Onward And Upward

Well, my time in Melbourne doing karma yoga is done. I have to admit, this last month was a little tough for me. Not only the getting up at 5:30am to do chanting and meditation (I’m just not that into chanting) but also things like not being allowed to put ginger in the dahl. It just got to me. I guess I’m over the whole asking other people permission to do stuff thing (ie: I’ve had enough of having a boss). All the more reason for me to make a proper go of it on my own.

But not yet. For now, the traveling continues.

I flew out of Melbourne a week ago. Got a bit of a surprise at the airport. I thought only small third world nations and bush pilots made you go out on the runway to board the plane. Not so, as this photo proves.

boarding at melbourne

Not that I’m complaining. It did add a certain novelty to what would ordinarily have been a boring flight. And the plane did have jet engines, not propellers, so that’s something to be thankful for.

Here is the ubiquitous blue sky shot.

so much blue

So I’m in Sydney now. Was here for a day before Christmas, on my way to Perth. Going to be here two weeks this time. One week just me, hanging out with my friend Sarah. Then next week my girlfriend arrives, and we have a few days in Sydney before we pick up the camper and head north.

sleeping car

My first two nights I stayed at the Railway YHA, where you literally sleep in converted railway carriages (if you want to). I, of course, wanted to. It amused me no end. And it was pretty nice too. You are literally right next to a working platfrom/station, so you’d think there’d be more noise, but not so. I slept fine each night, and hardly heard the tannoy.

My next six nights were at the Sydney Harbour YHA, where I am now, and where you get some excellent views of the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. Just check this out…

balcony view

And it’s even better as the sun goes down.

roof terrace

sydney opera house at dusk

view from hostel at dusk

That’s from the roof top terrace, but here’s the view from my bedroom window.

view from my window

Not bad for $40-something bucks a night. Ok, you have to share, but the facilities are excellent, and you can’t fault the location (unless it’s to complain about all the steps from Circular Quay, lol). Plus, it’s built above an archaeological dig, so this is the view you get beneath you.

archaeology

can you dig it

How cool is that? Mind you, when you’re used to Roman remains, calling the old settler remains ‘archaeology’ is stretching the term a little thin in my book. But what the heck, it looks nice.

Melbourne was a little bit of a hiatus for me. I didn’t do any headstand pics, which I regret a little, but with this new leg I plan on rectifying the situation asap. And with someone to help take the pictures it makes life a whole lot easier.

I met up with my friends Sarah and Kellie my first full day in Sydney (the two of them have been traveling around Oz and New Zealand working at retreats and planning their own next big step for over a year now) and we decided to head to the zoo.

sarah and the opera

kiki on the ferry

I’ll be honest, as a vegan I’m not sure how I feel about zoos. On the one hand I think the animals would have been better off left where they were. On the other hand the ones that are there probably couldn’t survive in the wild after getting used to life in captivity, so you can’t just put them back. And breeding programs are saving many species from extinction. I don’t know. All I can say is, I’m slowly going off the traditional zoo idea. But anyway…

To get up there from the ferry you take a cable car to the top. That makes about the fourth one I’ve been on since starting this trip. Who knew there were so many, lol.

We had a lovely day for the visit, really hot and sunny. Great for taking photos of the spectacular views you get of Sydney from the zoo.

view from taronga zoo

Even the mountain goats get a spectacular view!

bridge, goat. goat, bridge

And of course we saw many interesting animals.

pygmy hippo

look at my nose

camoflage

Though what kind of animal this is I’m really not sure???

big ears

We ended the zoo visit with the first of many future headstand pics.

24. taronga zoo headstand

To quote Peter Kay – “We’ve started now! Now we’ve started!” (again).

Actually, that wasn’t quite the end of the trip. We finished it off with a nice bit of veggie bento. Sweet! 🙂

veggie bento

A few days later Sarah and I went down to Bondi Beach to check that out.

me and sarah

It was, as you might expect, gorgeous. And a lovely day to be out on the beach.

bondi beach

I see beaches

And it was hot too. I needed some cooling down. Thank Zod for sorbet!

kiki the sorbet muncher

We even managed to squeeze in a bit of shopping. I bought myself some new shoes. What do you think?

kiki's new shoes

I like them, but I think they might be a little big, lol.

And in case you’re having any trouble keeping perspective, helpful graffittos have shared this to help bring you back down to earth.

everything you say is irrelevant...

Nuff said.

No headstand pics for Bondi though. I’m saving that moment for when my Deutsche Frau arrives. Likewise ones on the Opera House and Harbour Bridge. I mean I’ve been around those sights dozens of times as I’m so close to Circular Quay,

sydney from the north shore

circular quay from the harbour bridge

I’ve taken many a ferry,

the ocean princess

NO TUG

bridge from ferry

I’ve even walked across the bridge,

sydney harbour bridge detail.

warning signs

but since I’m planning on doing the Pylon Lookout Tour, and I’ve got tickets for the ballet at the Opera House, I’ll save those headstand moments for later.

And speaking of later, since this post is getting a little epic and I’ve still yet more to share, I think I’ll save my pics from the Maritime Museum for next time. So, ciao for now.

