we are all beginners

April 20, 2014 § Leave a comment

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Maria described herself as ‘an absolute yoga beginner in her early fifties, very over weight and a breast cancer survivor in need of a routine to incorporate into daily life’.

Having taken a huge leap of faith to leave her catholic community over the Easter weekend, deciding she was more in need of a yoga holiday and restful break than to go to church. But done with a sense of guilt that lay heavy on her. This was her first holiday on her own and her first step away from the familiar. She was anxious about what she would find and how yoga might be a potential conflict of interest that could divide her from her community. Yet despite her reservations and keeping her weekend plans a secret from her friends and colleagues, she came. Something led her here.

We went through the basics of yoga, with a snippet explanation that was enough to gain an understanding of its possibilities but not too much to take us away from our focus for the weekend. Which was to start from the beginning, focusing on the breath and simple exercises to reconnect. Coming back to the self, back to the body and knowing our individual needs, relaxing every step of the way.

I felt so much admiration for Maria over the weekend. For having the will and determination to take a step forward into the unknown, for being open to try something new that went against all her beliefs and to find a way forward to regain her health and a better work life balance so that she could live for the moment.

Life is all about finding balance and a path that works for you. To set realistic goals that support and help you in your life is so much more important than seeking perfection, or putting yourself in a situation that sets you up to either fail or feel alienated. Social media is full of images of gorgeous bronzed bikini / lycra clad yogini’s with beautiful toned bodies doing handstands. And it seems there’s a demand for it, but it’s not what yoga is about. If someone felt they needed to buy a new lycra outfit to practice yoga with me I would feel I had failed. Yoga is for everyone, regardless of your size, age and ability. We can all breath so therefore we can all start at the beginning.

My weekend with Maria just strengthened my love for yoga and the reason I enjoy teaching it. We spent three very relaxing days creating a gentle daily routine that she could take with her to continue at home and in between our time on the mat, Maria took it upon herself to give the terrace a makeover. Creating an outdoor room, whilst putting her gardening skills into action that she doesn’t otherwise get the opportunity to do living in an apartment.

This exchange is what it’s all about. Sharing our skills, our stories and opening our hearts together. I love it when guests want to get involved and leave something of themselves behind. It means I have something to remember them by and they also become a part of what I am doing here. I can be checking up on Maria to see how she is doing, just as she said she will be emailing me to make sure I am watering the plants she potted!

We are all the same, we are all beginners and we all have something to share and teach one another. Remembering to breathe and stay humble is a good place to be. A constant reminder that life can be simple.

dream building

March 5, 2014 § 5 Comments

DREAMS

For all the adversity of being here, I find life is now creative in a way I had only wished about for so many years. My rhythm flows with the seasons and the sun, embracing every day anew. I tend to keep a constant pace where work and life are intertwined moving steadily along, feeding each other with moments of contemplation and inspiration. Which as a friend recently told me, is a luxury.

Yes I suppose so, but it came at a price and I didn’t have to stick my neck out quite this far. But after loosing those I loved I no longer feel the same fear attached to risk. Instead its like I am free-falling, stepping forward in a new way and with much bigger strides. The worst that could happen has happened and so every day feels like a bonus. Here I am, grateful for these luxuries and grateful for this life, to live simply yet with high ideas and dreams a plenty.

And, as if it wasn’t enough to be here doing what I am doing on my own, I have recently stumbled across another piece to the jigsaw puzzle. One that ups the ante to a whole new league. A plot of land, with house and barn that is close by and could become an extension for accommodation, a much bigger yoga studio and a beautiful kitchen garden. It’s fairly wild to be contemplating this at this stage in the journey. They are both in need of restoration work, but the dream I had to be here seems to have taken on a life of its own.

Anyone sensible would probably tell me to put the brakes on, but there don’t seem to be any brakes. And yes, these dreams are scary but I know I can do this. I know I am meant to be here. My gut feeling has continually propelled me forward and helped me to make the decision to up sticks and move country.

So on top of launching myself into my first year here, I am also quietly sitting and working out how I can grow and expand, to add this new piece of the puzzle into the picture……This dream is definitely bigger than anything I was intending, but the opportunity feels like the beginning of a very magical future.

coming back to centre

February 21, 2014 § 3 Comments

Sofie

This week feels as though it has disappeared without trace.
Sucked in by an online vortex, grappling the world of social media and trying to discover how to become a visible entity in the world, putting Little French Retreat on the map.

I find in these moments, that focusing on my Sadhana  (spiritual practice)  becomes ever more important. Starting my morning on the mat sets the tone and creates the flow for the day. And sometimes, as with this week I don’t make time for my practice first thing and only get to the mat late afternoon. I realise when this shift happens the feel and quality I bring to my work is entirely different, I focus on ‘work’ rather than being in flow.

I could probably spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on marketing, but it defeats the point of being here and it defeats the point of trusting in my practice. After all what is the rush, what is more important than that morning meeting on the mat?…….I could list a load of excuses, but really, nothing is more important.

Yet sometimes this happens. Sometimes the balance goes the wrong way. This is the time I know to stop, check in and recognise what’s going on and remember to look and see what surrounds me. Like noticing the light that falls on my dog as I stretch on the mat.  A time to appreciate the stillness and peace of this place.

As Swami Govindanada (whom I served with last winter) once said, “we all have busy lives. Even running an ashram is not without its stresses, it  requires managing people, managing finances, and managing accommodation. What is important is maintaining your sadhana for this will guide you, then placing yourself in a peaceful environment with peaceful people. Like a lump of coal we are grey and cool. But when placed into the fire, we take on the qualities of the fire and become red hot.”

Coming back to centre is a constant process of awareness.

Asking myself the questions; ‘How am I spending my time, where am I placing my energies, do I need to do any of the things I am doing?’,  provides that moment to realign and put the magic back into the day. Rather than let it run away with itself.

So with that thought I am letting go of this week. Theres a weekend to be had and a flowing week ahead to look forward to!

Om Shanti, Shanti Shanti

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