+

Thoughts on strangers

So many strangers. Aren´t we all strangers in this world? Who do we know when we first set foot onto mother earth? Nobody. Protected and shielded in our mother’s womb. All protected. All alone.

But– are we really all alone? No. Strangers, sitting in front of each other at a table. The café is packed, no other space to sit. So, they had to share a table. Sitting on a table together, separated by different coffee mugs. Staring in opposite directions. Avoiding eye contact. No one daring to look into the other´s eyes. But no. we stay separated, we stay by ourselves. We don´t know what to say and how to say it. We grow further apart.

A stranger who could become your friend in a heartbeat. If you would let him in. Aren´t we all the same? Why are we constantly creating a barrier between us? What is mine and what is yours? Shouldn´t we all be glad to have this incredible chance to live in this world? The experience each and every day? To be alive and breath in the fresh air. To being able to jump and run and walk. If we´re all the same why is it so hard for us to connect with another human being? Shouldn´t a simple “Hello. Tell me about you?” be enough? Instead of meaningless bullshit talk about the weather. Questions like “Where are you from” or “What do you do?”. Rather we should ask “What is your dream?” “What is your passion?” “Who do you want to be in this life?” “What is your passion?” “What are you striving for?” “Can I maybe help you achieve your goals?”

Or maybe I can just be there with an open ear to listen to you which sometimes is enough. Sometimes you just need someone to listen. We are able to engage in so many different forms of communication. We can understand each other without words. Sometimes, a simple look into each other’s eyes is enough. One look and we know what is going on. If you look into the eyes of a stranger and you look close enough you will see if this person needs someone to talk to, someone to listen or just someone to be there. We just constantly choose to separate ourselves from each other. Put up a wall to enhance the distance. When in the end all we want is just to break through the wall to see the real faces. We all want to be seen. To be noticed. To be connected to the real soul and not the image we put out there.

An image might be easy to create. It might be easy to only show the nice and good sides of yourself. But where will it lead you if you never show and never accept your dark side? If you never have the courage to talk to a mere stranger about it. Or don´t talk. But show who you are. Without a mask, without any thought behind. Just the raw you. Small and vulnerable, yet newly nourished and powerful. Wouldn´t we all have it so much easier without playing this game? Without worrying if someone might like us. Without worrying if we might come across as weird. In the end we just need to be happy with us ourselves. No one else needs to be happy for us. If you are happy with who you are you will transmit this feeling to others, and they will feel happy to be in your presence. They will enjoy who you are. And if not? Then you stay true to yourself. Then you don´t bend down and change your personality every time you meet someone new. You don´t chicken out if someone has a different opinion than you. You accept it and are able to move on from it. You are able to talk about it. And you won´t feel threatened by other beliefs and opinions. If you are secure you will be greatly respected for speaking your mind.

Strangers might be drawn to you as well. You will talk to them. You will see brothers and sisters in every person you run into. Everyone you get in touch with you will recognize as an unique soul of this universe. Beautiful and unique. On their own special journey. We all have limited time on this planet, and we should use it wisely. But just imagine how much more you could learn if you just would let yourself connect with a new stranger every day! How much would you grow only in a week, a year a month? Simple learning from the knowledge and wisdom of others. Each person in this world can teach you something. It might not be easy to see at first, but everyone has a unique quality. You could just engage in a little conversation, give a stranger a little smile, a little something. A little act of kindness. People feeling less alone and confused in this world. Beautiful human connections with other beautiful souls who help each other to grow and shine. To shine so bright the light will even grow and get lighter and brighter. Bringing this light over the whole world.

Especially when we are in a foreign environment we tend to feel alone quite easily. A little act of kindness from a stranger can sometimes safe a day. Can sometimes turn a day full of misery into one filled with happiness. A little act of kindness. We should all consider being kind to each other. Just a tiny gesture. That´s enough. The feeling of being all alone in the world can only overcome you too quickly if you are all alone and know no one around you. A stranger among strangers. A lot of eyes on you. Which can be terrifying if they seem to be judging you. If they seem wanting to expose you, to hurt you. But if there´s just a little smile in the crowd we instantly feel better. We instantly regain faith in humankind. Just a genuine smile. A smile can save a day. Can even save a life. You never now.  It´s just a little kindness to a stranger.

Who will, after all, not be a stranger. But only another beautiful creature of this universe. Another being, risen from stardust having a human experience and falling back into pieces afterwards once again. The body, the illusion will be blown away by the wind. But the soul will stay forever. The soul will always stay connected. It will always be with you. That´s why these little acts of kindness matter. They matter as they will stay at your side infinitely. They will walk a bit of your way with you. Trust in their kindness. And give it back to them whenever you can. We can all use a little kindness in our lives. So why not start? Right here, right now. What are you waiting for?

+

Letting the right people into your life

Relatives, friends, acquaintances – all of them people entering our lives for a longer or shorter period of time. Some of them staying. Some of them only for a while. All of them influencing us in one way or another. Every single person will have an impact on you. Will leave something of themselves with you. Therefore, it is so crucial to know who is allowed to stay and who isn´t.

First solo travel experience

While travelling I learned a lot about myself and the people I connected with. Especially comparing my first solo travel with my second one I definitely learned from my experiences. During my first solo trip I went to Chile which was, undoubtably, an incredible experience. However, there, I did not nearly develop a connection as deep as with the people I met travelling through India. I did have a lot of fun during my trip, met a lot of nice people, but I also knew as soon as our way would separate, they would soon forget all about me. That was just their attitude towards people they met in general. They were travel buddies, nice people I hung out with, had a good time with, shared some good laughs with – but there was no genuine connection. If I had needed someone to talk during this time they wouldn´t have been the ones to ask. At that time, I didn´t even think it was possible to establish such a connection with strangers. As I said, it was my first solo travel, so I was eager to meet people. I also had a little fear of ending up all alone, so I was happy about some company. But not every company is the best company you could surround yourself with. There´s company just because you want to be surrounded by people, then there´s company where you really connect with people on a deeper lever. The latter one is what you should strive for. Sometimes, you are better of with waiting a little, spending some time by yourself and the all of a sudden you will just meet the person you are supposed to meet. Just like that.

During my first solo travel I remember one person that stood out of all the acquaintances I made. A Vietnamese girl born in Germany whom I loved to hang out with. I felt that she was a special person sharing some time of her trip with me and that I probably wouldn´t encounter someone like her again on this trip. We met when I was exploring the Valle de los Muertos, the Death Valley in the Atacama Desert. There, she was also visiting the area with two Chinese friends. When we met on top of a hill and started talking, her friends rather stayed by themselves, but we kept talking and talking like a waterfall. We walked all the way back to the city and agreed to meet the next day as well. Two weeks into my travels that was the first and only special connection I made and would remain the most special experience on this trip.

My second solo trip

On my second solo trip to India everything was different. I wanted to establish more profound connections with the people I met. This feeling of being connected with so many people around the world in so many different places is something so beautiful, something that makes you feel like being part of the whole world and not bound to a country.

Establishing these connections was surprisingly easier than on my first solo travel as I started my journey with a yoga teacher training. There, all of the students were living together in an Ashram for a month. A long time in which amazing friendships and profound connections can form. And they did. Spending that much time together doing yoga and meditating lead us to connect on a deeper level all together.

After leaving the yoga school and continuing my trip on my own, I kept encountering amazing people. Every place I visited, I met like-minded, amazing people. After finishing my Vipassana, for example, I met a girl who just had finished hers a few days ago as well in Kathmandu. We instantly connected, shared our experiences and could learn a lot from each other. She made Kathmandu a very special place for me even though I didn´t really like the city. Too much pollution, way too touristy and noisy and by far not green enough. However, that showed me one more that that with the right people you can enjoy any place in this world.

Auroville

One very special place filled with a lot of special people was Auroville. The whole village of Auroville is something truly amazing. Located in the south-east of India, this village was founded by a French woman called la mère, the mother. She founded the village to be a place of consciousness where people from all over the world could live together peacefully. A place without any religion, a place that accepts everyone. A place that ideally shouldn´t need money as well. The money part is not yet realised, people still need money to pay inside the village. Still, this place is amazing and has a beautiful energy about it. Right in the middle of the city, there´s a big round golden building solely built for focusing and concentration. For consciousness. Inside, you can meditate. Inside, everything is white. Starting with the white carpet on the floor to the white marble walls and white ceiling. You are embraced by a bright white space. This building you enter in silence. Stay for a bit. Meditate. Then you silently walk outside again. it is called the Matrimandir and is the heart of the city. It is where people go for a little tranquillity, a little quietness. All of this makes Auroville such a unique place with a very different atmosphere. You can feel it when you meet people, you can even feel it when you just look at people in the streets.

