Here I am, looking ‘oh so ashram’, wrapped up in an orange and pink world, where warmth and comfort took priority over fashion…. But I look calm or possibly just exhausted from the work load. Now back in Brighton, I have had time to reflect on my three-month Karma Yoga experience as well as post blogs again, which got somewhat neglected.
The purpose for being kept so busy was to help change old thought patterns, or samskara’s (which is a hindu concept for impressions made on your subconscious mind). The daily routine from 5.30am – 11pm left little time for thinking and also with our usual responsibilities taken care of by the ashram (bed, food, work), living in the present became possible.
Personal space or choice was limited too. I shared a bedroom with two other ‘Karma yogi’s’ and was told what to do each day, when to do it, and also ate what we were given, at the time it was served (not too much of a hardship though since the food was delicious!). We basically did what we were told. But despite the lack of independence, I found little to complain about. I had signed up for the experience, so therefore acceptance was the only way to deal with discomforts. Letting someone else take care of everything and to give up positions of responsibility seemed a refreshing change.
On applying to work at the ashram I was asked to list my skills, but forgot to include my passions outside of work, such as cooking and photography. So I felt lucky when the kitchen became my main Karma yoga. I had hoped I would be teaching yoga, but instead I found myself cooking everyday and I absolutely loved it. I have always loved cooking but never thought of it being something I could do beyond feeding friends and family. However I found myself cooking effortlessly for groups of forty, even the challenging times when the gas got accidentally cut off didn’t faze me. To spend everyday in the kitchen was a treat. I discovered lots about food, tastes and textures and loved the creative experience. My French also improved a little when I had to place food orders with suppliers.
The other unexpected twist that occurred was my interior design skills were put to use. Having put my interiors background on hold for a while it was great to be in a situation that combined work and pleasure. The project was to redesign the boutique including made-to-measure furniture, which I managed to part complete before I left. However the outcome is that I now feel confident to work in another country, sourcing and liaising with suppliers. So for future projects a great confidence booster.
I really I enjoyed the experience of living and working with the same people everyday. It turned out to be lots of fun and I learnt so much from my fellow Karma yogi friends. There were of course times when we got irritated with one another, but these moments were just as valuable as the skills that we shared with each other. Somehow the fact we were all there for similar reasons seemed to make everyone much more tolerant and understanding of our different backgrounds and personal situations.
And since I have left, the benefits of this experience seem much more apparent. I feel very calm and energised from detoxing and brighter for having let go of things that were bothering me. I didn’t go to the ashram seeking change, my main desire was to teach and strengthen my asana practise. But it seems that selfless service has given me a renewed inner strength. Being tested to my limits, whilst letting go of ego, has been a good thing.