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Bad Yogi, Bad Vegan, Bad Karma?

a story from the Teacher Training Course;

There’s this little cafe in Reith, the wee villagey type place down the hill from the ashram. When you’ve had enough of ashram life, and the TTC, it’s a God-send. You can pop down there for a quick cuppa and just pretend you’re ‘normal’ (whatever that is) for a little while. But!

They do have the most tempting cakes. Beautiful, moist, chocolatey cakes that could tempt the most staunch of vegans (have no doubt, eggs and butter are abound!).

Now I resisted for almost the entire TTC. I was a good boy. But in the last week a bunch of us went down there for a break, everyone else was having a cake and, I’ll be honest, I cracked! I had some cake. Want some proof? Here it is.

bad vegan!

I wish I could say I felt guilty, but the fact is it was lovely, and just what I needed at that point in time. I ate it, and didn’t give it a second thought.

Flash forward to the evening meal. It’s the usual fare or veggies, grain, and a healthy dollop of salad. I’m just sitting down, tucking in with gusto, when I catch some movement out the corner of my eye, buried deep within the bowels of my salad. I take a closer look and find, much to my surprise (and his too for that matter), a little green caterpillar, thoroughly drenched in salad dressing and no doubt wondering what the heck was going on?

Needless to say I took the little fella out to the garden and set him free, but it occurred to me that maybe he was a message from the Universe. Basically,

“Ok, you want to eat animal products? Well here you go, eat this!”

That got to me a bit, and did kind of get me thinking about practicing austerities like veganism, with the odd ‘accidental’ lapse here and there. Plus it kind of felt like the Universe was mocking me a bit, getting a bit of a dig in.

But then I thought about it. You see, I know that the Universe is on your side. It wants to help, and it wants to help you do the right thing. It doesn’t do things like mock and punish. It is all loving and will do anything for you. So what was the caterpillar all about?

I realised that of everyone who ate that day, I was the one that got the caterpillar, and nobody else. Someone could have seen it, freaked out, and squashed it. Or they could not have seen it and eaten the poor little fella. But it was I that was given the opportunity to set him free, and in doing that make amends for my earlier indiscretion. And when I realised that I felt a whole lot better about my lapse, and about being offered the opportunity to make things right again.

That being said, I wish I could tell you I have had a will of iron since then. I mean I’ve been pretty good, but when it comes to cake I still lapse every now and then. Want proof? Here’s some pics of my latest indiscretions.

kirschstreusel -cherry crumble cake
 
indiscretion 2
 
indiscretion 1
 
What can I say? I do my best, but at the end of the day I’m only human, and the Austrians do make exceedingly nice cake! 😉

Life As A Karma Yogi

I’m half way through my time at the Sivananda Ashram, so I thought it’d be a good time to do a wee review of what it’s like to live the life of a Karma Yogi.

Just so we’re all on the same page, a Karma Yogi is a voluntary member of staff who lives and works at the ashram, doing whatever needs doing around the place. In return for this ‘selfless service’ you get fed and watered, the chance to do your yoga asanas every day, plus chanting and meditation sessions, and hopefully you get to advance in your practice little by little. For this reason it’s also known as a work/study program.

So, where to begin? Well first off I can tell you that I’ve certainly gone up in the world in terms of accommodation. I mean here’s where I started out on the TTC,

old digs

then I got moved to here,

new digs

and now look at me!

newer digs

Doing alright for myself, don’t you think? ..lol..

So, you might think it’s a bit weird being obsessed with your bed. But let me tell you, when you have to get up at 5:30am every morning – actually, I get up at 5:15am as I have some duties to perform before the 6:00am Satsang every morning – where you sleep and how you sleep suddenly becomes very important indeed!

And you don’t get a lot of other chances to rest apart from when you go to bed and your one hour break each day. Just check out the schedule on a typical day (if there can ever be such a thing) I had last week;

05:10 – Wake up before your alarm goes off. Weigh up getting up early versus five more minutes sleep. Choose sleep.
05:15 – Alarm goes off. Drag yourself out of bed and into the shower.
05:50 – Get to Satsang (daily chanting and meditation) ten minutes early to had out translation devices. Probably find out you forgot to charge them the night before. Panic a little.
06:00 – Satsang. Wait to see if you get asked to lead some kritan singing. Pray you don’t.
07:35 – Staff meeting. Find out what the plan is for the day. Get given a list of stuff to do.
08:00 – Join the guest yoga asana class.
08:20 – Get pulled out of class as the food order has arrived and it’s your job to check it off and put it all away.
10:00 – First meal of the day. Usually dahl, grain, veggie and some salad.
10:30 – Wash dishes and clean kitchen top to bottom along with other karma yogis.
12:15 – Continue figuring out where to put all the food that’s turned up. Pack and repack the fridge trying to get it all in.
13:30 – Take your break. Go online and spend the next hour replying to e-mails, uploading photos, and trying to blog (eg. this post you’re reading now has taken 4 days to do).
14:30 – Do your Sadhana (spiritual practice, consisting of asanas and meditation) since you couldn’t do it in the morning.
15:30 – Go down to check the translation system is charged up for tonight.
15:50 – Cook a meal for fourteen people even though two weeks ago you’d never done anything like that before.
17:45 – Panic that you won’t finish cooking in time. Worry that you haven’t made enough.
18:00 – Second meal of the day.
18:30 – Clean kitchen top to bottom again.
19:15 – Second Satsang of the day. Get there early for karma yoga again.
20:35 – Get disapproving looks when the translation mike runs out of power for the second time in two days.
21:00 – After Satsang, go rummage around in the store-room for a different mike as the one you have is clearly faulty.
21:30 – Go online. Answer the e-mails you didn’t have time to answer before. Do more blogging.
22:00 – Go to bed. Set alarm for seven hours time. Pray it won’t be freezing cold when you get up in the morning. Count the days ’til your day off.

