Day 26 to 31 – Yoga Retreat at the Krishna Centre
I took the car back to Brisbane airport and travelled to the city centre where I had a few hours to wait for the bus that would take me in the direction of my destination near Byron Bay, a place called Murwimballah, I hope I spell it correctly. Lots of the names here have an Aboriginal origin and are sometimes difficult to pronounce. I do like them though, it gives something ethnical. Brisbane centre is not very attractive, lots of high modern looking buildings, so not much character. I did later find out that there is an older centre, but I never went there. I was trying to store my suitcase but due to terrorism scares they have removed most storage lockers in the city. That left me quite frustrated, one because of these so-called terrorists, I call them desperate men, spoiling it for everybody else. Two, because the city of Brisbane needs to think of a solution for tourists coming into their city: you can not expect them to carry their heavy suitcases while trying to enjoy the sights. Luckily, I found the Queensland Museum who were very kind to store my suitcase while I was going around the museum, which is quite nice showing the Australian animals, flora and fauna.
After this short relief I went to the bus station and got on the bus. The journey would take about 2.5 hours and also there was a 1-hour time difference, as we would be going into New South Wales where it was 1 hour later then in Queensland. The bus went passed a place called Surfers Paradise, when we stopped there I was appalled: this was no paradise with big tall apartment buildings and very touristy. I assume that the beach and sea there was probably the paradise they were talking about, but not the town. Anyway, I arrived at my destination and waited for my transfer which I had arranged the previous day with the Krishna Centre. After half an hour waiting, I decided to try and see if I could get a taxi because it seems they had forgotten about me. I had tried to contact them, but nobody picked up the phone. I did not panic, I knew I would get there one way or the other, but the prospect to be left in this very small town was not great. Just when I was about to call a taxi, somebody from the Krishna centre called me back. ‘Hello, I am returning your call, how can I help?’. ‘Well’, I said ‘I am still waiting for your transfer’. It was a bit quiet and then she apologised deeply and told me to wait there, somebody would soon show up. I laughed, it was funny in a way: I started my retreat forgotten…was this symbolic for something? A car showed up after 10 minutes and there was Michael, a teacher, and 3 young women in the back of the car who had just finished their yoga teacher training. I was taken to the centre and was told I did not have to pay the transfer fee, so that was good. I was welcomed by Barat, who showed me my room with bunk bed and then took me straight up to the temple which was up the hill. It was time for dinner and we got to see the Hare Krishna temple. There was a good atmosphere – people were sitting on the floor waiting to be served the delicious Vedic food by the volunteers who were coming around with big red buckets full of Dahl and other good food.
After dinner I walked down the hill and went back to my room, where I met my room mate Jenna who is originally from Scotland and has been living in Australia for a few years. We connected well and fortunately agreed easily on who was sleeping in the top bed and who in the bottom bed (me), as we had a bunk bed to share. The room we were in was made in a container which had in total 3 rooms. It was quite comfortable with a fan on the ceiling and some seats outside. The landscape the centre is in, is simply stunning: hills and luscious green, palm trees and flowers; a genuine paradise. In total 100 hectares I was told. They have a community with some houses and farms where they have cows, which are revered as holy. They only started the retreat part with yoga and accommodation three years ago and they are building fast to grow as a retreat centre. The yoga hall, accommodation, showers etc are down in the valley and the temple is a steep walk of 10 minutes up a hill. There is a very different energy in both places. The temple area up the hill is very Hare Krishna, so I feel I need to respect that and hold back in some of the things I would normally say or do. The Yoga hall area is more relaxed – this is where all visitors, volunteers and staff come together and connect. There is an openness and kindness to everybody and it is easy to meet people and talk to each other. The yoga is sometimes intense but really feels good, once you get more into it. After a week of Yoga I felt so much better and together with the vegetarian food – I felt clear in the head and physically fit. I would love to keep that feeling going.
