Peace and Good Chocolate in Sussex

Peace and Good Chocolate in Sussex

Tasty Team Effort - Vegetarian Sushi made by our fair hands 🙂

You can tell the food is good when the dinner table falls silent.

The meal is asparagus and pea risotto expertly whipped up by chef, Lucie. The dinner table is in the dining room at the beautifully cosy and charming Marsh Farm House near Arundel, West Sussex.

It’s not my usual Friday evening. I am on Sally Parkes’ yoga and vegetarian cookery weekend retreat. Just moments ago the table was buzzing with chatter and then…. the food arrived!

I love yoga and I love food, so what better than to combine the two? I’ve been lacking inspiration in my own cooking and with certain food sensitivities revealing themselves last year, working out how and what to eat has at times been a challenge. When I heard about this retreat it sounded like a perfect opportunity to come away with some new recipes (and eat some very tasty food, of course!).

Added to this, being on a tight budget, getting away on a yoga retreat seemed like a pipe dream, but the added beauty of this was it being a pocket friendly weekend away in pretty surroundings – great for those of us who want a retreat experience but aren’t able to jet off to far flung places.

As we tucked into our risotto, the itinerary for the weekend was explained. There would be yoga early (but not too early!) on Saturday morning, before breakfast. Then after some free time we’d have our first cookery workshop where we would make our lunch and later on, help to make the dessert to accompany our dinner.
All the recipes in our workshops would be vegetarian, as with all the meals at Marsh Farm over the weekend. Lucie said she could also offer alternatives, taking into account any additional dietary requirements (vegan, wheat/gluten free etc.) – perfect! It all sounded good, but one pressing question remained – could we get the recipe for that risotto?

Saturday Afternoon Sushi
I awoke feeling incredibly rested on Saturday morning and noticed something different.

Birdsong.

Actual ‘not being drowned out by city traffic ‘ birdsong. I hopped out of bed to check out the view of Marsh Farm’s garden from the window and in the field beyond I spotted a… horse! Getting this excited by ‘nature’ showed me just how overdue this break away from the city was. Just as well I was in the ideal place for some rest and renewal.

During a hearty breakfast from the range of options on offer (I went for the gluten free bircher muesli), I soon realised that the catchphrase among us for the weekend would be, “Can we get the recipe for this as well?”
With a bit of a wander around the garden I could appreciate, up-close, the all the spring blooms out in force and the Alice in Wonderland-style hedge, which made me smile.

Taking advantage of the gorgeous weather, we brought our ingredients out to the big garden table where Lucie taught us how to make vegetarian sushi – much easier than I expected and a lot of fun. Now we knew how to make California rolls with the best of ‘em. We rewarded ourselves by eating said sushi out in the sun.

Our free time after lunch allowed for exploring the ‘secret garden’ I had failed to spot earlier around the back of the farm house, while some of the group took a walk to the village. I opted curl up with a book – something I rarely allow myself time to do at home. So, I sat in the garden with my horsey friend from earlier over the fence for company.

Our afternoon cookery workshop was making chocolate orange and avocado tarts – every bit as delicious as they sounded! And vegan too.

Sally’s mellow yoga class before dinner was the perfect way to round off the afternoon. Sally’s classes welcome beginners and cater for all abilities so it was lovely to see the range of ages and yoga experience among our group from regular practitioners to those whose first ever yoga class was that weekend.

Some yoga nidra from Sally put us all in a sufficiently chilled state for the evening and our delicious meal of shepherd-less pie with wilted greens.

Oh. And chocolate orange and avocado tarts.

Happy taste buds all round.

Sunday Spelt Scones
Sunday morning brought more gorgeous Sussex sunshine, so after breakfast I stepped out into the garden, feeling the dew underfoot and taking the opportunity to soak up the stillness. A real reminder of how little I (like many of us) allow myself to pause during my day-to-day hustle bustle. Another bonus of this retreat: having some time and space to reflect.

Our last cookery workshop: surprisingly quick and easy to make spelt, sundried tomato and spinach scones. They accompanied our roasted tomato and lentil soup, roasted vegetable salad and carrot and sultana salad for lunch.
After we were all packed up and ready to go there was a surprise. Some of the chocolate orange and avocado tart filling was left over! A few spoons came out to help rectify that situation. Chocolate is a terrible thing to waste, after all…

Before we said our goodbyes, a learned member of our group of yogis translated the Latin phrase above the door in the dining room: “Divine help remains with us always”. I often feel in need of divine help in the kitchen! But Lucie’s explanations and demonstrations throughout the weekend made all the recipes so accessible. And with store-cupboard advice and even tips on knife skills too, I came away feeling that I could recreate all the recipes with confidence.

I’d arrived frazzled on Friday but returned home feeling frazzled no more, armed with some inspiring recipes and memories of delicious food, laughter, great company and of course, lovely yoga.

Letting Go (Redux)

Letting Go (Redux)

Taking time out to smell the roses, literally, in a beautiful Brighton florists last week. Mixing work with a day by the sea 🙂

Repetition is important.

