Haha Yoga, Thorns and Flowers and how much drama do we need?

Yoga is not only moving your body into postures. Yoga ist an art of living. In the last weeks I have had the chance to dive deep into this world – in a very intense, at moments also challenging, but also extremely rewarding manner.
Ashutosh Sharma, an Indian Yoga teacher belonging to the Himalayan tradition, was invited by the Yoga Shiatsu Centre to visit Merano for a weekend seminar and a retreat in the mountains. He brought with him a lot of experience with spiritual leaders from his tradition, deep knowledge about our body and the effect of postures on a physical and spiritual level and most of all a suitcase full of simple, practical insights for every day life.
And right after the days with Ashutosh I was to travel to Firenze to write the first part of my exam of my Yoga Teacher Training. One of the questions was: “What is Hatha Yoga?” The word Hatha is composed of the two syllables Ha and Tha. “Ha” stands for the solar energy, the male, the active, inbreath. “Tha” stands for the lunar energy, the female, relaxation, outbreath. Hatha Yoga aims at balancing these two energies – in our body, in our mind and in the universe around us. And according to Yoga you can not separate these entities. Working on one of them will have an effect also on the other areas. Work on your mind and your body will change and also what you perceive around you.
This all sounds very simple in theory. But why is it so difficult for us to put into practice? Even when we are in a peaceful and inspiring setting like a mountain retreat.
In our society, and especially in our Western context, the “Ha” part has much more importance. We define ourselves through what we do and have and not by what we are. So we spend our life being active, wanting to achieve goals and realize projects. We always have a lot of important things to do. The more stressed we are, the more we are admired and envied by our fellow people. Over time, this lets us forget how to really get rest, take breaks that can restore our energy and creativity, how to release tensions in our body and calm our mind. For some people even “relax” becomes a stressful point on their weekly agenda with the idea in their mind that they have to achieve something and be better than others even in a yoga class. That is not Hatha Yoga. This attitude is “Ha”-“Ha” Yoga and it is not balancing our energies, but reinforcing the dominance of the solar, active, competitive, linear, male, directed energy.
So in reality, what we have to do, is to find and recognize the precious “Tha” energy, the capacity to let go, relax, really recharge our batteries to be ready for the next “Ha” cycle. So in “Tha” we breathe out deeply and let go and in “Ha” we breathe in and get active. The breathing process for some people is something completely unconscious and automatic. We cannot not breathe, we would die. So something in us is making sure that we will keep breathing as long as we are in this life even if we don’t think about it or are aware of what we are doing. But what we can do, is compromise the quality of our breath. We are born with natural breathing that we call diaphragmatic breathing. The diaphragm is a muscle that separates our abdomen from our thorax. When we breathe in, the diaphragm is pushed downwards to leave space for our lungs to expand. Our belly will blow up like a balloon. When we breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes and moves back into its position under our ribs and forms a kind of arch that allows the belly to sink in.
What happens in an ever active, stressed, conditioned life, is, that the diaphragm tenses up and changes our breath. We do not breathe in and out properly anymore. Often we breathe in a very superficial way only in our chest region and the air is not allowed to flow freely. We keep our belly in even in outbreath, because it is not accepted to let others see your belly balloon. With this, come a series of problems in our body and it deeply affects our emotional balance. So when we focus on our breath and learn again how to let the diaphragm do its work, we will realise that our posture changes, we will straighten up, that our digestion will work differently and that aches in the neck, shoulders and lumbar region will slowly get better. We will realise that our mind will get calmer. We will be able to perceive our physical and energetic centre that gives us strength and stability. We will bring more balance into our life.
This stability will help us not to get easily disturbed by things that happen around us or that other people do. We will change perspective and instead of seeing problems and bad intentions, we will start seeing opportunities to learn from and grow. We will start seeing the qualities and beauty in and around us and we will stop judging ourselves and others so much for what they do and say. We will see beyond. Our mind will change from a thorn picking mind to a flower picking mind and we will become like a river that finds its way around obstacles by lovingly embracing them and flowing around them. And with this we will learn to let go. To let go of all the little and big dramas we create in our lives when we are not stable, balanced and clear in our minds.
Let’s create some space to dedicate to that powerful instrument that we have been given by nature. Let’s clean our glasses to have a good and clear view. Just sit down and observe your breath. It is our life force. Creating space for it inside and outside will bring more peace, beauty and joy into our hurting, stressed and bleeding world. Let’s start picking beautiful flowers instead of stinging thorns, lets reduce the amount of drama in and around us. And let’s do Hatha Yoga instead of “Haha” Yoga. Enjoy and have a beautiful summer!

Martina

PS: Big thanks to all the great teachers and people in Merano, Firenze and the rest of the world that I have around me in this adventure!