I had so many beautiful encounters in that place. People who inspired me, people who helped me learn more about myself or people that just where there for me. Especially because I was not having the easiest time there, I needed people to talk to, people who helped me to lift myself up again. Luckily I encountered exactly these people in my hostel. To this day I am so grateful for having met these people as such deep connections are not that common while travelling. Sometimes it can happen that no one would be interested in helping you. You would have to deal with your problems by yourself. Which is an important lesson to learn as well. But having my friends and support around me still made it much easier.

After all these beautiful encounters, I started looking for the right people to connect with more and more. We should spend our time with people who bring the best out of us. Whom you give energy and get back the same amount or more in return. On the contrary, people who just suck out your energy with giving nothing in return are probably not meant to be in your life. There´s nothing more beautiful than feeling a deep connection with someone and mutually benefiting from this relation. At the same time, I realised I am less tolerant when I feel like someone is draining me and it costs me a lot of effort to engage with this person. If that happens I feel like you just need to let go. Looking after yourself in that way is so crucial. It will safe you a lot of time and energy you can use for yourself or engaging with other people who mean the world to you.

+

My hypnosis experience

During my travels through India I got in contact with a lot of spiritual practises. One of them was hypnosis. A practise I didn´t know much about before. I just had a gut feeling I should go and try it out. I had no idea what to expect – and never could have imagined what I was about to experience.  

It all started with me finding an ad of a hypnosis therapist in the newspaper of the village I was staying in. I was curious, so I booked my session and a few days later I already found myself in the advertised guesthouse. In the middle of the woods, 9 am in the morning. A beautiful, calm and quiet place. There I was warmly welcomed by a Chinese woman who was already waiting for me. We exchanged a warm hug as if we already knew each other, then she led me into her trailer in the back of the guesthouse. This was where she was giving her sessions. A small space, with a mat and two pillows on the floor. Simple, but still a special aura about it. We sat down facing each other and started talking normally first. Getting to know each other a little I found out she was from Beijing and moved to the Indian village five years ago. Something about this place kept her there – and it was not hard to see what. The energy, the people. Everything had already struck me in not more than 5 days I had spent in the place. After her telling me a little more about herself it was my turn to talk about me and what I was doing in the village as well.

I finished my short introduction, then we started the session. Sitting in front of each other on a cushion she asked me to fully relax myself and then proceeded to ask me: “What do you want most in life, creatively?”

The answer was simple, I knew it since I was probably 8 years old.

“I want to be a writer”, I replied instantly.

“Dig a little deeper”, she insisted, “What do you want to express creatively? What do you want to express with your writing? It shouldn´t be more than three words.”

She gave me time to think a little, then I just spoke out the first word that came to my mind.

“Peace, love and harmony”. In exactly this order. That finally was something she could work with.

“So, what is stopping you from spreading peace, love and harmony?”, she asked softly, “Listen to your heart. Listen what your heart tells you.”

I placed both of my hands over my heart and listened closely. From the outside world, I could not see any obstacles. From the inside however, I could. Looking deep inside me I told her everything I could see, everything that my heart was telling me. She proceeded softly asking me questions, getting closer a closer to the root of my problem. I trusted her completely, all the way. Which was crucial for me to being able open up that much and basically tell this woman I didn´t even know my deepest fears and complexes. However, she created such a loving, safe atmosphere I would have told her anything at that point. I trusted her completely. And so I told her what I was already feeling deep down inside.

Going through this process with her I also felt the energy in the room changing. When we first started, I was full of love, vibrating with happiness. Afterwards, my energy turned dark, sad and small as I was reminded of the worst side of myself. Then, however, she managed to turn my energy back around. In such a beautiful way she guided me into trance, telling me softly I could achieve anything I desired. While her soft words reached my ears, I saw colours in front of me. Lots of mandalas changing patterns and colours in front of my eyes the whole time. From blue to orange, to red to green to yellow to white. I felt like sitting inside a small bubble of light. Totally protected and understood. Totally at home and at peace. As the room we were in was so small the whole room came to this light, bright atmosphere we captured there.

After all of it was over I felt so light again, so bright, so happy.

She told me how to deal with sadness or other emotions that might disturb your balance. She told me to create a room where I should invite these emotions. A room where I could welcome them, drink tea with them. But I should never forget that they were just guests. Guests I could welcome for a while but eventually they would be asked to leave. Which was a beautiful way of looking at it. I started to feel a subtle shift right away. I felt that this underlying sadness, that I had carried around with my subconsciously before, was gone.

And I could see others felt it too. Others were drawn to my presence afterwards without me doing anything. I had so many beautiful encounters on the very same day that even made me happier than I already was. This simple hypnosis had such a huge impact on me, and I just felt a huge amount of gratefulness towards this woman.

This hypnosis had given me something I was lacking for a long time before. As quite an emotional person, I was for the first time in my life given a tool on how to deal with it. The hypnosis was also not what I had expected a hypnosis to be. I thought during a hypnosis you would lose control over yourself. I thought the therapist could be in complete control over all your senses. Which is not the case at all. I was always in control of myself. I knew what I was telling her and only told what I wanted to tell her. She could not have made me say something I wouldn´t have wanted. She just helped me access some information, some knowledge about myself that was already there, but I couldn´t access by myself.

It was a beautiful experience which also showed me, however, that this is something that personal, I couldn´t have done it with everyone. You need to trust that person, and upon the moment I saw her, I knew I could trust her. I just had a very positive feeling about her which I kept throughout the whole experience. After it was over she also asked me about what I just revealed, and we had a little talk afterwards. She then even drove me back home on her motorcycle and told me to come back to visit her any time. Which I would do, coming back to the city. I hugged her goodbye and was left struck by what I just had experienced – and grateful for me being able to have such a beautiful inside of myself.

+

Can a Vipassana change your life?

Vipassana – powerful meditation technique I talked about in last weeks post. If you missed it, find out more about it here! In this post, I want to look back on my experiences and reflect on what changed after the 10 days of my Vipassana mediation were over. I am going to go back to the questions I was thinking about as well as my experiences and personal practise.

How to practise at home?

On the 10th day, the last day of our Vipassana course when noble silence was about to be broken, we were taught how we should keep on practising to keep on benefitting from our mediation. We were listening to the founder of Vipassana, S.N Goenka, again who told us we should meditate twice a day when leaving the course and returning to our life back home. Two times a day for an hour each – one in the morning and one in the evening. Every day. For the rest of our lives. He told us we have to maintain practising eagerly for one year. After one year, we would have formed a habit which we would keep until the end of our days. At first, this amount of time might seem a lot. However, he, of course, explained why these two hours were necessary. Less practise means less benefits. So, missing the daily sitting is not an option. When you meditate, you also get more energy and you are way more focused on your work and are even more productive than before. So, two hours per day might sound much. But in reality it is not. It will most likely even give you more time for yourself as you are more focused and get things done way quicker than before. 

The end of the course

For me, the Vipassana was over when the noble silence was broken. Officially we still had half a day of the course, but the spirit of these classes was different. As we hadn´t been able to talk for 10 days the announcement of being able to do so again was something very special. Suddenly, I could express myself again. Suddenly, I could talk to the others I just had been able to watch the days before.

I remember exactly how I reacted once we were told the noble silence was over. We were sitting in our meditation hall and were only allowed to start talking again when moving away from it. So, everybody slowly started to walk outside, I felt completely different. I was sad in a way as the end of the course was coming closer rapidly and I somehow wasn´t prepared for that. I was still caught up in my own world, so many thoughts still in my head – and suddenly all of that was over. We were about to go back to normal life.

So, I walked out of the hall, consciously right behind an Italian girl I had been talking to right before my course had started. I wanted her to be the first person to talk to again. Being near her felt familiar. At least she was not a complete stranger anymore. We walked next to each other in silence for a bit, then she started laughing. She couldn´t believe it was over and neither could I. I started crying and laughing at the same time, an outburst of emotion. Everything we just experienced in these 10 days came out at once. I wanted to hug her so badly, but we weren´t allowed to have any physical contact. Not until the 10 days were fully over. Still, we were able to share our thoughts and experiences and continued to do so until the next mediation class. Time was passing insanely rapid again as we were talking, exchanging, sharing.

