Reflection on Self-love

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Reflection on Self-love

profile by sanji.jpg

I recently posted this photo my good friend and favourite photographer Sanjin took, as my private fb profile pix, and got an interesting comment about it in my inbox: “You're glowing, you must have finally found someone who makes you happy.” 

It was a well meant comment by a friend, but it did make me think. Yes, I am happy, maybe even happier than I’ve ever been. I feel great in my skin, my heart is content, I’m healthy and living my dream. And I guess it’s true. For over a year now I’ve been in a beautiful, magical, supportive and loving relationship with - myself. All that I am, all this abundance I am blessed with right now, I have created myself. That special someone is me. Yes, finally. 

But, as far as romantic relationships go, I am actually more single than ever.


As a former serial monogamist and a fun-loving (man-loving;) flirt who falls in (and out) of love quickly in between more serious relationships, and in those more (and less) serious ones, will turn her life upside down and take giant leaps of faith, or blindfolded jumps into an abyss, this is all rather new to me. I’m not saying I was never single for a longer time, of course I was, but there was always a fun, exciting story to tell and/or something to be (over)analysed. Whether it was a recent exciting encounter on my many travels, a new development with an old flame, or a drama with an ex, I always kept close friends entertained with my love life. A few months ago, after hearing me say: "No, nothing's happening in love department" one time too many, a good friend seriously asked me if I'm hiding something, a forbidden love affair with a married man perhaps? She knows this is something I would never do, yet she thought it was still more plausible than my "nothing is happening" answer. 

Of course, between those movie scene worthy moments I entertained my friends with, there was also much heartbreak and each one took a toll. But, every time I fell, I would get up. Every time my heart was broken, I would duck tape it and was ready for more. Love was like a drug and one relationship cured the gap and pain of previous one(s). I thought it was me being fearless in life and love. It took me a while to see was hidden beneath the surface. 

After my last failed relationship, when I recognised same stories are repeating with, what seemed, completely different men, I knew something needs to change. I put my duck tape away, gave my heart time to heal, and decided to focus on myself without distractions. It was time to lay new foundations and to detox from the old, to cleanse from this cluster of old energies, some older than myself, still lingering on. It was time to take responsibility for my own heart and happiness. And, to be honest, it wasn’t a mental decision at first, it was more a feeling of enough. It felt it in my body, like there was no more space for anyone else than me, I felt like my heart needed to relearn love for self before it loves anyone else again.

I was still attending my psychotherapy course at the time, and knew there was no better or safer time to dig deep and see what lies beneath the surface. Yoga and everything I know about body, mind and soul helped, but when you need to dig a deep hole you need someone to hold a light torch as you dig. You need someone who knows what can be encountered in those dark corners. To tell you what you see with objectivity and to explain to you why it's there, to hold a mirror, to guide you when need guidance and finally, help you build new foundations. Today, when people struggle with things and come to me for help, the advice is always the same. Therapy. Find someone who will guide you through the dark corners of yourself, hold space when you crumble, show you your shadow and light, and help you integrate both.

On the surface, I was a fun loving free spirit, a wild horse, fierce warrior. But beneath I was also a lost little girl in need. A princess in a pink dress, as I called her, a part of me locked in a dark tower, hidden from daylight. I disliked her pink dress, thought she was weak, hated when she came out and messed things up for me. It took me a while to see her light, to accept her shadow and to love her. That stupid dress (I picture her in) and all. It also took a while to see and accept the flaws of the fierce warrior Self, to take off the armour without fear. I needed to learn to love and accept all of me, to understand and accept my past, to lay new foundations and plant new seeds for the future. 

Now I enjoy my own company and will choose it over superficial connection any day. On most days I accept and love all of me, and don't need someone to fill that void. Just like anyone else, I still believe life is about the connections we have, but I now try to be more conscious and connect out of love, not out of need. I believe that only from this space of wholeness within, we can truly connect with others. 
I feel I have found this home within, but I know there is still a long way to go.

And I know this story doesn't finish with 'The End' but rather with 'to be continued…' The integration and love for myself and the world I feel right now will for sure be tested over and over again. But, I feel I am ready. 

So... to be continued... ;)

"It was when I stopped searching for home within others,
and lifted the foundations of home within myself,
I found there were no roots more intimate,
than those between mind and body
that have decided to be whole."
- Rupi Kaur

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The power of love

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The power of love

For thousands of years, Vedic Rishis, Buddhist monks, Yogic sages, Tao and Zen masters alike used different meditation techniques on their quest for truth and enlightenment, and for millennia, these sacred, powerful practices, taught in different forms, have been taught and shared mostly behind temple doors, to those walking a spiritual path.

Even though rooted mostly in spiritual traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism, meditation techniques we know today, are not necessarily practiced only by spiritual seekers on the path higher consciousness and, ultimately, liberation, but by anyone seeking a peace of mind and relief from stress and anxiety of day-to-day life. Today, meditation is a wide spread practice and various meditation techniques are easily accessible to anyone. And one might say it was a never more needed antidote to many burdens of modern living.

In ancient times people learned by experiencing and doing; much of the knowledge came from observing self and nature, allowing to be guided by intuition and faith, and often simply trying things out; embracing what works, discarding what doesn't. If you know the story of Buddha, you'll know what I mean. Today, we have science. We have smart people with PhD's and MRI machines. Nothing wrong with that, it's all a part of our evolution as species, it is just interesting when science proves what those luminaries; rishis, monks, sages, masters knew all along - meditation is a gateway to higher states of consciousness and to our full human potential. On Patanjali's Eight limbed path for example, meditation, or Dhyana is a final step before Samadhi. 

The science

Since neuroplasticity was discovered (neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to form and reorganize synaptic connections, especially in response to learning and practice) a whole new field of brain research opened up in all directions, meditation being one of them. I won't go too scientific on you (there are plenty of scholarly articles online), and will stick to the basic facts. Meditation studies have shown that practicing meditation over a longer period of time can decrease stress, anxiety, neurosis and depression and increase concentration, attention feeling of calm, empathy, compassion, emotional regulation, help bounce back quicker from stressful situations, can boost immune system, improve memory and creativity. The list goes on. For all of this to happen, meditation needs to be practiced regularly and over a longer period of time. Many benefits will start to emerge even after a few days or weeks, but for some deeper 'rewiring' to happen, it might take a while.

Different types of meditation activate different parts and networks in the brain producing a distinct effect. Training your brain/mind is same as training your body. If you do only one form of exercise including only the muscles needed for that particular exercise, those are the muscles which will change their structure (increase in strength), but if you want a full body strength, balance, flexibility and agility, you need to change your routine and challenge your body in more ways than one. If you repeat the same, your body will get used it and you may hit a so-called plateau where nothing much changes. Similarly, if you want to get all the different benefits of meditation and not just increase a certain potential, you need to challenge your mind in different ways.
 

Five M's

I have been practicing yoga for two decades now, and every time I step on my mat to do asana practice I include some concentration / meditation practice too, bringing the mind to a one pointed focus, most of the time on the body followed by the breath. I still do this and teach this, but I have picked up some other meditation practices along the way which I love and practice today. My favourite are the five M's: Metta, Mantra, Mindfulness, Movement and Mudra meditation. In this series I will cover each one of them starting with, in my eyes most powerful one, - Metta. Metta simply means loving-kindness and it is simply a meditation in which our main focus is cultivating the capacity for loving-kindness.

This was a meditation practice that changed my life. In my twenties, when I was living in the US during one of my yoga teacher training courses, I stumbled upon a book on Buddhism. This encounter with, what I felt was philosophy of life, resonated so much with me, I kept on acquiring books on Buddhism reading and learning until I felt the need for more and found a Buddhist centre I would go to for talks and meditation sessions. Out of all meditations we did, Metta was the one which resonated most. From today's perspective, I see now how it helped that 20 something year old girl with much internal struggle heal some of her wounds and see the world with different eyes. It helped me realise that the only way to healing oneself as well as the world is through forgiveness, love and compassion. To never forget this Truth, I had Tara, the goddess of compassion tattooed on my back. I still believe that, without love, kindness and compassion there is no healing on any level of our being or on the global level.