Christmas Day was unlike any Christmas celebrations I had done before – it did not feel like Christmas at all with all that heat. Christmas and cold go together for me. On the day itself we went with a big group of people to a special place on Mount Warning, an old Aboriginal sacred place, to have a picnic and a swim. It was a stunning place with rocks and waterholes, like from a picture book. There must have been more than 40 people and we all got along and mingled wonderfully. It was certainly one of the most relaxed Christmas celebrations I had ever done. I was missing my family though and having them there would have been perfect. I sincerely hope I can one day bring my children to this place and other places in Australia that I had been. They would really like it.
I met wonderful people at the centre and my neighbours, a couple from Brazil, Marcello and Michelle, were a good example of that. They were so lovely and open, we got on well. They took part in a small Summer Solstice ceremony that I did with a few people and that was very special. We also escaped together to get into town and get a drink and some different food, lovely as the food is at the Krishna centre, I do like a change. During dinner I was telling them about where I would go next and that I was trying to find some cheap accommodation near Byron Bay but because it was the holiday season, that was turning out to be a bit difficult. My next flight was going to be from Brisbane to Melbourne, so I had 3 nights to spent before taking off. The other idea was to stay a few extra nights at the centre, but they seemed to be fully booked so that was not an option. Then Marcello suggested to come with them in the car to Sydney – stay with them for a few nights and book a cheap flight to Melbourne from there. That was a brilliant idea which actually saved me money and I would be in the company of some lovely people, so that was a no brainer. The last day before we left, there was a tropical storm and I had just arrived at the temple area – standing in an open enclosure were we usually were served our meal. I had returned from a Vedic astrology session and it was an interesting one. The astrologer, a powerful woman (also blues singer by the way) kind of looked at me after 30 minutes into the session giving me the feeling that the session was over. My charts were one of the luckiest ones she had ever seen, she told me, and I could see in her eyes the question: why are you here? I realized there and then that I have been luck most of my life with no major dramas so far and that I have nothing to complaint about. With that realisation I decided to stop complaining and longing for things I do not have, instead focus on the things and people in my life which I do have. I am blessed.
I have never seen a tropical rainstorm and it was quite a force of Mother Nature to witness. Within minutes we were soaked and finally we ran into the temple where we could be dry. A priest was just doing some teaching with his students and more and more people started to come in to hide from the storm. The priest commented that the temple had never been this full and he smiled, as did we. They were good at improvising because it was decided to serve the food in the temple and so it was organized. Blessed food in a blessed surrounding, what more can we ask for. That evening I started packing my suitcase and said good bye to some people. All of the people coming to the centre have a story and I got to hear some of them, for which I am grateful. Leonie shared that she had healed herself from Lyme disease and 1 year ago she could hardly walk. She aimed to write a book and share her knowledge and path, so others can hopefully be inspired. Ronja was there to do a yoga teacher training and brought more feminine energy in the Krishna centre, being the earth woman that she is. Hanan who’s family is from Somalia lives in Australia and is so beautiful. Sophie had left her father in Belgium who she was very close to, but she needed to be independent. \Then there was an older guy who had kicked a severe alcohol problem and was now into yoga and health. I just love hearing them all – the stories – and I especially love the fact that there are so many young people nowadays traveling and trying to find alternative life styles.
This stay at the centre had been wonderful: I felt great physically, mentally and emotionally. The next morning, we left at 4.30 am and I said goodbye to me lovely room mate Jenna who I really was going to miss. We had to drive for at least 10 hours to get to Sydney – all done by wonderful Marcello with the necessary breaks on the way – which included another tropical rain shower. We arrived safely and fatigued, although I felt it all went quicker than I thought. The next day I ventured out into their neighborhood, they live in a suburb of Sydney, and got English breakfast products as I had promised them to prepare an English breakfast, no beans though. Michelle and Marcello told me that they had come to Australia about 4 years ago to learn English and to start a new life. The did not speak much English at the time and had nothing to begin with, so the start of their life was not easy but now they both have a good job, a nice house and their English is good. I admire them for making it work – it is not easy without family and friends. The next couple of days were relaxing and we went 1 day to a beach nearby in a national park. Then on the final day they took me to the airport and I left for Melbourne. I feel very grateful to both of them for their hospitality.