Preparations And Considerations

16 days to go, and its all starting to feel a bit more real now.

I’m starting to book things. Flights to and from Munich. Shuttle transfer to the Ashram in Austria (crazy to fly to Germany to get to Austria, but there you go!). I’ve got a guy getting together a cost/itinerary for me for the round the world leg of the trip. I couldn’t give him all the details, as I don’t know them myself, but I gave him what I’ve got so far… (which is this)

planning

Everything up to the 26th of November is booked. Everything from then until the start of next year is planned, but not booked. And after the new year who knows? It’s all still a bit up in the air!

There’s a lot to think about when it comes to a trip like this. I mean you’ve got the obvious stuff – flights, accommodation, trips, etc. – but there’s plenty of other bits and bobs that are just as important but don’t spring immediately to mind.

Like getting online.

“Ha,” I hear you say, “Internet cafes!”

Well, yes, you’re right. But what I mean is the logistics of maintaining an online presence, like a blog, without carting around a laptop or external hard drive everywhere you go. I’ve been looking into it and the answer is simple… The Cloud.

little fluffy clouds

Online data storage is the way to go (just ’til you get back home anyway). I’ve already got a Dropbox account (3GB of free storage). Now that might be enough to keep me going, but I plan on taking a lot of pictures, so what else? Well, Flickr not withstanding (I’ll be uploading to there as usual, but I’m talking back-ups here), did you know you get 7GB of free online storage with Hotmail’s SkyDrive feature.

That’s right, sign up for a free e-mail account and get 7GB of online storage FREE! And even better, it’s backed up Microsoft Office, so if you store documents on there you can update them online, no muss, no fuss. I’ve already put some stuff on there to help me log in to my many online accounts that my computer automatically logs into at home (as I’ve forgotten all the passwords, lol). In fact I spent a good few hours the other day checking and changing all my logins just so I’d know what they all were.

I’ll also be storing flight and travel information on there too, as well as scans of my passport, visas, etc. just in case they go awol. No more crumpled, damp, degrading photocopies in the bottom of your backpack (though I’ll have those with me too) now everything you need can be backed up online and kept handy. I’m telling you, The Cloud is an absolute God-send.

But that’s just one aspect of it all. What about before I go away?

The past few weeks I’ve been eyeing up everything in my flat deciding what I need, what gets packed, and what goes in the bin. Most of it’s fairly straight forward. But then I thought the other day, what about the food?

a vast array of 'meats' and 'cheeses'

I mean perishables, ok, they get eaten or go in the bin. But is it ok to pack and store spices? Or do storage companies frown on that? Will I have to get loads of sealed plastic containers to put them in? And will that work? I’m telling you, it’s the details that do your head in. All I know is, I’m not giving up my spices without a fight!

And your plants. Who gets your plants? What do you do with your bike, leave it down here or take it with your car up to your brother’s place? There’s just so much to consider.

it's boring waiting for the sun to come out

Actually, I’m being a bit of a drama queen, lol. I’ve got it more or less figures out. Car, bike and computer go ‘oop norf’. Everything packable that’s not junk goes into storage. Everything in storage that’s not furniture goes in boxes, so if I’m overseas and I have to arrange to get it all moved and shipped it’s good to go. Likewise the car papers go with the car, so if I decide not to come back it’s all there ready to be sold.

Yup, you heard me, I might not come back!

I don’t know where all this is going to lead, but chances are once I leave London I won’t come back to live here again. And once I leave the UK, provided there’s things I want to do, I might not come back here to live again either. Anything could happen, so that’s what I’m planning for; anything and everything.

And finally, as a little aside, I’ve started another blog to detail my travels. It’s called the Yoga Bum but don’t go rushing over there just yet as it’s pretty empty (though if you’re interested you can go check out What a Yoga Bum is?).

And in fact it’s existence shouldn’t make any difference to you guys over here, as I’ll be re-posting anything I put on there here on My Brand New Life. It’s just a little yoga/travel based thing for the more ‘yogic’ (ie: innocent) of my friends to keep up with what I’m doing. And whereas there I have to be all polite and on topic, here I can write about all that and still post random stuff I find off t’inernet, come up with new recipes for you to try, post silly pics of silly things, cheeky vids of naughty things, and get away with saying words like ‘bollocks’ and ‘shlong’ and ‘boobs’. 😆

So you guys are getting the best of both worlds! How lucky are you?