 

 

    

    

The beauty of the unknown and the teachings of the 1000 stair steps

Sunday was mother’s day and I had invited my Mom to spend the day somewhere in the mountains. Without a concrete plan we met up and started driving. Soon it was clear that we were stuck in traffic. We started thinking that maybe it would have been better to go in the other direction or to catch a train instead of taking the car. And there we stood in the queue, my Mum started getting irritated and I felt sorry because it was supposed to be her day.
But in the end we found out that there is no point in getting upset and thinking about all the things we could or should better have done. Once we had decided that, things became easier. We parked the car at the next possible place and started walking towards a cable car that we saw on our right side. The cable car took us up on a hill on the sunny side of the valley. From there we decided to walk North along a panoramic path that surrounds the whole of the mountain chain. We would just walk as long as we wanted and would then either find another cable car back down or we would walk down to the valley and catch a bus back.
And from there the day became just more amazing with every step. The sun was shining, a light breeze made it pleasant to walk. We came into fairy woods and had stretches with beautiful views on the snow covered mountains on the other side. And then we discovered that we would reach a passage that is called the gorge of the 1000 stair steps. We wondered how it would be to cross a gorge that needs 1000 stair steps. We could not see even a small part of the stairs from the top.
But knowing that it was a path that a lot of people cross every day, we just started taking the first steps and trusted that all we needed was there for us. That was exactly what we found. Behind every corner more amazing corners revealed themselves and the stair steps were there ready to use and perfect. We found little waterfalls, steep rocks, little flowers and the play of sunshine. We were warned that there might be danger of falling rocks, but everything worked out fine, we reached the other side of the gorge and arrived in an area with lush green meadows and old farmer houses and thought that we had arrived and that the surprises were over for the day. But then we found out that till the end we would find more adventures with a hanging bridge and a spectacular windy view point overlooking the valley, before we would jump on the cable car to fly back down to the valley.
With every step I took, I realized that this is exactly how life is. You start in the morning with an idea of how your day or your way should be and if you get caught in the irritation of the first obstacles and start thinking that you have taken the wrong decisions, you might lose the beauty and the surprise of just stopping for a moment and see what is around you while you are stuck in a difficult place or situation that you did not plan like that. You might discover that it is exactly the place you are supposed to be and if only you open your eyes and trust that you do not have to know every detail before you take the first step, you might find places and people of a beauty that are beyond all of your expectations.
I take with me the memories of an amazing day and the wish to live more of the days in my life with an attitude like this. I would like to take steps without knowing where I will end up and what it will lead up to. I would like to trust that even if moments might seem out of place and wrong, even if sometimes I feel frustrated, angry or sad, someone has taken care of building exactly the stair steps that I need to cross whatever gorges I will meet and that behind every corner that I cannot see from where I start from, there might be surprises I could not imagine and did not expect. And that there will be the right people on my way, exactly where and when I need them to show me the right way.
Let’s not get stuck too much in worries about what we should have done or should have planned better. Let’s take what comes our way and discover the adventures that are waiting for us exactly where we are. Take one step at a time and enjoy the sunshine while it’s there. And even if there are still also rainy, cold and stormy days, they are there for a reason and might be exactly what we need to find the next cable car into the sunshine. Let’s go and explore.


                      

Stronger than me … let it flow

Writing makes me happy and moves me. It’s ages that I have not published anything here. But today I just felt it is time to come back and say a few words. It’s not that I have not been writing in the meantime. I’m constantly putting thoughts and experiences into words. Words and sentences are my way of structuring and understanding the world. In the last months I have been writing regular reports for my yoga teacher training, summaries about talks in the yoga centre, concepts for workshops and projects.

More and more I understand that I love to sit down, concentrate and then just let the words flow. They come without an effort in different languages. They come from deep down inside and I just like letting them bubble up and spill out onto a paper or my computer. And only in a second moment I think that maybe I should make sure that the words I am writing are also meant to be read by an audience. That is not on my mind at all while I sit and write. It’s just me and the words.  I can see that this kind of writing brings together my rational, analytical, linear and my circular, flowing, creative me. And they really like collaborating like this.

That makes me think that it is something precious. Maybe not in a commercial sense, maybe it is not something that makes a difference to the masses. But it does for me. I should keep space and time for something like this that makes me feel whole and one. It is like a bridge between different parts of myself and it makes me feel alive. For other people painting or singing or dancing or something completely different might have this effect. For me it’s writing.

And while I discover this deep love for creating pieces of written language, I also discover another very important thing. I need to live and love and play, paint and sing and dance, cry and laugh, travel, walk in the mountains and swim in the sea. I need to observe, to listen and talk, get in contact and experience myself and others, because what I want to write about, is life. Life inside me and life in the outside world. The little things and the big. Especially the things that seem small at first sight and then show themselves as the ones that count.

And while I sit here and reflect, another insight is finding its way to my mind. There is one more fundamental thing that I need. Something that I am discovering little by little, more and more every day through my yoga practice and which at first sight might seem a paradox. What I need to be able to choose the right words, is first of all, silence. Deep, delicious silence and restoring rest. And then, from somewhere, the words flow. Sometimes like a little fountain or a fresh well, sometimes like a deep river or a waterfall, sometimes like small raindrops or the big ocean. And they are stronger than myself.