How to practice Metta

Use the guided meditation video below first, but once you get the feeling of it, you can find your own way and practice by yourself anytime, anywhere. At the beginning, for a week or two, try to practice daily. It can happen, and very often does, that some uncomfortable feelings like sadness, grief, even anger, come up, but this is normal and a good sign that something within is shifting. If you have a therapist who can help you dig deeper into those feelings and help you integrate them, that is the best way to proceed. There is only so much we can do alone, it's amazing when we can ask for help, meaning we are willing to see, change, receive and finally, heal. 

Going back to science, Metta meditation fires up parts of the brain in charge of compassion, empathy and altruistic behaviour. With the increase of emphatic concern, we witness a decrease of personal distress and start seeing a bigger picture, shifting from the ego self to broadening our circle of compassion to all life. And when the change starts to happen from within, the world around us starts to change too because we start seeing the bigger picture, we take charge, we no longer blame but rather find ways to create positive change for the good of all.

I believe our essence is compassionate and kind, but due to traumas, disappointments and stresses of everyday life, we build walls and take on arms slowly forgetting and ultimately detaching from our true nature. This detachment causes unhappiness, depression, anxiety etc. Metta meditation is a daily reminder of our true nature and the more we practice it, the closer we get to living from the heart as free, open, loving, happy beings.

 “Until he extends his circle of compassion to include all living things, man will not himself find peace.” Albert Schweitzer

Cover photo: Sanjin Kastelan

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lessons of water – the yoga of surrender

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lessons of water – the yoga of surrender

“Be like water making its way through cracks. Do not be assertive, but adjust to the object, and you shall find a way around or through it. If nothing within you stays rigid, outward things will disclose themselves. Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.  Bruce Lee

I love this quote by Bruce Lee, it speaks volumes and I believe catches the essence of water. Water is the most adaptable element. It changes depending on the situation and its surroundings, accepts and embraces the circumstance and the environment, isn’t afraid to change shape and adapt.

Water teaches us to be to be flexible and live in the moment. Water doesn’t try to control the uncontrollable, it rather surrenders and allowing the transformation to happen. A river surrenders to the Earth’s gravity and becomes a waterfall, ocean surrenders to the wind and creates waves, a lake surrenders to cold air and becomes ice, or the sun’s fire and becomes vapour. It teaches us we can’t grow, discover, transform and move forward if we’re standing in one place refusing any change.

Water is patient and always finds her way through the smallest cracks. It doesn’t anticipate or plan, it sees the opening and goes through it. It doesn’t question, it trusts and follows. It teaches us that everything is intertwined, interconnected and co-dependent and there is nothing we can control but is ourselves, how well we can adapt to external and internal circumstance and how much faith to find small openings and keep on flowing trusting that life will show us the way, and how fearless we are in following our path non knowing where it may lead us.

Water is about adaptability, spontaneity and living in the moment. And often, in order to connect to these qualities, we need to let go of the comforts and do something that challenges us, something which we can’t control even if we want to, something that will allow our creativity and spontaneity to take hold of our body, mind and heart. That can be moving spontaneously on the mat allowing the free flow of creative to move us, but it can be dancing or any form of exploration which will allow us to tap into the unknown and be ok with it, let go of any control (mind) and surrender to the (body) experience.

For me surfing and being in the ocean has been such an exploration of my inner world. It has taught me so much about myself, about mindfulness and being in my body rather than in my mind, following rather than taking control. Because out there, there is nothing you can control, you need to observe, surrender and follow.

To me, Mother Nature is the greatest teacher. She holds so much wisdom and so many lessons. Reconnecting and tuning into this wisdom is a most intimate yoga practice. Standing barefoot on the beach, listening to the waves meeting the shore is a meditation. And surfing is my practice of surrender. Ocean humbles me; Its power, depth, vastness, the unknown and uncontrollable.

Yoga is a path to liberation. A path of awakening, surrender, and living our essence. There are many obstacles along the way, but if we’re willing to learn, the teachings and tools to overcome them are everywhere. We all seek freedom our own way, all we need to do is keep on walking with a light step, clear intention and a fearless, open heart.

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Nature is the greatest teacher

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Nature is the greatest teacher

Everything that exists is an intricate part of the whole, all life is intertwined. This unifying principle can be observed everywhere we look. It’s raining outside as I’m writing this - the rain came from the vapour lifted up from the earth by the air after the sun has warmed Earth’s rivers, seas and oceans. The rain brings water back to the earth to nourish the plants and help seeds grow. Seeds which were planted into the Earth with the help of gravity, wind, water or animals. Animals feed on the plants nourishing themselves and fertilise the earth with what remains. Animals and humans breathe in oxygen provided by plants, while giving back carbon dioxide plants need to live, thus creating yet another cycle. Everything has its role, everything has its place, everything is in perfect balance.

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A Karma yoga story

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A Karma yoga story

The story of Mia

 Mia <3

Mia <3

Few days ago, a stray dog followed us as we walked home from the beach. She seemed scared but decided to trust us and follow us home. We fed her let her take shelter to rest and sleep on our terrace. She was restless at first and would startle at every louder sound, but after a while, she relaxed. She had something funky on her ear so we called the local Dog Care Clinic to see if we can bring her in. They said yes, but a while later, a loud noise from the street scared her and she ran away. I had to teach but my friends went to the clinic to show the photo of her ear so we know what it is and what to do if she shows up again, and they said ‘Oh, that is Mia. She ran away a few days ago’.

This is where the story of Mia starts and of us finding out about the Dog Care Clinic, a wonderful project founded by an amazing woman and run by some incredible people. But, I will get back to that.

We found out Mia still needs some antibiotics and that the funky thing on her ear is medicine and a sponge which needs to be removed. We saw her again on the road and she even followed us to the Shala but couldn’t stay there because of other Shala dogs. We saw her wandering the streets later that night being chased out of every house she would attempt to enter as most have dogs already. She would follow people but most would ignore her as people do when it comes to stray, scruffy dogs. We called her, but she didn't come to us. But yesterday early morning she followed my friend Sanjin from the beach back to the house. We gave her food and water, but what it seemed she needed more than anything again was peaceful shelter where she felt welcome and where she can rest for a while. I had a morning off so I stayed with her and later on, the Clinic employees came to take her.

On my lunch break I went to the Clinic to check on her and spoke to a wonderful Dutch lady who told me about the Clinic and everything they are doing. I asked what happens to Mia now and she told me that, as soon as she gets all her medicine, they will send her back on the street. They are a hospital and can't keep all the strays there. This broke my heart. This little skinny scruffy yellow being already got under my skin and I started to think about the option of taking her home, but then Carla told me about their 50+ sponsorship programme and all I asked was - ‘where do I sign?’.


The story of Dog Care Clinic in Sri Lanka

The DCC (Dog Care Clinic) clinic was founded just over 10 years ago by Marina Mobius, a woman with a big heart who had a dream and made it happen. DCC and its facilities is set on a rather large plot of land and is amazingly clean, well organised and equipped. They run as a dog hospital offering free care for any dog brought to them as most Sri Lankan people don’t have money to care for their dogs. They offer free vaccinations to stop spreading of disease, free neutering and spaying both for dogs with homes and strays. They go around the area in a tuk-tuk every morning to feed the strays and care for those injured or with a disease. There are over two hundred dogs living in the clinic and most of them are ‘special needs’ dogs; some too old to be let out on the street, some injured, some unable to be integrated back on the streets, some are handicapped.

The clinic employs over 40 local people on a full wage and has quite a few foreign volunteers. Besides taking care of thousands of dogs, they are really trying to raise awareness within the local community. After all, it is us, humans who created this problem and now we're pretending its's not ours. The 50+ programme I mentioned and through which I am sponsoring Mia, is a wonderful way of helping both dogs and local community. DCC finds homes for the dogs (who are lucky enough to get sponsored instead of ending up back on the street) with local people who have no income, especially elderly or those over 50 who are virtually unemployable here. Stray dog gets a home, food and lifetime treatment by the Clinic whenever needed, and the family gets a monthly income. It’s a win-win. Each family can take up to three dogs.

