trying to escape the fucker than anything else. I think I may finally have drowned him in the pool a couple of days ago but I have the sinking feeling that he'll be waiting for me when I pass back through those golden portals tomorrow, leaning nonchalantly against a fine specimen sportscar, fat cigar in one hand, Margherita in the other, winning me back in seconds with a Elvis-esque 'Hop on, baby'. Bastard. Can't live with him. Can't live without him.

You'll be pleased to here we had to do a round of introductions after our first dinner. 'Hi, my name's Amanda and I run a shipping conglomerate', 'Hi, my name's Suzie and I run my own hedge fund, have a wonderful family and three dogs', 'Hi, my name's Delores and I've been working in UN development programmes all over the world for 40 years'. 'Hi, my name's Fanya and having survived Dachau I'm battling hatred and anti-semitism in inner-city schools for deprived children'. 'Erm, hi, my name's Izzy and I've successfully done bugger all to deserve being here so I thought I might treat myself before slumming it for a month on the beautiful beaches of Me-hi-co.' All of which was concluded with an obligatory (says so in the constitution just next to Star-spangled-banner lyrics) round of self-congratulatory applause. Hurrah!!

The issues brought forth by these ladies are neatly covered by the sex in the city script, the women themselves are similar in character but physically a bit more ...real (I'd like to say 'less chocolate-boxey, but we're all beautiful in our own ways, aren't weee, and it's also bad karma, man). There are stereotypes a-plenty that initally caused an inward snigger or two but without someone to share the joke with these soon fell away to reveal intricate, interesting and often very troubled people whom I no longer feel I can laugh at. Lesson for the week: humour is based not on truth but on common perception.

On that bombshell, mes amies, I shall end my epic. Should you have made it this far - I'm impressed and you're job is seriously dull. However, trust me when I tell you that, as much your job sucks, your life will never be as utterly miserable as that of a female lawyer in New York. All I can say is thank god I didn't go there coz it was really seriously honestly one of my chosen career paths once in a blue moon many years ago never. phew! close call

Words by Izzy W