After the noble silence was broken I realized how hard it could be to focus in the next mediation course. As I had just been exchanging experiences with the others, all their words and thoughts were still in my head, circling and spinning around. I was not packed in my little quiet space anymore. Which made focusing much harder. However, this was about to be the case every day from now on. We better got used to it already.

Leaving the course

After I left the course, me and the Italian girl staid in the same hostel for a few days. She wanted to explore the city of Bodhgaya further, I had to wait for my bus to Kathmandu. Right after we left Vipassana both of us were eager to meditate every morning and evening, two hours every day. We were determined not to miss a single sitting. We even looked out for special places to meditate in nature like a huge, old Banyan tree, a cave or a temple.

Goenkas words of the importance of daily practise were still in my head. I knew that if we wanted the meditation to positively impact our lives, we had to keep practising daily. As you have to do with any skill. Only regular practise will lead to process. And I kept on practising daily for as long as I stayed in India. Practising was not that hard. I was travelling, I had no obligations, I was only out of the course for a few weeks.

However, once I came home, fell back into my routine, university and work life, the whole situation changed quite quickly. I still meditate every day. That is something I would never want to miss. But the time I am investing in it is getting less. Right now, I am meditating around 30 to 60 minutes a day. I know I have gotten lazy and I also know living a busy life is not an excuse. I am aware that 2 times per day are possible. With the right determination. However, I decided not to be too hard on myself. What could would it do to stress about it and feel bad about myself. I am content with the fact that I am trying my best every day. If it works out, that´s good. If it doesn´t, it still won´t be the end of the world.

A one-day course

Recently, I decided to engage in a one-day Vipassana course to deepen my practise again. After having done it I can definitely say I am more than glad I did it. Granted, one day will not leave such a massive effect as a ten days course – but I rediscovered some beautiful aspects of Vipassana I had already forgotten.

A really important aspect of the Vipassana meditation is that you meditate to work at the rout level of your mind. That is why this technique is so powerful. It teaches you how not to be attached to anything – neither good nor bad things. How to remain in perfect equanimity. The technique of Vipassana teaches you to sit in a comfortable meditation position and to scan your body from head to feet. While you scan your body, you will feel certain sensations. These sensations can be anything – and they can also appear in the form of Sankharas.

A Sankhara is a negative emotion, stored in our body from. It can be an emotion from a fight a while ago, it can be a recent one. Once you meditate it can surface and appear as an unpleasant sensation. However, if you do remain equanimous the whole time, the Sankhara will disappear sooner or later, and then will be eradicated. We all are carrying a big stock of Sankharas, of negative emotions within us. Therefor it is so important to meditate two times a day, to eradicate these Sankharas and to prevent ourselves from creating new ones.

Metta Meditation

Another method used in Vipassana is the Metta meditation. I somehow even had forgotten about this wonderful technique and therefore couldn´t include it in my daily practise. Practising the Metta meditation, you generate love, compassion, goodwill and happiness towards other beings. Which is the goal of Vipassana. To generate nothing but love even if someone is not giving you love back in return. During a metta session, you repeat positive words like love, peace and harmony in your mind. Then you generate these feeling towards all beings. Human or not, to all beings. I always found the Metta really powerful. It gives you so much strength, positivity and love you can then spread and share. It will merely leave you with good thoughts and good feelings towards yourself and everyone else

Conclusion

I can say, after the one-day course I still have a lot to learn. It made me realise that I would need a lot of practise and dedication to reach my goals within this area. However, a one-day course can help you get back on track, strengthen your practise and motivation. Which is important after a while. We all have responsibilities and need to earn a living. Within all these struggles, one can easily miss some daily sittings. One can get lazy, one can forget about the benefits. I, as I said before, had even forgotten about Metta! Now I am just wondering how on earth this could happen.

The Vipassana meditation is a powerful tool that definitely can change your life for the better. If you keep on practising, if you keep on trying you will soon feel the effects. Vipassana will help you to spread only love and positivity around the world. That´s why it´s important to keep trying, do some courses, get your motivation back again. Anyone can feel unmotivated once. But if you think back about the benefits the technique gives you, you will soon realise how important daily practise is.

+

Why meditate in silence for 10 days?

Vipassana – a silent mediation, an ancient meditation technique Buddha used and taught to his students. But what is it exactly? How does it work and why?

What is a Vipassana?

Vipassana is a meditation technique. Several courses to learn the technique are offered all around the world. These courses can last 1, 3, 7, 10, 20, 30, 60 or 90 days. As a start I went for was a ten days meditation course in Bodhgaya, India. It was not just any place – it was the place Buddha became enlightened thousands of years ago. A place that is now visited by millions of tourists, pilgrims and monks every year. However, there are various centres all over India and in many other countries of the world.

What do you do during a Vipassana?

During the Vipassana course you are not allowed to talk or interact with anyone. You will stay in silence and avoid making eye contact with other fellow practitioners. You will just focus on yourself for the duration of the course – ten days in my case. During these ten days I lived in a Vipassana meditation centre. I had my own room which was very simple but provided everything I needed.  The whole room was made out of dark stone walls, the floor and bed in black, the walls white. I slept on a matrass on the cold stone with a mosquito net above to keep me from being eaten by these little beasts. A mosquito net was truly necessary as you are also not allowed to kill or harm anything or anyone during these ten days – which also counts for mosquitos. It was winter when I did my Vipassana and, in the north of India, it could get quite cold during the wintertime. There were, of course, no amenities. It was as simple as it could be. A room made out of cold stone, one shelf for belongings, blankets and a mosquito net. Then a simple bathroom with bucket showers and a toilet without toilet paper. Nothing more. I wasn´t there to spend a holiday – I was there to meditate. And the lesser the distractions the better.

Rules of a Vipassana

In a Vipassana, you are not allowed to do anything than meditate. After I entered the gates and had signed up for my course, I had to leave all my belongings in a safe until the end of the course. During the course you are not allowed to read, nor to write, nor use your phone or do anything else than to focus solely on yourself and your meditation. To prevent distractions, personal belongings have to be left behind. Which was surprisingly easy to get used to. Men and women are separated as well and would only be allowed to meet after the course was over.

Noble silence

Upon our arrival to the centre we were still allowed to talk to each other as the course had not yet officially started. However, after the first introduction and the servers showing us our rooms, we were asked to be silent and stay in silence for the next ten days to come. At first it was weird to stand next to people I had just been chatting with and all of a sudden we weren´t allowed to interact any longer. However, it didn´t take long for me to be caught up in my own world and didn´t even think about the others anymore. Once I entered this space of being occupied merely with my own thoughts and actions it was no longer hard not to interact anymore. The more I got absorbed in my thoughts the less I felt the need to talk anymore.

Timetable

From day 2 on we had a strict timetable for the entire day. Being woken up by the bell at 4:30am we started to meditate at 5am. This meditation lasted 2 hours until breakfast. Our meals were always simple vegetarian (and mostly even vegan) meals prepared by the volunteers who served in the vipassana. The breakfast with a small break lasted until 8. During this time hot water was available to take a shower. Otherwise, we could take a shower later with cold water. Which was not as pleasant as it was quite cold during that time – it was December in the north of India and the nights were freezing cold. Afterwards, we met again in the meditation hall to meditate for 3 more hours until 11. During this time our teacher sometimes took us out of the hall asking us how we were doing and if we had experienced any problems during our meditation. This was the only time we could and should talk. We could also talk to the servers if we needed some help. Afterwards the talk with our teacher we had lunch until 12 and a long break until 1pm. During this break we could do whatever we wanted – wash our clothes or walk around on the paths of the centre. As the centre was not very big, this was maybe done within 5 minutes. I, as many others, discovered the square in front of the biggest meditation hall as a perfect spot to just lay down and enjoy the sun – midday was the only time it really got hot outside. When the end of our break was again announced by the sound of the bell we knew we needed to make our way back into the meditation hall. The entire time I had no watch and had to solely rely on the ringing of the bells. There was also another watch hanging outside of the meditation hall. Like that it was easy to lose track of time. We found ourselves in the meditation hall to meditate until 4pm – with two breaks in between. Then, we could have some tea, puffed rice and fruits. This break was also something I was very much looking forward to as it got already late and it got harder and harder to concentrate. The tea break lasted an hour, then it was time to go back again. In the evening, we were listening to a talk of Goenka, the founder of the Vipassana centres, on TV. He usually explained what we would feel and experience on the particular days of our meditation. He was always the highlight of my day as he would tell stories and explain which problems we might be experiencing in all detail – and he usually was right. Afterwards, we had a half hour of meditation again and then, at 9 pm we were already going to bed.

How do you meditate during a Vipassana?