My restorative yoga training at the beginning of March had a big impact on me, partly because it came at a point when I was giving myself a really hard time. One of the things I remember Judith talking about is how repetition is important when teaching. I am paraphrasing Judith here, but she was explaining that for years you can say, “Left toes out, right toes in,” to the same students every week, and after a couple of years the student goes, “Ah. I get it: left toes out, right toes in”. Or, a celebrity yogi comes to town and the student does their workshop and comes back to your class saying, “I went to this workshop! They said, ‘left toes out, right toes in’ – it’s amazing! Have you tried it?”

I found this good to hear as I have worried at times, particularly as a newer teacher, that I was sounding like a broken record with my instruction.

I think repetition is important a wider sense too. Sometimes, we can all benefit from reminders.

As you may have noticed, the posts have been less frequent recently. Basically since I started teaching.

Over the past month, I’ve been trying (though not always succeeding) to slow down. My ‘to do’ list hasn’t shrunk, but I have spent the past month working on shifting my attitude towards it. In huge part this is to do with adapting to being self-employed and fear over money. (I am sure I’m not alone on this one!)

I am loving teaching yoga, but the reality is that financially I am not yet teaching enough to cover my outgoings. So, as I type I currently have two other jobs, with possibly a third in a few days time. That said, even if I was teaching ten or more classes a week I would still be at risk of burnout, yet maybe still need to take on other work. Not an uncommon scenario for yoga teachers out there from my understanding. It’s really not that I expect to earn a fortune, but yogis have bills too.

Since the beginning of the year I have been ill more times in three months than I was in the past twelve. On one of those occasions, I was in bed with a virus when I should have been running a half marathon I’d trained for. Just two days before I was in Denial City, convinced I would run, in spite of physical signs showing otherwise. Sounding like Yoda on account of my voice fading:

Me: I think I’m still gonna run.
Stewie: Let go of attachment, Hinesy.

My lovely fellow YTT grad and yoga teacher, Stewie was half-joking but he was right. I had been clinging to my expectation that I would do that half marathon no matter what. Running is something I enjoy but on reflection I realised that the training had become a chore as the half-marathon developed into another thing I ‘had to’ do.

I’d been doing a lot of clinging since the beginning of the year. Over the last half of 2011 I allowed myself to focus on YTT and trying to get my life in order after redundancy from my old job. Then as soon as I completed YTT and got my insurance at Christmas my mindset shifted to, ‘Right you’ve got no excuse now – time to get your arse into gear!”

I recognised the signs:

– Working ridiculously long hours
– My own yoga practice dwindling
– Eating erratically and poorly
– Clutter starting to build up around me
– Lots of worst case scenario thinking
– Feeling overwhelmed, exhausted and anxious
– Losing my sense of humour* (and therefore, PERSPECTIVE !) – not cool!

This seems to happen with each life shift, yet, I had forgotten. Thanks to letting fear run riot, I had forgotten (again).

Time to let go of the clinging.

– Of clinging to ‘perfect’ outcomes.
– Of clinging to the idea of being able to ‘do it all’ on my own. (Ask for help when I need it and accept help when it is offered)
– Of clinging to the expectation that I should feel happy all the time
– Of clinging to what I assume other people expect me to be, or act or look like as a yoga teacher. (And we know how dangerous assumptions can be, don’t we people?)

Basically, letting go of clinging, overall, to my expectations and other people’s expectations of me.

For instance, I have been teaching just for three months, yet I had an expectation of myself that I should be teaching at least 10 classes a week to be seen as a ‘real’ teacher. (Where I got that from I don’t know?! Because it certainly wasn’t imposed on me by anyone else.) If that’s you straight of YTT then that’s great – that’s where you’re meant to be. I realise that this is where I am meant to be right now, not just with teaching but in my life in general.

Working on shifting my mindset hasn’t left me with less to do, but it has radically altered my view on how I approach things. Consequently, I’ve felt better too, accepting that some days I am going to feel more productive than others. Yes, I am busy but now I try to make a point of taking some time out to be still each day. That might mean twenty minutes or it might mean five. Either way, I’ll take it.

As for running, I’m allowing myself to enjoy it again without any expectations of when I’ll do a half marathon. As for young Stewie, he did run that half marathon and this month is running the London Marathon for the fantastic charity Sports Aid. If you’re reading this and would like to support Sports Aid’s work, helping the next generation of Britain’s sporting heroes and heroines please do visit Stewie’s fundraising page. To quote his words:

“Every little donation helps.. I know lots of you are living on the breadline like myself so I feel your pain – just know that I will also be in lots of pain at around 21 miles when my legs are asking me what the hell is wrong with me – stop running you idiot…”

😀

Yes, there are those day-to-day stresses and the juggling of roles – being self-employed is balancing act, but it’s all surmountable. Putting things in perspective is so important. Lots of fantastic, serendipitous things have been happening and lots of wonderful opportunities have been unfolding. I am incredibly grateful and safe in the knowledge that things really are exactly as they are meant to be.

Whatever happens, it’s ok.

*The ‘losing sense of humour’ bit always happens when I don’t get on the mat enough. Thankfully, I’ve found it again. It was hiding down the back of the sofa 😉