30.09.2006 - 30.10.2006 25 °C
At the moment I'm practising Yoga with a lovely Aussie guy from the course at his apartment in Ajijic near Guadalajara in Mexico. Such a tranquil and calming place for Yoga! The front of the apartment is made entirely of glass so I can sit typing at the computer overlooking the beautiful Lake Chapala with mountains in the background. Then when it's time to retire with a good book you can sit out on the balcony in one of the two hammocks. It's really the life!
At the moment I'm on bonus time in Mexico because I was meant to be flying to Hawaii today but such is life...I still haven't finished part II of the yoga tale so here goes..
Well despite all my lengthy previous ramblings I think I actually only made it to day two of the course. The following morning we followed the same routine that we would follow for six days a week for the next four weeks. As you've probably calculated that means we did have one day a week off (Friday). Day off would, however, be somewhat of a misnomer for we would still be risen at 5:30am (by a bell being gonged right outside our cabin). Can you 'be risen'? I don't think that's very good grammar but with not writing that much anymore I've noticed that my ability to spell and generally make grammatical sense has slowly been diminishing over time.
Anyway, we would still have to go to morning Satsang which didn't finish until 8am and then we would still have to go to evening Satsang which started at 8pm and finished at 10pm, so really we only had 12 hours free and in that time we still had to do our karma yoga (more of that later), eat and do the mountains of homework that they gave us every day.
so the daily routine when we didn't have a 'day off'? Rise at 5:30am.
Satsang 6am to 8am
Morning yoga 8am to 10am
Brunch 10am to 10:45am
Karma yoga 10:45am to 11:45am
Bhagavad Gita or chanting class 12pm to 1pm
Break 1pm to 2pm - wahoo!
Philosophy lecture 2pm to 4pm
Afternoon yoga or teaching practice 4pm - 6pm
Dinner 6pm - 7pm
Break 7pm - 8pm
Evening Satsang 8pm - 10pm
Lights out 10:30pm
the breaks would, however, also be a misnomer - mountains of homework and because they were the only time we had to fit in essential activities such as showering (was verboten before morning Satsang) and I was meant to attend the daily headstand workshop for those of us who were more on the crap end of the headstand ability spectrum.
So as the Americans say 'Do the Math'...that's basically a 16 hour day so finally I can empathise with you City of London types about long days something which I definitely couldn't do in the Northern Ireland public sector!
Jealous? After the first few days of this I almost felt at breaking point. I was sending my nearest and dearest texts that I didn't think I could make it and that this was the hardest thing I'd ever done in my life. Even sending texts was hard. You had to climb up a ridiculously steep hill that was so dusty that you generally slid down the track again on the way down whilst trying to dodge the poison oak...but back to the yoga..It wasn't really the long and tiring routine. I think that just made everything else seem worse. Really it was a) culture shock and b) feeling that I was isolated from everyone else who seemed so into it all and c)finding myself vehemently disagreeing with everything that was being philosophised about really just on a matter of principle of not getting brainwashed! It's actually quite tough to describe how I felt right then but i'll try - a combination of totally freaked out, angry, wondering how I could have wasted $2000 on doing this for a month, lonely, anxious etc..
After the first week I did feel a bit better...mainly because I was a week down with only 3 more weeks to go but also because the group bonding finally kicked in. It turned out that I was pretty wrong about (most of) the people. I think I probably met some of the kindest people I ever have. By then I felt pretty much fine and able to hack the weeks still ahead of us. And then the strangest thing started to happen...people started to spontaneously cry all over the place..it was all very strange and I slightly sniffed at the whole American-style display of public emotion until that was that I succumbed myself. It was totally odd..I just suddenly started sniffling, in the middle of a chanting class for some reason..and then I kept crying for the whole hour and just as suddenly it stopped. I can't say that I had any idea what I was even crying about - the floodgates just opened. But after I was done, I really and truly did feel fine - obviously the catharsis I needed.
I would go so far as to say that I actually then began to really enjoy my time there...don't get me wrong I was pleased and ready to leave in the end but I am so glad that I did it.
