Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Nice spending my Solar Return in Nice

enjoying Ricard pastis in Villefrance-sur-mer
Thank my lucky stars crossed my mind while I was heading down south on the train to Cote d'Azur, to Nice where the K3s - this is, Kebo, Karen and Kopi (their french bulldog)- were holed up for a month.

Each year I try to celebrate my birthday, actually my solar return in a different time zone from where I live. This is in the hope that it may positively change the experience of the year to come.  Astrologically speaking, a solar return is when the sun returns to the same exact position in the sky as one is were born.

the K3s 
I was thanking my lucky stars because that day, the train that I was supposed to be on encountered an accident somewhere in Brittany and luckily, I was able to get on another train to Nice despite the peak summer season and be upgraded to first class. The trip though was much longer but I was happy that I was able to get on board enjoying the scenery while reading Sadhana Singh's "Everyday Excellence".

I arrived in Nice ten hours later and the K3s were there in the train station to greet me. They all looked tanned and lean and Kopi looked well adjusted to the European life. We walked to their flat which was near the beach and while walking, Kopi would say hello to the dogs along the way.

It was truly nice to be in Nice in the summer where the well-heeled were out to play. Coming from Manila and maybe even anywhere else in the world, I've never seen so many opulent toys out. When we were in Cannes (half an hour away by train), I swear I counted ten different colored Ferraris while walking down the Croisette. And the night we were in Monte Carlo, it was all royalty. The paparazzi were waiting outside the Opera for HSH Prince Albert II, HSH Princess of Monaco and HRH Princess of Hanover to show up for the Love Ball Riviera. We didn't get to see them but enjoyed viewing all the luxury yachts of their guests moored in the bay.

luxury yachts moored in Monte Carlo 

La Fontaine du Soleil in the old town in Nice
the beach in Cannes
The K3s were perfectly located since Nice is a train hop to everywhere down the coast of the French Riviera. In Nice, we practically spent most of our time in chic, eco place called Hi Beach which was a short walk from the K3s, along the Promenade des Anglais.

As for my lucky stars, well, it really does not help to go somewhere to try to change the stars.  As Stanley Kowalski said in A Streetcar Named Desire, "You know what luck is? Luck is believing you're lucky."

Monday, 29 July 2013

Guru Guru Wahe Guru, Guru Ram Das at the 2013 Yoga Festival

Gurudass Kaur is seated 2nd from right
That's the first celestial meditation I learned at the 3HO Yoga Festival this summer in Fondjouan, France.

Gurudass Kaur who opened the festival said that this year's central mantra [if practiced for 40 days], works on self healing, a beautiful love and humility. She said that the mantra "deeply touches the heart, so it can open up to other hearts."

This mantra promotes kindness and compassion and thus, supports this year's festival theme which is to "Recognize that the other person is you," Yogi Bhajan's first of the five sutras for the Aquarian Age.

Since I jumped straight in with both feet (I started Kundalini Yoga only this April), everything is new to me - from the mantras, the kriyas, white tantric, japji, sadhnana and even the morning showers (taken 2.5 hours before the sun rises).  This special mantra apparently invokes the healing and protective energy of Guru Ram Das, a great teacher and founder of Kundalini Yoga dating way back 16th century India.

There are two parts of the mantra. The first part  - Guru Guru Wahe Guru - quoting Spirit Voyage, is "a nirgun mantra which projects the mind to the source of knowledge and ecstasy." While the second part - Guru Ram Das Guru -  is "a sirgun mantra which means the wisdom that comes as a servant of the infinite, the mantra of humility."  The complete translation is "Great is the wisdom that flows through the one that serves the infinite." Listen to the mantra as sung beautifully by Gurudass here and accompanied by the hand mudras below:

Source: Yoga Festival 2013 Program

the Children's camp
As a first timer in the festival, I was awed and humbled by the number of yogis. About 2,300 attended and took the time out to spend eight full days, some even came with their children in tow.  The yogis were mostly from Europe, a large contingent from Russia some from as far away as South Africa, South America (I met people from Chile, Uruguay), and even Iran! From Asia, there were Australians, Taiwanese (14 of them), Malaysians (5), Hong Kong (2) and moi from the Philippines.