In essence, the technique of a Vipassana is to learn to see things as they are and not how you would like them to be. It also teaches you not to react to a certain stimulus right away, but to take your time to reflect and accept conditions as they are. The ultimate goal is to change the habit pattern of the mind. In our everyday life we are used to reacting. Even a tiny event can cause a big reaction within some people. This kind of behaviour, however, doesn´t always serve us best. To avoid acting imprudently, the main meditation technique of a Vipassana is to scan your body from head to toe, starting from the head down to the toes and upwards from the toes again – for an hour or longer. During this body scan you will feel and observe certain sensations in your body. A tickling, tingling, prickling, vibrations – whatever it is – you are merely here to look at them, accept them as they are and move on. For me this particularly hard during our one hour sitting we had to try every day. In this sitting we were supposed to meditate for an hour without moving or changing position. After a while I already felt pain in my feet, legs, arms, neck – anywhere and everywhere. But I was not supposed to react to it. I was just there to absorb the pain and accept it. To reach this state was hard, but once or twice I managed to even embrace my pain. As soon as I did I didn´t have any power over me any longer. Sooner or late it would disappear. I myself experienced this several times. Sometimes my whole body hurt from sitting in the same position for such a long time – but it made me realise that indeed nothing lasts forever. Everything, no matter what will disappear eventually. This realisation is even more powerful if you experience it within the framework of your body.

How did I experience the Vipassana?

The first few days were hard. I did enter the Vipassana without any expectations as I wanted to make my own, unbiased experiences. The first days, however, I didn´t make that much of an effort to meditate. Looking back, I knew that I should have done it, but I was so occupied with a lot of questions in my head. Questions about what to do in the future and with my life in general. And now I finally had time to think. To think what I really wanted without any distractions. Which I was in desperate need of. On top of that I did the Vipassana during new years eve. That evening when I realised the old year was over and the new one stared and there I was, sitting in silence, meditating and listening to Goenka was certain that I never experienced a more powerful start in the new year. This time I had time to map out my goals in my head, to think carefully about what I wanted to accomplish in the year ahead of me. It was only after new years eve that my thoughts got more and more quiet and I could finally focus solely on my meditation. As a new student I was not able to focus the entire day, but it got better with each hour I spent in silence trying to focus.

After the Vipassana

But what happens after a Vipassana? Would I continue meditating that much and is that even possible in everyday life? Goenka would have the answers for this matter which he told us on our last day. But would I listen to them? Would I implement it in my daily routine? And what now half a year after my course? These are questions I will leave for next week as I will be doing my second Vipassana (this time an only one-day course) this weekend. Afterwards, there will be even more experiences waiting to be told.
+

What can we learn form India?

India. A country I just loved more and more each day I spent there. Each day I travelled around looking out for new wonders yet to discover. Like every country, India has its good and its bad sides. Today,  however, I want to focus on the positive. I want to focus on what you can learn if you let yourself being taught from the people of this beautiful land.

Smiling

Sounds quite simple and ordinary doesn’t it? However, I have seen way more smiles on the streets spent in a day in India than I ever have back in Vienna. Which, to be fair, is a city known for people´s grumpiness. Still. A smile doesn’t cost a penny. If anything it will make someones day a little brighter. What I really enjoyed seeing in India is people looking you into your eyes with a smile on your face. If you smile, people smile back. Whenever I asked something, they would reply politely, always with a smile on their face. Not only smiling to me but also to each other. Even if their life, for the most part, is harder than the life of the standard Austrian, they still manage to take it with more joy and with a smile. Smiling and truly appreciating what we have is definitely an attitude we all can adopt.

Helpfulness

I came across a lot of amazingly helpful people whom I didn´t even need to ask to help me. They just did. Whenever I entered a local bus, people would automatically see that I was a foreigner as I would be the only white person in the entire bus. Soon, someone would approach me asking me where I was going. When I answered, people would always tell me exactly where and when to get off, sometimes even walking me to the next bus stop so that I would securely end up in the place I needed to be. Just by the looks of me wandering around a bit disoriented someone would approach me – something I have never seen in Vienna. People usually walk by, too busy to stop for anyone. Most people might not even see someone wandering around cluelessly, as they would be too busy being occupied heading to work or home.

Making things from scratch

Granted, this is more of a necessity than a choice in India, but I still wanted to include this point. I was more than fascinated when I saw how Indians create their food for thw first time. As I was invited into a kitchen of restaurant one time – to learn how to cook indian food by myself – I got quite an insight on how they can make almost anything from scratch. If you need  coconut milk and shredded coconut you will just crack open a coconut and shred it yourself. Also, every sauce, every meal is made from mixing plants together. I´ve never seen anyone using any pre-made sauces – everything is made from scratch – something I couldn´t even imagine anymore as I was so used to just going to the supermarket and buying everything I would need.

Non-stealing

Now, let me first say that I am aware that this is not the case for all regions in India, because in some parts you have to take better care of your things than in others. Those parts are very poor though and people sometimes have not much choice than steal to survive. However, the regions I visited, especially the ones in which Hinduism was very prominent and where I could clearly see their religion played an important role in their lives, you could easily walk into a shop with a heavy backpack, leave it somewhere between the clothes to look around and then pick it up again before you leave. Even when the bag was out of sight the entire time no one ever touched it. Something that would be unthinkable in most parts of our world.

Non-violence

I experienced India as a peaceful, non-violent country. I was never subject of any kind of violence nor did I witness violence during my travels for three months. What´s interesting is the question what makes this country a rather peaceful country. With my observations in mind I tried to compare India and Brazil, both situated on the other side of the world, they have a lot of similarities. Especially when it comes to social structures and poverty. However, when you compare the two, you will quickly see that Brazil is way more violent. This might be due to religion – butcpuld be questioned as well, due to Indians not really carrying weapons – or at least I didn´t see anyone carrying them. What plays a very big role for sure though is something almost every Indian believes in: Karma

Karma

Karma is the believe that what goes around comes around. So, if you commit a crime, if you act inconsiderately towards other people it is very likely that all of this will soon come back to you. As you already put bad energy out in the universe, the same energy will enter your life again later in the future. The same thing goes for good deeds. If you do something good, if you help someone in need, you will be helped when you need it as well. So good deeds are always something to strive for – you don´t want something bad to happen to you. I genuinely believe in this concept myself as well. We are all putting out our energy in the world. We are creating our own field of joy or suffering. Which then influences other people. Doing something good with a good intention that comes from the heart will eventually come back around. Something bad will as well. That´s a concept anyone could adopt as well – even if you don´t believe in it – acting upon it would make your day a little brighter. Helping and being kind to others will consequently lead to you seeing more smiles, laughter and joy. And how doesn´t want that? India can teach you even more than that, but these were the points I wanted to focus on for now. I feel like if anyone adopted a few of these attitudes – and gave the concept of karma more credit, we would all live in a bit of a happier world.  
+

What happens when you repress sexuality?

Sex. Something I used to giggle about as a little girl, not really knowing if I could talk about it. A taboo, something you´re taught not to talk about in public. Well, where I live you certainly can. There are more and more open debates, awareness and interest are rising. However, there are other parts of the world where people are not even educated about sex. Not at all. Never even seen nor used a condom in their life. I was wondering what happens in these parts of the world, when you are forced to repress your sexual desires, when society turns it into something forbidden and dirty. Something that´s just not talked about. I found some answers to my questions in the north of India.

Now, mind you, you can never generalise India and I am also not trying to do so. It is such a diverse country and therefore, also the education level and knowledge about sexuality varies from region to region. In some parts I´ve experienced a rather open discussion about sex and relationships, in other parts you could see peoples misery not being able to express themselves sexually as they would have liked to. The latter one I want to focus on now.

The north of India. Bihar. Bihar is the poorest state of all India. I´ve been told it is a state rich in resources, but ordinary people never see a penny. The government seems to be absent, nothing of the profit is used in peoples favour. Rich people getting richer, poor people poorer. In this state It was in this state where I could talk to locals about how sexuality is dealt with. I made some experiences that might be shocking – but seeing it with the understanding I have now they almost feel natural to me – as they are a result of poor education and knowledge as well as repression of sexual desire.

My experiences

In this region it happened particularly often that a young man would just casually drive next to me with his motorbike while I was walking around in the city offering to show me around. What seemed nice at first is something I learned to be very careful of. Not everyone had a “nice” agenda. Luckily me and a friend of mine got to know a few nice guys from the region we then hung out with. Once we got to know them, they explained us a lot about how sexuality is dealt with in their town – and we could even witness it with our own eyes.

