Finding happiness at Abhaya Ayurveda Chikitsalaya

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Ayurveda, “the science or knowledge of life”, is a holistic science of health and has the focus on maintaining a physically and emotionally balanced state. Ayurveda began 5.000 – 6.000 years ago in India when Indian monks were looking for new ways to be healthy. These days Auyrveda still has a strong status in India beside the Western medicine: Ayurveda practitioners are highly appreciated and the education system is arduous and comprehensive. To get a general idea of Ayurveda and different doshas, Pitta, Vata and Kapha – the unique and individual make up of different elements in our body and mind just google “Ayurveda” and you’ll find a vast and endless array of information. To keep it simple, you might like to check what Deepak Chopra says about Ayurveda: What is Ayurveda.

At the end of my two months of travel in the south of India I found myself in a small family run ayurvedic center, Abhaya Ayurveda Chikitsalaya, close to the village of Kollur in Karnataka. Dr Shrikant is a family doctor for Guruji Vijaya, with whom I had been studying and living yoga in Yoga Gurukula: that is where I got to hear about this little oasis in the middle of the mountains. I had my first impression of the center when I made a day trip to Chikitsalaya from Gurukula with three yogi friends of mine to have our consultations. Even though only two of us had an appointment, dr Shrikant took us all in with warmth and spent a lot of time and effort to ask questions and give us advice personally and individually. Before we left Kollur we picked some ayurvedic medication from his clinique at the village. I was not surprised to hear that I had aggravated Pitta dosha: my inner fire has been strong for decades and caused me a lot of problems: E.g. restlessness, insomnia, too fast digestion lacking the optimal absorption of the nutrients. My overactivity leads too often to the state where I have depleted myself and find myself tired and depressed. The main issue I wanted help with was to get rid of my recurrent and progressive depression seasons.

At the very first encounter with dr Shrikant I was astonished how accurately he could see me as a whole in such short time: not only as characters, behaviors and symptoms, but as a whole living being from the time before I was born to these days: as an adult woman with a lot of life experience to be utilized for finding a happier and healthier lifestyle. I learned I am not a 100 % Pitta, but also the creative Vata -dosha is characteristic for my body-mind system. But how to find balance? How not to over challenge my body and mind for not to fall again to the dark hole from where the climbing up is so hard? First of all I was told that depression should be seen as the lack of happiness: instead of fighting against some kind of formless monster (this is how the depression manifests for me) or accepting the dark seasons, the answer could be preserving the happiness, finding the things that create well-being and happiness for me and reinforce them in my everyday life. At the same time downshifting as much as I could with a good conscience and practicing compassion and softness towards myself would be needed. Nothing new and revolutionary in this kind of thinking, but the advice which followed was so practical and precise that I had it very easy to see myself finally to do these changes and that these changes would make the difference. The advice I got concerned my everyday duties, work and leisure, social life and family, hobbies, yoga practice and diet. Also keeping a diary about my actions, feelings and thoughts would be helpful in figuring out the causes behind the eventual low seasons. See a passage of my diary in the end of this posting.

So I left the consultation with a hopeful mind and decided to come back for relaxing treatments before I would leave India for this time. Panchakarma, a cleansing and rejuvenation program for body and mind, would be something I will do on some of my future trips to India, now I would not have time for it. I planned to stay at Chikitsalaya for three days, but when I got there on the day I was supposed to, I had had such adventures after having left the safe Yoga Gurukula that I decided with a warm recommendation by dr Shrikant to stay there the whole last week of my travel only to leave straight to the airport without having to get more new experiences from somewhere else.