And what gets you flowing? 

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Grandmothers shaking the world (and me) 

It’s Monday and I am looking back on one of the most extraordinary weekends ever. This last weekend, Merano hosted the birthing event of the Council of European Grandmothers and I was part of the group who had taken initiative to make it happen. 

The idea behind the weekend was to bring together women from all over Europe and create a platform for them to share their life experience, wisdom and knowledge, to think about and find ways of how to bring “grandmother qualities” like love, care and connection to nature into the world and especially to those who are weak and without a voice: children, elders and all those people who have lost their roots and values, are sad and sick or fleeing from something scary and cannot see the beauty of our world anymore.  

Now I am sitting here at my breakfast table, letting the events pass in my mind again and I feel quite overwhelmed. I am just realising that this project has so many different layers and levels and that it is a huge playground for learning life lessons. 

I would like to share just a few very personal thoughts here, the results of the meeting will have to find other ways of communication. 

So how has this meeting affected me? Probably I still cannot tell and a lot will emerge only with time passing. But what is certain, is, that I am not the same anymore. Meeting all these women with their life stories and feeling the strength and the energy that was created by having them all together in one room, gave me a moment of revelation. Suddenly it struck me that wherever I will go from now, whenever I will be in situations that   need power and strength from within, I have all these women backing me up. Not in the sense of strength in a material and manifest way, but in the sense of moral support, of a deep connection that lets me feel that I do not stand alone. Maybe this sounds a bit strange and crazy, it is one of those feelings or truths that cannot easily be put into words, because it is something that comes from deep down in the guts and not the rational head. 

And this duality of intuitive female power and wisdom and the rational and analytical male quality is the other thing that struck me with incredible force this last weekend. 

On one hand it was so clearly felt that all the women, from younger to older, want to contribute to the creation of a new culture. By culture, I mean, a new way of living together, a new way to relate to each other, a new way of working together. All had the wish to do something, to create a space in which ideas and projects can flow freely and grow into action, a network that allows everybody to bring  in what they know and can offer to the world, a platform that allows cooperation and learning from eachother and with this create a wave that can reach every corner of their local surroundings, their countries and the world. 

But on the other hand, what also was felt very clearly, especially in the discussions of how to concretely organise and realize a possible council, is how difficult it is for everybody, even for experienced and wise women, to trust that something can flow and grow without a hierarchical structure and institutional control, how dependent we still are on someone who shows the direction and takes decisions out of an authoritarian position and how quickly we fall into the habit of giving categories and labels and put things we hear into a box of right or wrong and good or bad. 

And I was in the middle of it all, trying to be as open and unbiased as possible, trying to do my job as a facilitator in a way that would allow all opinions to be expressed, that would support constructive dialogs and that would make it possible to extract the important points that everybody could say yes to with all their heart. 

And I think I did my job quite well, at least judging from all the lovely feedback I received and that made my ego grow for a few centimeters. But what I also see is that at some point I reached my limits from a methodical point of view and from a personal and energetic point of view and that I also got very much caught in the “old ways” of thinking and doing. It made me realise that I want to learn more about the processes in circles and how to empower groups to find connecting solutions that can allow communities and working circles that are based on real equality, deep respect and friendly acceptance. 

And as Grandmother Agnes from the International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers said: “Do you think you can do that? Do you think you can use your “thinking thing” well, be honest and truthful and walk your talk? I think you can! Just do it! And be a voice for all the voiceless: the two legged, the four legged and all that is out there – the trees and the rivers, the mountains  and the oceans. They need you”. 

Thank you all for this extremely rich weekend. 

   
 

Reality & Fantasy, and a big headache

Today is a clear and sunny Sunday, but it is a few days that I carry a headache around with me that now also has developped into a cold, so my body just forces me to take a quiet day in bed. And it seems that I need it, it’s late afternoon now, and a part from breakfast and lunch I have only slept. 

Now I’m awake, still weak and wobbly, but this gives me the chance to take a few minutes to think about my summer before starting into a busy and excitingly new autumn. 

I love summer. Summer to me means warm and long days with a lot of sun, being able to wear dresses that leave you with bare arms and legs to feel the air directly on the skin and the possibility to take holidays and weekends on lakes and the sea or to climb up into the mountains. 

This summer was different than other summers though. In July, after a 8 years together, I quit my job in Maico, leaving behind eight-hour-office days, communication projects for window fittings, a lot of meetings and planning work and most difficult – a whole bunch of wonderful people who had been in my life almost every day for all those years. 

It was time for me to leave, because I need to find other ways to live my life, because I long for different rhythms and contents, because I feel that I’d like to work more with my body and my hands and a little less with my head and computers, and because I want to concentrate more on people than on products. 

So at the end of July we celebrated a good-bye garden party with the closest colleagues who will hopefully last as friends and then suddenly I was free. Free to decide where to go and what to do, free to take a holiday or study or work. And I decided to go South for a few weeks. First to Southern Italy for a few days in romantic Napoli and then to Greece to do some studying. And both, I thought, should be combined with some sun and sea and good times at the beach. 