(Answer: Very!) 😉

I Love It When A Plan Comes Together

So it’s probably time for an update on the big plan to change my life.

day 29 - international kiki day

I’ve heard back from Austria and, all being well, I should be fine for staying on there after my TTC (Teacher Training Course). I’ve sent the application anyway, so now it’s just a question of seeing how both sides feel during the TTC. I want to stay for 8 weeks, doing 8 hours of karma yoga (work) a day. That shouldn’t change, I don’t anticipate any problems, but you never know. I’ll be booking my flight back for the 25th of November anyway.

After that I’m going to start making my way round the world. I think maybe 3 weeks in California (San Francisco), with one of those weeks on silent meditative retreat at a cabin in the woods.

Then it’s off to Oz on about the 19th/20th December to spend Christmas at my boyo’s place near Perth. Stick around there until the new year, then head east. See some friends, chill out a bit, find some retreat to go to. 2013 is where the plan gets ultra vague.

the warlock of firetop mountain

I’m not getting too stressed about organising the after Austria part of the plan. That’s just stuff I can book, so there’s nothing needs doing on that apart from laying down the cash. I might not even book it until I come back from Austria. In fact I won’t unless there’s significant savings to be had. That’s something I need to check out this week.

Been delayed in my planning because of work. On the last of my night shifts this week and, man, is it tiring! I mean they were hard enough before, but now I know I’m leaving I can barely keep my eyes open. I just want them over with.

Got just two more to do, then 2 weeks of mid shifts (7 shifts, 11am-11pm), and that’s me done. I finish on the 23rd of August, which gives me 1 week to pack, move, dispose of my car oop norf, before jetting off to the Alps for 3 months. Crazy huh? Been planning this Brand New Life for ages and now it’s finally happening!

I don’t know what the future will bring (who does) but I look forward to finding out. Just 27 days to go and the adventure begins! Wish me luck. 😀

Getting The Ball Rolling

So, yesterday was a busy day. 🙂

I sent off an application for the yoga TTC (teacher training course) in Austria in September, and I e-mailed the Sivananda Ashram in Canada about going there as staff for 2-3 months after the TTC. No word back from either of them yet, but at least I got the ball rolling.

a world of stress

Couldn’t have done it a couple of weeks ago. My head was full of ‘not quite what I want to do’ thoughts. I’d let too many people stick their well meaning oars in, and ended up with this ‘plan’ that wasn’t what I really wanted to do.

But then I realised it’s like when I bought my car. I knew which one I wanted, but I allowed myself to get confused with thoughts of cost and insurance and fuel efficiency. It was only when I decided to ignore all that crap and just get the car I wanted that I was able to move forward.

kiki's new car

And I’m so glad I did in the end. Ok, so the car I bought has cost me loads in repairs, doesn’t get the best milage per gallon, and costs me quite a few quid in insurance coz it’s a 2 litre, but I love it! And driving it makes me smile; so no matter the cost it’s an absolute winner!

Same with my plans. I can do what other people suggest, but if it’s not what I want to do I’ll just be faintly dissatisfied all the time, and that’s no use is it? As it says in the Bhagavad Gita (apparently; and I’m paraphrasing massively here also) ‘Better to live you own life and make mistakes than live someone else’s life well.’

So now I’m just waiting to hear back. But it’s nice to have tossed a few balls out there, and be waiting for them to return. And it’s like with the art project I started recently, throw your intention out into the world and if it’s got legs it’ll run. And if not, maybe you should be doing something else. But ultimately, there’s only one way to find out isn’t there!

so, fingers crossed eh? 😉

…and a Happy New Year

Start as you mean to go on they say. I started 2012 by sleeping til gone noon, then lazing about the flat playing online games and watching movies. So, a lot like 2011 then, lol. 😉

Ok, technically I started 2012 at the Sivananda Yoga Centre enjoying their new years eve celebrations. I went along early, did some cooking, some cleaning, a yoga class, then stayed for the puja, meal, and chanting for world peace into the new year.

It was a lovely evening, made all the more lovely by the company of good friends, the fine food, and just the all round happiness and positivity of the occasion. I’m really glad I went as it was an excellent start to the year, a year that hopefully holds a great deal of change for little ol’ me.

If all goes as planned, by this time next year I’ll be a trained yoga teacher with some experience, I’ll have visited Austria, Canada and Australia, and I’ll be contemplating a trip to Thailand to ride an elephant before heading back to Europe to see the northern lights. Then… well, who knows?

