Slowing down the mind patterns

Why has this happened to me? It happens often that we get stuck somewhere and desperately look for answers, look for explanation in our mind. We feel that we have the right to find out or to know. And we think and think, and create stories. We do our own storytelling.

What if we let go of the explanation on why things are a certain way? You could insist on your right of being right, you could insist on your right to find an explanation, you could grasp to words, concepts or ideas. That would maybe bring you somewhere on the very short term, to have a satisfaction of a second making you feel good shortly.

A brief satisfaction like that is not much, everything that you tried to explain so hard is just one of the infinite realities possible. Our mind can work really hard to find many other possibilities. And in fact, in the mid or the long term, those explanations do not bring you much further. They actually put chains on to the freedom of your mind and your intuition. They are obstacles on how we feel.

What if we try to see things as they are now, without getting lost in explanations, things that concern our own history but also things that concern the history of other people, of situations and the worlds around us. If we see things as they are now, there is not much to explain, probably, there is more of being and feeling. And that feeling can be uncomfortable, that’s all right, staying with it will teach us.

One of my teachers uses the word rumination, it’s so appropriate. How much energy do I spend ruminating onto my past, onto what could be different if…

For myself, I am now trying to find more space. Creating space between the thought of having to find an explanation or a reason and the quick reaction of my mind spinning for it. It does not work all the time, but I am on it.

Simplifying my life

During the weeks between Christmas and the beginning of the new year I have been meditating, journalling and turning inside to listen. One thing that has become clear to me is that my life is rather complicated, or maybe complex defines it better. Complex in the sense that I do many different things, some of them apparently unrelated to each other. I live in different places, I have at least 5 toothbrushes spread in 5 homes, I don’t remember where my favourite mala is …

This is me. Sometimes I wonder why it’s like that. But it’s not bothering me, it’s keeping me awake and gives me the opportunity to see things from a different perspective each time and hopefully to share my experiences with others. I have learned to be organised and to live out of a suitcase, as they say. And it works.

Yet during these days of introspection I did find out that there’s a lot I could improve. And when I say improve I just mean simplify. There is still so much complexity in my nomad life. Simplifying is not easy at all. It’s a constant process of re-evaluating what really counts and eliminating what is not important (any more). And the good news is: you are never done. One might say that’s rather the bad news.

I think it’s very positive. We can compare it to yoga asana, you are constantly re-inventing the pose, adapting it, learning new things on anatomical and energetic levels. If you get to a point where you think you are done with the pose, you lost your open view and your capacity to learn further. Likewise, reconsidering the system of what counts in your life, what is important, what makes you feel alive and what not, is a constant process that never ends and that makes us keep a soft and receptive mind.

Because that’s what’s about: keeping open, receptive and flexible. In order to do that, we need space, space that has to be created by taking away “stuff” we don’t need, by simplifying. And of course I am not talking about the physical flexibility. Which, will come anyway once the mind declutters, simplifies and focuses.

Further read on how to simplify your life here.

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One year without new clothes – part 4- I received the most beautiful yoga leggings from my dad for Xmas!

I basically am almost done with completing one year without buying new clothes. There is just another three months to go! And to my surprise, it has been really easy. I never thought that I needed more clothes, there was always enough, and I actually gave away plenty of clothes and reduced my wardrobe even more. I learned a lot about myself and my “patterns” as a shopper, even if I have never been a crazy one, and I am sure this will help me even after I complete the year at the end of March 2017.

That said, I’ll be honest: there is one item I really kept on seeing and having thoughts about. You know I am a yoga teacher, there are days I only wear yoga clothes from morning to evening. I wake up, do my own practice, go teach maybe two or three classes in different yoga outfits. So there was this yoga leggings by Teeki I really liked. Yes. I saw it probably already two months ago for the first time. I couldn’t get them out of my head. I mean, yes of course, they where not a constant thought, but I kept on seeing them: hanging in the yoga studio where I teach and online…

So I told my dad! Yes, I am 40 and yet I tell things like that to my father. And since it was just before Christmas, he simply told me: “well, I will buy them for you as a gift! Actually, that’s great that you tell me about what you wish since I never know what to buy”. I couldn’t say no. Seeing the hotpants (see pict below) probably will make you smile: I felt like a teenager, for the style and for the way this all happened.

Yet, this really warmed my hearth. It’s not the first time I receive clothes as a gift this year, I probably received more than I usually do. From people who knew what I was doing and had the impression I needed some “fresh” stuff. But also from people who did not know what I was doing. Each time I got some clothing from someone, I was super happy, really appreciating, holding the item, caressing it, feeling the fabric, smelling it.

Thank you all for your gifts and support and feedbacks. I still have three months to go!

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Playa Negra, Costa Rica: thank you!