They told us that Indian men never really have the chance to closely interact with an Indian woman before marriage. Especially in Bihar, which is a poor and also very traditional state, I never even saw a woman walking on the street alone. She was either accompanied by her husband or walking in a group of women. And very rarely I would see one on her own. Our friends told us that this is the case, because they are simply not allowed to. If a man and a woman have a relationship before marriage and they are seen by either of the families in public, they will both have a big problem as this is considered to disgrace the whole family. So, men cannot really have sex with an Indian woman unless married. They told us looking for prostitutes is an option – as well as hooking up with white women. That´s when I came to realise is that all these guys who wanted to show us around on their motorbike really had a hidden agenda. I mean, I thought about it before, but as I didn´t want to jump to conclusions to quickly, I abstained from judging too quickly.

However, as the guy know that white women are more open with their sexuality, they did approach me in order to eventually get what they wanted. As there´s usually also white women acting in porn, they are even more used to sexualize them. Of course, being approached like this frequently was not pleasant at all, but I could also understand where it was coming from. That is crucial to understand. If you are a young guy and you´re just going nuts, you might not always be thinking rationally. I even have a few personal stories to tell here.

Learning from Indian friends

One time we were hanging out with our Indian friends and as my Italian friend and I were used to, we then later hugged them goodbye. A simple hug. Nothing sexual you would think. Well. If you´ve never been hugged by a woman before that leaves an impression. The same day in the evening when we saw our friends again, they soon started comparing our boobs which they apparently felt through our clothes. We weren´t really bothered about it and thought they were just going to tell a few stupid jokes and that’s it – but it was far from being over. They kept on and on talking about our boobs and eventually we were really annoyed. Let’s change topic, please? There´s certainly more important things to talk about! But apparently not. When saying goodbye again for the day, one of our friends even begged me to give him a hug in my hostel dorm – which I said no to and made him a little sad, I guess. Now mind you – these guys were our friends and generally really nice guys. They never hurt us in any way. They understood that “no” really means “no”. But most of them also have never been close to a woman as well. Now their repressed desires slowly surfaced. The only one of our friends we would consider “normal” was a guy who has had several relationships with western girls and knew how to treat a woman. But if you never had a relationship with any woman the situation can get a bit more difficult.    

Most of our friends were about 25 and above and never had a girlfriend. In fact, the concept of a girlfriend didn´t really exist as they cannot have an Indian girlfriend – only if she will be their wife afterwards. In this region, arranged marriages were quite common as well. However, that´s not the case in the entire country. It´s also not the case that everyone objects to it.

These guys however, some of them 25 and a virgin, didn´t know how to deal with their sexual drives. It was quite clear to us as they asked us a lot of questions like: “When did you have your first time?” or “How many times a day do you usually do it?” It was obvious that this was a topic they needed to talk about as they apparently couldn´t talk about it with anyone else. In their group of course they could, but with an adult – or even their parents? Unthinkable.

The toilet incident

That´s how I got into a quite weird situation. It took place at a restaurant with my Italian and indian friend and I needed to use the restroom. My Indian friend showed me the way – there was one room for the ladies and one for the men which you had to pass through to reach the ladies one. So, I took my time in the ladies room, my friend was waiting outside. Once I was done and opened the door to the men´s area I suddenly saw him jerking off in the middle of the room – right in front of me! He didn´t even hide it from me, just whispered “Your boobs are so big” and kept on going. Weirdly enough I wasn´t even that shocked. Disgusted – yes. This was not something I needed to see. But the shock was rather short. I soon got myself back together, told him to never do that in front of me again and left the room. Now, in this case it was a young boy who also had a slight crush on my Italian friend and was probably a bit overwhelmed by so much contact with women. As he was quite young, a teenager, I was able to look past it a bit easier. A few minutes after he already apologized, knowing that he had done something wrong before. And I accepted.

What surprised me that most when thinking about the situation afterwards was my reaction though. I reacted as if I had known what was about to occur. I wasn´t shocked at all – and actually I shouldn´t have been. If you keep on repressing your urges and desires, some situations will escalate sooner rather than later. Now, I am not at all saying this justifies all sorts of behaviour – it certainly doesn´t. Repressed or not one still is master of one’s own actions. I am just saying I understand where these guys are coming from way better now. It is a difficult situation – also not very likely to be changed.

Whereas in some parts of India, the situation was completely different. People even had different boy- and girlfriends before marriage and that was a common thing. But in traditional parts, the family plays such an important role you cannot possibly imagine choosing your partner.

However, young people there are hungry for information – I´ve seen their actions and listened to their questions. Sadly I only had the opportunity to speak with men about their point of view and have not much inside on the women’s perspective on this matter. This perspective is certainly still missing. But in this region, it was almost impossible to talk to an Indian woman or make female friends.

Concluding thoughts

Overall, I was shocked what effect repression and tabooing sexuality can have on young people. It is a topic that everyone is interested in, that everyone will most likely have to deal with sooner or later in life. Suppressing sexual urges will just lead to young people not knowing how to deal with sudden sexual drive. It is something that needs to be understood, as talking about sex is also not completely taboo-free in the west. But it should be. Not talking about it does more harm than good. It leads to massive problems if children are not properly educated. That´s what I wanted to picture here. Of course, there is not quick solution for a whole country with this kind of problem – which is not only India but many others. However, it is also crucial to know, to be informed. With information you can then act – better, and more reflected than before.

+

Learn to trust your intuition!

Being able to trust your instincts, knowing when to trust a person and when to rather walk away can be crucial. Getting to know your inner voice, getting in touch with the very first feeling about a person can be so important when having to come to a decision whether or not to trust someone. If you form a habitude of listening to this feeling, it will only grow stronger and stronger. I made experienced two situations I want to share with you now – one where I didn´t listen to my intuition when I should have – and one when I did listen to it – and couldn´t have been more right to do so.   Disclaimer: Before I start, let me also be very clear that I am sharing my own, personal experience here. Of course, this experience is subjective and written from my point of view. I´m by no means here to discriminate anyone, I am just stating what happened to me, in my perspective.

