Some General Reflections

What a weird week it’s been.

morning reflections

Back to work after the week of meditation. That was a bit of a shock. But, they did agree in principal to a sabbatical, which is good. I just need to decide when I want it (and ergo, what I want to do) and we can sort it out (hopefully).

Then I got ill, which was/is dry as a bone. I hate being stuck indoors not being able to go do stuff. I’m watching back to back Big Bang Theory but still… BORED! Thankfully my ears are sorting themselves out slowly. I’m still a bit trippy on my feet, but at least it’s to a lesser extent than it was when it started.

I had high hopes for the coming week. I’d finally cleared my To Do list, and I fully intended on spending as much time as possible writing as I haven’t done any work on my book in ages. But now I don’t feel up to it, which sucks, so I’m just trying not to go crazy in the meantime.

And I’m not doing any meditation for the same reasons. I’m just drained, lethargic, and utterly unmotivated. The change in weather (ie: less daylight hours) doesn’t help either. Winter and me don’t get on.

Anyway, in the meantime, I’ve done a wee playlist for you guys to download if you fancy. It’s called Dustbowl Americana, and I think the title speaks for itself. Hope you enjoy these slightly countrified haunting melodies. Makes me dream of faraway lands where the horizon goes on for miles and there ain’t no rush to go nowhere. πŸ™‚

Weird Stuff My Body Is Doing

Ok; so, as I mentioned in my report last week, while I was on the residential course at the Sivananda Centre I had a bit of a head coldy thing going on. Nothing major, just a sore throat, bit of a headache now and then, the odd cough and sneeze. I didn’t give it much credence. Now it seems that that has developed into something a bit more unnerving.

I had a yoga class last Wednesday. As I came up from the standing forward bend, the very last move we did, I felt a little light headed. ‘Came up a little too fast there’ I thought, ‘Better lie down quick.’ So I did and everything seemed fine.

We did final relaxation, all was well, but when I sat up do do the end chant the room suddenly started spinning violently. I had to lie down again for fear of falling over! It was like a severe attack of vertigo and it scared the life out of me.

It took several minutes for the feeling to abate, and even then I still felt a little dizzy and sick. I managed to make it downstairs and into the tearoom, at which point I had to sit for another half an hour until I felt properly settled again.

I eventually made it home, still not feeling 100%, but thinking that a good night’s sleep would sort me out. How wrong I was.

I awoke the next morning, all seemed fine. Then I turned my head, just turned my head, from one side to the other, and all of a sudden the room started spinning violently once again. I immediately fought the rising panic, turned my head back until it all calmed down again, got out of bed, and promptly called the doctor for an emergency appointment.

It was a long, uneasy wait waiting to see the doctor. I felt very unstable just sitting there. Once in the consulting room I told her everything, and when I got to the bit about having a bit of a head cold last week she said “Ah, now we are getting to it.”

Turns out that I have a viral ear infection, caused by last week’s illness. This has created an imbalance in the fluids in my inner ear, the effect of which is very much like the disease Labyrinthitis (though she didn’t think I actually had the disease thank God!). Unfortunately there’s nothing you can do about it. You just have to wait for the body to reabsorb the excess fluid and then everything should balance itself out.

She reckoned a few days, but here we are three days later and the symptoms are still here. I’m taking it easy, so I don’t know if they’re less than they were before. The worst is still when I wake up and turn my head. I don’t think the reaction is as violent as it was, but still it ain’t fun. I just hope this thing doesn’t settle in and become permanent, as I can imagine how debilitating it would be to go through life like this.

What’s especially annoying about this is, after a week of intense yoga and meditation, I have to suspend my practice until I get better. No way can I do any yoga, just turning my head too fast makes me dizzy, and meditation is out of the question as balancing with my eyes closed whilst sitting is very swayey at best.

But, that’s how it goes sometimes I suppose. Sometimes you just can’t make any progress at all. That’s when it’s time to take a leaf out of Sun Tzu’s book and just stay still, waiting patiently until you can advance once more.

ps: I haven’t even mentioned the dead arm I woke up with last week! Another very scary incident. I wasn’t even sleeping on it. I just woke up with this weird feeling and found that my right arm was completely lifeless. Not numb, not tingling, just dead. I don’t mind admitting I completely panicked (not helped by the fact that I was coming out of a very bad dream). After a minute or so of rubbing the life came back to it but for that minute I had to work hard to stem the rising fear in my head. It was not a pleasant experience let me tell you.

I’ve never really felt my mortality much before, even when I was in hospital. But lately, with all the stuff that’s been happening, I’m facing up to the fact that this body won’t last, no matter what I do to keep it healthy. It’s going to die, we’re all going to die; the question is, what are we going to do in the meantime?