Of course, as they say, if you want to make God laugh tell her your plans. But still, you’ve got to give it a go because the alternative (same ol’ same ol’, day in, day out) just doesn’t bear thinking about does it.

last bit of christmas cake

I’ve made just 2 resolutions to kick off the new year. First is to meditate every day. That is the one area where I need most work. I want to do just half an hour a day. If I can manage to do that for 366 days (it’s a leap year this year, remember) I will consider it a significant victory.

My second is just for a month, but it’s to cook everything from scratch, and to not eat ready made overly processed foods all the time. I mean I don’t do too badly, but every day there’s a hash brown or Linda McCartney sausage in there somewhere (usually at the same time – oh Full English, how I love thee!). I’m going to make all my food myself for a while, thereby avoiding nasty stuff, convenience eating, and taking sandwiches to work every day.

Apart from all that my ongoing plans still revolve around writing, vegan cooking, and going out and having fun. Expect some developments on each one of these very soon!

And so there you go, that’s it from me for now. Actually, I think that’s enough to be going on with, don’t you? Happy New Year everyone. I hope you have a great and wonderful 2012!

Om Namah Shivaya. 🙂

Disaster Recovery

Ok, “Disaster Recovery” is probably a bit over dramatic. It’s just a phrase you hear often in TV for dealing with any number of transmission problems – power cuts, terrorist attacks, a plane landing on top of you – and I just like the sound of it. 🙂

sword practice

I’ve been dealing with my own ‘disaster’ recently, what with the whole ear thing. Man, you wouldn’t believe how debilitating it is not being able to balance! (or maybe you would) When it happened I couldn’t even roll over in bed without feeling like I was going to fall over, and going to the shops was an interesting experience to say the least. I felt like I was walking on marshmallows a lot of the time, and I had to be extra careful to keep my head level and not look around too quickly just in case.

I had over a week off work and even when I went back I still wasn’t quite right. In fact it was just yesterday, 2 weeks after it came on, that I finally felt like my old self once again. So far today there’s been no sign of it but I’m watching out to be sure I’m not just being overly optimistic.

xmas at tunch's

All set for Christmas? I’ve got all my presents (well, I’ve ordered all my presents – still waiting for 2 of them to get delivered). As always I’m working Christmas Day itself, so I’ll be heading up to Carlisle on the 17th for a few days to see the family. Plan on driving up which will be epic (about 5-6 hours) but it’ll be so good to have my own car when I’m there. My parents live in a village so if I want to go anywhere I have to get a lift or public transport, and that sucks, so this year I’m going vehicular, lol. You know it makes sense.

3 for 2

I just realised that I finished part 2 of my book over 2 months ago and I’ve done almost nothing since! (a couple of pages but that’s it) This is not good. I mean, I can account for about 3 weeks of that with the meditation course and felling ill, but still I should have done more in the time I’ve had. Time to pull my finger out methinks.

an englishman at the seaside

I’m in the process of figuring out what I want to do for my sabbatical. Work have agreed to it in principal, now I just need to decide when I want it for how long. The plan in general is 1 month doing the Sivananda Teacher Training Course in Austria, followed by a month or two just working and practicing at one of their Ashrams (though which one is the big question), then I might take some time off and travel a wee bit. I’m thinking maybe Australia as I’ve got some friends and family down there, and it’d be a good jumping off point for hitting Thailand.

There’s two things I really want to do in life – see the northern lights and ride an elephant – and if I’m in Oz then Thailand seems to be the place to do it (ride an heffalump that is, obviously). Just found out I’ve got the offer of somewhere to stay out there for the next year so it’s a golden opportunity. And it ties in quite nicely with heading back this way from the Land of Milk and Honey. And that brings me back to Europe just in time for Aurora Borealis season.

So I’m thinking:

August – TTC
September – Ashram work
October – Ashram work
November – Australia
December – Australia/Thailand
January – Aurora Borealis

It’s still a little sketchy as I don’t really want to spend 2 months traveling (being somewhere without something specific to do bores me). The question is where do I want to spend Christmas? How long do I want to be away really? And what do I want to do when I get back? (ok, that’s 3 questions)

I might take a year off, spend 5-6 months away, then come back, find somewhere cheap to rent, and spend 6 months just writing and see if I can make a go of that. Back in the UK in the middle of winter with nowhere to live? Not very tempting.

And can I afford all that (without spend all my savings)? As you can see there’s a lot to figure out. But I’ll get there, I have to, because if there’s one things all this being ill has taught me recently it’s you’ve got to go out there and enjoy what you do! Because no one is immortal, and people who stay home, stay safe, pay all their bills and plan for the future die just as often as people who go out there, have fun, and enjoy themselves.

