Thursday, 8 October 2009

Karma Yoga

The flyer that Tom, Danuta’s son, thrust into my hand at Natstock a few weeks previously whilst discussing our impending shoestring tour of Europe focused understandably on the full-board, full-price Yoga retreats on offer. Tom’s insistence that his mum invites people to stay on-the-cheap if you’re prepared to work was enough to arouse our budget-conscious curiosity though, and I had an inkling that mention of ‘Karma Yoga’ might be the key. All we knew for sure was that €10 a day would cover us for whatever was in store.

We set up camp in the former central square of the 18th century farming hamlet, our van’s door opening out onto that five-star Provence-esque view, and were invited to join our hosts and the guests for dinner whilst the Karma Yoga concept was explained. The Radha Yoga tradition that Danuta teaches uses the concept of self-less service as one of it’s core tools. Radha practitioners will work but focus on the process of that work rather than the outcome and use this focus in a meditative way, as a reflective process in conjunction with their other introspective Yoga practices. The ‘meditation’ offered to us the following day was to help Steve move fallen sandstone building blocks from their land beneath the terrace back up to the house level for use as building materials in their ongoing renovations. It sounded more like hard labour to me than cuddly-sounding Karma Yoga.

After a dinner of dhal, coconut rice, raisin chutney, wine, figs & grapes from the garden, concluded with a regional-classic cheese ‘Bleu de Bavier’ a surprise Yoga session was offered and so began our three day crash-course in the ancient Indian Kundalini system and an introduction to Radha yoga’s contemplative, note-taking, emphasis.

Frankly we were both a little overwhelmed to be contemplating the meaning of our existence within three hours of arriving, particularly as our expectations had been little more than a nice morning stretch and a bit of help in the garden, but it was all voluntary. I’m no Dalai Lama but I do have a spiritually inquisitive side and Danuta’s warm, welcoming manner and the small retreat group we joined - a couple from San Francisco - made for a comfortable and supportive environment so I rolled up my spiritual sleeves and got my metaphysical hands dirty.

The next morning began with a gentle Hatha yoga session easing us into the physically daunting Karma Yoga session ahead. My healthy skepticism paradoxically combined with an open mind and I reveled in the hard work. It was great to spend time helping Steve who’s dogged passion for renovating these beautiful sandstone farm buildings was contagious and I found the work to be physically and mentally satisfying. In the group reflection period afterwards I was heartened to realise that the simple joy’s of physical work and problem solving — shifting stones too heavy to lift using logs as rollers, planks and teamwork — not only had a meditation-like quality but also provided surprisingly relevant lessons to the other yoga sessions. Alas, this spiritual insight did nothing for my freshly calloused hands and aching back.

The morning before our departure our Karma Yoga treat was to shop for produce at the weekly market in nearby Lectoure, a handsome hilltop Spa town. We bought some amazing local produce and yet all of our karmic-budgeting efforts were ruined as we were duped, wide-eyed, by the Frenchest man believable resplendent in beret and D’Artagnan moustache, into buying the most expensive yet deliciously sweet, nutty artisan cheese in the market.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good to hear you found another Karma Corner outside of Natstock!
Peace & love
Nat x x