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.