LESSONS FROM MY GARDEN

June 20th, 2013 | Posted by sfrydman in Healing - (Comments Off)

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Having never gardened before I moved to the Otways, and now having gardened for two years, I have been reflecting on what digging in the patch has taught me.

That mothers are right.

Beginners luck, she said I would have. So when my tomatoes grew big, red and juicy and hers floundered, we would laugh and she would tell me to shut up.

Of course secretly, or not so secretly, mum was proud of my success.

 

 

Results can’t be measured by volume.

garden2Two spring seasons in a row I sprinkled California and Iceland poppy seeds. Not one flower in sight, until finally one lone poppy emerged, and disappeared almost as quickly. Its short stay provided enough bliss to make all previous efforts worthwhile.

When my husband’s two zucchinis never made it to anywhere near the potential marrow proportions he’d warned me about we smiled at our optimism at planting them too late, and enjoyed whatever they had become, or not.

When “frosts” hit the soul, wait. Something is still growing inside.  

Events in life can occur and frost all self-expression. The year 2013 started off with a January that included some major personal challenges for me. For a number of weeks over summer I was unable to stay still in the garden, or still anywhere in myself. Anything that would have helped connect deeply with self, such as music, yoga and the newly found passion for gardening, was hard to do. Yet while I was regrouping inside, rocket plants went on with their cycle, dropping uncollected seeds all over the patch. Autumn then included masses of extra rocket in clumps that grew from the seeds that had jumped, or flown, rows.

It’s best not to be a “know-all” – humility is a form of serving.

When I was first sent to a veggie garden during my yoga training at the ashram, I would be quite nervous and ask before I pulled anything out of the ground. A number of years on, and I struck on a lovely tarragon “weed.” When my supervisor saw that I had pulled out such a delightful herb, he was so surprised and concerned for its survival that he immediately busied himself placing it back into the soil as if it has never happened, and didn’t mention my folly. Ahhh, finally a doozie of a mistake in the ashram garden. And not the last.

Ground one’s self in what works best.

It is fine to learn from mistakes, have wonderful accidents, and try and try again for that one lone poppy. Each of these bring their own lessons, but for developing real confidence and bringing food to the table, know what works. Know your strengths and limitations by grounding practices in knowledge. This of course is true of any endeavour. In the garden, know your soil. Leafy greens have been a delight to grow, but each time I have planted carrots in the same compost-rich soil they have formed into longish keratin fingernails. Don’t plant things in the same place each season, especially if they didn’t have much success the first time around. Knowing what works for us frees up energy and space. A successful garden is well-observed and well-planned.

Embrace abundance. Remain curious.

garden3There are many varieties of greens out there. This autumn plate (see picture) includes cress, mustard mizuna, and radish leaves collected at the end of our summer garden. Leafy greens have been the easiest to grow, both from pots and patch, and there are so many greens to choose from. I had early success with beetroots, which has informed my interest in different varieties. Try seedlings, seeds and seed collecting. Read widely on a range of techniques. Embrace the opportunity for life-long learning. Ask others what works for them.

A ninety-four year old gardening legend and friend, who when he hit ninety taught himself about computers, advises me “Google Peter Cundall.” These days there is such an abundance of information on the net and a wide range of gardening groups all over the country.

If it doesn’t smell right, fix it.

Yes, the guts of the compost. The head can’t always figure out or remember measurements, but if it doesn’t smell right or look like it is on the move, do something. A pile might need a bit of water, or more shredded newspaper carbon in the form of car and real estate sections. Following what is brewing through observation and gut instinct can allow us to adjust and repair before we are left with a stinking mess. Following one’s intuition, as nature expertly does, can help guide us and can certainly assist in halting further problems.

Finding our uniqueness.

garden4We often identify parts of ourselves through our job roles and relationships. But perhaps reflecting on what we resonate with in nature can reveal even more. Ask yourselves, which plants are you attracted to and why?  Think about form, colour, longevity, brilliance, statement, understatement, to name a few qualities. While I am often inspired by a changing range of flowers, for me it is the iris that I most relate to. Observe your own reactions to the environment around you.

Access nature to access the self.

Happy diggin…

Suzanne Frydman ©

KUR CULTURE AT KLOSTER GERODE

April 28th, 2013 | Posted by sfrydman in Travel | Yoga - (Comments Off)

yoga room webWhile travelling in Germany last year it was fascinating to come across healing clinics in towns and villages. Kur culture, the tradition of spending time at a health clinic to recuperate from life’s stresses, is a well-known and accepted tradition in parts of Central and Eastern Europe. Stemming from the widespread historical practice of visiting natural spa regions for relaxation, leisure and healing, retreat culture seemed to be very much a part of local paradigm.

As a Satyananda yoga teacher, I wanted to take time out and learn more about yoga and healing in Europe. So, after locating a health retreat close enough to our final destination of Berlin (approx. 300km), my partner and I headed to a spot where indeed there are no spas, but rather forests and a centre that was once a Benedictine Monastery.  Weg der Mitte (The Middle Way) Foundation is the vision of Daya Mullins Ph. D, M.S.C., who in 1977 initially established a yoga centre in Berlin and later purchased this former monastery and grounds for retreats and further research into yoga practices and therapy. The opportunity to stay in a historical monastery setting combined with what this retreat location seemed to offer according to its website (www.wegdermitte) seemed the ideal way to travel.