Ignoring a bad feeling

Let´s start with the bad feeling as this experience also happened prior to the good one. Both of them happened in India where I was travelling by myself for 3 months. Travelling alone as a woman you have to be careful – especially when it comes to guys. That´s what I learned a rather not so nice way. When I went to Bodhgaya, I went out alone one evening to get something to eat. Like many times before, a random guy stopped his motorbike right next to me and started to talk. At first, I didn´t really want to engage in this conversation. I had a very weird feeling about him from the beginning, everything inside me told me to just go away from this person. This feeling was clear from the start. I went on my way, but the guy kept driving next to me on his bike asking me questions. I replied very shortly, wanted to get this conversation over with as soon as possible. However, at one point we came to talk about my visa and how I needed to go to Nepal to get a second visa to stay in India. He told me he was working with tourists all the time and could help me to get my visa quite quickly. That peaked my interest. Even though I knew I should have just walked away, I stopped and we started to talk for a bit. Finally, he offered to drive me around on the countryside the next day. Since he already offered to help me, I thought he really might be nice and told myself I shouldn´t be too judgemental. But there was something off about this guy. When I looked him in the eyes, I could see that his intentions weren´t pure, that there was hidden agenda behind. If you practise a bit, you will soon see if someone has your best interest in mind or not. If people are hiding something from you, you will see it in their eyes. You will see they will not be entirely open with you. And this guy was definitely not open with me at all. Furthermore, he was a rich businessman, bragging about all the land he bought and the hotels he was planning to build when right beside him people were starving on the streets. Something that, to him, was just “their own fault”, he said shaking his shoulders. However, this was it for our meeting the first day. The next day, I had breakfast with my Italian and Indian friend. They also wanted to go to the place the guy had proposed to show me the day before and I suggested going all together. But this guy didn´t want to. By no means he wanted us to go all together. He begged and pleaded to see me alone, then even sent his little brother to pick me up and separate me from my friends. His brother just came in the right moment when I needed an ATM and my friends wanted to go somewhere else. So, this seemed convenient at first. With his brother I went on to look for a working ATM – which can be hard to find in some cities. Finally, we found it, I collected my money and just wanted to go home. However, when I mentioned I just wanted to go back to my hostel and sleep for a bit, the little brother seemed very upset “No, no!”, he insisted, “Come with me and I show you a beautiful place and you can sleep there.” I really just wanted to go back, but he didn´t give up and I was tired of arguing after a while. So, I went with him. Which was a big mistake. As with his brother I instantly knew there was something off about this small, skinny guy. I also knew my gut feeling was telling me, again, not to go with him. But, again, I didn´t listen. We went on to the countryside, drove further and further away from the city. The place we were about to go was 25 kilometres away from the city, Bodhgaya, so that was quite a ride. Around us just local villages. No means of public transport anymore. Just village after village, simple houses made out of straw and clay. That´s when it started to get uncomfortable. He started by asking if I was married which I replied I am not. Saying to have a boyfriend didn´t seem to have any value at all. Not being married basically meant being single to him. Soon, he started calling me “my darling” and assured me “he would do anything for me”. I was sitting behind him on a motorcycle and he continued to grab my hand and pet it, told me to come closer and hug him tightly – which I refused as I got more than enough warning signs already.  I got more and more uncomfortable and worried as we were driving further and further away from the city. It was a 25 kilometres drive on the Indian countryside. There was nothing around me. I wouldn´t even have known the way back. I also had no signal in the middle of nowhere. I couldn´t even have talked to people there – it was the deepest countryside – nobody here would speak English. So, I had to stick to this guy if I wanted to get back to the city again. The thoughts of running away already crossed m mind, jumping of the bike and trying to call my friends to pick me up before it was too late. This guy just got pushier and pushier every minute I was on this bike seemed like an hour. Soon he almost demanded me to kiss him. When I told him a very clear no from my side, he got really offended and stayed quiet for a bit. After a while, he started again and tried to assure me that it was a completely normal thing to do and any girl so far had done it. I couldn´t help but laugh at him – yes, for sure, every other girl had. What a lady’s man. On top of that, his brother kept calling him, the two of them seemed to fight a long time over the phone as the older brother had wanted to take me to the place the younger brother was already taking me. Both of them seemed to have the same interest, so I already knew I would not see either of them again once I got out of here. Finally, we reached our destination. The Buddha cave. There, he told me to go up to the cave alone while he would wait downstairs. I already thought I was not going back with this guy, already thinking about just joining a tourist group and going home with them when suddenly my Italian and Indian friend appeared right in front of me! I was so relieved to see them, I couldn´t believe it. In the arms of my Italian friend I started to cry, letting out all the stress, anxiety and frustration and all kinds of mixed emotions I was just experiencing. My friends gave me some time to calm down, to go into the cave and meditate and finally I got back to a calm and quiet space. They took me with them and told the guy I would stay with them from now on. I can´t even put into words how incredibly thankful I was for my friends showing up there. Without them, I have no idea what I would have done. This, however, was a very valuable lesson for me. From now on, I told myself, I would always listen to my feeling, which to this point in time always proved to be right.

Following a good feeling  

This story is definitely a happier one. Which starts right at the airport in Chennai, in the south-east of India. I had just flown from Kathmandu to New Delhi, then from New Delhi to Chennai and was exhausted after a long journey. When I went out of the plane, I had no place to stay and as I had checked my budget before and got a little shock of what I still had left to continue my journey. So, I decided to sleep in the airport to save money and continue my trip from there in the morning. Then, right on the bus from the airplane to the terminal, an Indian guy next to me asked me where I was heading. I told him about my plans of going to Auroville, which was close to Chennai and eventually the conversation came to “So – did you book a hotel yet?” I explained him I would just sleep in the airport and that it wasn´t a big deal. He seemed shocked and offered me to come along with him and his friend to stay in a hotel. He told me I couldn´t possibly think of sleeping at the airport, that this was not a nice place for me and that I could trust him. First, I was very sceptical. Still having the previous story in mind, I wasn´t sure if accepting would be such a smart idea. However, this time I had a different feeling about the guy. I didn´t get any weird vibes or hidden intentions from him. Indeed, he just seemed like a person wanting to help. However, people like that are rare, so I wasn´t sure whether or not this experience was real or not. Usually, people want something in return. So, I started thinking what that could be. It´s quite sad, when I am thinking back now, how programmed we are to automatically assume the worst. This guy had presented himself as a lawyer, even gave me his card, which again gave me a bit more reassurance. He seemed like someone standing up for a good cause. I also just felt there was a good person standing in front of me, who just wanted to help me out of his heart. When I looked him in the eyes I didn´t see any hidden agenda. Just the pure will to help. And then there is the rule of karma he explained to me. Helping me would be a good deed for him and he would be rewarded with good karma later on. Now, he said, he was able to help me, so he wanted to do it. If he might help in the future, I could help him out later. He also didn´t push me in any way. He simply offered and gave me a choice. An offer I accepted in the end and went with the two friends to their hotel. They even had their own driver take them there. When we stopped and walked into the hotel I couldn´t believe my eyes at first. The hotel was very nice – and certainly more expensive than I could afford at this point. I was blown away that someone would just invite me to such a nice place and – on top of that – pay for my meals as well! Certainly, this was a much nicer way to spend the night than the airport. Even though I didn’t get much sleep this night either as we were having dinner at 3am in the morning, talking and getting to know each other. They wanted to know why I´m travelling, how I liked India, which places I had been to before and so on. Then they also told me about their case they went to the city for. As lawyers they were basically busy the whole time which made me appreciate their generosity and helpfulness even more. In the room, there was already an extra bed for me – and the two insisted for me to sleep in the normal one, not the improvised folding bed. I had some good rest and had breakfast with the two the next morning. Then, we went around the city a bit. I saw a little bit of Chennai then it was already time to move on. So, I packed my bag and my two new friends accompanied me to my bus. Even though they had a lot of work to do there they wanted to make sure that I reached my bus safely. I am so grateful to them as they helped me more than I could have ever imagined. I am still so blown away by how generous someone can be without expecting anything in return! Trusting my instincts had proven to be right here and I am very glad I listened to them. Otherwise, I would have missed out on wonderful people and a truly unique experience.

Thoughts on my experiences

Even if it might be hard to trust people sometimes, it is important to learn how to trust your instincts. If you have a weird feeling don´t think about it twice. Listen to it. Your first intuition is usually right. Learn how to use your feeling for a person. Some people might be easier to read, some harder, but with some practise you will soon know when to trust a person and when it´s rather good to be careful. I just know that ever since I listen to what I feel about a person I have more sense of if this person has a good intention towards me. If that person has my best interest in mind or only their own. Trusting my feeling had let me to a lot of wonderful experiences where some people might jump back scared, thinking there has to be a hidden agenda. We should not always automatically assume the worst. We should be careful, of course. Being naïve and trusting anyone will not get you very far. But trusting no one and closing yourself of from new experiences and new connections is also not the right way. Find your golden middle. Find how you feel comfortable, find out when you feel comfortable with a person. And then decide whether to trust them or not based on how you feel. In the end, you know yourself better than anyone. You might as well listen to the expert.
+

How Yoga can help you to connect with yourself

Yoga. I´ve already written a few posts about this beautiful practise, but ever since I came back from my travels, back to “normal life” again, I begin to see more and more how crucial it is to implement yoga in my daily routine. Starting my day with or without yoga makes a very big difference. Every time I somehow can´t practise in the morning I feel that something is missing. But what kind of difference does it exactly make?

Waking up with Yoga

I love having yoga as a part of my morning routine. Usually, I practise for about an hour, mostly around 7am with the raising sun. It´s just insanely beautiful to watch the sun rise while welcoming it with the sun salutation. As I get up quite early, I have the whole day ahead of me and start it with a lot of energy I get from the practise. Some days, when I am running low on energy and I’m not that motivated, I usually adjust the time or intensity of my practise – that´s the beauty of yoga! You´re not competing with anyone, you are your own master and you know what´s best for yourself. So, you decide how, when and how long you want to practise.

Keeping up the routine

Lately, I´ve come to realise how hard it is sometimes to keep up a routine. Once you habe already built it and are used to it, it´s easy to keep going on and on – but keeping up newly developped habits can be a challenge. Daily yoga practise is no exception here.  Even I myself – although I really love yoga and know about all its benefits – can still feel unmotivated or not wiling to get out of bed sometimes. I guess everybody has these kinds of days. What I use to do then though, is forcing myself to get up and try. The first few minutes I might be tired and not so willing to practise, but that usually disappears after five minutes when my body is slowly waking up. Then I don´t even want to stop, I´m just enjoying feeling every single muscle in the morning. This gentle force towards yourself works for building up any routine. Remind yourself why you want to follow it. And then stick to it. Day after day after day. There´s a saying that once you are able to keep up a routine for a year you will stick to it your whole life. Considering the length of a lifetime, a year is not much to be sacrificed.