You are the place on earth that gave me the biggest pains in my life: a divorce, being mobbed, threatened and feeling fear and being unwanted. I had a severe surf injury on my right leg that took me more than a year to heal, and many other little injuries in my heart and body. The count is very long. But besides the many scars and wounds, I kept coming back mainly because of the surf, but also for some mysterious pull I still felt towards you. Of course, I own a little house in Playa Negra, some might say. I could have sold it or just don’t give a damn anymore, I will answer. So from my first move to Costa Rica in 2002, I kept that place in my heart somehow.

A couple of years have passed, the wounds have healed, the scars are still there, I have a hole in my leg. They remind me of deep teachings and keep me awake. In the last two years though, things started to shift. I started to develop a profound bond with Playa Negra again. I feel your energy, black, destroying and yet constructive. Makes me think of Kali, black and bloody. Yet necessary to reconnect with nature and build up trust, love and peace.

In 2016, I was blessed to stay in Costa Rica over two months, I hosted my first yoga holiday (retreat) there. It was amazing and I am still smiling of joy when I think of my group of yogis enjoying their time there. This year Playa Negra also made me (re)encounter with a very special person. When I think of all the events in my life that lead up to this, I can’t ignore the fact that everything came for a reason. So wow, Playa Negra, the black and painful beach, has become a big source of joy and love. As it should be, and I am deeply thankful to that.

There is a nice teaching in all that. Something I am also often asked by students when they struggle in their practice, be it yoga-asana or other practices. It takes a lot of time and pain is there for a reason. I once read that you are never given a struggle you won’t be able to overcome. It’s all teachings and blessings being put on our path to make us grow. Key is to stay with it, stay with the unpleasant. Trust your work, keep up the practice, and with patience let things unfold.

I needed your teachings of destruction and pain, to find ease, joy and love. AHO.


Playa Negra, december 2016.

 

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One year without new clothes – there is more to let go of – part 3

I am in the process of clearing my wardrobe again, as I often do when seasons change. It’s definitely getting colder and I don’t need all those tank tops, dresses and t-shirts. This is the moment where, with some time and honesty, I stand in front of my wardrobe and see all those items I did not wear the whole summer and maybe not even the summer before. But how nice is that dress! “I will surely wear it on the beach next time!” My intent of living a year without getting new clothes is helping me out. I did not buy anything new, and yet there is so much I haven’t wore.

I have learned to walk through Banhofstrasse, admire the beautifully (and luring) arranged shop windows without entering and buying anything, I can try to really send off that t-shirt to the recycle bin this time!

It’s not an easy process. What I have observed is that once you start letting go, once you start softening in one field of your mind/body, there will inevitably be another field that makes it’s way to your awareness where you notice tension and a potential of a lot of work left. It is an unending story! When I see my wardrobe now, it hasn’t received anything new (besides some gifts) and yet there is so much I did not use and could let go of.

We can apply this to many other fields of our lives: the mind, the body, our way of living. There is still plenty space to make space and to create room.

I am extremely thankful to the practice, yet, I observe that all I have worked myself thorough is just the tip of the iceberg. This can seem very frustrating, because if I look at myself, what I was 10 years ago and what I am today, I see two different humans. At least I think so. Yet I have just opened some doors, that where hiding other doors that for sure hide more doors to open. With this practice, we become aware of the unending potential of our lives. And also of the unending work that lais ahead. As Richard Freemand said, and I think I even saw him wearing a t-shirt saying it: “Yoga ruins your life”.

There is still more to let go of, this can apply always and for each and everyone of us.  Keep the work up! Namaste.

 

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These will not make it to summer 2017!

One year without new clothes – half way through – part 2

It’s been now exactly 6 months since I started my project of not buying any new (and used!) clothes for one year. I can’t believe how easy it has been. In the beginning of July, I spent a week end in London, attending a yoga work shop in Soho and walking by fabulous shop windows with amazing dresses, before I teach my weekly yoga classes at Yoga Roof, I see, touch and feel colourful, bright, really nice leggings I know would fit really well and when I am in Zurich, I often walk by and even went in a couple of times into my favourite clothes shop Kitcherner Plus.

I often catch myself telling stories like: “once this year will be over, I will buy that dress!”- “Once I am done with this I will go massive shopping in London!”, “Oh my, I hope those yeans will still be IN when I am done with this year”. I have quickly noticed that this thoughts pass as fast as a summer thunderstorm, or even faster. It’s amazing how things, for instance desires and thoughts, pass much quicker than we think if we don’t engage with them. Half an hour later, I observe myself being somewhere completely different and that single thought is just a pale reminiscence.

Yet those thoughts/desires come up again, but with less strength. I guess this is what we call samskaras in yoga, the seeds that reflect the patterns we have cultivated in our life and that constantly come up again and again. Training our mind to react more slowly to the fruits of these seeds is, in my opinion, one of the main goals of the practice. With an intent or sankalpa (i. e. not buying new clothes) we have a tool to change our reaction, slow it down, turn it in another direction. This requires work, of course, but is less hard than we think once the intent is clearly set.

Eventually the seeds are less effective, they will always be there, but by the practice (tapas) we manage to burn them down and it’s less likely that they will germinate, or at least we see clearly the process of germination and can choose to react or not react so fast to it.

