At the invitation of my Czech friend, I journeyed to the tiny village of Bast, about 30 minutes north of Prague on a Friday night for a three days stay. The exuberant director of the yoga school welcomed us as old friends. Twenty people arrived that evening and early the next morning, mostly Czechs with a few Germans, all followers of Roop Verma, yoga meditation teacher and sitar musician. His tour of Europe included mostly concerts, with a few of these intensive sessions. There were only two of us that were first timers, most had been coming to his yearly weekend ashram for years.
The sessions took place in a large light room. The floor was covered with mats for meditating during the day, sleeping at night. After morning yoga stretching, we listened to the graceful, gray-haired Vermas teachings and philosophy, calm and wise, and meditated to the soothing strains of the sitar.
A brisk walk at lunch, fresh air and exercise, was needed to keep my muscles moving after all that sitting. We usually took the directors dog along as we strolled by open fields. Little children in the street greeted us with dobry den, or good day.
Sunday was a day of silence. Let the silence come from within you, advised Verma. Between sessions, we floated around the house in the quiet, an occasional pat, smile or gesture in greeting. All was tranquil and peaceful.
The vegetarian Czech food was wonderful and welcome. The first evening we had cooked pears rolled in spices with rice, light and delicious. Lunches were more substantial, soups for dinner, and there was always dessert. Porridge (oatmeal) for breakfast was spread flat around a plate, sprinkled with a circle of sesame seeds, figs adorning the middle.
Ill share one of many stories from the weekend. Late in the evening, four women were making a fruity coffee cake for the next day. One at a time, each left to go to bed until only one was left awake. It needed only about five minutes left in the oven. She sat down at the computer and fell asleep. The cake burned and they needed to make a new one in the morning. Laughing, Verma told the tale of a man with four daughters. Before he went to bed, he told them he needed his trousers shortened. The first daughter awakens and, because she loves her father, she cuts the pants, hems them, and goes back to sleep. The second daughter wakes up you can imagine the rest. And of course, in the morning, the father finds that his pants are too short. We have to work together.
Verma talked about the tourist who comes to a place for a few days, who tastes the food and sees the sights but never discovers the pulse of a place, the heartbeat. He was talking about the tourist to meditation, without a real commitment, and yes, I was that. But I took with me the pulse of the community there, the people, the serenity, bringing me a little closer to the heartbeat of life in the Czech Republic.
The little yoga center also offers language study weekends. The director, who speaks only Czech - we had some problems communicating, laughing a lot - asked me to come for a couple of English brush up weekend workshops in November. I thought we were just talking about evening conversation with students after class. But, after a follow up meeting with another English teacher as translator, I understood that I would be teaching the workshops. It should be fun, but its a challenge to plan two days of conversation and related activities, so I'll be preparing for that over the next few weeks.
On a Friday last June, a school van drove five teachers to Dresden to apply in person for our visa, which must be done at an embassy outside the Czech Republic. Dresden, Germany is the closest city with an embassy office. Last week, the school again took a group of us to pick up our visas. We only had about an hour to walk around. Dresden was heavily bombed during World War II and many historic buildings were lost, except for a cluster around the river and a few here and there surrounded by tall office buildings. The few older structures were oxidized black. Several restored buildings had obvious newer brick showing a clean beige amid the black bricks. A recently restored statue of a military figure on horseback blazed gold.
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