If you are a vet student and want to come to Sri Lanka, volunteer at the clinic and learn the trade by doing the work, the DCC provides accommodation and food.
 

Our Karma yoga project

After hearing all this and making sure Mia will finally, after five years of being a stray dog and going through who knows what, have a home, I decided to share the inspiring story of DCC with my teacher trainees here in Sri Lanka and make it a Karma yoga project, something I almost always do during teacher trainings.

So, today we went to visit and got a full tour by Barbara, one of the vets and volunteers from Austria. We saw the dogs who are getting treated as well as those who stay there full time. All of them were so sweet and friendly and just wanted cuddles. To think that, most of them were hurt by humans and they still trust us... It was an overwhelming and emotional visit for most of us, but we also saw the amazing facilities and wonderful work these people are doing so it was also very inspiring. Now we are raising funds for the DCC and will see how else we can help while here. 

Karma yoga, the path of attaining liberation (which is a goal of yoga) through unselfish action, is one of the oldest branches of yoga. It teaches us of selflessness and compassion which is extended not only to those we know and love, but to all the beings on this Earth (as well as the Earth itself). Liberation is freedom from the bondage of Ego, attachment, materialism, false believes and illusion, and Karma yoga I believe is, in the self-absorbed society we live in, more needed than ever.

I like to do Karma yoga projects with my TTC groups in hope that my students leave the training with much more than being able to teach a good yoga class. I hope they will leave with an understanding that yoga is not about asana and sequencing, but rather about the liberation from (even those) attachments. My hope and wish is for them to become more aware, awoken, conscious and compassionate human beings, yoga teachers who will inspire others with their selfless actions and consciousness rather than asana performance or sequencing skills.

If the story of DCC and one person who created a great impact (she helps old people home in Galle too) inspired you, there is an easy way to help. You can donate either by wire transfer or via pay pal using info@dogcare-clinic.com Your donation is safe and it will go into a good use, after what I saw today, I can guarantee that. Any amount will help, and, if you want to sponsor a dog like Mia and help a local family check their 50+ programme or ReHome programme.

“Humanity's true moral test, its fundamental test, consists of its attitude towards those who are at its mercy: animals. And in this respect humankind has suffered a fundamental debacle, a debacle so fundamental that all others stem from it.” - Kundera

All photos by Sanjin Kastelan <3

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and justice for all

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and justice for all

san francisco

I’m sitting at an airport lounge waiting for my flight back to Europe, contemplating last couple of days. After my psychotherapy training and completion ceremony in Mendocino, I decided to stay in San Francisco for a few days and revisit the city I loved and knew quite well as I spent a month here in 2005.

I arrived late afternoon to my rented apartment on Mission Dolores, not too far from the house in Haight-Ashbury where I stayed so many years ago. Same night I only ventured close by the apartment to a used bookstore, something I always do, and a quick dinner in a near by Japanese vegan restaurant.Next day I woke up early (it was still dark out), did my meditation and, filled with anticipation and excitement, went out for a nice long run as soon as I saw daylight.

Neighbourhood was just waking up, kids on their way to school, people rushing to work with their take out coffee/ tea. On my run in and around Mission Dolores park I have also noticed quite a few homeless people, some sleeping, some walking around but thought it was because of the park so I didn't think much of it. After the run I had a coffee and breakfast in a local café and finally left ‘the hood’ to explore the city. I didn’t have big plans apart from a lunch date much later, so I decided to walk the charming residential streets I remember and explore city’s nooks and crannies.

But as soon as I left the park behind me and familiar streets I run through just a moment ago, I started to notice homeless people everywhere. Literally everywhere – nicer streets, shopping streets, dark alleys (just not in super rich neighbours as I later found out). People of all ages, all colours (even though, truthfully, darker complexions were in majority). Some streets had actual tents on the pavement. The more I walked towards downtown the worst it got. Every five minutes there was someone talking to themselves and often shouting at some invisible presence only they saw. Smell of piss and weed was everywhere as weed it’s now legal now in California and even though I am for legalisation, this just made everything even stranger to me. As I walked I felt my body tense up even though my rational mind told me that most of these people are not a danger to me and are just poor lost souls, but I guess the pure unfamiliarity of the situation made my nervous system think otherwise. What I saw actually broke my heart and puzzled my mind as I couldn’t wrap it around the fact this suffering, hopelessness and inequality exists in such a prosperous, rich city. Shameful. Disgraceful. Horrid. I don’t remember SF this way. Did I just not notice before?

Yes, I am sure many of these poor souls are drug addicts, but so many are not. I saw a white man in his 30’s who looked just like any other man walking past me on his way from work break. It seemed at first he was just sitting on the pavement resting, which is why I noticed him as it struck me as odd, until I came closer and saw that his clothes were warn out and there was a sleeping bag and some belongings neatly folded next to him. What broke my heart the most were the young people. So many of them. Some walking around talking to themselves, some going through rubbish bins, or like one boy of just over 20 who's image will stay with me for a while, just sitting on the pavement hopelessly staring down at it as if ashamed to be where he is. This particular one was holding his dog in a tight embrace, as though he's holding on tightly to the only precious thing he has. In Mendocino I there were also some young homeless people and I spoke to one of them who had a dog. 'Her name is Freya' he said. ‘She’s wonderful. She keeps us sane’. He had beautiful blue eyes with no hope in them. What do you say to that? 

The walk I looked forward to so much was anything but joyful recollecting a time passed and ended up with an anxiety attack I haven’t experienced in years now. But, this post is not about that. The city I looked forward seeing so much made me uncomfortable and sad. It had this low, at time aggressive vibe. Vibe of no life. 

The people of the city walked on as is used to the presence of those poor lives. Most of the time they would stare at their phones anesthetised and detached, tourists running around with their shopping bags turning their heads, crossing the street. 

The social injustice which I haven’t seen this close-up in a long time is present everywhere in the world, but the extremes are painted in such vivid colours here in the US that it’s impossible not to notice. Suffering is everywhere. Injustice and inequality is everywhere. There are millions of homeless roaming the streets and then there are million dollar homes on Presidio Heights and Noe Valley where even tourists are band from. The ultra-rich and privileged live in their bubble up on the hills not understanding or wanting to understand that those unprivileged living on the streets never stood a chance. One of them (some tech CEO) recently wrote to the major with this complaint:

The wealthy working people have earned their right to live in the city. They went out, got an education, work hard, and earned it. I shouldn’t have to worry about being accosted. I shouldn’t have to see the pain, struggle and despair of homeless people to and from my way to work every day.’

Wow. This is what kind of a human liberal capitalism breeds. The unhuman human. The human who doesn’t want to see the pain and suffering. The human who believes those people are there because they didn’t go out and earn it. The forgetful human who had a fair start and had already paid his student loans and now doesn’t remember how impossible for most is to study in this country. 

The government is throwing money into this ‘problem’ pretending it’s doing something but not admitting that is just a bandage which doesn’t even hold. The problem is much deeper and it goes into the deepest foundations, false promises and lies we are constantly fed. Everywhere, not just here.  

For the change to happen and this unjust world start to heal we all need to wake up. I keep saying this and I will keep saying this until I can't speak no more. We need to stop looking at our phones and distract ourselves with shiny new things and stupid TV shows and start challenging the system. We need to start seeing that power is in the hands of people. We need to cultivate compassion and kindness for all, not just our family. We need to start thinking, caring and doing whatever we can to end this suffering and injustice. We need a revolution - one which starts in our hearts and minds. 

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” MLK

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Follow the light within

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Follow the light within

I believe kindness makes us happy, giving makes us joyful, seeing alikeness and equality in all gives us peace, helping others makes us feel fulfilled. I believe only love can resonate love back. I believe we are all born as kind, loving, compassionate beings. This is our essence, our truth, our home. And when we dwell in this loving, compassionate state we are aligned with all life, united in love. 

Judgment and hate are learned. We are taught to differentiate, dislike, oppose and disagree with. We are taught to put value on people judging by their appearance, skin colour, shape of their eyes, clothes they wear. We learn to dislike someone just because they live in a country across some imaginary border or pray to a different God. We are taught to feel superior because we have more material wealth or because we (believe we) know more. Men are taught they are superior to women so every other girl and woman walking this Earth has been violated and assaulted some way by those who believe their mother, sister and daughter are to be loved while somebody else's child doesn't matter. We are taught to hate those different, pray on those weaker, turn a blind eye, put a price tag on a life. 