I am deeply thankful to this practice.

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In the summer, this has been my wardrobe. Winter requires warmer items, but I will try to fit it all in here.

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Remain (completely) still

There are so many experiences, so many insights, so many really interesting and in the same complicated openings I would love to share with you after my 8 days silent Zen meditation retreat with Micheal Stone in France. I will try to organise my thoughts, and publish more in the next months.

For now, I can use one term to summarize the deep experience: stillness. I had done some other silent meditation retreats, but the stillness and the immobility I have experienced this time was far beyond. We were a group of 60 yogis, from all around Europe and even the US, and I still can not believe that for 8 days, during every single one of our 30 minutes seated meditations sessions, no one would stand up and no one would barely move.

It has been a very inspiring experience. For as hard as it was, I think in the morning around 7 the temperature in the Zendo was not above 10 C and it was very humid by the river, I felt so supported by everyone around me. The stillness I experienced at times was extremely grounding and in the same time very very expansive.

I have come home more than a week ago now, it’s actually been almost two weeks. And yet, lots of that stillness and I could add, slowness, spaciousness, calmness, still remains. I am very very thankful to this experience and to every teacher on my way around the Moulin des Chaves during that 8 days.

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Who am I (today)?

Right now I am a translator, working on an extremely long text about gender studies. I am sitting in front of my computer,  serious and concentrating on every word I write. Later on I will be a Yoga teacher, leading my students trough their practice, being supportive, compassionate, light and yet centred and focused. For my Yoga class tonight, I decided to choose the theme “thoughts on what we are”. I don’t know yet how I will apply this to the Asana practice, but I will find a way.

Tomorrow I will meet my parents, so I will be their daughter. Possibly avoiding family discussions and trying to enjoy my parents as they are, accepting and letting go. In a couple of weeks I will start leading a Teacher Training, so the role “Yoga teacher” goes to another level. The day after tomorrow, I will meet a friend I haven’t seen in a very long time, I am just looking forward to hug her, but I also know it wont be easy to support her in this hard moment of her life.

Have you ever thought of all the “roles” you have and on how the different roles influence your way of being, of reacting, of presenting yourself? We could also use the word “mask”, we are using many if not numberless masks to face different realities of our lives. And it’s ok, even if the word mask won’t sound appealing to each one of you.

When one starts thinking about all the “expressions” of it’s life, he or she realises that there is rarely a moment where we are completely raw and just without filters. It is a hard work to be completely exposed without wearing any type of make up, mask or uniform. Sometimes you may even wonder if it’s possible at all. And, i guess, it’s ok like that.

Why I love Phalakasana, plank pose

((please note: this is a semi-serious post))

I don’t know when our love affair started. Like so many other relationships in life, it was a hate-love relationship. Then suddenly, maybe I had changed or he had changed, plus things sometimes happen without a reason, I started loving plank, adoring plank, almost worshipping plank.

I think the fire of love started to burn as I realized that plank teaches us a lot. It’s a sort of horizontal Tadasana, a great way to feel the inner thighs muscles, to activate all the way through your legs, feet and ankles, a way, of course, to tone the deep core, but also to open up the shoulders and feel the effect of lowering and integrating the shoulder blades towards the hips.

But what really made me go wild about Phalakasana was the mental thing when you start holding it longer. And when I mean longer, I mean really a lot longer. I now do my weekly 5 minutes plank pose challenges. It’s a very personal thing, as in a real love affair. I do them alone at home and use a timer on my iPhone, or use a song with a nice rhythm that lasts at least five minutes.

I talk to my Plank when I start to shake, I breath deeply in my Plank when things really start going awkward, I make some other noises when it gets really hard. And in the end I release to my mat, still not believing that I made it.

I now teach it a lot during my classes, with all sort of variations, Vasisthasana, feet lifts, etc. I hope everyone understands the value of this rather unspectacular pose that is much more than just a transition in your Vinyasa!

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Not a perfect plank pose. April 2016

One year without new clothes – part 1

I have been thinking of not buying any clothes for one year since a while. On one hand because of the consumerism society we live in, on the other hand because I believe more and more that the less you have the more space you allow yourself for just “being” and feeling.

In the last years, I reduced my shopping drastically. And often, when I did buy a new t-shirt I always did so to replace an “old” one that I had donated into the Caritas-Recycle Bin. This situation is the result of different changes. First, my focus of attention has shifted on other things, second because I travel often and live in different places. I have observed that it’s easier to travel and to change from one place to the other by going “light”. And of course, I have enough clothes!

Following the example of a movement that has become more visible lately -on the web you will find many reports of people or even  families who have decided to stop shopping for a year- in March I decided to stop buying clothes, but also shoes, bags, etc, for 365 days.

Then I was in Costa Rica, and in the end of the month I cracked and bought gifts to brig back home, and among the gifts there was one tank top for me (pictured below). So the count starts 1 April: 365 days of not buying any clothes. I will write about this everyonce in a while in my blog as well. And if you feel inspired: do so too!

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