Sunday, January 19, 2014

Maybe in the stillness....

I love winter. The wind, the rain, the cold that drives us inside. Still stacks to do outside to get ready for spring, but when the weather howls, the fires get lit to roaring and we retreat inwards to the warmth of the hearth and stove; metaphorically and physically. Probably meta-physically too in some way. That's why I love it so. Every winter we've spent here since 2008, I've relished the time to read, to reflect, to plan, to ponder, to dream. To retreat.

Vonnie favours the sunshine of the summer, for she, after all, is a tropical island girl and genetically designed for a daily shower of free vitamin supplements that never cease to rain from the ever shining Barbados sun.  I suspect our future winters might be spent in other warmer climes, bless, but for this one, we're here, in Portugal, in the mountains, on our own, and it’s raining. Inside we remain. ;)

In this reflective season, something dawned on me. Over the course of 2013 an unexpected pattern had begun to emerge, on Facebook no less. Every week it seemed I was seeing another new profile or cover photo emerge on our guests FB pages (as they commented and shared each others holiday snaps), shots taken here on their stay at Vale de Moses. 

It was flattering to think people would choose our place as a beautiful setting to display their virtual identity on the cloud. Face after face of happy, bright souls with dreamy sunsets and misty valley vistas. All looking like they were feeling pretty lovely about life, bordering on content.

I realised it's on places like retreats and healthy holidays we often feel quite lovely. About everything. Relaxed, nourished, minds clear, bodies given an MOT and service, all far from the maddening crowds. The least worried. The most meditative. The most still. Even though every day our bodies are paradoxically more active than normal, practicing yoga, walking in forests, swimming in rivers, surfing, whatever. We feel the most active and yet the most still.

Maybe in that stillness of retreat, we get to know ourselves a bit better. 

And perhaps we actually like ourselves a little better than the stressed out version of ourselves we left back at home.

One thing is certain to me, everyone definitely shines after a week on retreat. “You’re positively glowing, darling”. So maybe it's only natural that photos taken at those moments are the ones we choose to share with the FB universe. Because we feel more like ourselves. And to make our friends jealous too no doubt!

Thanks to our guests who have let me share their selfies and Vale de Moses photos with you today. Each one of these photos today on the blog are from their FB covers or profiles and aren't they all beautiful! 

That's it really. To say it’s winter. Which you knew. And that Facebook is revealing patterns in our own human social behaviour and projection of virtual self image. Again, you knew. And that going on a retreat is really really good for you. If you've not gone on one before, and you are able to do so this year, then

"Retreat, retreat, retreat!"

Choose any one of hundreds of wonderful retreat spaces all over the world. Any one of them. Just go. Especially if you're not feeling particularly like the best you have ever felt. Book a retreat as soon as you can. If it's with us, we very much look forward to meeting you and showing you around this stunning part of Portugal.

Also in this last week we've had an enormous response to our Karma Volunteer recruitment, so successful in fact that looks like we're fully staffed already! If you'd like to be contacted in case anyone of our volunteers have to cancel, and at the same time be considered first for our 2015 teams, please still do apply for our Reserve team this year

Finally, finally, you might like to read the interview Vonnie had last week with the delightful Tameera Kemp who runs Light Stays Retreats in Australia. Great site.

Wishing you lots of warmth and cosyness wherever you maybe be wintering.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Calling all Karma Yoga Volunteers, lines are open...

One of the things that not many people know about running yoga retreats is that it takes a small army of helpers each week to enable a group of people to feel comfortable, well fed, clean and cared for while in the middle of the forest. Lots of food preparation, daily beautifying of communal, treatment and yoga practice spaces, sparkling clean bathrooms decorated with freshly cut forest flowers, from early in the morning til late into the evening.

Enter stage left (back stage left really), our fabulous Karma Volunteers who help us keep Vale de Moses pristine and shining with care and kindness throughout our yoga retreat season.

Recruitment has now begun for the 8 teams of 3 volunteers we need to cover month-long slots between mid March to November retreats. One per team needs a current driver's license to drive a jeep and tractor and be strong enough to lift heavy buckets and crates of fresh food.