My stay in Chikitsalaya turned out to be one of the biggest and most meaningful experiences during my travels in India. Again I found myself to be the only westerner, actually both the personnel and other patients were all Indians. The charming Aunties in their nighties in the evening and sarees when we went for a temple: Nirmala, my kind roommate and Lakshmi, whose laugh is still in my ears and who insisted me for the morning walks: “Now Madame Maria, no yoga, you come and walk with me!” Ashmin, the sweetest young assistant doctor, who was willing to talk the big issues of life, love and devotion, with me. Nagaratna, the maid, how innocent and modest can a young woman be? And Ravi, the Anarchist Artist, the big challenger who never stopped talking except when he decided to be silent for a whole day and almost succeeded in it. And finally dr Shrikant and his wife: I really respect and honor their work and involvement in the well-being of the patients.

Being given and accepting the role of the patient felt so good! I am used to do what I want making a lot of plans and fulfilling all of them. I even tend to organize the lives of my near ones them wanting it or not…To let go and slow down for waiting for treatments, have clear routines and ask permission for potential extra activities created the feeling of security in me: I felt that I was taken care of and I was safe. Though I managed to do quite a view things even though I was slowing down: a newsletter to my yoga students in Finland, chair yoga for Aunties, sweaty yoga class for Ravi, Thai massage treatment, life coaching for Ashmin…My friend asked me a while ago why I want to go for a ten-day Vipassana where I am only allowed to meditate, eat and sleep. This is the reason: I cannot stop myself: I want the experience of really not doing anything but sit (or walk) still for a period of time and see how it affects my brain and my state of being.

So the social context of Chikitsalaya was special, but so were all the other circumstances offered: the treatments were proficient, the nature around the center unbelievably beautiful, food was pure and delicious. The Mookambika Temple at the village of Kollur is very special and allures thousands of pilgrimages every year. I was more drawn to the Dharma Pheetha Meditation Temple, only one kilometer away from Chikitsalaya. It is modern and somewhat pompous, very different from the other Hindu temples I had been to, but the cool energy inside the temple by the huge Shiva linga is great for meditation. Not to forget about the peacocks around the temple and the cow coming every evening for her darshana (blessed snack).

I will definitely come back to Chikitsalaya!

Passage from my diary March 28th / Chikitsalaya / India 52nd day / 89th travel day

Sleep: Slept sound&short, had a dream where I was with my sister, but have no clear recollections of what happened in the dream.

Yoga: Preparing pranayamas, short asana practice, meditation

Treatments: Oil massage (Abhyanga), Herbal steam bath in the cabinet (Sarvanga Bashpa Sweda), Colon cleansing (Basti). I had a very strong reaction from Basti: migraine, vomiting. I do have a lot of “pitta” to puke out 😦

Actions: Mostly trying to survive from Basti, tried to sleep. At 4 pm I was feeling okay, but still weak. I didn’t want to follow the others to the Mookambika Temple festival. Instead I took a walk on my own to Dharma Pheeta Meditation Temple nearby. I made “Pradakshina” (walked three times around the temple), watched the priests to perform the prayer rituals “Puja” and meditated. It is so calm and cool inside the temple by the Shiva linga with water around it. On the way back I had a salty lemon soda and a warm milk at the stall by the road.

Pleasant things: That I survived Basti, having silent time at Dharma Pheeta. The discussion with dr Shrikant in the morning: so many practical advice again. Going through my Dreams-chart with Ravi (a go-patient, now a good but far-away friend of mine): so many precious insights with the help of him getting me out of my old thinking patterns.

Unpleasant things: Got a lot of (deserved) scold from Ravi for being foolish walking back from Dharma Pheeta in the dark alone along the road. Feeling horrible when having the migraine – almost wanting to die…

Thoughts: “I am going to die!”; “I don’t want to leave tomorrow!”; “I have never been taken care of like this and it feels so good and secure!”; “I deserve my happiness, how to keep this when I enter my personal battle field back home?”

Emotions: Super emotional&sad in the morning, happy&joyful in the evening.

