I returned to the embrace of urban living after spending a relaxing weekend away at the Satyananda Ashram, a retreat nestled away in Mangrove Mountains, where the residents of the ashram wore orange garb, adopted Sanskrit names, and partook in selfless service unto humanity (“karma yoga”).
The Pheonix Weekend 2012
The weekend program consisted of workshops with teachers Mark Whitwell, Katy Appleton, Anna Phillips, Mark Breadner, Kriyavidya Saraswati, Simon Borg-Olivier, Gwyn Williams and John Ogilvie. The workshops were held in the sadhana rooms of the main hall. In addition to the program, we could choose to participate in ashram activities. There was plenty of time between sessions to wander around, practice karma yoga, mix with fellow pilgrims and share thoughts and experiences.
The Camp Site
Fire Ceremony Satyananda Style
The ceremonial observance of the ritual fire offering at the hearth or kitchen of the home was one of the ashram activities that we had the pleasure of experiencing during the weekend. It took place after Simon Borg-Olivier’s talk about breath and nutrition, and how everything that you eat will kill you, eventually – especially bread and milk. The shit that ferments and remains undigested in the intestinal tract becomes food for the microbes, worms and parasites that inhabit our bodies. Bon Appétit.
The Future Sound of Yoga Rave Edition
Saturday night’s trance rave was a dress-up party, themed with the colours of the čakras. I think that a rave is another form of release, good for my śarīra, though raving may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Mark Whitwell described the “yoga” as “Apocalypse Now”. That night, creek mosquitoes thrived joyfully over my skin to my displeasure as we brought new meaning to the ashram’s 9pm bedtime curfew and rocked it hard.
The Leech in the Yoga Nidra
We wondered about the description of a leech within the guided meditation of the Yoga Nidra session that we had stayed back later to experience. What was its significance? Fresh in our minds was the beautiful, joyful and liberating experience of bathing in the leech-infested creek that bordered the ashram. Was the leech, in some way, a subtext to living joyfully and truthfully? That to experience the joys and purity of life, you must seize the moment and jump into the leech-infested creek? It seemed as enigmatic as referring to the self as being the jewel within the lotus.
Donating my śarīra and energy to creek mosquitoes and the leech sum up my experience of my weekend at the ashram. As Mark Whitwell says, there is nothing to attain by seeking Enlightenment, or any hierarchical ideology in spiritual awakening imposed by those in power. There is only the action of allowing the yang energy from your in-breath to be embraced by the yin energy (the leech) of your out-breath and, through that loving embrace, can the states of siddhi arise in you. My definition of authentic karma yoga is the surrender of the blood to the leech within yourself.