Friday, 22 January 2010

True Self Expression ; My First Wwoofing Experience

My time for another BALLS OUT adventure had come again; this time, it would morph itself in the form of Wwoofing - or 'Willing Workers on Organic Farms'.

Oh god my head said, I've never farmed in my life.
In fact, merely bending down just to reach the washing out of the basket had always been a mission in my mental, and yet now for some reason, I was putting myself in the realms of farming. Farming I tell you! Do you have any idea what that means boy! my head would squeal at me, in a panic. That's an up at 4am, back-breaking, all-day slog of an effort. I'm already keeping you alive, and now you're trying to put an end to me.
Shut up head.

Cue heart.
Go for it, it would say to me.
And so I did.

The following is an account of my first effort ever at voluntary organic farming. Ever.

My journeys would take me about an hour and ahalf north of Sydney, to a place called Mangrove Mountain.
My intention was to get some Yoga done, and so my location would be known as 'Satyananda Yoga Retreat', a title which I tried and failed many a time to say in a hurried explanation of my not so certain future.

I would be there for one week. I would be working at least 4 hours a day, and I had no idea what to expect.
But I had nothing to worry about. I was picked up at Gosford train station on time, taken to the retreat about 40 mins away, and shown to my accommodation, all pretty swiftly.

I would be staying in resident accommodation - a bunk bed to myself, with shared shower and toilet blocks. People pay for this, I thought. Bargain.


We would do a voluntary hour of 'Karma Yoga' or 'selfless service' each morning from 8-9, which everyone on the site was encouraged to do, not just wwoofers. Usually it was a mundane task such as cleaning or sweeping.
I had sweeping, toilet cleaning, wheelbarrowing, and more sweeping.
It's an interesting concept is the old 'selfless service'. You find your brain chattering like shit, giving you all sorts of reasons why you shouldn't been doing the task at hand.
Still, with a week's practice, I learnt a lot about what was being said in my upper regions. And with a little concentration, the voice would soon fade away.

The actual wwoofing work was split into 4 one hour sections throughout the day.
That was pretty sweet, as each task went pretty quickly, and it usually meant that you had a wide variety of things to do.
I did everything from clearing land with mattocks and hoes, to relocating boulders, to setting up the Yoga studios, to preparing food in the kitchen.

Every day at lunchtime we were on cleanup duty. And between each hour of work we were invited to take part in a yoga class of some sort or another. Result!

All protective clothing and tools were provided for us. They even had a recycling room, where you could donate or pick up clothes that were available - pretty much like their own on-site, free charity shop. Good form.

The work rate was pretty good - I was never given a task that was thought to be out of my league. But the thing I learnt the most with wwoofing is you don't get, if you don't ask. And that led me to asking for the more physical jobs, and no surprises, that's what was given.

It was only on New Year's Eve that I worked about 6-7 hours, instead of 4, but I didn't really mind, as it was super busy. An extra 300 people had come for the celebrations, so I didn't really notice doing a few more hours here and there.


Possibly the biggest shock to my Korean accomplice and partner in crime, Jay. 'This is not good for dogs' and 'Shit. I cannot stay here for one week' were some of the responses I was met with on the first night at the dinner table. I was creasing up.
All the food is vegetarian. Fair enough, I expected that somewhere in my head. But seeing as I had literally only converted from being a veggie just a few weeks before, my body had to go into survival mode.
That meant destroying their stash of butter, eggs (when present) and nuts + seeds.
The food was pretty dire most of the time, in that I mean flavourless. Thank god for the salt and pepper dispenser.
But it was organic, and not processed shit, so flavourless yet healthy was something I was willing to accept, especially for free Yoga.

The best dish we had there was mushroom soup. Ah, it was a god send. The dahl they had there, with a pinch of salty goodness, went down well too. They did make some good cakes come NYE too, which needless to say, I did fill my face with.


Absolutely brilliant I thought. Just right for me, being a beginner. Nothing too strenuous. In one day, you would do a class at 6am, a meditation class before lunch, and another class in the evening before dinner. Perfect. It was really well organised, and I managed to keep up quite well. There was no frustration from not being able to handle the pace at all.
And the guided meditations were fantastic.

I strongly reccommend everyone to check out 'Antar Mouna' meditation techniques if you can find them, and definitely 'Yoga Nidra'. I have some on my mp3 player right now, and using them daily has had quite an effect. Highly recommended.


When we did get the odd half day off, swimming in the river was the favourite. Most notably, doing shit like this out of the trees; -

And for the beast -

There was also the option of kayaking in the river, which we did and had a great laugh doing so.

Other options were walks up in to the caves. Oh we did that alright. In fact, we smashed the walk. That was the chilled bit, even though the incline was about 90% the whole way.
It was when we reached the caves it got interesting.
There was a tree sticking out off the edge of the cliff at about a 45 degree angle.
Looked climbable to me.
Branches were strong enough.

Up I went.
Got to the top.
The view, well, it was insane. Pure, unadulterated lushness of nature.
I reached for my camera.


'FUCKKKKKKKK!' I shouted at the top of my lungs.
The tree had come out of the floor.
Fucking termites!
And that was that.
Off the edge of the cliff with me in the top of the tree.
I worked it out, and the fall was about 7 meters. I fell over 3 ledges consecutively, finally plonking my arse on the fourth.
The fourth being only about 2 and a half feet wide. It was tiny. After that, about another 15m drop.
Somehow I came out alive. Jay thought I was dead, and seemed to come away from it all more traumatised than myself.
Must be the yoga, I thought.

All in all I'd give Satyananda a 4.5/5 rating.

If you get the chance, check it out!
You won't be disappointed.
Just don't climb a termite tree.

Ah sod it, climb it. You won't forget it.

Hari Om Tatsat!

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