 

Nuad Bo-Rarn Thai Massage – Yoga for Lazy People

“Thai Massage with pretty lady” says the advertising sign on the street of a Thai town popular among western tourists. Along the street there are plenty of massage parlours and you can see many “pretty ladies” in front of them repeating “Thai Massage Mister” with a tempting voice whenever a male “falang” (=farang; a white-face; westerner) passes by. To me they just smile and say “Sawaddee ka!” (=Hello!). Any doubts what this massage service might include? Have you heard about “Thai Massage with a happy ending”? Perhaps some of the Thai Massage -places in your western hometown have a questionable reputation.

However, most of the Thai Massage places are decent and a happy ending means a pleased customer with relaxed muscles and rejuvenated mind & body after a masseur’s professional treatment. Nevertheless, both style and quality of Thai Massage treatments vary hugely and having just a one hour session is only a tidbit: to really benefit from the treatment one should find a professional masseur whose massage style comes up to your needs and expectations. Then it is good to have at least two or three treatments with the same masseur each session lasting from 90 minutes to two hours.

Thai Massage has been practiced in Thailand for thousands of years. So when you begin to search for a good Thai Massage, look for a one that follows the tradition. How to distinct a traditional Thai Massage from a non-traditional one? There are three basic conditions for Nuad Bo-Rarn Thai Massage – Ancient Massage of Thailand:

  1. Wai Khru: honouring the ancient teachings and paying respect to the founder of Nuad Bo-Rarn; dr. Shivago. According to the legend dr. Shivago was Buddha’s physician over 2500 years ago.
  2. Thai Massage is to be done on the floor.Thai Massage can also be done on the chair or table, but then it is a modification of Nuad Bo-Rarn.
  3. Both the giver and the receiver of the massage have clothes on; loose and comfortable enough to allow wide movements.

After these conditions being met Nuad Bo-Rarn Thai Massage or shortly Nuad Thai can be defined as a healing system or art combining assisted yoga postures, acupressure and reflexology. The body of the receiver is compressed, pulled, streched and rocked in a meditative and mindful way. Nuad Thai is thus a good exercise for both parts: assisted and passive stretching for the receiver and quite physical exercise for the giver.

 

Paying a higher price for the treatment is not always needed for a good and professional Thai Massage. It will most probably give you a more convenient setting like a nicely decorated and staffed reception with some refreshments to enjoy and air-conditioned private space for your treatment. As a budget traveler in Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand I had my Thai Massage sessions at very affordable prices at temples (Wat Pan Whaen and Wat Mahawan) and at Supattra; a modest place in the Old Town offering traditional Thai Massage by blind masseurs. My experience was that these blind masseurs really had an improved sense of touch to compensate the lack of eyesight: the sensitivity in their fingers, palms and feet contributes to their ability to locate and treat trigger points and tensed muscles in a way that is gentle and strong at the same time. They were also more focused on the treatment: quite often masseurs chat with each other when giving treatments and you will notice this not only by hearing but also by feeling it affecting their hand work on your body. Taking a massage at a temple guarantees that you will get a traditional Thai Massage and there you will also see the locals having their treatments.The low cost of the treatment (around 7 €/$ for 90 min.) means that you will be laying on a mattress on the floor of a big hall, so there is no privacy and no air-conditioning either, only big ceiling fans. Temples in Chiang Mai also offer Tok Sen -massage: a special style of traditional massage from the Northern Thailand that uses a wooden wedge and hammer on body’s energy lines (“Sen”). It might sound like an ancient mode of torture, but that is not the case: I found it very relaxing to be “hammered”. The rhythmic tapping on the body creates vibration in muscles and releases muscle and fascia tension in a very gentle way. Since the tapping is done along the energy lines of the body, this technique will also balance the chakras and function as energy cleansing.

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Chiang Mai is known for the excellent schools for learning traditional Thai Massage, ITM – the International Training Massage School being one of them. Since my travels took me to Chiang Mai anyway I decided to use this opportunity and take a course on the foundations of traditional Thai Massage, even though I had neither previous experience of body work or body therapeutics in a treatment setting nor did I have any plans to become a professional massage therapeutic. For me yoga is one kind of a body therapeutics even though yoga is primarily aimed to calm the mind and elevate higher consciousness. But it is hard to calm the mind if the body is restless or in pain. As a yoga teacher, especially when giving yin yoga classes, I have noticed how much my students benefit for instance from helping them to relax by assisting them in savasana (corpse pose; final relaxation). This insight goes well together with the fact that traditional Thai Massage is also called “Yoga for Lazy People”. Perhaps I could use the knowledge and skills from the course for developing my yoga classes to be more therapeutic?

