Sivananda Meditation Retreat

Well, I’m back from my exotic yoga holiday to sunny Putney. 🙂

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?

om

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. 🙂

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.

Week 44 : Frustrations

I’ve been trying to decide this week whether to continue with this blog or not. As I come up to 1 year of blogging I have to admit that My Brand New Life has pretty much failed in it’s mission; ie, to generate a brand new life. I’m still in the same job, in the same flat, still single, and still uncertain about where I want to go next.

It hasn’t been a complete loss. I’ve given up drinking booze. Yesterday was my 6 month anniversary of that (not counting a couple of mojitos I had a couple of months ago) and I’m happy with that decision. I’ve also done a lot more writing this year than usual, and I may have a script and/or book finished by the end of the year. And generally I’ve done lots more new stuff that I’ve found quite interesting (full report/examination on December the 6th). But is it enough?

Truthfully, the answer is no, it isn’t. I need to do more to be satisfied. But it’s a start, and that’s better than nothing. Is it enough to keep going with this blog though? Now there’s a question. I’ve already started thinking about doing a vegan specific blog, and if I decide to do a filmy one too what does that leave for here? It is a quandary.

I’d been pondering all this, then I came across this quote:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you will begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

–Ralph Waldo Emerson


I need to let go of what was and move forward from where I am now. Like I tell people when they ask about becoming vegan, you’ve got to forgive yourself. You’re going to make mistakes, what matters is where you go from here. Don’t use them as an excuse to give up, use them as a starting point to begin again.

And so…

I’ve signed up to do a 6 week introductory yoga course at the Sivananda Yoga Centre. I met them at the Yoga Show last Sunday and they were just so nice I had to pop along to their open house yesterday. Again, everyone there was really lovely. The course was very knowledgeable, the introductory lesson nice and simple yet challenging and concise, and I was generally impressed by their warmth, openness and understanding, so much so that I signed up there and then. I’ll have to swap some shifts around to make the classes but it’ll be worth it. I have a feeling I’ll be doing yoga for quite a while.