Napoli

So I packed my beloved backpack and jumped on the train to Napoli to visit my friend I had met there in the most romantic way (at least I think so) a few months earlier. I knew that it would not be only a happy and pink love holiday, because we had seen eachother a few times after we got to know eachother and it had already been clarified that he did not think we could work as a couple. But still I could not wait to see him again and we had tickets for a concert of Jovanotti I was really looking forward to. And Napoli is a city that makes me feel good. So I thought that maybe spending some relaxing days together in summer Napoli could do some magic. I don’t know why, but I love walking the streets of that colourful city, find a place on the rocks on the lungomare (along the sea) and look out on the sea, Napoli’s castle, the little fisher boats and feel the warm and fuzzy southern atmosphere. It gives me peace. 

And against what many people think of Naples, I feel safe there. This time even more, because I knew that while I was enjoying the city, my friend was around there driving his bus and that eventually he would come by and pick me up and take me around town with him on the bus. I loved every minute. We also took a day at the sea on the Amalfi coast. And if most tourists have to travel long ways to get to their holiday destinations on the coast, I had the luxury to feel like a local and just jump on a motorbike to reach the most beautiful beaches just in a little hour. After having travelled on my own to quite a few beautiful beaches in the world, to me it felt just perfect to sit in the back of the bike and hold on to a man I really like. 

And then the concert. Sitting in that football stadium waiting for one of my favourite Italian artists together with thousands of other people and knowing that it would be special and different from other concerts and other cities made me feel special. The people of Napoli, last year, lost one of their biggest musicians, Pino Daniele, and it was clear thst Jovanotti who admired him and had worked with him, would pay tribute to him. And he did, together with Eros Ramazotti (another Italian singer and friend). It was spectacular: the show, the music, the words spoken and the atmosphere in the stadium. The only bitter pill was that I could sense that my friend was not really there with me. I tried to ignore it and only to enjoy the beauty of these moments. 

The next day I was to travel to Rome to get ready to fly to Greece. So on Monday I was accompanied to the train and with a few tears we waived goodbye – I was sad because I would have wanted to spend many more days together and he was sad because I was not the one he was looking for. But this I know with this clarity only now, back there on the train I still hoped I could go back to Napoli for some more days together after my stay in Greece. 

Greece

I had already been in Greece for last year’s summer holiday wit my Mum and we loved it. Greece is so full of history and myth, beautiful people and places and the warm mediterranean quality that makes me also feel warm and soft and happy. 

This time I was going to meet Sofia from Cafè Ecole in Athens. We had arranged for me to stay at her house with her for 10 days to get an insight in the work in her school for holistic personal development. Sofia calls herself a facilitator, rather than a therapist. The idea is that through her working method she gives people the possibility to discover and understand how they perceive the world, what patterns and logic they follow and what heritage and ressources they carry withon them. The method is based on the psychotherapy approach developed by Adler (who is considered one of the three fathers of modern psychotherapy along with Freud and Jung) wich has then been taken by the Greek anthropologist Konstantin Fotinas and developed further to become the method of Cafè Ecole. 

Now, to be able to understand how Cafè Ecole  works, Sofia had proposed to work with me on my personal topics. I will not go into detail on what we exactly worked, but I would like to share a little bit of the immediate effects of the time with Sofia. First of all it is important to say that we worked very intensely for 10 days and I took just one morning off to take a walk through Athen’s old town. Sofia says, what we did in 10 days, can take up to two years with other people who come to her. So maybe it isnot so strange that the end of the 10 days I was quite full of information and emotions and had the strong urge to get out. And since I was in Greece, it was easy to decide to take a few days off on an island with crystal blue water and beautiful beaches. I booked a boat to Aegina, one of the nearest islands just about an hour from Pireaus port and found a room to stay in for my little three days holiday. 

While waiting for my check-in I walked around the little charming port of Aegina town and full of joy I jumped on a little wall and walked along observing boats and birds and the waves. Unfortunately though I did not pay attention enough to where I put my feet and so it happened that I did not see a little step in the wall and managed to scratch my toe quite deeply open undetneath my foot. My white sandal turned red within seconds and I had to acknowledge that I had hurt my toe quite badly. I had to find a pharmacy and get a cleaning lotion and plasters. And they told me that they would recommend not to go swimming, because even if it is said that the salty sea water is good for wound healing, there is still a good possibility for bacteria and dirt to cause an infection. That meant that I had arrived in a little paradise in the sea and that I was not to enjoy the beautiful water. I found myself sitting there on my first night so sad and angry. I was on a romantic island alone with a hurt toe and a lot of psychological stuff to digest and I hated it. 

I wanted to be able to bike and walk and swim, I wanted to go back to Napoli and spend 10 more days with my friend on a biking holiday in the mountains of Southern Italy and I wanted to be happy and not feeling this deep loneliness that was creeping up inside. It was summer and I wanted to enjoy it. 

