As I recover from another academic conference, and contemplate the news that I’ve been awarded university funding to go full-time (third time lucky), I’m looking back over an epic summer. Some parts weren’t so good – as my last blog post shows. But so very much has happened to form the epic and enormous treasure that is my fieldwork data this year, and as it’s nearly all in the bag (barring a couple more follow up interviews), I thought I’d share the scale with you. I’ve already begun the second stage of the research – co-practice interviews with a very small number of people I’ve met on the journey, to form case studies of the diverse paths and expressions of practice that this culture supports. I also have a huge amount of typing, transcription, uploading and analysis to do. Transcription takes about 10 hours for every hour of recording. Not to mention contacting all the people I’d said I’d contact, which is a much more pleasant job!
Anyway, this is my harvest. With apologies – I’m bound to have forgotten someone really important!
I had an unexpected early start at the Beltane Bhakti Gathering, which I served at and attended and found myself having to make notes and take snippets of film for all the wonderful things happening. I also connected with some great new contacts. It was a perfect start. There’s a little film here.
Then in June, I arrived at Colourfest, ready for the summer in earnest. I attended opening and closing ceremonies and a celebrating yoga ritual, but somehow missed the wedding. I took yoga sessions with Scott Parsons, Angela, Luana, Nicole, Natty, Helen and Amba; and dance and movement workshops with Jamus, Sam Bloomfield, Richard Parker, Magdalena and Denise Rowe. I sat in and sang on kirtan with Sivani Mata, the Babaji Temple Singers, Adrian Freeman, Elahn and Radhe, and had a delightful lesson in Japa with Padma Priya. The weather was glorious, and I managed about a dozen sessions of diverse and distinct yoga and dance in three and a half days.
At Sundara there were also opening and closing ceremonies, as well as daily morning meetings. I enjoyed yoga with Amanda Hamilton, Sonia, Janine Hurley, Tanya Carter, Mahala and Rowan Cobelli. I did dance and movement workshops with Will Softmore, Shaku Burrell, Guy Barrington and Lit Ezifula, an art workshop with Leah and a voice workshop with Tim Chalice. I Listened to talks on the theme of ‘Stepping Up’ by the CorkYogis, Ewen Sim, Vandita, Ian Wood and Gail Bradbrook, sang kirtan again with Elahn and Radhe and the Babaji Temple Singers, this time with Jay Krishna, who also presided over the most delightful dawn havan. I danced the early morning ‘Dance of Life’ with Chelsea, and snoozed through a gong bath with John and Tanya. I braved Kundalini Yoga, which is right out of my yoga comfort zone, and as this camp was six days long, had a bit of a moment on the Saturday and hid in my tent for a couple of hours. Once again, I averaged three or four sessions a day, and once again, to be frank, I was on my bleed. That might seem too much information until you realise that each of the three main camps were exactly 28 days apart. That was an unexpected complication! Above all at Sundara, it was lovely to be at a new camp (to me) but with so many, many old friends there.
My next trip was even more epic. I zoomed up to the EarthFirst Gathering for two and a half days, where I hung out and chatted and led a couple of yoga sessions, and a workshop on somatic burnout. But I didn’t take notes, as I wasn’t there as a researcher, although the one actual workshop I joined – on managing power and privilege in groups – was fantastic, and gifted me a few key realisations for later. I love the dedication of this tribe, the strong boundaries and deep accessibility and diversity they try to hold themselves to, the sense of humour and the radicalism. I’d love to help them work effectively with the stress and trauma of what they do some more. They deserve it.
From there, I had a few hours at home on my way to three days with Angela Farmer and Victor van Kooten, in a long-anticipated retreat where we spent many an hour sitting with our eyes gently closed rocking in place. It was so much more epic than it sounds, and such an honour to study with people who have a century of post-lineage yoga exploration between them. They are the living ancestors of our tradition, and they wouldn’t dream of suggesting that they have all the answers. They want you to find your own practice; although we did learn to interlace our toes, just for fun.
And then back home, in a way, to the Santosa Living Yoga and Bhakti Camp, for a full week. I had two breaks – one on the first day of the camp and my second day there, because I had to zip up to Milton Keynes for the funding interview! I also popped over to SuperSpirit for a few hours late in the week to curl up with Himself and the kitty. The rest of the time I took part in more opening and closing ceremonies. I enjoyed more yoga with Katinka, Uma Dinsmore-Tuli, Chris Gladwell, Barry, Claudia, Jane Dancey, Gladey, Veronika and Nicole, as well as yoga nidra with Elena, Uma, Chris and Nirlipta Tuli. I delivered eight yoga nidras, two Wild Yoga sessions and chaired a discussion on post-lineage yoga myself, but still found time to dance with both Eliza and Draupadi. There was more kirtan with Tim Chalice, Barry, Avalon Roots, and, as ever, the Babaji Temple Singers, as well as a sacred voice session with Ravi and Laughter Yoga with Amanda Hamilton. I listened to Hanuman stories with Uma and Krishna stories with Jaganath, danced in the dew with Uma this time, and baked in the sun after a women’s sauna held by Mayun and Veva. I even enjoyed a Cacao ceremony with Keef Wesolowski Miles.
Each day onsite included an hour or even two of writing up my notes, and often 18 hours awake. Threaded through the summer have been mini-interviews and informal discussions on ethics and appropriation, food and self-care, innovation and tradition, the counter-culture and the mainstream, gender and race politics, authority and inner wisdom, abuse and trauma. I’ve felt my way into the networks and connections; the norms and the rules. I’ve checked blackboards, responded to conches, attended morning meetings, said the holy names of my sangha, hugged, namaste’d and laughed more than I thought possible. I’ve deepened some friendships, and made more. All this won’t just form the basis of my PhD thesis, it will keep me warm through the winter.
You know who you are, I hope, whether you’re mentioned by name or not. I miss you all, and I pray to this and all worlds that I can do this story justice.