Most volunteered as part of their seva like the Spanish group who were solid, one team and would sing (video below) to us before serving breakfast and dinner without fail everyday. I am most grateful to them and my heart goes to the kitchen staff who missed the sadhana to chop all those vegetables as early as 5am in the morning.

the White Tantric venue on the left of the chateau
The highlight of the festival was the 3-day White Tantric Yoga, an intense and very challenging technique. I say challenging because I couldn't sit still for a long time and maintain the gaze. Honestly, I thought it was going to be easy peasy since I've done it before, that is, after enduring a ten-day vipassana before.

The technique required to sit with a partner for almost ten hours doing six to eight kriyas (breaks in between though). The time set for each kriya varied from 24, 31 up to 62 minutes depending on the instructions. The objective was to break away from patterns and experience release from subconscious blockages. to experience release and ultimately, gain clarity.

Ultimately, after three days straight of white tantric, one gains clarity and eventually, mastery of self. The site explained it as "when you see and act on each moment with clarity, you can gain a deeper understanding of yourself and your life can change. Your mind, body, and soul can act together as one. This is the path to personal freedom and awareness, and will bring more success to every area of your life."

To prepare for the White Tantric, most of the workshops conducted and the diet served were designed to cleanse the body and create openings of hips, lungs and the heart.

dawn breaks during sadhana
A typical day would start as early as 3:30 am where a group would walk around the premises singing 'Rise Up, Rise Up". I wouldn't set my alarm clock since the singing would rouse me up. Then, take a cold shower and proceed to the field for the 4:00 am sadhana.  At 7:00 am gudwara (optional though) and at 8:00 am queue up for the breakfast consisting of two bananas, two oranges and hot potato soup. At 10:00 am,  missel meeting to discuss the assigned Seva and other matters and at 11:30 am, the morning workshop where there were 20+ teachers to choose from.

 Hari Har Ji after Removing the Veil of Illusion workshop
In the afternoon, we were served a watermelon snack. At 2:00 pm, everyone goes to the big top tent for the afternoon workshop. Then, queue up for the kicheree dinner  at 4:30 pm which was mung beans and rice served with hot sauce, carrots and red beets. At 5:00 pm was tea time where golden cow drink to help the knee and hip joints was made available together with chai tea.

Then at 5:30 pm, an evening workshop with again 20+ teachers to choose from. The children's yoga was at 7:00 pm and at 7:30 pm was the yoga and healing meditation. The evening program was right after which ran until past midnight.

The day was truly packed.  And since I was jet lagged, I would be turning in early or have a massage treatment in the bazaar and miss the evening performances that would run past midnight.

For the second summer solstice (note: the theme is the second sutra is When the time is on you, start, and the pressure will be off),  I will definitely come more prepared:
- fly in early to avoid jet lag
- best to stick to one teacher during the morning and afternoon workshops
- volunteer for a difficult seva
- stick to the diet (I was snacking on the yummy yogi tea bars)
- complete the three-day white tantric yoga
- and do the homework, which is to chant the mantra for the next 40 days to sustain the energy

Well, after the Yoga Festival I can't say that I'm much clearer of my life's purpose and if I would gain a deeper understanding if I stayed for the whole 3-days of white tantric. I must say though that the festival was an eye opener - to recognize that the other is you - is not easy to swallow. This means, what I like or dislike in others is actually what I like or dislike in me. I guess the first step to self mastery and personal freedom is to know oneself better through others.  It's all about heart and compassion, to connect with others, be grateful for everything and just flow. Wahe guru!

Seva Kaur (Sweden) and Chan Cudennec (Hong Kong)
with Kartar Singh (Barcelona) after his Aquarian Warrior workshop

spotted Terumi Hoki (Japan) and Yilan Yu (Taiwan) before White Tantric

Friday, 19 July 2013

Win white truffle Pasalubong from France

White truffle is considered the most expensive food in the world at US$3,600 a pound. In fact, the famous French epicure and gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (author of The Physiology of Taste: or Meditations on Transcendental Gastronomy, published in 1825) called it 'the diamonds of the Kitchen.'

white truffle oil
Truffles are quite rare and the white ones are even rarer since they are available only in October and November, when they are sniffed out by specially trained pigs.