But sometimes life wants things to be different. So slowly I started to understand that I would not go back to Napoli after my stay in Greece. I was not fit enough for the biking holiday my friend was going on, I had a wounded toe that would take weeks to heal and I had to realise that my friend would have been happy to have me as a companion for the biking tour but nothing more. Not being able to join the biking programme that would have meant for me to organise the rest of my holiday again on my own. I can travel alone, I have done it before, but in this very moment the thought of spending more days on my own made me feel sick. With a heavy heart I booked a train home to Merano. 

Back home

Already on the way back home and then over the next day aggressive anger and sadness built up more and more inside me. I felt tired of every thing and could not find the energy to start thinking about all the projects waiting for me ahead. I realised that again I had taken a few nice emotions and built a picture of illusions on top of them. I felt so betrayed, but realised that I had betrayed myself. I felt sad, because it happens often to me that I seem to think that reality does not hold rewarding romantic relationships for me, so I have to build them in my imagination. And the I feel so angry and sad when I hear that what I think and feel is not realistic. This anger made me so furious that I could not stand to see the pictures my friend sent me from his biking tour and I could not stand to hear him tell me that he had had the time of his life on this holiday and I could even less stand to hear him explain that my expectations towards him are far from reality. I was so angry I had to put the phone down on him. I have not heard from him since and I cannot contact him because I would explode again. 

But now, a part from the pain and the anger, I am also thinking it has been avery precious experience. Maybe it has helped me to see more clearly what I am longing for and what is good for me and what not. It is clearer for me what I wish for the next time I will meet a man I am interested in. I wish that I can meet someone one day, who will allow me tobuild a relationship that does not demand that I build illusions in my imagination – someone who I can tell with all my heart I like you and who can answer I like you too, without having to add “ifs” or “buts”. 

The last two days, I had the luck to be with a group of beautiful people for the conclusion of a course that we have shared over the last year. It was a course called “Systemic Communication and NLP”, but in reality it was much more. In reality it gave us the chance to learn to get in contact with what is alive inside ourselves and others. We had the chance to get an insight into how relationships work and how sustainable communities can be formed. For the closing modul we received the task to think of how to express and share something of our authentic personalities in 40 minutes time. Again I will not go into detail of what I experienced in these last two days, I can just tell you that it was inspiring, touching, intense and exhausting like my whole summer. 

Looking back on this rollercoaster summer and the last two days, I am full to the brim with thankfulness and life, but also broken and lying flat on the ground. With a big headache. That’s life.  

                                                                         

Struggeling my way to happiness…

Why is it sometimes so hard to go and get what is good for you? 

I am really close to arriving at a big changing point in my life once again. I have one more month to go at my old work. After that I have the chance to change my life into a life that is closer to what I’d like it to be.

But it seems, that for some reason, to be able to change I first have to feel the full weight of what I don’t want to do and be. Maybe deep down a part of me is afraid of changing even with the chance that it could be for the better. 

One thing that I would like to change is the hours I sit in front of a computer or in an office during my working time. And I have a lot of ideas of what that could be. But right now I’m working office hours and then sit even more in front of the computer to write mails, concepts and files for my volunteer projects, sit in meetings and discussions or think about business plans for the future. 

My body does not like this at all. It is protesting and blowing up with air and weight. It wants to be seen and heard. It wants to move. And what do I do? I can not find the energy to get up and go out and move regularly even if I know that it would make me feel good. And instead I eat. 

And I’d like to do something that brings me more into touch with nature, natural rhythms and gives me the chance to use my hands in something creative and physical, but again I find myself thinking and writing and communicating on digital devices in digital environments. 

And at last I need physical contact, some warm hugs, someone to cuddle up with, someone to feel real with and what do I do? People who show interest are pushed away, those who are far away I miss and so I isolate myself in my busy timetable and try to understand what I have to do to really get in close contact and relationships only on a theoretical basis. 

Smart books, articles,  people and even myself tell me to let go, to accept and surrender, to be thankful for all the beautiful things I already have in my life and to take things easily, to breathe, to believe, to be nice to myself, to take small steps, to relax, to walk, to enjoy, to do what is good for me, not to be conditioned by what others say and expect, to sit in silence, to focus, to just do what makes me happy. 

I’m a bit confused right now. I don’t seem to know what to do to be happy and what is good for me. Or maybe I do not really want to be happy and feel good. So I just sit here and once again I write an article on a digital plattform instead of going out into nature, moving and smiling to someone who wants to hold me tight and do easy and simple things feeling happy and light. 

But then again I look through my pictures of the last weeks and think to myself: “What are you saying, look at all the nice people you have around you, all the beautiful places you go to and all the interesting experiences and opportunities you are living – it’s like a fairy tale!” And this makes me almost happy even if I am a bit lazy and tired and heavy right now. And I know I am lucky to have the luxury to ask myself all these questions and that I could just enjoy more and not judge myself so much for everything I think and do. 

