This blue marble

– and yet it spins

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Just sit

morskieoko“Just sit”, the late meditation teacher Michael Stone used to say. “Just sit, once a day, every day. That is all it takes”. But what if there are early morning flights? I am not good at sitting at 4.30 am. And what if when I get home and sit, the cats sit all over me – or alternatively break into mutiny on the other side of the door? What if, when I finally sit, I almost fall asleep? There are days when just sitting is fine. And then there are those other kind of days.

Thank goodness for the Headspace app. I now just sit in the airplane, unbothered by announcements. And I just sit in the solitude of my office, before that last teleconference or before leaving. Not because I could not sit without a mobile app. But because it reminds me with a little quote at any random time. And because it is a guiding voice when just sitting in silence does not work. And for those moments when there is no ocean or mountain lake in the vicinity.

(Photo from Morskie Oko lake, Poland; summer 2015)

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About pain, in paradise

Processed with Snapseed.My yoga friend and I checked in to paradise. She is swimming lazily around in the infinity pool overlooking a river. The cicadas are playing, and the river, too. Swallows hunt for bugs between the trees in the sun. I might give the Balinese Jamu health tonic another chance to become a friend of mine.

If this trip could have one spiritual theme it seems to be a first kick towards a goal of wellness and health. While here I have become aware of how my injured mind has injured my body. I have needed time to slowly get used to living with the pain of the past, and to stand up with its weight. Now I need to learn how to walk, despite of the past. It is not about “letting go”; rather about “living in spite of it”.
Processed with Snapseed.Yesterday night at a Tibetan bowl meditation session we conducted a heart-opening exercise, offering up all the pain and anxiety in us and replacing it with something positive. Letting the first thing that enters be acknowledged. I gathered all the hurt and the memories and the anxiety from every limb and vein and tried to push them out of my body if only for a second. From somewhere deep within me, the word that floated up to fill that vacuum space was “health”. Health of the body and of the mind. If the mind is ill, the body suffers, too. I realized I wanted to become healthy, in every possible way.Processed with Snapseed.Some time ago my body put a stop to both a beloved hobby as well as an activity my mind was pushing my body to do. I used to run 10-12 km every other day for years, until my knees literally told me to stop running, according to my ayurvedic doctor. I ran them out some time ago and needed surgery in one knee. No running anymore, possibly never.

My body was wise. I should have listened sooner. But now I practise yoga asana, possibly the best way of listening to my body. And I have heard its wish to become healthy again. I will listen.
Processed with Snapseed.(Maya Ubud resort, Bali, Indonesia; September 2016)

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Of sleeping and resting, and their difference

Processed with Snapseed.Ubud means green smoothie and light reading before an evening meditation class – every day if I like. And getting up with the sun. It took me 5 years’ worth of summer holidays and a Balinese ayurvedic doctor to understand that my natural tendency is to sleep too much. In today’s busy Western world, we tend to sleep late during the weekends when we can. I thought it was beneficial to catch up on sleep properly during weekends. But the dear doctor I consulted told me that with a pitta-kapha constitution I need to restrict my sleep to 8 hours, 9 hours maximum. And that the best sleep I can get is before midnight – to wake up at 6.30 am, right after dawn.

While our bodies need sleep, they also need waking rest. We cannot compensate the waking rest with sleep, living a life of extremes: stress until we sleep, sleep until we stress. Have you, like me, tried try to compensate rest with only sleep, until noon in dark winter weekend mornings, just to end up feeling sluggish and even more exhausted than the night before? After a pilot week I vow to myself to change my daily rhythm: going to sleep by 10.30 pm at the latest will give me almost a full night’s sleep even if I have an early morning flight and must rise by 4.30 am.

Our bodies sleep in cycles, my travel companion told me. And waking up from deep sleep is not constructive to our energy levels. She convinced me to try an app that tracks individual sleep cycles and awakes one with soft sounds at the moment when the sleep is not deep. This way one awakes more refreshed, instead of being dug out of a deep sleep by a relentless alarm clock. I am curious to see how it can help my sleep reprogramming.