We are taught to see the difference between animals; between a cat, dog, monkey, snake, zebra, cow, pig, elephant. Some we love, some we fear, some we kill because they taste good, some we wear because their fur or skin looks good, some we jail so our kids can see a tiger in Europe, some we ride for pleasure, some we use for entertainment. We believe we love animals and consider our pet a family member while at the same time we eat the flesh of another. We teach our children to love all animals, yet still feed them bacon. We are in shock and sign petitions to stop killing of pilot whales in Faroe Islands and dolphins in Japan, yet we will order a tuna stake at a restaurant. We are disgusted with Korea’s dog eating tradition but will enjoy eating lamb chops. We think bunnies and monkeys are cute and would never hurt them, yet we buy cosmetics which is completely unnecessarily and cruelly tested on animals.  

We say we love nature, we go hiking, to the beach, surfing, sailing etc. and are shocked when we find the sandy beaches of Thailand or Bali are full of rubbish, yet we pollute any chance we get oblivious to the fact that the plastic bottle of water we just bought will most likely end up on that same beach. We turn a blind eye to the fact that the oceans and rivers are polluted, that the Amazon is almost bare, that the climate is evidently changing and all so we can have enjoy our conveniences and eat meat, fish and dairy, drive a big car, own stuff.

In this world Kardashians and alike are admired, scientists, humanitarians and people fighting for good causes are much less important. Image is more important than intelligence, shallowness more than morals. Beauty is valued more than kindness, convenience much more important than preserving the environment. Conformity over freedom. Selfishness over humanity. 

There is something terribly wrong with the society we live in and we are all to blame, but we also all hold the cards to the future in our hands. It is never too late for change. 

The way we live, and we live the way we were taught and told to live, isn’t sustainable. That it is contradictory to common sense, that its unnecessarily cruel, destructive and serves no one, not even ourselves. That there isn’t much logic, kindness or compassion in the way we are taught to live and to see the world.

Let's consider for a moment that underneath the skin we are all made up from the same elements, we all have a beating heart, lungs to breathe, bones to support us, we are all flesh and blood. That we can all love, feel pain, feel joy, be sad. That we all smile when someone smiles at us and that no colour, nationality, religion we belong to, gender we are, beauty and possessions we have, no amount of knowledge, money, fame or power will ensure happiness, stop us from being hurt, falling ill, being depressed and finally leaving this world.

Consider for a moment every life does matter. That it isn’t fair, that it is far from kind or conscious that we get to decide who suffers, who gets to live and who gets to die. Consider for a moment that maybe no life should end to indulge our taste buds. That a mammal produces milk to feed its new born, not to feed a human so no baby should be taken away from their mother so we can eat dairy. That wild animals belong to the wild, that they are conscious just like us, and just like us they don't want to be chained, trained and beaten so we can enjoy a moment of entertainment. 

The idea that some lives matter less really is the root of all that is wrong with the world. If we all focused more on how much alike we are and less on the differences, the world would be a much kinder, happier place. I truly believe we are all born as loving, empathic, kind beings and that everything we think, say and do which doesn’t resonate with that pure essence within takes are further away from the home we all long to come back to.

We need to change and understand that there is no shame in changing our ways once we see the truth, but there is in choosing to turn a blind eye. We have to question everything we have ever been told and taught, everything we see and hear and check the facts, feel if they resonate with our heart and our consciousness. We need to, more than ever, silence the noise, tune in and listen to the truth that whispers from within, see the light within and follow. It will guide us home.

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Five steps to a brighter tomorrow

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Five steps to a brighter tomorrow

The future is - humane

For most of us, an end of a cycle naturally calls upon reflection on what was, what is, and what we wish will be. Every ending brings a moment of pause, a moment when we look behind in contemplation of a road behind us. At the end of a year we reflect upon everything that happened; the joyous moments we’ve had, places we saw, people we met, tears we shed, things we accomplished, what we lost, challenges we faced and how we met them, but also upon the people we were; what moved us, what hurt us, what made us happy, what made us sad? Were we loving and compassionate to others and did we create positive resonance with our thoughts, words and actions? How gently did we walk upon this Earth? Were we kind enough? Were we gentle enough? 

Even though we shouldn’t dwell in the past but always face forward, I believe reflecting on what was is important. History is a great teacher, it provides information and insight so we can easier put the pieces of puzzle together, and, even though the future is still unknown, we can use the lessons learned yesterday to create a brighter tomorrow.

When we look at the road ahead, the unseen and unknown, we're full of hope. We envision new, bright beginnings, we hope for new possibilities, visualise a happy future for all. We set intentions, hopes and dreams. But, in order to make our dreams become reality, we need to make space for the change and open to the new, we need to let go, release and detach from the old. Old ways of thinking and doing, believes which don’t resonate with our heart and soul, ideas which don’t ring truth to our higher mind’s ear.

Creating a brighter future for all depends on each one of us. We are all equally important and equally responsible to create a positive change and a brighter tomorrow. To become more humane humans. To survive and thrive as species in equality and abundance for all, stop the destruction of the planet we share with other beings (yet, we are the only ones who destroy it), and save the only home we have. And to do this we need to change our ways of doing and thinking. This may be hard, inconvenient, uncomfortable etc, but it is also the only way to move forward.

It takes opening your eyes, thinking with your head, rethinking your choices, doing some research, abandoning convenience and conformity. But, the beautiful thing is, it really pays out. Not only on a big scale of things, but in our microcosm as well. Kindness and compassion resonates with our hearts and souls, and every small step we take in the right direction brings us closer to our free, loving essence. Below are five steps in the right direction to help the world move forward. 

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1. Try a vegan (or vegetarian) diet

Meat and dairy industry is one of the biggest problems our world faces today. From the environmental like climate change, pollution, water use, deforestation etc. to health issues attributed to consumption of meat and dairy which has been scientifically proven for decades now. Not to mention the sheer cruelty of the industry which for some, myself included, is the main reason for a plant based diet. Somebody once said that 'The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that's wrong with the world'. I share this sentiment and believe that the first step towards a brighter future for all is, in Einstein's wise words 'widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty', - extending the love and compassion beyond self, family and friends we love. 

I also believe this is the way of the future. New generations are already adopting a plant based diet, many professional athletes are turning vegan and debunking the 'what about protein' myth. And judging by these promising statistics, the world is changing indeed. 

Every time I write or speak about the importance of adapting a more sustainable diet for the benefit of all, I fear my words will cause resistance and an opposite effect. It is in our human nature to defend our ideas, beliefs, our way of life. If change was easy, our world would be a different place. The only thing I can say is please don’t take my word for any of this. Do the research yourself. Watch documentaries (there is actually a playlist of some on my youtube channel), read studies, find answers to all the questions you may have. There is so much empowerment in that. And maybe just give it a try, see how it feels.

I love Veganuary project where you can pledge to go vegan for a month. The website is full of info and answers to some common questions as well as a starter kit and recipes.

 

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2. Become a more conscious consumer

Every coin you spend of your hard earned money goes to support an industry you may not want to support. Some of the biggest companies and industries today, whose products fill the shelves of most supermarket giants, became so big and made such profit on the backs of low paid labourers (often children) in some distant lands with poor labour policies, cheap, toxic and bad quality materials or ingredients, huge environmental impact, false advertising and elimination of small producers and more ethical alternatives (Monsanto is a great example of this). They have grown to be giants who now run the world economy because of us. With every coin spent buying their product, we made them billions they can now spend to pay off politicians who pass bills and legislations for them, and pay of studies to back up their case and become even bigger, more unethical with only one thing in mind - profit. Consider this next time you're out to buy anything. And again, don’t take my word for it, do the research. It will empower you to make more conscious choices. Start small, with something you buy daily like food. Buy local, organic, go to farmer’s market instead of supermarkets, find ethical stores in your area. 