Sivananda Meditation Retreat

Well, I’m back from my exotic yoga holiday to sunny Putney. πŸ™‚

Might seem a bit weird going to stay for a week somewhere half an hour away from your own front door, but then again why not? You go where the teaching is, and when the day starts at 5:45am – with the ringing of a bell and an enthusiastic “Om namah Shivaya!” – what else can you do but pack your bags and go residential.

sivananda yoga vedanta centre, putney

I’d been looking forward to this. I was in dire need of a break from ‘real life’ (details of which I ain’t going into right now). A week stretching, chanting, meditating and everything else was just what the doctor ordered, and the Sivananda Yoga Centre is just the place to do it. They themselves call it “an oasis of calm in the centre of London” and they’re not wrong.

an oasis of calm

I’d not done their kind of meditation before, so I figured this course with Swami Kailasanada was just what I needed to get me started. Turned out to be quite different to the Vipassana Meditation I’ve been practicing up to now. For one thing there was more chanting than I’d expected.

shrine room

Now you know me, I’m not big on the whole chanting thing (though it kind of grows on you) but I gave it a go anyway. And I was doing alright ’til this weird head cold thing started kicking it. I spend several days with a nasty scratchy throat, occasional headaches (I gave up caffeine two days early just so I wouldn’t have withdrawal headaches while I was there, so they were doubly annoying) and so my chanting was a bit sub-par a lot of the time. Thankfully there were plenty of others there to drown me out, though not the two times I had to lead the chant myself (eek!).

shiva mural

The evening workshops themselves were excellent, and so full of information. I took copious amounts of notes and heard a lot of new and interesting stuff to think about. Often after a class I was so invigorated I couldn’t sleep. That’s where washing dishes helped. A little something to burn off excess energy works wonders sometimes.

We learnt about mantras and their use in meditation, and I was even fortunate enough to go through a mantra initiation at the end of it. Check me out in my white initiation outfit.

waiting for mantra initiation

Lookin’ good huh? And, I got given a spiritual name too: Keshava, which means one who is full inside apparently (among other things). Thankfully, I like it. I mean it’s short, it sounds nice, it begins with a K, and it’s not utterly unpronounceable which is always a bonus (some of them can be a right mouthful). But I digress…

sun salutation

The course was well run, as you would expect. Everyone at the centre was lovely, as were all my fellow residents. The food was great, and I was very grateful to everyone for the allowances they made for my veganism. Care and consideration for their students is something of a trademark for the Sivananda organisation I find. Just look at all the smiling faces;

a yogi breakfast

And that was at 8am on day seven! After seven early morning calls, seven full days, and thirteen (you heard me, thirteen) yoga classes. Just goes to show, they must be doing something right eh?


Highlight for me though had to be the lunch time where Swami Krishnadevananda decided to nick everybody’s cake. It was masterful the way he pointed out the pictures on the wall behind people, only to swipe their banana bread when their backs were turned (not once, but twice!). And they didn’t even realise he’d done it, or why everyone else was laughing. Priceless. πŸ™‚

So if you do decide to go on a course there get ready for a full day, some great food, good company, but most of all keep your eye on your pudding coz Swamiji’s about! You have been warned.

30 Days of Meditation: days 29 & 30

I sat last night, but there was no purpose other than it was day 29. It was late, I was very tired, I had a horrible headache from caffeine withdrawal, and I’ve got a lot on my mind at the moment.

Today wasn’t much better. I was less tired, I had a worse headache, and the stuff is still in my head.

But none of that matters. I’ve done 30 days of meditation, 30 minutes per day. My challenge is complete. Have I learnt anything? Not yet; not really anyway. Get a decent cushion and don’t squeeze in your practice. That’s about it.

30 days in nothing. Just a drop in the ocean. Day 30 is the beginning of my practice, not the end. Tomorrow I start the 1 week meditation course, and then after that who knows.

What I do know is that I found it beneficial, I found it rewarding, and I intend to continue. Some days will be easy, some will be hard, sometimes I’ll forget. As long as I maintain the intention then that’s ok, I’ll get there in the end.

What the hell; it’s something to do, innit. πŸ˜‰

30 Days of Meditation: day 28

I should have done some yoga before sitting today.

I haven’t done any exercise for a few days as my shoulder has been hurting like hell – it gets so bad sometimes I can’t even raise my arm above my head – and I didn’t want to aggravate it, but the upshot of that is everything has tightened up.

And not just the shoulders but my back, legs, across the chest, all of it is aching and complaining in some way. But what caused my problems today were my glutes (ie: the base of my bum and down the back of my thighs). They were not happy as I sat down, and they made sitting upright very difficult indeed.

The more you can level your pelvis the more happy you will be sitting. At least that is how it appears to me. If your pelvis is tipped back (as mind often is) you end up with a hunched back using your back muscles to hold you up, rather than stacking the bones of your spine like a column of pennies (as instructed). You’re holding yourself up instead of balancing.

So I sat, but my mind was more on my posture than my breath, so I didn’t do much meditating today. But I did manage to do some yoga after for the first time in ages, which is great news as it means I should be ok for the course on Friday. I would have been really bummed out if I was unable to practice during that. What a wasted opportunity that would (have) be(en).