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.

Sivananda Yoga Retreat

Well, I’m back from my yoga retreat. Quite a weekend, let me tell you. Hard work sometimes (getting up at 5:30am for example) but certainly worth it. And I don’t feel half as tired/achey as I thought I would. Maybe I’m getting better, lol.

gaunts house

It was at Gaunt’s House, which is this big old former country house (now retreat centre) in Dorset. The place is massive, with lots of grounds, a big garden, and good sized rooms. I paid extra for a single and got a room that’s bigger than my flat (seriously, though I do have a very small flat!) with a double bed. Oh the luxury of a double bed! So nice to just spread out like that. I miss having a double bed.

enjoying the view

The grounds were made for chilling out, but there wasn’t much time for that. The schedule kept us quite busy. Check this out:

5:30 – Wake
6:00 – Satsang (meditation and chanting)
8:00 – Yoga
10:00 – Breakfast/Brunch
12:00 – Nature walk
14:00 – Demo/talk
16:00 – Yoga
18:00 – Supper
20:00 – Satsang
21:30 – Finish
21:31 – Bed 😉

Quite a lot to do huh? I tell you, took a little getting used to. You just had to relax and go with it (probably part of the ethos I reckon). And I’m not kidding about the last one. Soon as you were finished it was straight to bed (for me anyway). If I’m getting up that early I needs me beauty sleep.

The whole thing was run very well, which is no surprise from the Sivananda lot. I even helped out with some of it, getting to the centre early to load up my car with stuff (I had pictures of the swamis and deities on my back seat, and every time someone cut me up in traffic, and I swore without thinking, I found myself apologising to ‘the boys’ for my bad language, lol), helping set up when we got there, and finally fiddling with the sound system during the satsangs, swapping wires between mikes and twiddling knobs to get the levels right.

All the yoga-ey stuff was excellent. My ability to do it though, varied from day to day. Funny how some days you can get your toes on the floor when doing the plough, and other days you find yourself completely scrunched up, feet flailing, unable to catch your breath.

nature walk vs fence

The nature walks were nice, though ‘walk’ is a bit of a misnomer. March, stomp or trudge might a better way of describing it. With Swamiji and his long legs up front, striding off into the distance, it was sometimes a task just to keep up. I know for a fact we lost most the group on the first day (and the second day for that matter) and it was just some good guesswork (or the sound of our post-meditative omming) that brought them back to the rest of the group unscathed, lol. 🙂

As for all the chanting, I can’t say I’m entirely sold on that. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good Om as much as the next man, but after 30-40 minutes of it… well, you get the idea. Maybe I’ll get into it one day, maybe I won’t (the Swami himself admitted he had some difficulty getting his head around it in the beginning), I just know for now it’s not the thing for me; and so mote it be.

thai yoga massage

On the last night, instead of a long satsang, we had a talent show. People told stories, played the piano, sang, did demos, and I even got roped into doing a bit of Tai Chi for them. Got to admit, I was a bit nervous doing it. It was a big crowd (about 70 odd) but it went ok in the end. I got plenty of compliments afterwards, which was nice, and maybe some people might feel motivated to give it a try; which would be great, as yoga and Tai Chi are very much sister disciplines.

(more pics here)

stonehenge

On the way back we stopped off at Stonehenge to go check that out. Was nice to see the stones close up, though not as close as I’d have liked, as you’re not allowed near them for some reason; and you have to pay £7:50 for the privilege, which seems a bit steep to me.

And, everyone was walking round with these little recorders listening to a commentary on the stones, which made for an odd sight. Made me think of the Victorians, who would go out into the countryside and, since they only ever saw landscapes in paintings, had to use a little framing devices to look around, otherwise they couldn’t ‘see’ the beautiful views around them.

Still, it was worth a visit, and I’m glad I went. And it was fun to spend some time with Swami Krishnadevananda and the gang not doing yoga or anything like that, just monkeying about a bit.

swami and the stones

He’s such a cheery fella! 🙂

kiki and the henge

Still rockin’ the new do’. 😉

All told a very good weekend, and one I would recommend to anyone who fancies a bit of a yoga retreat some time. They have them twice a year in the UK, and at other times at other centres around the world. Check out their website for the what’s going on.

Give ’em a go! You’ll meet some lovely people, learn some new stuff, get a bit fitter, and have a right laugh whilst doing it. What more could you need? 🙂