Newsletter November 2012
In this edition's Living Yoga section we feature an article by Jennifer (Jignasa) Thompson from Canada who stayed with us at Anahata for half a year as a Karma Yogi from January this year. We also have a personal account of Sue Fairclough’s experience at Anahata during a week Explore Your ‘Self’ retreat during April. It is inspiring to read and witness the positive effect Anahata can have on a person’s life.
Karma Yoga is a meditative process for me. It’s about living in the present moment, really paying attention to what I’m doing, and being focused on the task at hand. When I first started practicing karma yoga at the ashram, I realized very quickly how much my mind wandered and instead of hitting the nail with the hammer I would smack my fingers. I was not focused, I was not in the moment. Painful realizations, especially since I kept doing it over and over again! I think I get it now, thankfully.
I noticed when I was really present and focused on what I was doing, things flowed. I felt grounded, calm and at peace, even if things did not go as I planned or I couldn’t finish the project as I wasn’t as attached to the outcome. I was more open to suggestions and help from others. I wanted to give 150% of my heart and attention to the task, and it felt like I was coming from a place of love and selfless service.
When I was stuck in the past or the future, things got sloppy. I would be upset, grouchy and a little unstable. The job would take twice as long, things would break and I would be rushing it. In these situations I was more attached to the outcome, needing it to work out the way I had planned it from the beginning, not open to help or plans changing. I didn’t care as much.
It was interesting to watch how I would give my full energy to some tasks, which I was ok with or loved doing, and how I would only give half of my energy to the tasks I did not want or did not like doing. I was making judgments about it so I made a point of doing the unwanted tasks in the same manner I would do the tasks I liked, and seeing it as an opportunity to engage in selfless service. Raking the composting toilets was a good example of this. I started out gagging almost the whole time I was raking, having to turn my head away to get fresh air, and doing the job quickly to get it over with. I was disgusted by it. By the time I left the ashram, I was able to stand there and rake the toilets breathing normally, no gagging, and even dancing listening to kirtans on my cd player!
I was able to work through some old patterns that did not serve me anymore around perfectionism, asking and receiving help, attachments to the outcomes, and judgments. I am back in Canada now and approaching all my interactions and projects as karma yoga. Continuing on with selfless service, helping others, and detaching from the outcomes and judgments, makes my life feel much more peaceful.
Everyone sat in a large circle in silent repose, legs crossed like tangled barbed wire and eyes gently closed. As I struggled to contort my concrete legs a pain shot through my knee and I swore I heard a twang in my back. Whilst everyone else was peacefully observing their breath, I was squinting through one eye and fidgeting like a 3-year-old child who’s been asked to sit still. After a few "Oms" and "Shantis" the chanting began. I picked up my sheet of mantras and attempted to sing the strange words before me that were made up, it seems, of every letter of the alphabet. I wondered if someone had stolen my tongue.
It’s hard to believe how only a few days later I was able to sit in silence, peacefully observing my breath and able to sing the mile long words out loud without a song sheet in sight…but then again Anahata IS a magical place.
Set atop a hill in Golden Bay surrounded by lush Abel Tasman forest and with stunning ocean views that stretch for miles, this place is mini paradise. From the minute I arrived, I was immersed into a full yogic lifestyle that incorporated the philosophies of Satyananda Yoga – a sensible, sustainable practice that can transform your life in a wonderful way, forever!
My first session was a deep relaxation class called Yoga Nidra (dreaming yoga). As I struggled to fight off forty winks, the only thing that kept me awake was the snores from other students who’d succumbed to sleep. I tried to imagine how this week could possibly get much better.
Hatha yoga began at 6am when the stars were still glistening in the stunningly clear skies. A crackling fire warmed us in the corner of a room as we gently stretched our bodies awake. The rest of the week was filled with chanting, singing, cooking, working in the gardens, tree prayers and getting to know the full-time residents who had visited for a few days and were still there months or years later!
By the last day, I felt a whole new energy coursing through my body and the world looked tantalizingly rosy. With a new zest for living, I reluctantly left the retreat teary eyed and already making mental plans to return. My advice is to go there with an open heart and mind and I promise it will change your life for good.