Work Is A Four Letter Word

I made a mistake in work last week that nearly cost me my job.

It wasn’t a big mistake. In the great scheme of things it was within the realms of understandability. But, it was the latest in a long list of mistakes that have happened recently, and the client was not happy, not happy at all.

There was a very real chance that they would be out for blood. And me, being a freelancer, am easy to get rid of. If the client wanted a sacrificial goat I’d be it, and really who could blame them? Get rid of one to help the many.

It was enough of a reality to keep me awake at night. I found myself lying in bed at 4am worrying about what was going to happen. I started Googling things like “I might get fired” and “What to do if I get fired tomorrow”, but they were no help. They just brought up long lists of ways to know if you’re on your way out. But I already knew that. I needed more practical advice.

Then I tried “Getting fired was the best thing that ever happened to me”, and that led me (eventually) to this video:

Here I was, lying awake, stressing about “…doing things [I] don’t like doing in order to be able to go on doing things [I] don’t like doing!”

The ridiculousness of the situation struck me. I realised something had to change. Maybe me losing my job would be a good thing? After all, as a friend of mine said, “…sometimes we all need a little push.”

As it turns out I didn’t lose my job in the end. Not over that incident anyway. But! a couple of days ago I got an e-mail telling me that the company was restructuring, taking on new permanent members of staff, which meant that come April there’d be a lot less freelance work available (ie: none).

So after all the angst and worry, the late night philosophy and the return to business as usual, I lost my job anyway. How’s that for a turn of events? Do you ever get the feeling the Universe is trying to tell you something?

Now, I was already thinking about what I really wanted to do? I’d been looking at properties in the Lake District (more late night musings) and thinking about finishing my novel, when I came home one day to catch the end of this documentary* about one of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett. (*only available on iPlayer until 13/3/17)

Most of his story I’d heard before, but there was one line in there that really struck me:

“The thing is, I’d have written [the books] anyway, whether they’d paid me to or not.”

Terry Partchett wrote for the joy of writing. He wrote because he loved doing it, just as Alan Watts suggests in the video. Success was a by-product to him. He was doing what he loved.

I realised I wanted that. I wanted to be doing what I love, whatever it was.

That was a wake up call for me. I realised it was time for me to do what I really love.

The next day I finished third draft re-writes on my novel. I did the last half, 120 pages or so, in a day. Now I just need to type them up, get it proof-read, and then I can send it off to people, try and get it published.

The road ahead is/was clear.

I wasn’t prepared for the job offer that came my way.

It was TV work again, full time, 8 hour days, 20 days a month, €40 an hour (effectively €75,000 a year, or £65,000 at the current exchange rate). But it would just be until September. And it would mean relocating to Amsterdam. The minuses outweighed the pluses, but still it was a tempting offer.

Having learnt from my previous mistake I got some more information, then took some time to think about it, but in the end I turned them down.

If I’d gone to Amsterdam it would have just been for the money, and that’s not enough for me anymore. I want more out of the things I do. I want the things I do to be interesting, and fun, and exciting, and worthwhile. I want to do what I love and love what I do, and sod the money side of things.

Because if you do what you love not only are you already a winner, but eventually you’ll get good at it (because doing things is how you get good at them). And then one day someone will give you money for doing what you’re doing because that’s how the world works. People like what you do and they give you money for it, either so they they can do it with you, or they want you to do it for them, or to them, or they just appreciate that someone is out there in the world doing this thing so that other people can do something else. And even if they don’t give you money for it it doesn’t matter because you love what you do! You’re already way ahead of everybody else, pretty much.

You just have to figure out what it is you want to do? I need to figure out what it is I want to do? And I need to figure out now, because this is the first day of the rest of my life, and there’s not a moment to waste!


Found Philosophy

It’s amazing the places you can find inspiration if you just keep an eye out for it.

I’m a big fan of The Big Bang Theory. It’s my favourite show on TV at the moment. But as well as the comedy gold going on during the show, I’m also a fan of the producer Chuck Lorre’s ‘Vanity Cards’ at the end of each episode.

He’s been doing these since his first TV show Dharma & Greg, when you had to record it on tape and press pause to read what it said (they’re only up for a moment). And he’s continued to do them all through his other series – Cybill, Grace Under Fire, Mike & Molly, Mom, and (most famously) Two And A Half Men.*

*It was one of his Vanity Cards, that ended with the line “If Charlie Sheen outlives me, I’m gonna be really pissed”, that caused Charlie Sheen to have his now infamous “tiger blood” meltdown.

I like the cards because they’re fun, silly, offer insights to what the studios will and won’t allow (a character dressed as a nazi with a swastika one their arm, no; a character dressed as a nazi with a smiley face on their arm, yes), and quite often they contain little philosophical gems that really make you stop and think.