So let the sunshine in. All is well.

   
                          

Feelings, needs and strategies and is love really all we need?

I’m deeply inspired and instead of cleaning my house, I have to sit down and write a few words. Doors seem to open everywhere around me, I am getting one possibility and chance offered after the other and I seem to meet exactly the people I need to meet to be able to take the next steps to my new life projects. And still there is this fear inside me that is (still) holding me back. What is that about?

On Friday I attended a talk by Swami Nitya, our spiritual teacher that regularly holds seminars in the Yoga Centre and who I deeply admire for her knowledge, life experience and wisdom. The topic was: “What is love from Yoga’s point of view?”

And as you can imagine the topic goes far beyond a merely romantic approach to the issue, but unlike one might expect it does not exclude it. The principle behind the understanding of love in Yoga is based on a very universal and finally strikingly simple concept: Yoga is a Sanskrit word that means union and what other than feeling one and united is it to be in love? So if Yoga = Love = Oneness and everything in the world is part of this oneness, it is not right to say as the Beatles put it,  all we need is love, but we have to change the title into “All we are is love”.

But if this is true, how come our world and our societies are so full of feelings that are far away from being loving? Why is there so much hatred and violence? If humans’ nature is made of love and we all are the expression of different manifestations of the same life energy or natural elements and there is no difference between nationalities, religions, cultures, the colour of our skin, animals and trees and whatever else we can find in this world, how come we fight each other and destroy our environment and our planet?

Well, it seems, that a some point in human history, some people discovered the need to be more powerful than others, they discovered the wish to be in control and to possess more than others. And they also found out that by keeping people separate, by cultivating values like competition, greed and the longing for material possessions it is much more simple to manipulate people and to keep whole communities under control.
Once people think they need to be better than others and they have to have more than others to survive and to be respectable in this world it is very easy for those who are controlling the game to work with a very powerful tool: fear.

Fear is what keeps us blocked, fear is what keeps us small. Fear of not having enough is what guarantees that people will continue to obey the rules of our society. It has come so far that we even think these societies based on power and material wealth are natural and cannot be changed because humankind is just like that. Even if we suffer and even if we can sense that there is something that is going profoundly wrong.

We have lost faith that it is possible to change something if we just have the courage to start somewhere in our private environment. We don’t think we will be allowed to live a life that is based on cooperation, creativity and connection. So also our understanding of love has become one of dependency, attachment and the fear to loose something that we think is ours. It’s my house, my job, my man, my child, my idea and my dream of a better future.

If only we could see that we are all part of the same big energy and that we all have our place and our task in this world that will satisfy ourselves and at the same time contribute to the good of all. If only we could see that we all are divine in the same way and have fantastic talents and possibilities, we could just relax and see the beauty in ourselves and in all the people and creatures we meet. We could see that we are all needed in the beautiful and colourful picture of oneness and there is no need to be afraid or to control or to strive for more and more material possession.

And once we get an intuition for what that means, we will start changing the way we perceive the world, the way we think about and judge ourselves and others, the way we feel and the way we express ourselves – in words and in deeds. We will find ways to communicate that create connection and not separation, we will start building relationships that are constructive and supporting, we will start being more aware and mindful in treating ourselves and others. We will learn to express needs and feelings in a peaceful way that gives others the space to cooperate with us without having to give up their own needs and feelings. We would be able to find strategies that allow us all to be free and become what we are meant to be.

I think these are beautiful thoughts that can give courage and faith in a more healthy and peaceful world. So let’s help each other to get rid of our fears, let’s support each other to be free and to find the energy and creativity that is so much needed in our world.

So yes, in the end, all we need is love. Because all we are is love.

This article has been deeply inspired by two sources, that I want to cite to make clear, that what I write is not something that I have invented. I have just made the concepts and the approaches mine, because I feel that they are what I need to find a sense in being here and because I feel that is important to share the thoughts as widely as possible. Obviously what you read here, is my understanding of what I have learnt and I hope I am doing no wrong to those people who have given me the gift of hearing their teachings, if so please let me know and I will either remove or correct the contents.

Thank you, Swami Nitya for your beautiful talk. You can find more about and from Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati on her website: http://www.athayoga.info
She regularly teaches in Meran, so if you are interested in her approaches check for updated seminars here: http://www.yszm.it

Thanks to Terra Institute who has put together a beautiful course on systemic communication and NLP that covers also excursions into the world of non-violent communication by Marshall Rosenberg, that is providing tools and insights into human needs, feelings, relationships and life visions in a systemic context that also supports the idea that everything is connected and that all we think and do has an impact on a wider range than just our separate, individual being. Here you can find some more about the organisation and what they do when they don’t teach me: http://www.terra-institute.eu

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Lines and circles, ups and downs and the search for the right balance

It’s quite a few months now, that I have not found the right mood to sit down and write. On the one hand because I had so much to learn and live and experience that I could not find the time, on the other hand because I either was so down that I thought I cannot and do not want to share my mood here, or was so happy and floating along that again I thought there is no point in writing anything here. But looking back on the last months, in fact I think there is a lot I could have written about. I have gone on with my course on systemic communication and NLP and learned a lot about feelings, needs and relationships. I have looked into the past and tried to imagine visions for my future. And I have learned that it is important to be able to see all the sides and facets we have in our personality and accept  them in order to be whole and healthy and to be able to live an authentic life with a sense. A sense for ourselves and for the world we live in.