And that wasn’t even one of the ‘eventful’ days, like when we have dozens of guests or there’s an early morning puja (religious ceremony) or something.

blessed book
My travel notebook, blessed during one of the pujas.

Seems quite hectic eh? But weigh that against the perks of the job. Good food, nice digs, the chance to do yoga and meditation each day, and the opportunity to go on the odd outing here and there. I mean, take this moment for example;

You don’t get times like that working in an office, now do you?

Plus, the work isn’t so hard. I mean they give you as much as you can handle – what I call The 3-C’s of Karma Yoga; Cooking, Cleaning and Carrying Stuff – but not so much that you’re overloaded and want to run away. They know that we choose to be here, and if we don’t like it we can choose not to be here, so they strike a fine balance between challenging you and pushing you too far.

That being said, you’ve got to do whatever you need to do to keep sane. With some it’s sleeping as much as possible, for most it’s going online, but with me it’s snacking! Whatever happens, I gots to get me some snacks each day or I’d go mental.

This was my first snack hidey-hole,

the naughty snack corner

then I graduated to a drawer!

more naughty treats!

Next it’ll be a snack desk! ..lol.. I mean, I’m not doing my belly any favours, after all the weight I lost during the TTC, but you gotta do what you gotta do, right?

So it’s hectic, yet manageable; but still, you do enjoy your one day off a week! A lie-in, a chance to rest, and some time to catch up with the ‘real world’.

Unfortunately there’s not much to do round here. Reith is a one horse town, seasonally busy, so closed most of the time. Kitzbuhel, nearby, is bigger but similar. But at least it has a few coffee shops and that which you can go to during lunch time (proper shops close from 12:00-15:00, I kid you not!). Like I say it’s kinda boring, but you go anyway just to have some time away. You need that mental break now and then.

And that’s it really. That’s what it’s like to be a karma yogi (well, if you’re me, anyway). I’m enjoying it, but at the same time I’m looking forward to going traveling. Not just to visit California, Australia, New Zealand, etc., but also just to have more than one lie-in a week! No matter what I do I can’t get used to being up before 6am. It’s just not for me.

I can handle the next 4 weeks, but after that it’s long sleeps and lazy starts for me for a while. I just need the rest. Then I can start getting my head around opening a centre of my own (if I haven’t had enough by then that is, lol).

Not that I can complain really. I mean, this was the view when I got up yesterday morning.

morning blanket

snow in the valley

How gorgeous is that! And tonight the full moon was so bright it lit up the entire valley. So bright in fact that when you looked at it it left an after image on your eye. I’ve never seen it like that before. When I think of that, and then think of how I could be in London working a night shift, I know how lucky I actually am.

Arty In Austria

Here’s a few pics for your delectation.

I’ve given full bent to my artistic side, so you’ll forgive the abstract nature of the first half. Take heart that part 2, at the end, contains more straight forward landscape shots.

Enjoy. 🙂

autumn colours
 
look out below!
 
wood pile
 
your mother is a snow blower!
 
green and grey
 
the postbox collective
 
teabag macro
 
accidental close up
 
old door, kitzbuhel
 
sign, with underpants
 
so much sky!
 
berry nice indeed
 
red bench, blue view
 
waiting to view
 
admiring the view
 
very austrian
 
a lakeside contemplation
 
the wilder kaiser (the wild emperor)
 
by the waterfall
 
after a long walk...

A Flying Visit

Ok folks, a brief update for you all because people have been complaining about a lack of posting (Hi Diana, lol ;)).

I’ve been absent because the only way I can get online is this ancient computer which fails constantly. Plus I only get so much time off, and it never seems to be working when I am not. The fact that I’m on now is an anomoly.

But there is light. I’ve ordered a laptop online and am waiting for it to be delivered. Hopefully just another week or so then you’ll have more posts and photos than you can shake a stick at.

In brief, I’ve finished the TTC and am now a qualified yoga teacher (hurrah!). Here’s a picture of the graduating class to prove it.

2012_9_TTCpicture

Can you see me? I got myself in prime position.

So, I’m on doing my karma yoga now. It’s going well so far. I’m in charge of the kitchen, lol, even though I’ve yet to cook, but I’m getting a handle on things. Anyway, I’m sure I’ll have some stories for you real soon.

So stay tuned. By the end of next week expect a plethora of stuff.

Ciao for now.