How yoga continues to help me day after day

Yoga is not only about toning your physical body, but also helping you to put your mind in the right place. This practise helps you to balance body and mind. The calmer the body, the calmer the mind and the soul. Once your body is completely in line with itself and fully balanced, you will be able to enter a meditative state way easier from here. Yoga is preparing and prepping your body for the higher stages of meditation and of connecting with yourself on an even deeper level. Which I am feeling each and every day. If I am stressed out and start practising yoga, I will be way calmer afterwards, won´t stress as much and also gain back my focus a little more.

Calming down with yoga when you´re stressed out

Who doesn´t know it: you have a ton of things on your plate, work, studies, friends, hobbies, personal projects – and you are trying to balance all of them as good as you can. Some are better juggling that many tasks at once, some worse, but eventually it can get too much for anyone – no matter how good at juggeling. When everything seems to be getting too much it can be hard to relax, because your mind would rather focus on all the unfinished tasks that yet lay in front of you. Whenever I feel like that, I take a moment to breathe and to acknowledge that I have a lot of things in my life to be grateful for. And that no matter how stressed out I am at a moment, it will not last for forever. It will pass eventually. Closing my eyes and breathing in deeply connects me to the present moment. I stay there for a while until I feel ready to proceed, then I go on with my practise. Then, only when I am truly in the moment, I experience all the benefits yoga has to offer.

Benefits of yoga

I discover more and more benefits of yoga since I let it be part of my daily routine. When I am thinking back to my first yoga session, I still know how calm I felt, how much I was at peace with myself and the world. My body seemed to be in a state of pure relaxation and I was utterly grateful for what I just experienced. My body might have been exhausted on the outside, but it was glowing and growing on the inside. Implementing the practise into your daily routine you will feel these benefits every single day – and they will only grow stronger. In yoga, your main goal is to focus on yourself. Yoga is beautiful self-practise, self-acceptance and self-worshiping. It can help you to deeply connect with your inner self. Yoga postures seem to work on the surface, but their effect is way deeper than just a mere stretch. While practising and doing asanas, you learn more about your body. You learn to listen to your body, you learn about your limits and how far you are willing to push yourself. Without any stress, without any desire to compete with others. Yoga is not about competing. It is solely for you. You are the only one you need to keep up with. You are the only one you need to compare yourself with. If you are making progress, that´s all that matters. Practising yoga you can work on yourself each and every day. Every day you can push yourself a little further. Every day you can grow into yourself a little more. Every day you will newly develop a great respect and acceptance for yourself.

Enhance your focus and attention

This is probably one of the most important benefits you will experience. While doing yoga you need to focus – on your breath, on the exercises and on your flow. You will get used to focusing, and it will get way easier for you to focus on a single thing. While we might be used to multitask and do ten things at once, we only can truly focus on one thing – and then get it done with all our focus and attention. Then your tasks will also be done well.  The mind will be here, in the present moment and won´t wander off like it does so often. Jumping around like a monkey not ablw to focus. No. you will be right here right now. Connecting with your breath. You will be completely engaged in your flow, deeply concentrated and focused on your practise. Surroundings won´t matter anymore. You won´t even hear the noise outside your window.

How to start?

I´ve been talking about practising yoga at home myself, but if you never practised before, what´s the best way to start? YouTube videos are an option, but I would highly recommend starting out with a teacher – and videos on the side. A teacher will be able to correct your mistakes and will help you to learn the positions the best way. Watching a video and trying to imitate the postures you will never know if you are making a mistake and might hurt yourself. If you have taken a few lessons, you can try to practise at home by yourself with the positions you still remembered from class – which is what I did when I started. Or you can try practising with videos. Once you start out with classes, they don´t necessarily need to be expensive. In most cities, yoga in a parc is offered as well. which depends on the weather of course, but it is way cheaper and a good way to start out! If you want to read more about yoga: here´s some other posts! https://theworldinbitsandpieces.com/2019/03/28/why-go-for-a-yoga-teacher-training/ https://theworldinbitsandpieces.com/2018/10/01/how-yoga-is-changing-my-life/
+

Thoughts on eurocentrism

Why do we see the world the way we do? How do we even see it? Do we have a broad understand of our world or are we just narrowing it down to a quite egocentric perspective? This question can be easily answered by watching the news. By seeing what is talked about in Europe and what is left out. Let´s talk about eurocentrism.

The fire of Notre Dame

A fire. Burning in the sky in the city of Paris. Bright and red, burning down one of the oldest and most famous buildings in whole France. People sad, shocked and concerned. I´m sure that by now, everybody heard about it. The fire at Notre Dame. Or saw it on the news. Or the internet. It was indeed impossible to miss. But why is so much attention given to this particular event? Don´t we have more important things to talk about?

Let´s look at it from a very matter-of-factly point of view. Let´s assume we know nothing about Notre Dame. We´re someone who has never heard about it and is seeing this building for the first time in his life. In this case, we look at the facts: just a very old building burned – not even completely – down. No one died. No life was in danger.

So good so far. Let´s assume we know more about Notre Dame. In this case we know that this gothic church is a very old Parisian landmark which is visited by thousands of tourists every year. A beautiful building, a real tourist attraction. Many people might have already seen it in real life. But still – it remains a building.

What I definitely have to question here is: Why do we show so much sadness and worries about something that should be so trivial compared to the problems we are facing at the moment. I can understand that it is talked about in the news as it is an event that happened quite close to us, that has cultural and religious relevance. I understand people can be sad about it if they might have had a special relationship to that building. But I am questioning the extend the fire is talked about in the media. It covered the news completely and left everything else out.

Focusing on the wrong issues

I am questioning how a building can get that much attention when a cyclone in Mozambique was barely talked about. Which was an event where people were dying and in desperate need of help. I am questioning why our environmental problems are not covered as much even though way more important and concerning all of us. If something like the Fridays for Future movement, where students are skipping school and university for the sake of the environment, had gotten that much attention we would be way ahead of our problems. But it doesn´t seem like we neither want to hear about other people struggling in other parts of the world nor our destruction of the planet. Instead, we are focusing our attention on something else, more pleasant to think about. A tragic event, but not as tragic as people still suffering from postcolonial structures.

The Eurocentric perspective

This fire of Notre Dame is illustrating our Eurocentric view on the world perfectly. How much focus we give to certain events if they happen here in Europe and how much focus we lay on other things is sometimes more than shocking. After this fire, all I saw in the news in the morning was something about Paris. I´m sure that something more important happened overnight as well which has been left out completely. This leads me to question the reactions of people as well.

After the fire, tons of pictures of Notre Dame were popping up on my newsfeed. Many people posting pictures with the church, sad captions, crying smilies. But why are we showing so much empathy, so much sadness for a building and ignore almost everything that happens in other parts of the world – especially the global south? After the cyclone in Mozambique, nobody posted a picture to show condolences. During the war in Syria I´ve never seen anyone expressing empathy for the victims suffering the war. Why do we only express our opinion to such trivial matters? And this fire is a trivial matter if we just take a moment to look at the bigger picture.  

I am also questioning people donating a lot of money to rebuild this church. Of course, it should be rebuilt, as it is an amazing expression of the French culture and history, but I am just struck by how fast people were reacting, donating and worrying. I am sure people wouldn´t spend their money as quickly on a natural catastrophe in Africa or southeast Asia. How can it be that we show more empathy for a building than people?

Questions that arise

Shouldn´t we think a little ahead? Shouldn´t we question why we see this on the news and not something else? Isn´t this a pure expression of our own ignorance? Of our Eurocentric way to see the world? Of us being very much concerned what happens to “us” in Europe but ignoring the real problems people in other parts of the word – and due to the globalisation, we as well have to face?

Sadly, we seem to be trapped in our own little European bubble that shields us from events happening in the rest of the world. In my country, there´s rarely a newspaper covering the global south – in fact I only know one: Südwind. Which is an amazing newspaper telling you about what is happening in the rest of that world that stays uncovered from our eyes in everyday life.

Nowadays, it seems to be more interesting what is talked about in the news and what isn´t. Because what isn´t shown also says a lot about us. About what we want to see and don´t want to see, about what we care and don´t care about. We can easily develop a conscience that cares about each and every nation on the planet – but therefore need to distance ourselves from the mainstream media. Otherwise, we will get sucked into a system and a way of thinking which is hard to let go of. Still, it should be easy: Think about what you see. Why you see it. How it is presented. Show concern for others. Talk about things that are not talked about. Share your knowledge. Show empathy.