I have been in seminars, actually I have even translated some of them, about the female and male principle and how it can be harmful to us and the world if they are out of balance. I have been working on a project together with a circle of women from my yoga center that is called “Council of European Grandmothers” that aims at bringing together different women from different countries in Europe taking with them life experience, knowledge, traditions and rituals to share among them and in a second step with the public. Old European cultural wisdom that in our societey is threatened to be lost. We would like to build bridges between the generations and ensure that also the young people who are growing up now and that will have the diffcult task to live in the world we leave for them, have at least the choice to get to know the old wisdom that lays in nature, our culture and humanity and that the old generations still know so much better than us. Inspired by the council of the 13 Indigenous Grandmothers we would like to gather “Grandmothers” from Europe to meet and discuss, to imagine new solutions and to study activities that can be brought to their home countries. I can’t wait to meet all the women who will join us for that first meeting in September, and I can’t wait to see what we can learn from them and what can grow from bringing them together.

And I hope that I will also have the chance to learn some more from children. I do not have children myself, I have not really worked with children so far and I have no qualifications in working with kids. But I had the beautiful occasion to receive a few stories as a gift from my aunt Vibeke who is a storyteller. I received them in Norwegian, passed on only orally, told again and again until I could remember them by heart. I trained telling them in German to myself and to the cat that lives in my house to be ready for an important day in the yoga center. We had organised a fundraising day under the motto of mindfulness in order to finance our Grandmother meeting in September. During this day yoga teachers, a professional dancer and a teacher held sessions about yoga philosphy and practice, different massage and relaxation techniques, dancing elements and emotions, dancing male lines and female circles, respectful treatment of children and youngsters and unconditioned love. Among these professionals, I had the chance to offer an hour of story telling to kids and adults. And I loved it. I loved to sit in a circle with five or six adults and this time just one kid and tell the stories my aunt had given to me. I loved to tell them about the tradition behind story telling and I loved the idea that the stories I told left something in their hearts and that maybe they would work and spread further.

But as I observed myself as being quite confident as far as adults’ reactions and questions are concerned, I did not feel quite  as confident when it comes to children. I felt that I was very unsure about how to make clear what I wanted them to do and to guide them in their questions and spontaneous reactions. I was not sure how to do this in a respectful and constructive way. So this is definitely a field I would like to learn more about. Children have so much wisdom and so much knowledge about the world, so I would love to learn more from them and at the same time be able to give them impulses that can allow them to keep their deep connection to who they are and what they want in this world. So I am really looking forward to Mid-May when Sofia from Athens (I have mentioned her in one of my earlier posts) will come and talk about the wisdom of children and what we can learn from them. And in the meantime I will work some more on my course topics of “I” and “you” and “we”, I will try to become friends also with those parts and reactions of me I don’t like too much, I will try to be open and thankful for the people I meet and have to let go again. And first of all I will try to take care of myself, my energy level and get some rest after these last very intense months to be ready for the months ahead which promise to be at least as exciting and intense as the last ones have been.

 

 

 

 

And thank God and Godess it’s spring time and the sun is warming these days. I love feeling my bones getting warm from outside in and from inside out.

 

 

My perfect family – dedicated to my first big love

Today it’s exactly five years that my Dad took his last deep breath here in this life. The moment he decided to leave was almost poetic. It was early in the morning and his wife Rita had just put on some coffee to give us some warmth after a long night sitting awake. And while she was in the kitchen and the delicious smell of freshly brewed coffee reached my nose and maybe also my Dad’s, he decided that it was the perfect moment to go.

They say that the first of November is a special day because the gates to the other world are wider open than usual. It that’s true, my Dad found an easy crossing. At least he seemed perfectly peaceful to me. I am grateful that I was there holding his hand in that very precious moment. And now tears are running down my face because I just realise what a huge gift he gave me as a goodbye by letting me sit there by his side.

And it has taken me almost 40 years to just get an idea of what is meant when people say that every child is born into the family that is perfect for it and the every child is perfect for the parents who have it. If I look at who I am now and where I come from, today I am grateful. When I was younger and sometimes even now it still happens that I think that things I encounter in my life and I don’t like much, come from experiences I have lived in my childhood. Beliefs like thinking that my Dad always preferred my brother to me or that he didn’t want us after all, because one day he told me that he has sacrified his whole life to us and we should at least behave like grateful children. Or thoughts like I would never be able to really love someone because my parents did not know how to love each other anymore and maybe they did not even love themselves so much, so I never learned to love myself either.