(I have been following ethical consumer for a while now, plenty of latest info can be found there of both unethical and most ethical companies.)
 

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3. Explore ethical fashion

Fast fashion is becoming a big problem, from the cruel materials used (leather, fur, feather, wool etc.) to bad labour politics and an environmental impact. Also, dyes, bleaches etc most commonly used are not very healthy to put on your skin. This is a new one for me and I have started to go down this road recently, this was one of New Year resolutions last year. 
It's not as easy or convenient (unless you live in London or Berlin) as these are not your high street brands, but much is available online.

I took some time to do a bit of research, ordered some things online, tried some brands and am happy I made this switch. At the end of this text you can find links to (so far) some of my favourites. I also have an ethical shopping app called ‘good on you’ I love and use to check ratings of fashion brands.

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4. Use cruelty free cosmetics

The beautiful truth about being a more aware and conscious consumer / human is that all the good choices you make are not just good for the environment and compassionate to other beings, but also better for your health. It’s a win-win-win kind of a situation. The rule of thumb when it comes to cosmetics is that you shouldn’t put anything on your skin that you couldn't also eat. The skin is our biggest organ and everything we put on it is absorbed into our body, the same as everything you consume.
As far as the animal testing goes, it's cruel and unnecessary. Cruelty free cosmetics is widely accessible everywhere and have been for as long as I can remember. There are so many brands depending on where you live, and since I mostly reside in Europe at the end of the text I have listed some of my favourite EU brands. 

 

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5. Consider your waste

I don’t think I need to tell you how bad plastic and other harmful waste is for us, the planet and other living beings inhabiting this same planet. The impact of plastic waste and the fact that in few years there will be more plastic than fish in the Ocean is common knowledge. And if you’ve gone this far in reading this text, meaning didn’t get annoyed, defensive and stopped reading, I am pretty sure you are already doing your bit when it comes to waste. I can bet you recycle, am pretty sure you didn’t take a plastic bag on a market or in a shop for years and you can’t remember when was the last time you bought water etc. in a plastic bottle. But, we can always do more.
Greatly reducing waste is my pledge for this year. I know it will be anything but easy as this year I will be spending at least six months travelling, but it’s a challenge I am willing to take on and I’m sure I’ll write about it soon. Thankfully there are so many inspiring bloggers out there living the zero waste lives I can find information and inspiration in.


Change is a process, and like any other, it takes time to unfold. If you are new to all this, take baby steps, but take them in the right direction. If you are already doing a lot, see how you can do just a bit more. Together we can create positive changes towards a brighter tomorrow. Happy New Year! 
 

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” 
― Albert Einstein


MY FAVOURITES:

Clothes*: Mud Jeans for jeans, Kings of Indigo for all things denim. Patagonia is an ethical leader in outdoor wear & surf, All sisters for swimwear and I love Vitamin A for swim and beachwear. For yoga and workout Reebok and Prana are two brands available world wide which are on the good side of things. Adidas (especially Stella McCartney) as well. There's many interesting ethical clothing brands out there like YSTR, Know the origin, Wunderwerk I can't wait to order something from (when I need something) and Mara Hoffman for high fashion brands as well as Stella McCartney, long time vegan and animal rights activist. Love Lanius virgin wool coats. More brands: P.i.C Style, People Tree, finisterre, Beaumont organic, Armedangels, HTHT, thought, Nomads.

All of the above are either European brands or can be ordered from EU shops. There are many more in the US, Canada, Australia etc. but with shipping costs (both $ and environmental) it seems to defeat the purpose of the sustainable idea so I haven't mentioned them. Vitamin A can be ordered from neiman marcus.

Shoes and bags*: For vegan shoes and bags check out Avesu online shop with different brands (I have and love Beyond skin motorcycle boots which are a must have for me, and dressy trainers from Good guys and Nae. Matt & Nat for beautiful bags, wallets etc. 

* most of these brands are more expensive then your regular high street brands as their production costs are much higher. But, in wise words of Viviane Westwood 'Buy less, choose well, make it last'.
Zara and H&M are making an effort towards more sustainable fashion and often stock organic cotton clothes. 

Cosmetics: Urtekram, Lavera, Sante, Dr.Hauschka - I love Lavera make up, Urtekram shampoos and shower gels, Lavera toothpaste and deodorants, Sante body lotions when I use them (I usually make my own), their small travel size shampoos and shower gels as well as hand creams and deodorants (usually I make my own). I use Bam & Boo bamboo toothbrush. 

Home cosmetics: (washing, cleaning): Ecover + DIY ;)

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Aim your bow towards the Truth

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Aim your bow towards the Truth

I have been offline and off social media for a few weeks, not so much to detox from it all, but more because there was much going on and in so many different ways, so I needed quiet without distraction. And while Advent celebrations are in full bloom here with gatherings and events on every corner, I have been spending much time at home, inviting my friends and family over rather than going out, reading rather than browsing social networks, looking within rather than looking out. 

For me, winter season and an end of a cycle (year) always brings out the need for solitude and introspection and this one more so than ever. This is my time to clear out the debris and drop some weight I carry. To open my mind and heart, to question my beliefs and let go of old perceptions. And this is a process which requires solitude, quiet and silencing the noise so the whisper of the heart can be heard. 

The natural cycle of death and rebirth inviting us to drop the old and make space for the new, which fall /winter season represents the start of, was coupled with some similar planetary aspects this month. After a strong and heavy full moon at the beginning of the month had shed light on the dark side of things, unresolved issues could no longer hide. Unspoken had to be said, truths had to be seen, masks had to fall off, mud which lay in the bottom had to be stirred up to resettle. And this can be a tense, conflicting and tiresome process. It requires clarity, help and most of all a fearless heart; unafraid to see the truth and speak the truth, unafraid to change or accept which cannot be changed, courageous in taking responsibility for one's actions, words and thoughts regardless of (sometimes uncomfortable) outcome. 

If you have felt (and still do) heavy, conflicted doubtful and restless these last few weeks, as I know I have as well as many of my friends and students who confide in me, know you're not alone. We're all in the same boat. But, also know this is all just an intricate part of renewal and awakening. The key is to allow ourselves to feel; get angry, allow yourself to be sad, really feel whatever comes up, and be brave enough to accept it. Be honest, examine yourself and drop what is not yours, and change what you can. I know it's a tall order, but if you feel lost, seek help and guidance of a wise(r) Soul and tune into your heart – it knows the way. We already have the perfect compass within, but to use it we need to be quiet and steady. 

Use this time as a gift.

Speak but also listen; don’t be afraid to speak your truth, don’t be defensive when you hear the truth. Be courageous and drop the old habits which do not serve your growth, drop inherited beliefs not resonating with your heart. Stand up for your self. Don't avoid conflict as it's sometimes needed to stir things up and resettle them. Forgive yourself so you can forgive others. See the things as they are not as what you’ve been told. Be fearless in creating the change you would like to see in the future. And very importantly, use this season to tune in rather than check out and be distracted with all of the shinning lights and consumerism the season brings. 

Once the challenges are behind us, the lightness takes over, optimism and new hope for the future. Why? Because we know we are responsible for the future and we are doing everything to make it brighter for all of us. We're doing the work ourselves, not expecting others to do it for us. We don't play the blame game but take responsibility ourselves. We know we are creating the change within so we can participating in a change without - creating a more just world, relieved of unnecessary suffering. We know we are a part of the solution, not a part of a problem.

Yesterday's new moon in Sagittarius carried the energy of bright new beginning, as Sagittarius carries the energy of our adventurous, free and fearless spirit and aims its arrows to the future, seeking Truth and one’s true purpose in this life. 

So, let that be your guiding light. Be adventurous, be brave, be free and fearless and aim your bow to the brighter future for us all, using your heart to guide you. Be a better human. Create positive change within and without – today.

Wishing you all happy holidays and blessed, light and more conscious New Year! 



Photo credit: Sanjin Kastelan

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Is Instagram killing yoga?

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Is Instagram killing yoga?