If you're interested, or know anyone who you think would love the chance,  please take a look at our Karma Volunteer pack online with all you need to know about the role and how to apply. We'll be selecting most of the teams by end of January. So do apply as soon as you can if you're considering, otherwise you might need to wait til 2015!

We have thoroughly enjoyed hosting volunteers with us over the years. With kindness, a "willing to do whatever every day" attitude, big heart and strong reliable work ethic, we have a wonderful time together serving and caring for our guests on retreats. Some of our Karma Yogis have already become life long friends and a couple are now on our yoga teaching and therapy teams. They become part of the family and as such we consider carefully who we select.

We're properly looking forward to getting to know even more lovely people from all round the world again this year. Only a couple of months away now. :)

"Até Logo"


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A little Life Yoga - by Vonetta

2013 was a firecracker of a year. Well alive. As usual we Winters have had some great successes and some not so successful times.  The good thing about being floored by experience is that on the floor we can be inspired to bow down and look for encouragement in the tiniest little detail.  There have been times this year where I have been grateful for the quiet beauty of a single act of nature unfolding, or the soothing melody of the water continually flowing below, calming all.   At other times the quiet and solitude of the Vale was shown the door and the hills reverberated with the aliveness of everything; people, music, birds, dogs, bugs, jostling against everything else looking for a role in the play.

Andy’s Mum Sally once said to me that my hubby was the kind of man who liked to entertain.  At the time I thought that didn’t seem so bad, a little entertaining.  Never in my youngest dreams did I imagine that we would be entertaining coach loads of people.  Never did I imagine that I would have Happy Birthday sung to me in eight languages, in my own home.  Never did I imagine that my son would play piano to our guests and sooth us all into conversation.  Never did I imagine that I would watch my 14 year old daughter bossing around an entire kitchen, well perhaps I imagined that.  And yet, all that has occurred this year has seemed so natural, so obvious. Perhaps the great Tapestry Maker of life has been weaving this particular pattern for some time, if so, thank you Tapestry Maker, I like the pattern, and may we repeat what is beautiful and correct our mistakes.

Particularly brilliant threads of this year:

  • Joshy Bear’s soothing piano playing filling the silence.  Your kisses on the forehead every time I thought my brain might explode.  A kiss, simple but effective medicine.
  • Fleur blowing the trumpet; Fleur exclaiming how wonderful everything is; Fleur in fairy wings and sparkly dust.  I like your groove.
  • Tashi giving me what for and making me sit up straight.  Thanks Tash, my L2 and L3 will always thank you.  When asked if we yoginis should keep the bandhas on at all times, Master Dawa replied that you could wait for a bus, or while waiting for a bus put your bandhas on and practice yoga.  Favourite Soundbite of the Year:  Master Dawa “I would rather practice yoga than wait for a bus”
  • Ellie and Andy leading up a pizza storm and dancing in the Kitchen.
  • Emma Jane Bunn.  My London Girl.
  • The amazing Viking lady, Marte, who ran up and down the hills every day after the silent walk and after 3 hours of yoga. Awesome.
  • The art installations in the Forest made by our guests.  Placing something in the path encourages us to visit the path more often.  Thank you …for the mosaic in the Forest and the blue painted trunk, they never fail to make me smile. 
  • Being nurtured, soothed and calmed by Liese van Dam and her Ayurvedic oils. Yummy. 
  • Shrieks of laughter and squealing coming from the River in the Valley.
  • Running through the valleys, at the end of the day knowing that everything is being looked after by lovely people at home.
  • My crazy family on both sides.
  • Spending a whole four days with the Fantabulous Jagos, we are coming to home to you in 2014, make room for the Winters.
  • Everyone and anyone who chose to practice A Little Life Yoga at Vale de Moses.  As some of you may know I am taking a course in Natural Medicine over the next three years with The School of Natural Medicine.  I hope to gain a little empirical knowledge by posting up a few short questionnaires on Facebook.  Answering some of the light questions may be fun.  I hope you enjoy what we are learning and are willing to share your experiences.
  • Standing up on a Surf Board while staying with Sara Serrão's at her Cerca do Sul paradise.
  • The chaos of puppies, born on my birthday, hearing Alex squealing "PUUPPIIEEEES" in excitement.  Life is funny, for years I have repeated this mantra to calm my baby making hormones, “No late babies! No late babies” and then life presents us with 6 four legged hairy babies for my birthday, and of course their poos and the pups constantly doing everything they shouldn’t do. 
  • My girl Spin floating up into Bakasana, balancing her Shiva dreads.
  • Laughter Yoga with The Ernesto Fleetwood a.k.a Ollie Pell.  I still have your laughter ringing in my ears from time to time, “Very good, very good, Yeah!”
  • Giving more treatments of Acupuncture and Massage in one year than in any year previously.   At the end of 2013 I think it is the giving that makes this work so rewarding.
  • Practising with Hugh and Kim, you two have such apple wholesome sunshine country angel vibes.
  • Sitting on the back steps with the Katherine Smith, sipping something salubrious from a straw.  You lighten our lives and make things…better.
  • Being warm, warm, warm from the Forestry clearing of Andy and Fernando.  Cleaning the land and looking after ourselves with this free energy keeps us warm in so many ways. "Good Jawb" as our gorgeous American volunteer Ashley would say.
  • And finally, seeing in the New Year with our delightful Portuguese friends Sara, Raquel and Francisco and their boys.
Everything that has happened thus far has indeed changed my life, and because of all that has happened thus far I am becoming more relaxed and am able to accept that my life is ever changing.  Thank heavens for The resting place, the constant resting place within the hurly burly of everything, ‘the beloved sticky mat’.  When I started yoga I did it because I thought it would be good for me.  It is with considerable gratitude that I have found that all these years of practice have brought love to bloom.  Sometimes love is like that, it takes time to realise itself and for the lover to realise what love is.