So, to lucky readers out there, I'll be sharing the Filipino pasalubong tradition of bringing home something special from my recent trip. And this something special is the coveted white truffle - but mind you, bottled J. I'll be going to my favorite the epicerie, the Bon Marche, and bring home a bottle of Fauchon's white truffle oil.

This is top, top quality olive oil that has been infused with white truffles. Most Chefs use this oil sparingly, as a finishing oil, drizzled over a dish like potatoes, pasta, polenta or risotto, even on pizza and eggs. It also goes well with many vegetables (instead of butter) and even on popcorn!

So, how do you get to win this pasalubong from France? All you have to do is read my blog and let me know what your favorite entry is and why. Just post your answer in the comments section below. I will send the truffle oil to you plus my favorite recipes wherever you are. Merci buckets!

Monday, 15 July 2013

Yoga festival packing list

Woohoo! Got my Schengen visa and I"m off to Fondjouan in Loire Valley to attend the Summer Solistice Yoga Festival.

This is different from any other yoga festivals. Each year there is a theme and for this year, the focus is on the first sutra of the Aquarian Age -  "Recognize that the other person is You." Yogi Bhajan said 'don't live at each other - live for each other..."

The site says that the festival begins with yoga and meditation "in a big meadow as the sun slowly rises" from 4:30  to 7 am. Breakfast is simple vegetable soup and some oranges and banana. At 10 am, the camp breaks into Missels (same language groupings) to meet and do Seva (selfless service). Then, the morning workshop is scheduled from 11:30 am to 1:30 pm. There are 29  international teachers conducting different kinds of workshops from Karam Kriya, Sat Nam Rasayan, and many more. My problem is to choose which workshop to attend because as Marisa would say, they are all "rockstar" teachers.

In the afternoon, there is a watermelon break followed by an all camp yoga workshop from 2 to 4 pm at the Big Top. The teachers are Dharm Singh (New Mexico), Simran Kaur (USA), Hari Har Ji (UK) and Shiv Charan Singh (Portugal),  Then dinner at the Lungar field where mung beans and rice, hot sauce, carrots and salad will be served. After which, an evening workshop from 5:30 to 7 pm where again, there are 29 international teachers to choose from. Then an evening yoga class followed by a special healing meditation from 7:30 to 8:45pm and the day is capped with an evening program from 8:45 to 9:45pm.

As it is, the day is pretty packed - -three yoga classes, Seva, morning and evening workshops. There are only two meals - breakfast and dinner, and a snack in between.

The festival area is quite vast covering 70 hectares (refer to the map below; the upper left hand corner is a top shot of the venue Le Domaine de Fondjouan).

Considering everything - i.e. the extensive field, lots of moving around, the weather (from a high of 31 degrees Centigrade during the day and drops down to 17 degrees),  the warning to pack light - I'm just bringing the following:
Weather forecast during the week from
1. Clothing -  mostly white cotton yoga pants and tops, easy to wash by hand if I have to (note:  bring environment-friendly laundry detergent)
2. Mess Kit - plates, cutlery, cups (my camping mess kit)
3. Footwear - mountaineering sandals and havianas; may consider bringing sturdy walking shoes
4. Sadhana - - sheepskin, yoga mat, blanket and a hoodie (although my only hoodie is bright pink)
5. Tote bag - to keep everything (note:  for the tantric shelter, they give one uniform size bag)
6. Head lamp and extra batteries- to walk around the camp site as early as 3am. According to Kundalink who went to the same Festival in Guru Ram Das place in New Mexico (USA) last June, the day started with a merry band of 30 to 60 walking around the camp at 3 am singing  "Rise up Rise up".
7. Water bottles - one for water and another for the hot yogi tea
8, Money belt (that I use for running) so I can shop in the bazaar and/or do treatments
9. Nuts or trail mix- to snack in case I get hungry and if there's no food to buy in the bazaar