The Karmic Carrot

I have been curious about ashrams for years. Yes, in part, because of the movie “Eat, Pray, Love.” Beyond that though, I had a yearning for the experience. I found one close enough to visit in the Kootenays of BC. One of my nieces is usually game to come along with me as I explore things that are “off the beaten path”. So, off we went. The place is wonderful. A big central compound with communal kitchen and dining. A yoga studio with natural light coming in all directions. A bit of paradise nestled on the lakeshore. At orientation there was the opportunity to choose various practices and sessions to attend to enhance the stay. We both decided we definitely wanted to try something called “Karmic Yoga”.

Cell phone service is discouraged during your stay so I didn’t Google exactly what kind of yoga “karmic” was. My niece and I settled in to a routine of morning flow, community vegan eating and ample time to partake in meditation and chanting in the lotus temple. The place was designed with tranquility in mind. Coves, wooded glens, nature walks and small cabins facing the lake that are filled with cushions and collective ornaments. All the ingredients present for you to relax, take the pressure off and sink into “just being”.

On the second day, we reported bright and early to the front office dressed in our yoga outfits and ready to practice Karmic Yoga. We soon figured out that it wasn’t what we thought it was. My niece is assigned to help clear a section of beach for an upcoming retreat. I was directed towards one of the garden patches. Right, well ok, at least it’s kind of like exercise. I am game to pull some weeds. One of the volunteers points me towards a couple of rows of what appears to be over grown with everything but vegetables. She assures me that there are carrots somewhere in the mix. I am determined to demonstrate my thoroughness and kneel down in what I think is the outside of the rows of plants. “Who sowed these seeds?”, I contemplate while I meticulously pluck at the foreign bodies that have been allowed to grow. It appeared that someone just scattered them everywhere without making an effort to keep them in lines. I spend a good solid hour creating order in the the carrot patch and I am only half way up the rows when the worker is back to tell me my time is up.

I look at her skeptically, then peer down the still wild vegetation rows and shake my head. I have learned some things about myself over the years. I have a compelling desire to see a tasks or project to fruition. Now, career-wise, it has come in handy. They call me “the finisher”. Want something done ? Work with Vanessa. I pride myself on tasks completed well and thoroughly. In this case, though, I had missed an opportunity. I was clueless to the purpose of the time. I forgot where I was and couldn’t see the carrots through the weeds. I told the worker that I wanted to stay and finish the job. I was compelled to make sure the rows were a reflection of order and tidiness. To her credit, she didn’t roll her eyes at me. She smiled and said. “Why would you deprive the next person the opportunity to uncover what they need to experience as they take their turn in the garden?”

I stumbled away confused and not sure that the women didn’t have sun stroke or something. Deprive someone else from weeding carrots? I decided to go sit in one of the meditation chairs in the lake cabins. I was staring out the windows trying to grasp the conversation purpose. I was missing the point. At least I knew that much. As I reflected on the garden task I started to contemplate my behaviour. When did I become so rigid? Since when was I that person who only felt satisfied when I could see straight rows of carrots? It wasn’t lost on me that the worker had cringed when she noticed I had pulled out all of the vegetation that had grown outside the rows. I chastised myself for being so brutal with the destruction. There are all sorts of yoga and variations of practice. My favourite ones are combination packs where you can meditate and connect a flow at the same time. A similar practice is labyrinth or mediation walking. Combining spirit, body and mind to synch up and tune in to what’s happening. It’s a bonus when you can give back to a community while honouring your practice.

I have had plenty of time now to reflect back on this experience and start to understand the point of the practice. It’s not about the weeds unless you get stuck in them and become obsessed with eradicating their existence. I have meditated with plants since then on other workshops, as well as in nature, and have grasped profound insights into myself through their gentle energies. My gardens around my home are natural and intermixed with chaos and spots of structure. I have let go of some of the need for rigid order and embraced the opportunity to just be present. To practice Karmic Yoga is to embrace connecting to, in this case, nature’s lessons given freely when I am ready to acknowledge their presence. I was forever altered in that patch and I am grateful for the carrot.

Yasodhara Ashram

It’s more a Life guide than a religion…

Life long discipline of practice

I grew up in an extensive Mormon family with a mom deep-rooted in the beliefs and a dad willing to go with the flow as long as he could research genealogy. The religion is fine and does teach some useful values on how to raise kids and stay humble. What rubbed me was the definitive roles of men and women. I am not going to explain this deeper right now (maybe in another post) as it doesn’t pertain to this conversation. I would call myself agnostic as I believe in energies, karma and connections to the universe. Through my searching, I came across Shamanism and signed up for a weekend workshop. As I sat in the opening circle with 13 other people, I couldn’t help but smile at the irony of the situation. The workshop was being hosted in an annex connected to a Catholic church. There were pictures of popes lined up on the walls. Here I was an ex-Mormon in a Catholic church about to experience journeying with a shaman practice that predates Christianity. Hah! The universe has one hell of a sense of humour and the irony wasn’t lost on me.

I love the fact the word ‘shaman’ some say means ‘he or she who knows’. It’s actually a practiced discipline instead of a religion and has many variations depending on the culture and country. The workshop I first attended was a contemporary western version. Which, in short, is a type that tries not to be too specific about meanings or practice. That way, you can experience the discipline before getting detailed protocols based on culture and beliefs. Our first journey involved a quest to find our spirit animal. For non-believers it seems a bit strange to lay down on the floor, cover your eyes, listen to the sound of the drums and focus in on your cleverly crafted question of what animal will guide you as you start this trek. I consider myself an intuitive person. I meditate on occasion and sign up for workshops that will push me into all sorts of uncomfortable situations.

This was different for me though. As I took some slow, easy breaths and listened to the instructions, I had the feelings of rightness. The spirit animal was waiting for me as I opened my mind and the animal was not what I expected. I always assumed I was a deer or grizzly kind of being. Nope.

Spirit allies in animal form (The Shamanism Bible by John Matthews). I like that explanation of what a spirit animal is. As I grow in my practice and partake in many journeys, I have gathered quite a collection of -not only animals – but guides that help me with various challenges and questions I can’t seem to figure out on my own. It’s been a life saver for me in many ways and has helped me get through some very dark moments in my life.

If you are curious about learning more on the practice or the subject, here are some suggestions to explore:

The Foundation of Shamanic Studies -Calgary Chapter

The Foundation of Shamanic Studies -Main site