The teachers and students of 2013 have confirmed for me that I love any yoga, and I really do not think it matters, to me what I practice so long as I am practicing as sincerely as possible, in the moment. Who cares whether your practice is steeped in silence or sprinkled with a sweet song?  Who cares whether Shavasana is your great delight or whether you like using your head as one giant foot?  Who cares whether it is austerity that floats your boat or playful flaying your arms around grinning.  I understand through this year that my mat helps to clarify what needs to be kept and what I no longer need.  Sometimes silence does helps, sometimes a tune.  Sometimes I am as stiff as a board and I feel all of my 40 years and at other times I am up for challenging the litheness of my kitty cat Angel.  It really doesn't matter.

What matters is the love, the love of asana, philosophy, colour and light and chanting and drumming and jumping and trying to be really really still and quiet and playing with your breath and doing it all with a sense of ‘Wow´, a miracle has happened and it isn’t yet 9am!  Come on the Day!  Yoga has given me that, for sure.  There are things I would like to leave me now in my life and there are some things that are keepers.  Thank you Andy Winter lover, business partner, friend, father of my babies and well, my everything, including, sometimes the one who drives me round the bend; for coming into the Shala cussing and swearing about the lack of light on this strangely dreamy, misty Old Year’s Day.  These photos will remind me that some New Year’s resolution is worth making.  Old Year’s Night 2012 I promised myself that I would attempt to acquire a little comfort and stability in Pincha Mayurasana in the middle of the room.  Pincha M, you have taught me that love conquers fear, you definitely a keeper.

So, do I have any New Year’s resolutions?  Loads… There are so many, many, many improvements I would like to make in the Vale.  There are postures I would love to experience and teachers to meet.  However, mostly I would like to indulge the Mummy Von this year.  The babes will be leaving these woods soon for senior school, and so, while with enthusiasm I say bring on the 2014, there is a little part of me, that says, ‘slow down’.

One of our guests gave me a beautiful bottle of true thick syrupy White Musk from Saudi Arabia.  Each time I open that bottle to indulge in a drop of the oil I am reminded that life is like this oil, achingly sweet and precious and I determined to savour every drop.

So to end, may our 2014 be as precious oil…let’s not waste a drop of it! Happy New Year’s Day and a Prosperous 2014.