Getting to the retreat via the German Autobahn, on which there are no speed limits, was perhaps the ultimate contrast to what lay in store. That afternoon we travelled about 300 kilometers from the fascinating medieval town of Rothenberg ob der Tauber and arrived at the retreat in the early evening. With the last stretch completed in heavy German summer rain, it was a joy to ring the bell at the monastery gate and be greeted by a calm resident, provided with indoor slippers, and then a sumptuous organic, mostly home-grown meal. The highlight, as is so often the case when travelling, were the people. Seated at the table were a range of visitors and residents all keen to exchange reasons for being there. Except for us, everyone was German that week, but the range of ages, experiences with yoga, and areas of Germany from where they had all arrived, varied. Opportunities to learn about yoga in Germany continued throughout the retreat. And there were plenty of fluent English speakers curious and keen to quiz us about where we came from.

The way the whole centre is run demonstrates its commitment to healing practices and the founding members’ vision to integrate various Eastern practices into everyday life. The resident who orientated us on the first evening had been with the foundation from its early years and clearly walked the talk. While this retreat centre, just south of the Harz mountains, runs a wide range of courses and training all year round, Weg der Mitte foundation continues its work in Berlin. This includes yoga classes for the public, extensive outreach karma yoga in the community for parents and children in need, support for the chronically ill and other services. All of this is backed up by many years of research and practice.

Here in the forests of central Germany, it is not hard to feel supported and contained and the feel of the retreat is quickly acquired at the start of the first meal, all of which are eaten in noble silence for the first few minutes. The history of the place certainly provides visitors with opportunities to experience gratitude. After the Second World War the former monastery became a refuge for orphans. During divided Germany, the forest walks around the monastery were off limits to the local citizens of the GDR. After the Berlin Wall came down the monastery and its grounds were purchased by the Foundation. It is easy to see why Weg der Mitte chose this location. Some of the fourteenth century stone walls are still in place and the green setting and large grounds provide ample space for walking, exploring, and reflecting.

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The integrated yoga system practiced here is called Benefit Yoga and the former kloster is also home to the European College for Yoga Therapy (ECYT).  This system of yoga describes itself as a ‘method firmly grounded in authentic Yoga, Yoga Therapy, Ayurveda, and the understanding of and respect for the interconnectedness of life’ (www.wegdermitte.com). Teacher training in Benefit Yoga is a four-year commitment, but there are a range of other courses and stay options for those wanting an initial or ongoing taste of yogic life. Yoga classes take place every morning and while the instruction is generally in German, the multi-talented European teachers can and did provide added instructions in English with linguistic ease. That week we were taught by both a new teacher in training as well as a very experienced practitioner. This included the blessing of witnessing the ongoing transmission and rejuvenation of tradition from master to student, and back from student to master.

The morning classes in Benefit Yoga are a wonderful opportunity to experience and/or rediscover some of yoga’s fundamental elements. These included completing balanced asana programs with attention to all parts of the body in a detailed and very safe manner. In particular, I picked up a few new asanas to bring awareness and release for the arms, a region that I can sometimes neglect in my own practice and classes. The moments of pure simplicity and depth when in pranayama practices were enhanced by the exquisite surroundings of the sadhana practice space and forested grounds.

Further opportunities to be yogic abound in the place – the herb garden is a large and enclosed space where communing with the sleeping resident cats is always an option, exploring the vegetable produce inspires gratitude, and there are plenty of opportunities to be involved in karma yoga. A commitment of some seva yoga in the form of preparing meals is required during a stay and this also provides a way to connect with others, serve and observe yoga in daily life. The evenings consist of a group meditation and kirtan session. It would be hard not be inspired by these musical sessions in which a range of spiritual chants, prayers and expressions from different traditions and languages are led by residents. Open for all to participate and observe according to personal level of comfort and interest, there is some amazing talent and energy among the residents who seem to bring everyone together. While mouna (noble silence) is not practiced at other times apart from start of meals, my partner and I were so awed when exiting the sadhana space into the forested grounds that we moved into mouna at the end of the first evening and kept this nightly practice for the duration of our stay.

Individual yoga sessions are available for more personal tuition and there is also a health clinic where various modalities are available, such as shiatsu, craniosacral and acupuncture (pre-book before arrival). Accommodation is available in single, or 2-3 beds in a room with bathrooms. The vegetarian food is organic, plentiful and full of variety and goodness, and Kloster Gerode’s location, so close to the majestic Harz and Ohm mountains, makes it a unique place to be yogic when on the Continent. Living up to its translated name of  The Middle Way, Weg Der Mitte’s retreat also has a weekend café which is open to residents and visitors. Here one can indulge in Kaffee und Kuchen (Coffee & Cake), as is traditional in Germany, with cakes including ingredients such as the locally grown aronia berry.

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Eventually, after a cake (or two) our time came to leave. We marveled, as one does at the end of a retreat, at how relaxed we had been and how quickly the place had worked its charms on us. At times, we had even slept too much and eaten too much. We had simply let our bodies unwind and now was the time to wind up again, or at least focus on Autobahn driving.

Kloster Gerode is the type of place where visitors can choose their own pace of retreat, while being given a retreat framework that inspires reflection and peace. For further information see www.wegdermitte.de

© Suzanne Frydman / Relax Communications