+

Laughing meditation 

Meditation – something that has helped and continues to help me a lot in my life. During my yoga teacher training in India my classmates and I experienced a lot of different forms of meditation. Especially some group meditations I want to describe in more detail as they are a beautiful tool to unite a group and bring the members closer together.

Laughing meditation

This meditation was one of my favourite ones. We first built up some tension in our bodies with breathing exercises while moving our arms. Then we were chanting a mantra loudly for a while. And then we had to start laughing. At first, the laughter were quite forced, we were all not sure what to do. It was a bit strange to just start laughing without any obvious reason. However, our laughter soon got more intense. There was always a person who had a clear load and funny laugh and who kept all the others going. More and more people started laughing and soon we were no longer able to stop. We had classes in which I was laughing to hardly my whole body was hurting afterwards. It was a beautiful connection to laugh together, to free ourselves from worries and sorrows together. Even if I wasn´t in the best mood before I was always happy afterwards. You simply cannot laugh and stay in a bad mood at the same time. Laughing together felt so liberating after feeling all this tension in the body just vanished. We just kept laughing and laughing until our bellies hurt and we could not do so anymore. I even experienced moments I was laughing so hardly, I wanted to keep on but my body just didn´t let me- that´s how out of breath I was. After laughing, we had to start dancing.

Dancing 

This kind of meditation was great as well as we could just release all the energy from laughing. As we were sitting down for a long time before, we needed to move our bodies again. The music that was put on was just perfect, I soon let lose and just danced it off. In a space where I didn´t have to care about being judged for dancing everybody could just let go and express themselves however they felt. This experience led me to adapt the attitude and just enjoy dancing however I want whenever I can and wherever I want. It´s the best feeling in the world to move your body to the music the way you feel like. Even if it might be considered “weird” – what is weird anyways? If you feel good and people feel your energy, it will make you and everyone around you happy as well. I was always almost ecstatically happy after dancing. We were dancing for a few minutes, then we were told to lay down on our backs. Here our teacher was always talking, but I remember one time very clearly. A guided meditation experience I want to share like it happened.

Guided meditation experience

Our teacher told us to close our eyes and to relax. To think about that we are dead. That we are not our body. Our body is just the outer shell in this universe. We ourselves are eternal. We are infinite. We will live on forever. Imagine you are dead. Imagine, you are in peace, apart from your body. And that´s what happened. Suddenly I found myself in a deep and dark wood. Pink flowers were blooming between the green dark green grass, bright and shiny. A bit of sunshine was touching the ground. And there I was – or what I felt to be me as I was not having a body. I was going up a spiral towards the sky. Shining bright and golden light welcomed me on top as I was flying higher and higher. It didn´t seem to come to an end. I felt so liberated, so free, being without my body, just my soul flying through this wood. Seeing my soul in this wood brought me to tears. I could not stop staring at it, so beautiful was it. It clearly didn´t need a body it was perfectly fine on its own. Unique, beautiful. My soul. I suddenly felt so light, my soul already left to paradise and wandered through another place. I felt so liberated, so at peace with the world and myself. And just genuinely happy. When we woke up our teacher told us to hug each other and nothing could have been greater in this moment. I just wanted to hug the whole world, the whole universe! I had so much love to give and couldn´t wait to share it. It was truly amazing. And everyone else seemed to feel the same. There was such a positive energy in the room, everybody was laughing and loosened by the dancing we did before. Everybody was smiling, we were hugging each other for a long time, didn’t want to let go of each other. We were all warm and brightly smiling, everybody with so much energy to give, to share, to receive. The whole room was warm, glowing. It was truly beautiful. It was so beautiful to see how this practise even connected us more and more. It brought us so much closer together. By the end of this training, the connections would only be even more intense.  
+

Trapped emotions

And how important it is to deal with them. During my Yoga Teacher Training in India, I learned about emotional blockages in our body and to never underestimate the power of your emotions. I experienced myself how important it is to deal with them and to eventually let them go.

A difficult road

Dealing with your emotions might not always be easy – in fact, for most people it rarely is. When are we taught how to handle them? Never. It is something you learn by experience, all by yourself. One person slower, one faster. Yet it is incredibly important to being able to cope with them. Especially if they are trapped.

Trapped emotions are feelings deep down inside you most likely don´t want to face – and you might not even be aware of it. We all have certain fears, anxieties. Sometimes its easier to push them down, put them away. Store them safely aside to not look at them too often. To close up the painful box of long forgotten memories. It is easier. An easy way out. But the thing is – nothing will stay in this box forever. Eventually, everything comes up to the surface.

Emotional blockage treatment class

For my class during my yoga teacher training and I it was time to face our fears in our emotional blockage treatment class. When I first heard about it, I had no clue of what to expect. I didn´t know anything about trapped emotions, it was nothing I had given much thought in the past. But that was about to change. We started the class gathering in a circle. One person laying in the middle with our teacher was showing us which emotion inhabits which part of the body. He taught us that emotions can be pointed out massaging a certain part of your body. For example, anger is mostly found in the elbow. While massaging this point correctly, the particular trapped emotions – in this case anger – can surface again.

Pressure points

After our teacher showed and explained us the pressure points of our bodies, we were free to try the treatment on each other. Of course, we were no experts and at first it was a lot of trying to find the correct points. But with time and practise you got a feeling for it. Letting your partners body guide you to where the emotion lays. There, we were putting as much pressure onto it as our partner wanted us to. As this treatment can be very painful, we had to be very careful as well. Trapped emotions can be stored inside the body for a lot of years. In a lot of years, you can accumulate a lot of hate, fear, anxiety… Just imagine all of that inside you – it will not be easy to get it out. Certain parts were very painful – the deeper the blockage the more pain you will get. But you need to suffer through it. Only then the emotion can really truly be released.

My experience

For me, my blockages were mainly laying in my legs. One particular part of it was so painful I immediately was in pain once it was massaged. And then started crying – especially once I knew what it was related to. It made perfect sense. I knew there was something there I had to resolve. It was a problem I was not even consciously aware of – an issue with an impact bigger than I had imagined.

Dealing with my blockages

This was a very powerful experience for me. Especially because I knew that all my blockages related to something in my life I had to resolve. Rather sooner than later. Something I was consciously or unconsciously struggling with. After one class in particular I could pinpoint an emotion directly related to a very close person in my life. I knew I had to do something about that. Now I had a choice – now I knew about it. I could choose to act or to just let it be. At first, I was struggling to get in touch with that person. I thought “oh well, maybe I´ll call tomorrow”, over and over again. However, I quite quickly got to a point where I couldn´t just let it be any longer. If I really wanted to resolve a conflict, I had to act. Otherwise, this emotion might have stayed trapped inside. So, I called, talked and talked it out – and was very surprised how easy it was. Once I started talking, words just flowed out of my mouth. Of course, not all conflicts might be resolved that easily, but if it is related to a person close to you, a person you love and worship dearly, it might be good to get it out of the way. Talking your feelings out feels so liberating – to finally form your thoughts into words, to let them out and let them go. As if a huge weight had just been lifted from my shoulders.

Writing

However, before calling, I actually wrote about this particular problem as well. For me, writing was the first step of taking action. If you write about something you already take the first step. You already acknowledge that something is bothering you indeed. It´s not a mere thought in your head anymore, a thought you could probably push back into the depths of your mind again. No. It´s already out there. Black on white. On paper. You can read through it, you can look at it. It won´t just disappear. You cannot ignore it. Writing is and always will be a form of self-therapy for me – and I think it can be for everyone. Journaling on how you feel, putting your thoughts into words as good as you can. Sometimes, it´s good to bring them to paper. To get some structure in the chaos in your head.

Talking to your inner child

The emotional blockage course only took place for a week, but even if it was only a week, it had a very big impact on me. Before, I had no idea how exhausting it can be to deal with your emotions. Because we never do. We never really confront ourselves to ask: What is really wrong? Is little me truly happy? The “little me” concept is something a friend of mine told me about and I love it too. She told me to talk to my heart, to my inner child and ask her “How are you feeling?” “Are you happy?” from time to time. Then taking a moment to truly listen to the answers. I find this approach incredibly powerful. Your inner self always knows the answer already. The question is only if you are ready to hear it. So sometimes, you need to dig a bit to find it.

And now?

This one-week course taught me how to look at my emotions more reflectively. I might not always be successful with it, but hey – we all just try. Admitting what you really feel – at least to yourself – is so important. Not to put feelings aside thinking they will disappear if you just ignore them long enough. That won´t be the case. They will just become trapped inside. If something bothers you, get it out. Right now. Then it will be out of your body and out of this world soon as well.