But then there are days like yesterday and today. Sometimes days have the power to make something happen inside you and change something. Yesterday I spent the day with my Mum and my aunt Vibeke. We went together to my Friday morning Yoga lesson with yummie breakfast and I could just literally feel some pieces fall into place. Bringing together my family and the yoga environment that has become so dear to me especially in the last months, was special. I felt so safe and taken care of in that class. Suddenly I felt my roots and my wings, and the crazy thing is, they have been there all way long.

Later that day, while walking in the sun, my Mum said: ” Maybe we did something right in your childhood after all.” And I can see that she is absolutely right. I had the childhood I needed to grow and make all the experiences to become what I am today. Today I am a grown-up woman (not always, but more and more) who can take care of herself, treasuring all the beautiful memories and teachings, but with the strength and power to let go and be open for all the experiences that are still to come.

And this is possible only because of my perfect family, who have given me all they could give and all that I needed. What they have given to me, and still keep giving, I would like to give back to the world in some way. And today the doors to the other world are wide open again and I can feel that my first big love is here to hold my hand and gives me all his support so that I can let go with ease and be free for what is beautiful here and now.

Thank you. I know that I never walk alone.

“Your thoughts can be changed”…

…is what the label of my Yogi Tea told me this morning. It’s interesting, because this is a question I have been thinking and reading about a lot lately. In different contexts and situations. Probably everybody agrees on the fact that changing thoughts is possible if you talk about issues where facts can teach and prove things we thought were different before. That’s the principle science is based on. Most of us believe scientific proof. But what about deeper lying thoughts that cannot be proven. And especially, what about thoughts we have about ourselves? And what about thoughts and beliefs we are not even aware of, because we carry them with us without realising – passed on from generations to generations becoming universal truths – at least in our little individual universe?

This summer I met Sofia in Athens. She leads a centre for holistic personal development in Greece. I was on holiday with my Mum and Sofia dedicated one afternoon to us – walking around old town and up to the Acropolis. We met because I was interested in understanding what her work was about and how she organised her Cafe Ecole (www.cafecole.gr). We talked about this and that, about Greek mythology, about the special energy that can be felt in certain places, about the balance of power and principles in the world and about personal healing and growth. At some point my Mum said that she thinks that we have certain patterns in our personality that we cannot change even if we try hard. Sofia’s answer was: “You can change everything!”. The absolute confidence she said this with is still on my mind today. Sofia, I’d like to talk to you about this some more. 🙂

She also said another sentence that I carry with me like a treasure. I am living an experience that is touching me deeply. I met someone who gave me the chance to experience how it feels to be in the right place with the right person at the right moment. Without any doubt. At the same time though I also had to learn to accept that only because I feel this way it can be different for the other person and that what we experienced together can have one meaning to me and completely another meaning to the other. And I am still struggling with letting go without feeling a big loss. What she said about this is: “See it as a big gift. It is beautiful that you received the chance to live moments like these. And if you have to let go now, it’s not because you are not worth having a relationship with someone who feels the same for you, but because you are not ready to have it. When you are ready, you will get exactly what you wish.” How powerful is this? Changing perspective and seeing that your receive exactly what you need to make the experiences that are right for you in this very moment, can change a situation that hurts you and makes you sad into a gift and give you courage to carry on.

Obviously this means that we need faith and confidence. To be able to accept things like these, it helps to believe that there is a plan behind things, that there is some form of intelligence that is beyond our daily perception. Call it God or universe or life energy. It also needs the confidence that we are here to make experiences, that we are here to live our lives exactly as we are doing and that in the end everything is good as it is.

But why is there still so much suffering in the world then, why do so many of us feel that the world is a big threatening chaos? A few weeks ago I attended a Yoga seminar in my yoga centre and the teacher said: ” You know, the world is exactly as it is supposed to be. If you see it chaotic, it’s because you have chaos inside and you can only see the mirror of what you have inside.” So what he means is, that if we organise things differently inside, the outside will also change. One way to do so is to calm your mind and let it rest and become clear through meditation. He said that he is happy if we don’t believe what he says, he is happy if we have the courage and patience to try to see for ourselves.

And he is not alone thinking along these lines. I have read a few books by Louise Hay and Lise Bourbeau lately. In the end they say something similar. If you observe the world around you and how you treat and think of others, you will know how you treat and think of yourself. If you can start accepting others for what they are, then you can start accepting yourself for what you are. And once you can accept yourself and others and forgive people around you who you feel have done you wrong, you can also forgive yourself and start changing into someone more balanced, healthy and happy. And once you get more balanced, healthy and happy, the world around you will also.

So can it be, that if we work on ourselves by taking care of ourselves, by observing ourselves and others, by practicing yoga and meditation, by being patient and aware, by being friendly and forgiving with ourselves and others, that we really can make a change? I don’t know, but I guess it does not hurt to try. And to get back to the talk with Sofia in Athens and closing with one more thing she said: “If we cannot find peace within, there will never be peace outside.” At least these are a few thoughts, that are worth thinking about.