Take this one for example from TBBT Season 9 Episode 19:

Vanity Card no.524
© Chuck Lorre 2016

It is a basic tenet of Indian philosophy that we are all God pretending not to be, in an effort to amuse ourselves – in the same way that we watch the greatest actor on stage and, even though we know it’s an act, we get drawn into believing anyway (a little something I picked up from the philosopher Alan Watts). This is why we put our hands together in prayer position when meet a fellow yogi, or indeed say goodbye, to recognise the God within them, and in doing so recognise the God within ourselves.

Things like that are easy to forget, so it’s nice to get a wee reminder out of the blue now and then (like at the end of a TV program).

You also get random reminders popping out of Christmas crackers too.

cracker yoga philosophy

How’s that for a bit of yogic philosophy? Not what I was expecting on Christmas morning I can tell you. But what more perfect time to be reminded of the alternative to the excesses of Christmas eh?

And here’s one I just came across whilst looking for links for this post:

“Advice? I don’t have advice. Stop aspiring and start writing. If you’re writing, you’re a writer. Write like you’re a goddamn death row inmate and the governor is out of the country and there’s no chance for a pardon. Write like you’re clinging to the edge of a cliff, white knuckles, on your last breath, and you’ve got just one last thing to say, like you’re a bird flying over us and you can see everything, and please, for God’s sake, tell us something that will save us from ourselves. Take a deep breath and tell us your deepest, darkest secret, so we can wipe our brow and know that we’re not alone. Write like you have a message from the king. Or don’t. Who knows, maybe you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have to.” ~ Alan Watts

Particularly relevant for me as writing this post is what I’m doing when I should be writing my novel! Always the reminders are there to keep us on the straight and narrow, if only we have the eyes to see. 🙂

**You only have until tomorrow to enter the Yoga Bum Giveaway. Chances are good of winning the prize as, after ten days, you can count the number of entries on one hand! I personally thought there’d be more interest in winning free stuff but apparently not. Anyway, when I get up tomorrow morning it’ll all be over, so get in there now if you want to be in with a chance of winning.**

Two Things

I recently saw Derren Brown’s new stage show. If you haven’t been I thoroughly recommend giving it a go. Mind blowing as always.

It’s ok, I’m not going to give anything important away, but there is one thing I learnt from there that I’d like to share with you all here.

company & kindness

He told us about Epictetus, a Roman slave and secretary to the Emperor Nero, who also had a passion for philosophy. He studied Stoicism, and through his studies he formed what is, to me, quite a simple yet freeing philosophy.

raw pineapple and lime cake

He said that there are two things in life; that which we can control, and that which we can’t. And of that which we can control there are only two things; what we think and what we do. And any attempt to control the things we can’t – “…our bodies, possessions, glory and power.” – will only lead to unhappiness: Or, as he put it, “…errors, misfortunes, [and] slavery of the soul.”

I like that idea, not only because it’s true, but because it’s easy to remember. It’s just two things, and two things.

captain ;O)

Think about it. If we could learn to differentiate between the things we can control and the things we can’t, and then exercise some control over the things we can, imagine how much happier our lives would be.

No more getting stressed because your train is late. No more feeling guilty because you didn’t measure up to someone else’s expectations. No more worrying about what’s going to happen tomorrow, or what you did yesterday, or even what you should do today. The world is a massive place full of things that will happen whether we’re there or not, so how much control can we really have over them?

But! We do have an effect. Of that there is no doubt. We just can’t control what that effect will be. All we can do is think clearly, act responsibly, and hope for the best. Whatever will be will be. And if our actions come from a well thought out, positive place, then we can rest easy at night knowing we have probably left the world in a slightly better state than when we found it.

That’s the way it seems to me anyway. Perhaps you disagree? And if you do, well, there’s not much I can do about that now, is there? 😉

Sivananda Teacher Training Course Review – Reith, Austria, September 2012

Ok, so this review is a little overdue, and for that I apologise. I can only plead mitigating circumstances. Poor online access plus a lack of free time (and rarely the two together!) makes for a very slack blogger.

But you don’t care about that, you want to know what the course was like don’t you? And see what it was like too no doubt. Well, as best I can without giving too much away, here is my review of the Sivananda Teacher Training Course in Reith, Austria (September 2012).

Sivananda Yoga Centre in Reith, Austria

Food and Accommodation

As I’ve mentioned a couple of times before, the food to me was great. Good, solid, well cooked, veggie food and plenty of it.

the yogic diet

Unlike other Sivananda Ashrams most of the guests in Austria stay at the bio-hotel next door to the yoga centre, so our meals were provided by the hotel.

the bio-hotel

But they cooked to the Sivananda recipes, so it was pretty similar to the stuff I’ve cooked an eaten at the London centre before. I had no complaints anyway – they even went so far as to mark everything as vegan or nicht vegan, which was good of them – and I even had to put myself on short portions as I was getting a bit stuffed all the time (you tend to do that when there’s loads of free food and you only get two meals a day. It’s a survival instinct I think).

old digs

The room I was in was pretty basic to say the least. But you were so busy with other stuff you didn’t have much time to lounge around, so it wasn’t really a problem. And for the most part sharing a room with eight other blokes was ok too. We were all pretty respectful of each others’ space and each others’ peace (all except one person who made life difficult for everyone else) and got on better than I expected.