For now I will enjoy my sunrise mornings with fresh frangipani flowers in the trees and birds singing as I make myself ready for yoga practice. Reality will only hit much later, thank goodness for that.
Processed with Snapseed.(Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; August 2016)


Like fish in the jungle

junglefish-1One hot day we decided enough is enough. Enough heat, enough dust, enough bustle. Two of us hopped into a taxi, and one of us dared a crazy scooter taxi ride out, all the way through the rice paddies and into the jungle. Because (and this is a secret), there is a little patch of heaven hidden in the jungle. Like this:junglefish-5We threw ourselves down into a hanging bed – and to our delight they had sparkling wine on the menu. What a rare treat on Bali! And so were the lovely superfood salads. And so was the stretching and pummeling also called a “Balinese massage”. junglefish-2The fish swam in their little pond. We swam in our bigger pond, where the water spilled down over the edge, and the jungle crept close.junglefish-4Not until sunset, when the lanterns in the trees were lit, did we get dressed and return to Ubud. And if you cannot muster the strength to leave this patch of heaven (we nearly didn’t), you can dine overlooking the jungle, and check into a room of your own. Yes please. Next time!
junglefish-3(Junglefish spa, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; August 2016)


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Spa bliss on Bali

sangspa-2“Massage is the simplest form of happiness” the sign proclaims. While I disagree and substitute “massage” with “sleep”, I concur that Bali is the place where one can become dizzyingly blissfully happy in the hands of a good masseuse. Not to mention the flower baths and foot washing and clay masks and jamu tonics sipped wrapped in fluffy bath robes, often in the middle of a lush garden or jungle.

The Balinese claim to have invented the spa concept. During the centuries, ancient Balinese herbal knowledge mixed with Hindu ayurveda and massage and Chinese acupressure. Appreciation of beauty is the color of the Balinese soul, and so a Balinese spa is not a cold stark operational chamber but a place invoking both inner and outer beauty. Both men and women go to their favorite village spa for treatments as naturally as we Westerners take a bath.

The essence of a Balinese massage is to open the clogged channels of blood, oxygen, and prana (or qi). While nothing replaces exercise and mindful living, a Balinese massage once a week while here surely cannot hurt?sangspa-1(Ubud, Bali, Indonesia; August 2016)

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Yogi toes

Nobody spends so much time staring on his or her toes as do those who practise yoga asana. How sad it is, then, that we tend to neglect these parts of our body that patiently carry us all day, every day. Usually in shoes that demand the impossible. And feet are the ones that ground us – or lift us up. They are just too far from our nose for us to acknowledge and respect them properly. Which is often closer than another person.

It is only when one spends a good hour staring at one’s feet several times a week, that one discovers how they really are doing and feeling. And even if they are doing fine, isn’t it nice to stare at something pretty and green? Or interesting – I have been entertaining the thought of having someone draw a miniature comic strip on my toes, for that extra drishti concentration.

(Helsinki, Finland; August 2016)


The baseline: about selfish fears

oregon-10What is your greatest fear? Is it the fear of losing someone you love? Losing your health? Losing something else? Being alone? Dying?

These are all valid fears. We may feel alone with those fears, but we are not. The rest of the world shares them with us. And yet there seems to be a different degree of nobility to some fears: when we are asked the question, what is our greatest fear, do we not have a fleeting thought of considering what our answer may sound like? “What if I pick the wrong fear?” “What if I do not answer with a fear that involves a loved one, but only myself – is my fear a selfish fear?” It is not easy to face our fears, and facing them is definitely not made easier by a strong feeling of having to fit the mold at the same time.

While it may be noble that one’s greatest fear involves the wellness and presence of a loved one, the essence of fear is nothing more but the inborn will to stay alive. Thus the essence of fear is already a selfish emotion. Fear is also the resistance of change, to our survival and benefit.

My greatest fear is, and has always been, a deep and selfish fear. I am afraid that one day I will wake up as if from a hazy dream, and realize that twenty years have passed and I have nothing to show for it. That I did not even notice them passing, one by one. That I wasted precious time in which I could have made some tangible results, not only careerwise but also towards other people and our planet; that I did not live each day fully and did not explore our world; and that I would have no clear-distilled memories of great times and great learnings. That I simply had existed but not lived.

Fortunately this fear is one that can be availed. Truly living each day is a decision best made every morning of every day. I find that when one does it properly it is a tough decision to make, a little like a challenging yoga pose: one can either try to superficially resemble the correct form, or one can get down and do the work properly, no matter how inadequate it makes one feel.

Through the years I have developed what now seems to have become a mantra. If you share my fear, perhaps you benefit from sharing my mantra, too. The short version is: “live today”. The long version goes:

(Still your mind.
Remember to breathe. Then say to yourself:)
Today I choose to live this day.
I choose to live it by my highest sense of right.
I choose to experience what comes my way.
Om shanti. Peace be in our universe.

oregon-9(Photos from the Oregon coast, USA; March 2010)