"If I never stepped on a yoga mat before, I might, like some people, also believe you have to have supernatural strength as well as flexibility of a contortionist to practice yoga". This is an opening line for a new column I recently wrote for Buro 247. In the column titled "yoga is for everyone”, I only touched the subject of Instagram yoga, it's influence and what social media in general is turning this ancient practice into today, but I feel there’s much more to be said. Thus, this post.

Not many years ago, when I would mention yoga to someone who doesn't practice, they would say - Yoga is boring, or yoga is slow for me, I need something dynamic. Today I hear them say - Yoga? That’s too hard for me. I’m not flexible enough. I’m not strong enough, I’m not disciplined enough. What’s next? I’m not pretty enough?

With all of these impossible asana photos hashtag-ed #yoga on profiles followed by hundreds of thousands I can't help but wonder: who and what do they serve? These highly edited photos of perfect bodies wearing super expensive yoga outfits or often wearing next to nothing, in impossible asanas, on an exotic location day after day, featuring lives few can have, remind me of fashion magazine editorials with impossible lifestyle and beauty standards to which not even the model herself / himself can live up to. Because it's unreal, stylised, photoshoped with one intention behind - to create a desire and ultimately, to sell a product.

The text under these posts is often aspiring to inspire saying something along the lines of: ‘You think I was this strong? Think again! I was weak until I spent countless hours doing my handstand, working with best of the best gymnastics trainers, putting my blood, sweat and tears into it and look at my one arm handstand now!’ Some people will ind this inspiring, to some this sends a message: I’m not disciplined enough. Honestly, I always think the time and discipline invested could have been put into better use. Like the study of yoga texts, or volunteering, or a walk in the woods connecting to the nature. All would be more in the spirit of yoga. Yogis are not gymnasts and we don't compete so how perfect is your handstand doesn't really matter at all. In fact, it only creates those close to impossible goals. Because, most people have jobs, families, lives and not much space for gymnastic training. But I have to say I do understand. Perfect handstands sell more workshops or products etc. Cause and effect. 

I also have an Instagram profile. I sometimes put advanced asana photos up there, so I am not excluding myself totally here. Sometimes I do handstands and post photos of them but, honestly, I generally suck at handstands. Can’t hold them for long. Why? I never invested the time.Not because I lack discipline, but there was always something else I felt my time was better invested in. Like writing, studying, meditation, having coffee with friends... Sometimes I advertise my workshops, trainings and yoga retreats. But I know (and those of you who know me know it too) that whatever I share, is honest, real, no BS involved, and there’s no misinformation (I’ll come back to this one). Yoga, as a spiritual practice has been my spiritual journey for the past 20 years. I feel there is much I can say about the subject. And honestly, I can’t really be called a great influencer with my following. But, if I had hundreds of thousands of people I can reach via social networks I hope I would be using this outreach to serve yoga and yogis, and not for self-glorification and making $. 

Going back to misinformation. I overheard two of my teacher trainees talk yesterday about ‘great tips and tricks you can find on Instagram’. Yes, there are some gems you need to dig out under a pile of, excuse my language but - crap. If you want to dig through crap, you know how to dig, and how to recognise a gem from crap, dig in. But, if you can’t it’s better you take advice from qualified teacher, as it should be, than browse Instagram for alignment tips on how to’s and do’s and don’ts of a yoga teacher fresh out of 200 hour TTC or, even worse, a ‘self- taught yogi’ (yoga cannot be self-taught). This is like seeking advice on how to write a book from someone who has just learned how to read and write. And I thought 'I learned yoga on youtube' was bad.

So, what happened and how did yoga get mixed up in all of this?! When did it become all twisted, misinterpreted and reduced to a mere pose and/or a product?

The ability of Western world or so-called modern society to take something beautiful, real, ancient, true and diminish it, turn it into a product is pretty impressive. Yoga is a spiritual discipline which should ultimately lead to awakening, not used as a tool for marketing or Ego boost. But, just like sex, spirituality sells too. Create desire, sell a product.

When will we ever learn? Yoga, spirituality, freedom, authenticity … beautiful words and concepts turned into phrases overused and emptied of their meaning, stripped down to servitude of individuals seeking self-gratification. Instead of awakening we are putting ourselves into deeper sleep, one which is even more dangerous than the one before because now we believe we are awake. We are spiritual. Handstands are spiritual because of a great discipline put into them - hence tapas - hence yoga. (I personally am not convinced.) I'm not saying never do a handstand, just stop obsessing about it. It's actually not important. Won't change the world or make anyone a better person.

Five thousand years of history, remarkable insights which make your head spin, revelations so deep, so profound, scriptures so beautiful, practices so helpful (especially in this fast paced day and age) - almost forgotten. It is sad how little or close to non the yoga tradition is shared and taught. It’s even more sad how little yoga teachers know about it. The eight limbs of yoga reduced to asana series (Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga and the Ashtanga yoga of Patanjali are NOT the same thing). Tantra, one of the most beautiful, insightful schools of thought emerged from India reduced to mere sexuality. Nothing is sacred today and even the most sacred of scriptures are misinterpreted to serve a purpose - create a more appealing product.

The subject of Instagram yoga keeps coming back in my conversations with friends, colleagues and students and my opinion is usually that people are smart enough to distinguish true from fake, real from unreal, right from wrong. I always think that Truth will, eventually, reveal itself. But, then something pops up on my IG or FB feed and I realise - no, it will not. It has gone too far. The world we live in is built on fake-ism, unreal-ism and wrong-ism somebody actually supports / believes in. If that wasn’t the case, there would be no Kardashians and alike.

I just wish Kardashians of the world would stay out of yoga.

The problem is, Instagram is just a showcase of the perception of what yoga is and of what yoga teachers teach today. Not the yoga teachers of another era (one before social networks) I am beyond grateful to have been able to study from, but young generations of teachers armed with those incredible bodies, military discipline and a deep understanding of anatomy and biomechanics, but with little knowledge and understanding of history, tradition, philosophy - the real juice of yoga which is beyond asana. I hope this changes, but I’m not counting on common sense of human race, or awakening, I’m just hoping everybody will eventually get bored of handstands, hollowbacks and body obsession generally and move onto something else. 

And for all of you yoginas and yogis who have already figured all of this out let me just say – thank you! Because you are the ones keeping the yoga tradition (in the West) from sliding into oblivion and buried under expensive leggings, handstands and contortion sequences. 

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Banana pancakes with ChocoNut spread

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Banana pancakes with ChocoNut spread

I have been cooking since forever. Baked cakes with my mum when I was still a child and had to use a chair to reach kitchen top, made simple breakfast and lunch for my brother and me while still in primary school, had to cook for myself when I was in my teens and decided to go vegetarian. So, I know my way around the kitchen and know my ingredients so I almost never use recipes. I'm more of an intuitive cook; I open my fridge or pantry and make something out of what I see. This morning I wanted to make pancakes for ChocoNut spread I made yesterday and realised I have no flower of any kind so came up with this simple, delicious variation I'm sharing with you today together with CocoNut recipe;). 

ChocoNut spread

Ingredients: 

200 g hazelnuts, roasted  
1/2 cup mix of coconut oil & cacao butter
4 spoons of raw cacao powder
4 cacao beans (or a spoon of cacao nibs) 
2 spoonfuls of date syrup (or any other sweetener) 
rice milk (or soy, almond, even water) if needed*

*if the paste gets too hard you can use the milk or water to liquify it a bit
 

How to: 

- Roast hazelnuts and use a dry kitchen towel to take the skin off
- Melt cacao butter and mix in with coconut oil
- Blend the hazelnuts first than add the mix of cacao and coconut oil
- Add the cacao powder and sweetener to the mix
- Add cacao beens (optional) 
- If the paste is too hard, add milk or water
- Bend until you get an even, smooth mixture
- Taste it! You want it more chocolate flavour? Add more cacao. You like it sweeter? Add more syrup / honey etc. 
- Don't leave it the fridge, it will harden up (like chocolate does) 

Banana pancake

Ingredients (for two pancakes)

1 larger ripe banana
2 spoonfuls of oat flakes
1 teaspoon date syrup (or other sweetener) 
1 teaspoon of Arrowroot powder (or other thickener) 
a pinch of cinnamon
little bit of lemon juice (one squeeze;) 
2 spoonfuls of coconut oil
 

How to: 

- Blend banana, oat flakes, date syrup and cinnamon for 10 sec only
- Add a teaspoon or more (depending on how thick your dough is) of arrowroot powder
- Add some lemon juice (optional) 
- Heat up coconut oil on a frypan and use half of the blend for one pancake
- Spread into a thicker pancake (I used a spoon to make it flat and shape it) 
- Make sure it doesn't burn; use low heat and turn after a minute or so
- Use a thick spatula to turn and place on a plate so it doesn't break
 

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- Spread ChocoNut while the pancake is still hot
- Top up with raspberries or other fruit (or don't;)

... and enjoy! 

