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Mahāvākya – ‘great saying’ 

Om asato mā sadgamáya

-       may I go from what is unreal to what is real 

Om tamaso mā jyotirgamāya

-       may I go from darkness to light 

Om mrtyorma amrtam gamáya

-       may I go from what is passing to what is eternal

  

This was the beautiful mantra that I chanted in my room on Herm on Friday afternoon with a beautiful view of the sea, just a short while before the boat arrived from Guernsey with the participants of the Beinspired Herm Autumnal Yoga & Wellbeing Retreat.

I’ll admit I needed some grounding and calming. About six weeks ago, Herm management had told us that things were changing in the hotel this retreat, which meant that we were no longer able to use our usual yoga space.  Instead we would be using a darker, and what appeared to me to be a slightly smaller space, and I couldn’t quite let go of the concern about how we were all going to fit in. 

I love Vedic chanting and have been studying it for about 18 months now. I also love Sanskrit and have just started learning this in earnest too. The chant was most definitely helpful in easing my slightly challenged state of mind as that boat arrived, reminding me that energy spent worrying is indeed wasted (one of the Reiki principles is “just for today, do not worry”, so I know this really!) and that what will be will be.

It helped enormously that the sun was shining (and due to continue shining during the weekend) and that I knew I had a wonderful bunch of students attending. It was still a relief however when my wonderful fellow yoga teacher and friend, Vicki, managed to figure out a way of fitting everyone in and we had all settled into the space. 

Needless to say, chant or no chant, the weekend was amazing (I’m biased I know!). 

We had a record number of 19 swimmers for the 7am Saturday morning swim; blissful as the sun began to rise and lightened the sky with a planet (potentially Mars) still twinkling to the south.  I stayed in far too long with Charley and took a good long while to warm up (thanks Charley, fab swim!), but I couldn’t not, as the sun rose into the sky. 

It was Eben’s second birthday that same day, which seemed rather fitting given what happened two years ago on retreat (you’ll have to read my book “Dancing with the Moon” to read about that!). Amazing though to think that this year (quite a contrast to two years ago!) we spent an hour or so late morning on Belvoir Beach, basking in the sunshine and enjoying our second swim of the day…in late October (I doubt he’ll enjoy many birthdays in the UK in shorts and t-shirts on the beach!).

We managed a third swim of the day that same afternoon, this time with Debbi and my Mum, Jill. This reminds me, thank you Mum, I’m very grateful, more biscuits next time though please, ha ha (the joke being I said no to the biscuits and she insisted and they all ran out…I opted for the chocolate and that ran out too!)

Swimming was followed by my favourite session of the weekend, Bhajans, where we sung devotional mantra together. I just adore these sessions, what a treat, with my little helper Elijah dishing out sage and crystals (and interrupting me in the middle of chanting to ask how many dried apricots he was allowed to eat, nothing quite as grounding as having children with you on a retreat!). Regardless of the distraction of Elijah, I felt the tears rising on the Gayatri Mantra, profoundly moving. Thank you ladies. 

The food was astounding throughout the weekend and a huge thank you to the team at the Mermaid for this. The chef really rose to the challenge and produced some incredibly clean and tasty gluten and dairy free vegan food for us so that everyone was able to eat every dish (if they wanted!), including me (I’m still breastfeeding Eben who has insensitivities (read my book to find out why!). It was a real treat, no cooking all weekend, and yummy and healthy food to eat and not an animal killed as a result (lighter energy therefore!).

The yoga was fab, I know I’m biased as I was teaching (!), but I really had a sense that everyone was embracing the opportunity to deepen their practice, not just asana but also pranayama and to really feel into the energy of the practice. That’s what it’s all about really, the energy, and I was really keen that we let go of whatever wasn’t needed over the weekend (“what is not necessary in our lives in this moment…thoughts, people, clothes, behaviour patterns…”).

This morning 13 of us met for another 7am swim…we were joined by a seal.  It was the weirdest thing.  I’ll admit I had found my way onto Facebook at 6.15am as I drank tea and attempted to enjoy some quiet time before the children woke.  It didn’t last long as Eben noticed I wasn’t in the bed, and started crying, but long enough for me to watch a short video that someone had posted of a diver swimming with a seal and stroking said seal…

…as we were entering the sea in the dawn light, it suddenly came to mind that maybe we might see a seal…

…fast forward eight minutes or so and there found Charley, Cate and I swimming out a little deeper than the others when all of a sudden I was made aware that a seal had indeed joined us – the law of attraction!

I turned towards the shore, swimming a little quicker than I had been swimming and trying not to panic! 

I experienced three seal encounters last winter.  One at Shell Beach on Herm when a seal popped up minutes after I got out when I’d been swimming on my own, and then with my sea swimming ladies, once at Saints and another time when the rather large fella got rather close to us at Petit Bot. I’m not entirely comfortable swimming with them, because…hmmm, not sure…fear…teeth…irrational I know. 

Fear aside (silly fear!), it was pretty special though. [Yes, I swam as quickly as I could back to shore, freaked by the seaweed that brushed my leg, “arghhhh”]. 

The last class of the weekend (first thing this morning) was fun.  My energy was hyper (I love Herm, I’d seen a seal, the moon and star shone brightly overhead each night, I slept metres away from the sea - warm in my rather huge bed but close enough to hear the sea lapping the shore- and I just love retreating) so I was well up for the class! It was fun, we breathed, we moved, we laughed and we relaxed!

I’ll admit, soft touch as I am, I had a bit of a lump in my throat as we finished the session.  I love retreating, they might be hard work in preparation, but there is something ever so special about joining together with the common purpose of enjoying yoga and retreating from the rest of the world. The boys love them too, and it helped enormously that my lovely parents were on hand to help Ewan with them. 

It’s been a very special weekend and I’d like to say thank you again to all you wonderful beings who joined me this weekend and it made it such a special one, a huge thank you to my Mum and Dad, and to Ewan and the boys – and I love the fact that some of you have been joining me regularly since the first Herm retreat in 2009!

We only took one photo this year, Vicki took it too, we were very lost in the moment, which can only be a good thing, so apologies to those of you on the retreat that igjt have hoped for more visual recording, but you’ll have to remember how it felt!

Mahāvākya – ‘great saying’

Om asato mā sadgamáya

-       may I go from what is unreal to what is real

Om tamaso mā jyotirgamāya

-       may I go from darkness to light

 Om mrtyorma amrtam gamáya

-       may I go from what is passing to what is eternal

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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