I had originally wanted a room sharing with just a few others, but ended up in the dorm for some reason. I think next time, if I can afford it, I’d go for a single room. Even with the best of intentions things can get a little ripe with nine guys sharing for a whole month; phew!

The Teaching (both theirs and mine)

The level of teaching was, as expected, excellent. We had two lectures a day, one on the Bhagavad Gita and one on either anatomy, philosophy, meditation, or some other aspect of Vedanta.

NB: It should be noted that the Sivananda Organisation teaches the entirety of Yoga, not just the Asanas (postures). Most people think yoga just comprises of the exercises, but it in fact includes meditation and philosophy as well. The true purpose of yoga is realisation of the Self, not just getting your foot behind your head.

There was just enough work to keep us busy, and just enough time in between to relax. We had homework, but just a page or two of writing a day. I never had a problem with it. I still found time to chill out throughout the day.

As well as an asana class in the morning we also had a ‘how to teach’ class in the afternoon. We split into small groups and practised teaching each other. I had no problem with this, what with my background in teaching Tai Chi. Plus I’ve always kept an eye out in class to see how the other teachers do it (just in case, y’know ;)).

In fact everyone did really well, I was surprised. A few were a tad nervous, or couldn’t remember the sequence or the correct words, but by the end of it we were all pretty good.

Karma Yoga

You have some karma yoga to do each day. If you’re lucky it’s something simple like cleaning toilets or handing things out. I on the other hand had the job of doing the sound during the Satsang.

my view of the satsang

I must confess, not my favourite thing in the world. I keep trying to get away from these technical jobs but, like the Mafia, “Every time I get out, they pull me back in!” Ah well, waddaya gonna do?

The Exam and Graduation

The final exam took me about just under 3 hours to do. I won’t give away too much detail here if you don’t mind, as it would be doing anyone who is thinking of doing the TTC a disservice (trust me, I have my reasons). Suffice it to say they do everything in their power to make sure you pass, and I salute them for that. They make sure you have all the information you need, they make sure you know what to study, and they’re always there to help. Put it this way, if I tell you everyone in my group passed, then I think you see where I’m coming from.

Quick story: The night before the exam a group of us were studying in the dining hall of the hotel. The landlord, Florian, came past smiling and laughing and said (in German, which a friend translated for me)

“What are you studying for? Don’t you know everyone passes! Why not have a beer instead.” 🙂

We had the graduation ceremony the same day as the exam. It meant those who were local could head off in the evening instead of having to stay another day. They did well, getting through ninety or so people in just a few hours. Wasn’t much room for taking photos though. I managed to get a few from where I was sat near the front, and a kind soul took some of me too, plus we made up for it afterward with some group shots, so in the end we did ok.

me and my new qualification

newly graduated (and proud of it)

The Slightly Naughty Bit

Ok, any Swamis reading this might want to skip this bit. It might not prove very ‘sattvic’.

A few of us went out after hours on the Saturday night, once the graduation was done and the course was finished, to celebrate and blow off a bit of steam.

a celebration of yogis

It was nice to go out and be a bit naughty, after a month of austerities. I mean all I did was play a bit of pool (it’s been so long since I played pool too!), but just to stick on a pair of jeans and go do something ‘normal’ was very therapeutic.


I have to admit, I didn’t win many games. But with pool, as with life, it’s the taking part that counts.

My Top Five Tips For Surviving The TTC

Ok, things you need to bring/do, in no particular order:

1. A torch and an umbrella. The one for meditative walks in the woods that start or end in darkness, and the other for getting from building to building in the randomly changing Austrian weather.

2. A good pair of easy on, easy off shoes. Every time you enter a building you have to take off your shoes. A real pain if you have boots with lots of laces. But if you wear slip-ons wear something sturdy. I brought a pair of Toms and they were messed up in less than 10 days (and I wasn’t the only one).

3. Pay for a single room. For the reasons mentioned above. Failing that bring earplugs, air freshener, and good amount of tolerance.

4. Get a watch. There’s no mobiles allowed, so a watch is the only way to know what time it is. Seriously, I found mine invaluable (as did many others). Also very handy if you intend to teach. Without a watch how can you time your classes?

5. Patience and a GSOH. Though not a stressful as the meditation course I did, the Sivananda TTC is still quite challenging, both physically and emotionally. The ability to laugh and smile, especially when things are getting a little loose around the edges, is an invaluable thing. And if all else fails go take a nap. Everything looks more manageable after a bit of rest.

apple on deck

And that’s it. My review of my Teacher Training Course. Hope you found it informative, and at the very least enjoyed the pretty pictures.

I’ll be posting a couple more anecdotes from the course over the next few weeks, as well as writing about the work they have me doing for them (for those that don’t know, I’ve stayed on in Reith for two months to work at the ashram, a work study program they call Karma Yoga).

Until then, have fun and take care. Om om om. 🙂