Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Happiness at Bhaktivedanta Manor - by Sue De Cesare, Director at Yes to Life

This week’s blog has been written by the Director at Yes to Life, Sue De Cesare. She shares her story of our trip to the beautiful Bhaktivedanta Manor on 16th June…

One of the most rewarding parts of my job is that I get to meet some incredible people. Saturday 16th June was just one of those days. A retreat day at the Bhaktivedanta Manor near Watford for people with cancer. Edana and I were fortunate enough to have visited the beautiful, peaceful centre earlier in the year and met with JD one of the monks who lives there. Despite having been treated for cancer and still in hospital after surgery, JD pulled together an event with the support of Radhi and the result was a most wonderful and unforgettable day. Edana and I left London early by car and the sun was already out – we were both excited about offering our beneficiaries a chance to join us at the centre. People arrived at a warm reception from Radhi and her beautiful daughter along with Radha a monk who had stepped in to cover JD. 

The day kicked off with Radhi introducing herself – sharing her own journey with cancer and the lifestyle changes she made as a result. Now almost qualified as a yoga teacher, she runs yoga classes at the centre and is part of their wonderful family. Radha introduced himself and within minutes had the room in hysterics. His wit and humour played a big role in our enjoyment of the day. 
Not everyone in the room knew each other so we kicked off the morning with a game of Human Bingo. A sheet with several interesting human characteristics, personalities and life facts were given to each of us with the challenge to go around the room to find someone who fitted each one of them. A great ice-breaker. This was followed by a tour of the centre where we leant about the Hare Krishna movement, its founder and George Harrison’s involvement with the centre. We also got to visit the manor’s dairy farm and visitor centre where they have reintroduced a radical approach to farming. Called Goshala it shelters cows, oxen and one mature bull. Milk is produced in a sustainable and humane way and they are looked after with love for their whole lives. Some of our visitors even got to have a go at milking while the rest of us got to meet the cows, oxen and bull close.  
The group were split into two. A relaxing and calm yoga class was given by Radhi and Jaydev, who used to be a drummer in the 1970’s band the Rubettes, ran a Drumfulness class. Incredibly joyful having the chance to do both – calm yoga and then energetic drumming with a mindfulness perspective. Amazing. 
Then lunch - oh lunch - a delicious epicurean delight served by members of the team who worked at the Manor. After lunch we moved into the theatre and a talk by Emily.
It’s not always the easiest time to engage people after they have been fed and rested but she asked us all to think about what we understood about resilience. She shared her story of her cancer diagnosis and how it affected her. Such a positive and empathetic young woman who has taken her cancer diagnosis by the horns, turned her life around and is now an NLP Life Coach and Health Psychologist.  
After sitting rather comfortably in the theatre, Radha came back in full of hilarious anecdotes followed by lots of laughter. Split into groups of 5, we were then sent on our way – yes it was time for the Treasure Hunt. Each team had a leader and was given an envelope with a clue and instructions and off we all set. My group solved the first clue and found one of the volunteers – our challenge (should we have chosen to accept it – ok ok Mission Impossible just sprang to mind) was to make a 30 second film about our experience so far. Blimey – nothing easy about that, but after several bouts of hysterics we created a strange version of George Harrison’s song ‘Something in the way she moves’ interspersed with moo-ing in place of moving and drumming – a real challenge - we did our best. Each group had to solve 5 riddles and undertake 5 challenges whilst taking selfies of the group and the volunteer at each stage – again a massive amount of thought and preparation by Radhi, JD and Radha. It was a fabulous way to end the day with everyone returning to the theatre, happy, chatting and sharing and lots of smiles and laughter. We were all winners in the end and Radhi thanked everyone for taking part and sharing. Leaving with gratitude and a beautiful gift from the Manor as well as more delicious vegan cakes, everyone left feeling special, happy, calm and smiling.
For us, it was great to see old friends who have been to other Yes to Life events and to meet some of our beneficiaries for the first time. We loved being around people with such positivity and the feedback – well its understandably been fantastic. 
We will be returning soon. 

You can see details of our upcoming events here

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