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a little note for yoga students and teachers to be

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a little note for yoga students and teachers to be

I wrote this as an introduction for my new teacher training manual, but thought it would be nice to share it as a blog post. 

To be a yoga teacher is a great responsibility, to be a teacher trainer is even a greater one. It is a responsibility I never took lightly. During my long journey of a yoga student followed by a yoga teacher and then a teacher trainer 12 years after, I have put many hours into practice and study of this wonderful science of life we call Yoga. I have spent (and still am) countless hours practicing, attending workshops and trainings, reading books and researching the mysteries of human body, mind and soul. On this path I have discovered much, but the more I learned the more I saw how little I know. How little we humans know and how very often we are attached to beliefs we never questioned, facts we never checked and outdated traditions we swear by. Yoga teachers are no different. We teach what we never questioned, we present facts we have never checked and use words like tradition we know little about.

First time this truth revealed itself to me I felt like I wanted to drop everything and stop teaching yoga teacher trainings. I am sure all teachers, whatever the subject may be, feel the same at some point. But then I realised that, instead of quitting, all I need to do is just teach what I know and have experienced thus far and teach it in a way to make my students understand that I am only sharing what I know and believe is the truth. That’s all I can share with authenticity; practice I embodied, the truth which resonates with me. Yet, my truth may not resonate with you as we are all different. We might all be on a journey to the same destination, but that doesn’t mean we’ll take the same road or face the same obstacles on the way. The other thing I realised is I have an obligation to never stop exploring, studying and questioning, but more importantly, I have an obligation to let go of the old and embrace the new knowledge if I now know better. It’s not about being right or wrong, it’s about allowing the evolution and change to happen. Just like in life.

The first lesson I will teach you is to question everything. To question me and your other teachers, but not with judgment, not to prove we are right or wrong but to make sure that the teachings you get align with your own bodies, hearts and minds. As teachers we can only teach what we believe to be the truth in this moment in time, but that doesn’t mean the same truth applies to all. Often times it can also mean the student might not be ready for that particular one, and that is also ok.

My wish is for you to take from this teachings everything which resonates with you, everything that speaks the language of your body, mind and soul, and to let go of all which doesn’t. Take responsibility for your own path. The teacher can shed some light on it, but you still have to walk it.

“In all affairs it's a healthy thing now and then to hang a question mark on the things you have long taken for granted.” - Bertrand Russell

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Truth is a pathless land

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Truth is a pathless land

"Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect. Truth, being limitless, unconditioned, unapproachable by any path whatsoever, cannot be organized, nor should any organization be formed to lead or to coerce people along any particular path". ~ Krishnamurti

Out of many books on my bedside table, there is always one of Krishnamurti's. The quote is from a speech he gave on the annual meeting of the Order of the Star he belonged to since he was a boy and was chosen to be the Head of. In the speech he dissolved the order in front of its three thousand (probably shocked) members and finished the speech by saying "My only concern is to set men absolutely, unconditionally free."

To me, Krishnamurti is one of the most fascinating people of his time, of our time. His thoughts and words deeply resonated with me, ever since I picked up an old edition of ‘The book of life’ in a used bookstore in San Francisco. When I Ieft the States I had to leave many books behind, but this one is still with me.

A few years ago now, when I applied for mindfulness and body oriented psychotherapy programme I currently attend, I received a required reading list. Two books on the list I already had; Bodymind by Ken Dychtwald and Can humanity change? By Krishnamurti. I was pleasantly surprised when I saw Krishnamurti on the list, I felt like this was a sign from the Universe that I made the right choice. I later found out that my teacher, Siegmar Gerken, actually met him and hanged out with him. To be the fly on the wall during those meetings…

Truth indeed is a pathless land and just like beauty, it’s in the eye of the beholder. It is up to each of us to find our own way to our Truth. Ultimately, we might all meet in the same place, but our paths will be different.

As a yoga student, teacher and teacher trainer, in my practice and teaching I don’t follow only one tradition, and because of this I was (and probably still am) accused by my peers here in my neck of the woods that I am not honouring the Parampara, or the succession from guru to disciple. The truth is, I actually am, the only difference is that I had and still have many gurus of many different lineages. I follow that which at some point resonated with my heart, and I believe our hearts are our greatest Gurus, and the Truth is already resides within. 

My practice and teaching is a fabric woven out of threads of inspiration from teachers and people I met on my life’s journey, of wise teachings which spoke to me, books I've read, techniques which vibrated with me, experiences I’ve had, faraway lands I’ve seen, of all the love bestowed upon me and all the love I gave.

It would be easier if there was a formula which, if followed, guaranteed seeing the Truth, awakening and ultimately enlightenment. But, there is no such thing. I actually believe that believing there is will lead you further away from the Truth. People follow organised religions, movements, methods etc., they bow to gods as givers of life, yet destroy that which really gives us life and nurtures us; water, air, earth. We bow to Jesus, Buddha, Krishna yet don’t respect the life on the earth; each other, all living beings. It’s odd this human condition and this is why I say that following only makes us more blind to the Truth. It creates excuses, because when you follow you are not the one responsible for your actions.

If you want to be free, you have to find your own path. Use the wisdom of teachers and sages, but take responsibility for your life, your actions, your thoughts, your own path to freedom.

I will finish this little thread of thoughts with another from Krishnamurti:

The constant assertion of belief is an indication of fear.”

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Three layer cheesecake

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Three layer cheesecake

I love making raw vegan cakes and vegan cheesecake is definitely my favourite. I often make ginger lemon cheesecake I already shared, it's perfect for summer, but since berries are in season now, I experimented with this raspberry / blueberry three layer version and it turned out really good. Here's what you'll need: 

Crust:
70 g roasted almonds
70 g roasted hazelnuts
4 pitted dates
Coconut oil

Cream:
200 g soaked cashews (I left them overnight)
sweetener (I used date syrup…)
50 g blueberries and raspberries
Ginger powder
Coconut oil 

 

To make a crust simply mix almonds, hazelnuts, pitted dates and a spoonful of coconut oil in a blender or food processor until you get a smooth but still a bit chunky paste. Spread it over a smaller cake pan and leave it in a fridge until you make the cream. 

Mix soaked cashews with sweeter (to your taste), a tea spoon of ginger powder and a spoonfull of coconut oil. Cream has to be much smoother so mix it well and use either water or more coconut oil if you see it needs to be more creamy.
I used about a 1/4 of the cream for the first layer on the crust. I than added raspberries to the rest of the cream and used half for the second layer and added blueberries to the rest for the third layer. If you don't want to complicate it, you can mix it all up and it will still taste great;). 

Leave it in the fridge or, if you're very inpatient in the freezer for a while and ... enjoy it! 
It's healthy and guilt free in every way;) 

Thank you Roko for the blueberries.

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New moon magic

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New moon magic

A powerful new moon is upon is, calling us to look within and explore from where our intentions and actions come from. Do we act out of joy or desire? Compassion or self-gratification? Do we follow our hearts or our egos? Are our actions aligned with our Soul or are they just a play we put up for ourselves and others? Do we act out of love, freedom, humility, and gratefulness or from conformity, need to prove something or a desire to be seen in a certain way?

This is something I have been pondering on for weeks now. Observing myself and people close to me, trying to understand or just feel where thoughts, words and actions come from. So, when I read about this new moon it was an aha moment for me. Now I know why I questioned so much this past few weeks.

