Thursday, 20 August 2015

My Experience at Radhadesh: Can Fashion Mix With Spiritual Life?

If you’ve been keeping up a bit here and there with my social media posts you might have picked up that I’ve been on a bit of a journey recently… and no not one involving trekking to a mall. Instead I’ve been exploring spirituality and the Krishna Consciousness movement.

If you'd like to know the very basic meaning, I've found this on the web...

-       'Krishna consciousness, or bhakti-yoga, means how to act in harmony with ultimate reality—the Supreme Person. Bhakti—“devotional service”—is how the bhakta—“devotee”—and Bhagavan—“God, the possessor of all opulences”—relate.

We're all naturally Krishna conscious. In illusion, we think we’re the center of the universe, and our bodies are our real selves. Krishna consciousness means becoming free from that illusion, and experiencing our true blissful, eternal nature. It's a process that works. Anyone can do it.' (http://www.krishna.com/krishna-consciousness)
An image of the beautiful deities we had the pleasure of seeing every day
So as part of this exploration I was persuaded to attend a spiritual retreat in Radhadesh, Belgium for 10 days where I would be in the company of student devotees, participate in workshops, seminars and various activities. As the days began to dwindle down towards the departure time I began getting more and more anxious. I knew I’d have to share a room and I knew the whole point of a spiritual retreat is to get into the ways of simple and minimalist living.

I think it’s fair to say minimalism and me don’t tend to mix very well. It’s sort of like Jil Sander and Betsey Johnson collaborating. It just won’t mesh.

I literally dreamt about having limited wardrobe space, not having enough room for outfits, jewellery or beauty products. These thoughts flooded my mind over and over again. I knew I’d be pushed out my comfort zone and in a way this intrigued me because I’ve never tried to step outside of the sheltered, self-centred life I’ve built for myself. It was only until the pre-trip BBQ that these thoughts gradually starting fading away. 

Radha Krishna & Radha Rani
I was just so amazed at how nice everyone was. Like nobody knew me but they seemed so eager to help, ask me questions, relieve my stress about the trip. It was like I entered a different universe where everybody let their inhibitions go and just wanted to spread happiness and joy. No judgement, rudeness, snobbishness, nothing.

I started to compare the atmosphere there to the ones I’ve experienced at a couple of fashion events where I’ve entered alone and felt so nervous and unwelcomed because I was much younger than the professionals in the room or people just couldn’t suss me out properly.

Anyway, after a slugglish couch journey and ferry we eventually drove up to the castle we would be staying at and everyone suddenly awoke from their zombie-like states and gawked at this beauty awaiting in front of us. 

Castle
As soon as I saw my room I began to place all my things exactly the way I wanted them with all my pre-packed vanity cases with compartments ready so I could co-ordinate everything the way I’m used to. I even brought a light-up mirror. No wonder my suitcase looked pregnant…

As I gradually integrated myself into the schedule of the trip and learnt to offer service to Krishna through the means of serving and preparing food, cleaning dishes and utensils, painting and gardening, my material woes began to dwindle down to a point where I was even comfortable with being around everyone with a tad bit of BB cream and my glasses on. Can you imagine? By the end I was less boho and more hobo…

I started to care less and less about the little things. Granted I still worried about my appearance, mainly because I’m not used to wearing Indian outfits but overall I started realising how meaningless my daily anxieties back home are. Luckily I had some fab girls in my room to share my thoughts to and I began to realise that I wasn’t alone with some of the struggles I was facing. In such a materialistic society, isn’t it psychologically expected that people will succumb to mundane pressures? (Oh, and thank God there was someone to help me wear my gopi dresses… thanks Radhika!)

Bright gopi outfit
I actually had a lot of fun experimenting with bright fuchsias and royal purples in my gopi outfits and getting gopi dots drawn on my face on the coach. The trip taught me that spirituality, especially within Krishna Conciousness, is designed to be easy to follow and applicable to everyday life. It doesn’t force you to give up anything in life. Nothing at all actually. Everyone has a choice, they are only there to guide you in the right direction. So learning this has reassured me that I can live my life the way I instinctively want to whilst making an active effort to change things in the world in my own way.

At first it was a challenge to push myself to do things like cleaning up which I never usually do… but after a while I got stuck in, not caring less about my outfits getting dirty or what not. I think it really helps when you’re in a group environment and you see others performing duties which such enthusiasm and lack of pride. I’m so thankful I got the chance to attend as it really taught me so much about myself and that I can live without having GHDs on hand or a beautician on standby. More seriously it also made me question fashion a lot and whether it could be compatible with spirituality…

Playful Gopi dots
I’m still working this out but personally I think that within reason, whatever someone’s passion is, they can follow it successfully whilst incorporating some sort of ethical or positive elements. Now I’m not saying my blog is going to become spiritual or anything of the sort. I’m completely aware that everyone reading is coming from different backgrounds and believes in different things which is great, I think that’s one of the beauties of this Earth. However, I’m saying I’m more open to pushing more positive messages out there with my content, whether it be through raising awareness of sustainable fashion, body identity issues, child labour in the industry, or any such problem. I still have a long way to go and I know my mind will still think about getting new clothes and changing up my look but I want to give back more and if and when I find opportunities to do so I will take them. Anyone reading this with an idea or worthy organisation please do get in touch, I would love to hear from you!


I would encourage everyone, especially those working with the fashion industry or just diehard fashionistas to try out a spiritual retreat. If not, take a weekend break away somewhere rural or more on the remote side and allow yourself to adapt to a simpler lifestyle. Perhaps only take a few dresses instead of matching co-ords and a hundred statement necklaces. Maybe turn off your 4G so you can quit depop-ing your unworn Topshop jeans. 

We get so caught up with trends, new collections, and celebrity styles sometimes that it becomes information overload and at the end of the day it’s all temporary. That’s why I try (although I realise now it’s not clear) to tell people this blog is less about materialism and which brands to wear but more so about making people feel good, laugh and relax. So why not treat yourself to a getaway… take some time to think, breathe, relax, meditate and really reflect on yourself and the world around you. I assure you it will make a world of difference to your life.