Was it a lifechanging event? In short, yes, not because it suddenly converted me to the yogic way of life although there is a lot I agree with there...the five points of yoga are:
1. right exercise - obviously that means yoga asanas (postures)
2. right breathing - pranayama (breathing exercises)
3. right relaxation
4. right diet
5. postive thinking and meditation
Not a huge amount you can really argue with there..or at least I can't! No the real reason I'm so glad I did it was because it really served as a big reminder of the importance of being true to yourself. There were also a few good lessons about being a good person, being humble, acting without any expectation in return etc etc
..enough of the heavy stuff...some other memories from the month at the Ashram:
1. The emu - the emu had just turned up one day at the Ashram and decided to make it its home. It was strangely interested in the yoga. It used to watch us the through the glass door of the yoga barn when we were doing our asanas (see my photos) and even followed us up a steep dirt track to get to the main swami's house (15 min walk) where it joined us for an afternoon lecture on yogic philosophy underneath the shelter of a giant tree.
2. Cabin gossiping - I shared my little wooden cabin with 3 American girls. One from San Francisco, one from LA and one from Chicago. Although we only had 30 mins between evening Satsang and lights out we filled it every day with so many laughs and a regular highlight of the day.
3. Highlight of the day - These wouldn't be funny to anyone who wasn't there..a load of Ashram-style 'in' jokes.
4. Lake Tahoe - on one of the days (12 hours) off a couple of the volunteers drove a few of us (actually me and 4 japanese girls who didn't speak any english - they had a translator) to Lake Tahoe for the day. The couple of yogis with us were making a big deal of swimming in the ice cold lake..saying it was all mind over matter and that kind of thing. And then they totally wimpily jumped out after 30 seconds while I carried on - really wasn't that cold!
5. Swimming in the pond at 1pm - occasionally I would get a chance to dive into the Ashram pond before the afternoon lecture. A pleasant experience in spite of the water rats and reeds that scratched your legs.
6. Siva hill - the hill where you could actually get mobile phone reception and that had stunning views.
7. karma yoga - i spent my hour every day cleaning the toilets - the girls toilets though so they weren't so bad. The toilets were in a little hut so every day I got to clean with the sun on my back and the sounds of woodpeckers chipping away. It may give you an idea of what the rest of the day was like when I say that cleaning toilets was one of my favourite parts of the day!
8. Decapitated squirrel - generously left on my karma yoga turf by one of the 5 resident cats. The poor squirrel had been horrible mutilated - A severed head was perfectly positioned on one side of the floor with the two feet on the other side, with the large intestine and another unidentifiable internal organ in the centre..oh and I wouldn't be completing the picture unless I mentioned the blood everywhere and the fur scattered all around! Because the remains were a) on a concrete floor and b) lying in the sun the job of cleaning wasn't very easy. It involved rubber gloves, a dustpan, lots of scraping and scrubbing and bleaching. Although, of course it was eco-friendly bleach so I'm not sure what good it did! Anyway, vedanta (yogic) philosophy believes in the idea of karma (every action had a reaction) and reincaration. Basically I must have done something bad in a past life to have been faced with that horror scene!
9. Mealtimes - my very favourite part of the day!!! Really the only chance we got to chat and the food was truly superb. I could have eaten it for ever more. Not everyone felt this way - I suppose Quinoa and rice milk aren't for everyone! Pete - it would have been antithesis of good food for you for example!
10. Warm milk before bed - after evening Satsang which did sometimes finish around 9:30pm. It was actually as much of a social occasion as having a beer at closing time is in the normal world. Ok it wasn't the same but we had been living on an Ashram for a month after all - what do you expect?
11. Teaching practice - we all taught each other in groups of 5. My group consisted of the aussie guy I'm staying with, two lovely hawaiian ladies and an interesting canadian girl! It's what we were all there to learn after all!
12. Talent shows - total cheesemeister but the act was stolen by a middle-aged American lady how gave us a comic alternative to what yoga was. First time in ages I've laughed so hard that my stomach was in pain.
13. Compliments - Being told by three different people at separate times that I was the most normal person there. Being voted by the guys as being the most easy going girl and being told by an American girl that her first impressions of me was that I was really pure!
14. Yosemite NP - not strictly speaking part of my yoga month but I went camping there with three people from the yoga as part of a post-Ashram decompression for the two days immediately following the yoga. It was there that I had my first encounter with a bear and I confess that I wasn't very brave. On seeing the bear but 30 metres away (on its hind legs trying to swipe food from a picnic table) I dived into the car and cowered while the other three laughed at me!
Right that's enough - there were many other eventful moments but I didn't keep a journal so I can't remember them right now...Bis bald x