Try and pause for a moment today and look at your life right now, observe where you are, take a close look at your plans, hopes and dreams for this year or the future. See what foundations you have built these hopes and dreams on, look deep within and ask yourself with what intentions. Are your plans and dreams serving your growth or are they serving some other purpose? Are you ready to let go of all of those which do not serve your path? Is your life a quest for meaning or a quest for gratification? And are you ready to walk alone, yet not judging those walking in a different direction?

Much to meditate on in the next few days...

About this new moon in the wise words of Sarah Vargas from astro-awakenings.com:

"At this new moon we are consumed by a lack of influence over the world around us and the course of our own lives. We may feel compelled to act and yet powerless to bring about the changes we desire. Until, that is, we bring ourselves into alignment with the deeper current of sacred becoming in our life, adopting its rhythm as our own. This process may necessitate relinquishing a long cherished dream as we recognize the unconscious forces within that have mischievously propelled it to the fore. What we thought was a desire to do good is revealed as simply a need for recognition. What we believed should be our destiny becomes the biggest distraction from all we could become. What we assumed was the truth of our lives is exposed as a confusing lie that we, ourselves, have perpetuated. We can see all this at a new supermoon if we dare peer into its darkness and acknowledge what we find. Or we can allow the forces of ego to whip us up into their special kind of frenzy and pursue (unsuccessfully) the satisfaction of all they demand… To make the best of this moon we must commit to an inner journey that may be scary."

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Find your own light

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Find your own light

With big things as well as small, when something runs its course, there is a moment of stillness and pause before we figure what comes next. After the trees shed leaves in the fall, winter brings a pause before a new cycle which comes in the spring. A perfect and needed moment of stillness, like a moment between breaths, words, thoughts. So is in life. When we come to an end of a road and find ourselves at a crossroads, there is a moment of stillness too. We look back and see what this road has taught us, we pause and reflect and take a moment to decide in which direction we shall take that next step. But, sometimes this isn't an easy decision to make. So we stand there, and stand there... Just as the moment in between breaths this is too a normal pause, but if we hold teh breath for too long we feel like suffocating. Waiting too long on that crossroads can make us feel like we're suffocating. We get stuck and hold on to the end for more reasons, one being fear. New brings change and change brings uncertainty. 

Not long ago I too felt a bit stuck and I knew that, I need to forward. I needed to make a decision on which road to take and with which intentions, but I got stuck at figuring out where forward is. In these moments, when I need more clarity, I often turn to the wisdom of people I am blessed to have in my life; my friends, family or teachers.

About this particular issue I sought guidance from one of my teachers, a wise man with a deep understanding of human mind and a gentleness which I guess comes with age and much life experience. Ones I shared my thoughts and doubts, this is what he said: “You are about to climb a mountain to reach a peak. The peak is your goal, a place where life is much easier, more peaceful and abundant. There are two ways to reach this peak, two ways up the mountain. The one you are on now, a more familiar, quicker but steeper and on a less sunny side of the mountain. The other side is a bit out of hand, it will take planning as it is not familiar and longer to reach the top, but it’s easier to climb, it has more sunshine and nicer views you can stop to enjoy. Which way do you see yourself taking? Will you stick to the familiar or embrace the change?

It sounded like an easy choice, so why am I just standing still? Why do I feel like I can't move? I love roads less travelled and the fresh smell of new beginnings. I never thought I feared change, I flourish in change, but something about this and about now had made me doubtful and fearful. Many times in life when faced with a choice, my adventurous, bonvivant side would always take an adventurous, scenic route. So what is so different now? Is this what they call older and wiser? And if so, I don't like it one bit. I had to do some soul searching to find out why I felt so stuck. 

In my quest for understanding I realised there is an inherited pattern I am still holding on to, regardless of all I’ve learned and experienced, regardless of how much I’ve already changed and what my life so far looks from the outside. My inherited belief is that change is not to be embraced, especially if your life is normal according to socially accepted standards. And while change a constant part of life and teaches us to embrace the unknown, I was taught to fear the unknown and stay ‘safe’ on the road more familiar. Hold to the familiar, abide by rules. Rules somebody else had made. I was also taught that everything worth having has to be earned the hard way. It has to involve a bit of a struggle, rolling up the sleeves and doing the work. And while, in order to reach a goal, sometimes there is work to be done, hard decisions to be made, things to be let go off and it may not be all butterflies and flowers, I know it doesn’t have to be hard either. When you are in the flow of life, there isn’t much struggle. Struggle comes from swimming against the tide, not with it. 

Looking back I now see that decisions to turn my life upside down as many times as I did in my life never came easy. Quite the opposite; I would always struggle and change would often happen out of wrong intentions - out of spite, to show my will and strength, or to prove something. It had to be hard, otherwise it had no value, or I was not worthy of it. It was a fight, or sometimes even a game, not so much ‘’following my heart’’ as I liked to believe. This isn't a bad or a good thing, it is what it is. I used the tools I had to move and to change, to live by my own rules. But what happens when you no longer want to use the same tools? Having spent many years letting go of the fight, I now feel as if I have lost the ability to hold the sword I used to cut through life’s fears and challenges. I feel as though now, instead of a sword, I am holding a flower in my hand, trying to make do with it.

I know that my sword has helped me cut the chains of my past and break free, but that was just a physical escape. When we are truly free, it is an inner state and not the outer, and no prison cells can take that away. Breaking free of the past, of the inherited beliefs, traditions we don't resonate with, of norms and rules and regulations, the dos and don'ts and the boogie man fears IS the true freedom. From that point of view I wonder if it's even possible to be do truly free or do we stay forever bound, one way or the other, to all these energies, to the inherited belief systems, to collective karma. I know I have surprised myself with this realisation that the road ahead is still very long. In fact, regardless of everything, I may still be at the beginning. 

Letting go of inherited belief systems, changing, and finding your own way takes waking up, questioning and evaluating just about everything you have ever been told is ‘normal’, socially accepted, or good for you. Everything you have been told by family, society, school, teachers of any kind. Questioning without judgment. It takes fearlessly digging deep and stripping down until you are left naked to face of the world, standing there as long as you need to until you realize there is nothing to be ashamed of, we are all naked underneath it all. It takes getting lost because all of the sudden the map you were given no longer serves the path you’re on, so now you have to find your own path. It sometimes takes walking alone as you watch everyone else going in the different direction. It takes taking responsibility of every little choice you make in every day life. No manuals, no scripts, no shortcuts. Wow. No wonder we are still here, closing our eyes to suffering, finding excuses in 'norms' and rules of someone else, following blindly regardless of the potential of the human heart and mind. 

“Doubt everything. Find your own light.” It isn’t easy, but it is necessary for all of us to embrace our own truth and find our own way using our hearts and not our minds, holding a flower and not a sword.

Photo credit: Bojan Haron Markicevic

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Thank you heart

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Thank you heart

I am sitting on a balcony in front of my room, and even though it’s midday on a hot day, it’s windy and pleasant. The view from here is amazing; the ocean, blue sky, palm trees, Ben Howard playing on my laptop buffered by the sound of ocean. Swell is picking up today and the sound of waves braking on shore is pretty loud. Noise to some, but music to me.
As the last days of my Sri Lanka trip are coming to an end, different feelings arise from moment to moment and there is no time like the present to observe what comes up. Right at this moment it’s a mix of feelings really, but I guess it is normal for ends to feel bittersweet. However, bitterness is eased by an understanding that ends are also beginnings.

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Raw vegan ginger lemon cheesecake

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Raw vegan ginger lemon cheesecake

Thanks to a few friends with summer houses with gardens and lemon trees, I wasn't in short supply of organic, juicy lemons this winter. And as I had more time than usual around Xmas and New Year, I had spend much time at home doing what I love. And one of those things is creating yummie vegan deserts. So, organic lemons + time on my hands = this yummie raw vegan lemon cheesecake recipe. 

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Kapha season & asana practice

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Kapha season & asana practice

Usually I do asana practice in my yoga shala, but the cold is starting to really get to me, so lately I prefer to practice in my small, warm, cosy living room.

Most asana related injuries I ever had were from practicing or demonstrating asana on the class while not warm enough. It’s usually a pulled hamstring or my SI starts to act up when I go to deep without building enough heat in the body.

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