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!


Knowing When To Do What

There’s a quote from the I-Ching, the Chinese Book Of Changes, that I like to keep to mind:

“A wise man knows when to advance,
when to retreat, and when to stand still.”

It often goes with another one in my head:

“If you want to make God laugh,
tell her your plans.”

go no further

I had big plans for this weekend when I woke up this morning. I was going to drive to Pirbright to see a friend of mine that I haven’t seen in ages, having lunch there before heading off to a late yoga class at the London Sivananda Centre.

Then tomorrow I was going to do some shopping, do a bit of online work, and then go along to the Sunday evening Satsang at the afore mentioned yoga centre. I was looking forward to all that. Then this happened:

not-so-level crossing

The YHA where I’m staying in Cheshunt is in the Lee Valley Park area, and there’s only one way in and out; and that’s it. It seems they’re tearing up the level crossing all weekend, and there’s just no other way in or out.

And so I find myself somewhat stuck, unable to leave until Monday morning, and certainly unable to follow any of my plans to fruition. It’s safe to say I was a little frustrated first thing this morning.

But, ultimately, what can you do? I can go nowhere, so why fight it? So, once I’d booked another two nights here, and changed my booking at the YHA in Holland Park, I went out and rewarded myself with a veggie fry-up at the cafe over the road. And y’know what, it was lovely! 🙂

Being stuck has been somewhat of a pleasurable experience. I’ve done my washing, caught up on the latest Big Bang Theory, done a full yoga session with proper relaxation, and I’m feeling pretty good at the moment. Later I’m going to download a movie and watch it while I have supper, all before an early night.


You’ve got to go with what happens in life. Fighting against it will get you nowhere. That’s how I now find myself back doing TV work to earn a bit of money. It’s not where I want to be, but I’m a few grand in debt so I need to do something to sort that out.

Plus I need a bit of seed money for my future yoga experiences, including something to keep me going while I get my teaching off the ground. Quite how or where that teaching will be I don’t know yet, but I’ll figure that out when the time comes.

living out the boot of your car

For the moment I’m living out of my car and staying at Youth Hostels. It’s not a bad way to be, though I wouldn’t mind being able to stay in one place for a while. And the dorm room thing can be a bit of a pain, especially when I’m on night shifts. Every now and then I treat myself to a room in a Travelodge; coz I’m worth it, lol.

As for future plans, in February I’ll be turning forty, so to celebrate my girlfriend and I are flying to Iceland to see the Northern Lights. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to that. I don’t have many things on my Bucket List, but that’s definitely one of them. It’ll be great. I just hope they make an appearance!

Unfortunately though, before I booked that, I got rid of the lovely beard I’ve been cultivating since Australia.

beardy face

I took the above photo as a record of how full it got before I got rid of it.

I kind of miss it now it’s gone, I got used to playing with it, and it certainly kept my face warm. I’ve no doubt I’ll miss it greatly when the Icelandic wind-chill factor kicks in! Still, if I can get to see the Aurora Borealis it’ll be worth the discomfort.

And I think that’s about it for now. Just a quick update on what I’m up to at the moment. Once I have more news you’ll be the first to know.

Keep an eye out for the Iceland post, coming some time after the 8th of Feb (my birthday, 😉 ).

Money, Keys, Wallet, Travelcard

That was my personal mantra as I left the house for nearly fifteen years;

“Money, keys, wallet, travelcard.”

I can even tell you which pocket they all went in.

I’m flashing back to that now as I’m once more back in London. Actually, I’m kind of back back in London, as I got here a month ago, was here for two weeks, then went to Germany for two weeks to see my girlfriend.

But now I’m back in England for a while now, so I thought it was time for a bit of an update.

coming home 1

After Bali I did a week in Singapore. There’ll be a blog post about that, as there will be one about vegan food in Ubud, but since I expect the next few weeks to be relatively quiet, I’ll be doing them retrospectively to keep things interesting.

From Singapore I flew back to London when I spent a couple of weeks at a friend’s house, with a short side trip to move my things out of storage and up to my parent’s place (a trip that cost me nearly £1000 after the van I was driving got pranged along the way – I’m not happy about that).

coming home 2

Then I went to Germany for two weeks to see Lena. We had a nice time in and around Freiburg, culminating in a trip to Europa Park (also soon to be the subject of it’s own blog post).

Now I’m back in London, but only until the weekend when I go back to Carlisle to see about getting my car back on the road.

coming home 3

So what’s the situation right now? Well, I’m about £1500 in debt, with £500 in the bank. I’m trying to line up some freelance shifts at my old place of work, just six of which would wipe out the debt and put me in a much better position, but they are slow in coming, and anything I do now I won’t see the cash for for ages.

Plan A is to work freelance at my old profession, clearing debt and making money, whilst staying at Youth Hostels and using my car to get from place to place (storing my stuff in the boot).

Plan B, which I am implementing now on a short term basis, is to stay with my family for a while until Plan A kicks in. Not ideal as I’ll be a long way from London, but a lot cheaper than staying in hostels (and cheap is what I need).

Plan C. Should the freelancing thing not pan out, I could always spend some time working at the London Sivananda Centre. They’re keen for people at the moment apparently, and staying there wouldn’t cost me anything. Unfortunately it would also mean I couldn’t earn any money, as it would be like a full time job, so that would make it difficult to service my current debt.

Plan D – the last resort: Get a proper job. That means going back full time at the profession I am trying to get away from, to clear my debt and make some cash. This would also probably involve signing a contract on somewhere to live and staying there for a while, as I need some stability if I’m going to be working full time. But as you can tell, I do not want to do this. It would kind of negate the point of the whole big adventure/change in the first place.

But lets not concentrate on that. Lets look towards the ideal. To that end, I remain currently footloose and fancy free, on the look out for ways to make a bit of cash and places I can stay short term.

So if you’re in and around London, or anywhere in the UK for that matter, and you have a bit of work that needs doing, or are in need of a cat sitter for a while, just let me know. I am at your service. 🙂

And as for long long term…

I’ll be honest, I don’t know. I was very excited about the idea of living in New Zealand. But I realise that as long as there’s mountains and lakes I really don’t care where I am. Both Canada and Sweden would serve equally as well.

I still want to spend some time writing, see if I can make a go of that. And I would like to start teaching yoga on a regular basis, though until I am settled that could prove to be a little challenging.

Truth be told, I don’t know what I want just yet. There are too many imponderables, and my brain is taken up with the day to day of things for now, rather than the long term. But I promise, when I know, you’ll know. I can’t say fairer than that now can I? 😉

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?

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! 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.