Alumni Spotlight: Marianne Butler

Moved around a lot as a child, experienced different ways of doing things, but needed more "grounding" as an adult. Currently working in education following years studying in an academic background.

Why did you choose this program?

I wanted to try something completely different, outside of my previous experiences. I was attracted to the aspects of community life and work, and the opportunity to develop personally with structured support. In addition, working in a beautiful, mountainous space in Canada was very interesting to me, I wanted a wide open space where I could breath (literally and figuratively).

What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?

I had assistance with getting to the center, was picked up from the bus stop. I was also provided with work clothes and told which ones I needed to bring/buy myself in advance. Food and accommodation was provided throughout my stay, as well as teachings, group meditation sessions and other reflection events.

What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?

Make sure you have insurance! I had a small accident (I was working on a building site, and was a complete novice, so it was nothing major, but it was something that I needed to get checked over for), and the insurance provider I was with was very complicated. Spend more money there, so that if you do get sick/ hurt, you don't have to worry about it then!

What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?

Whilst I was at Clear Sky (this was in 2011, and I know they are continually adapting and tweaking the program), I would get up, meditate with the group, eat breakfast and then start my Karma Yoga for the day. As Sky Roots (an additional building on the property) was being built at the time, this meant I was working on a building site until lunch. Then the same again in the afternoon until dark (ish) and back for a shower, change, get ready for dinner and some form of group activity/meditation if I wanted to.

Weekends were spent taking trips in the local area, sometimes watching Netflix or meditating.

Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?

My biggest fear was not being able to find people and/or a place where I felt comfortable, I am quite shy and was worried about talking to people, starting conversations, etc., etc. I overcame it though travelling alone, being honest with myself and others about how I was feeling, and finding a place like Clear Sky, whilst accepting that I prefer to put down "roots" no matter where I am, rather than just "seeing everything". My views have changed because now I accept that it is ok to be quiet, and being open to others is not the same as being loud and brash!

What should you do when you are confronted with something you think is utterly ridiculous?

In my case, there was a fellow Karma Yogi who came to pick me up on my first day from the bus stop; she first offered to buy me a Starbucks and then told me how meditation was aiming to feel the breath at the tip of the nose.

Stick it out, look at why it makes you feel awkward, and give it time. I now love breathing meditations, because they center me and keep me grounded. Still not a massive fan of Starbucks. So it's really true: you can take it or leave it!