 

A five day course is naturally only an introduction to this art of healing, only giving some basic knowledge and practice on a vast subject, but I experienced I learned so much during these days. The days were long and intensive, native teachers highly qualified on demonstrations and hands-on adjustments and all the students were super devoted and motivated in learning and practising: when the freestyle practise time was over by 5 pm., teachers had to kick us out to get some rest. The traditions and rituals were followed thoroughly: gathering together in the mornings to practice yoga or Qigong to start the day, then reciting the daily mantra for honouring the teachings of dr. Shivago and starting every practice session by briefly paying gratitude to these teachings.The feet washing was also an essential part of the daily rituals. On Friday we all had a sweaty two hours session to demonstrate our skills by giving a massage to a fellow-student while a teacher was watching and giving grades on how we managed to go through all the 63 massage postures and techniques presented in our manuals. All of us did well and passed the test and got our certificates. How happy and relieved we were!

I can’t wait to get to my family and friends to practice my new skills and I am already planning to take level II and III courses at ITM next year. Could I after all become a massage therapist? Perhaps some day…

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Yoga Ruined My Life

I am sitting in a bus from Trat to Bangkok. I just spent a week on a yoga retreat on a small and peaceful island of Koh Mak in southern-eastern Thailand. Now I am traveling around the Gulf of Thailand to reach the island of Koh Samui where I am going to spend a week at a Buddhist meditation center. I feel happier than ever before. Just another naïve attempt among thousands of western middle-aged women trying to copycat the well-known novel “Eat, Pray, Love” for blissfulness and contentment in life, one might think. Well, I cannot say this is not that too: in fact, this trip is a birthday present to myself since I am turning 50 in two months. But there is more to it. It is about a process that started almost ten years ago when I started practicing yoga. Yoga changed the course of my life slowly but inevitably as being a catalysator for big decisions in my life.

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Twelve years ago, I was (or I thought I was) happily married with two pre-adolescent boys, two dogs, lived in a nice house, had a decent job and lots of friends. But I was not happy, something was lacking. Depression had entered my life when children were small and for years I gave it multiple external explanations: the massive darkness of late Autumn and Winter, work-exhaustion etc. It was only a lot later when I figured out that depression was a solid part of me, there to stay and the biggest Guru I could ever find. To come to this conclusion, I had to go through a divorce and other big challenges and losses in my life, as well as I needed to change job and re-marry just to find myself in the same unsatisfying situation as before. Not even attending psychotherapy for two years could help me in the search for satisfactory answers for my unhappiness: these answers were to be found somewhere else.

Then I found yoga. First two years I was like in the Seventh Heaven: explored different styles and teachers, read dozens of yoga-related books, cried of relief and joy in savasana after a strong practice. In the beginning, my practice was mainly at the physical level, but it still hit me like a hammer: the long-desired body-mind connection was there and I could finally work with my emotions with such an intuitive and self-conscious way which I had not reached by more analytical tools. It has been a long process with its ups and downs, and this process is still on-going: it is a life-time and even longer journey to explore the inner self, a true self or Atman, as the yogic term defines the goal of yoga. Being on this journey has made life more meaningful for me, but that does not mean that depressions I still experience would be more bearable: quite the opposite: my emotions are even deeper. The task for me is to learn how not to attach to them and how not to define myself according to my emotions. Physical yoga is still important to me, but spiritual practices are becoming more and more essential for my aiming for self-realization. The thing that has changed most in my life is the deep gratitude I nowadays feel and want to share: all the good things in my life – yoga, friends, family, my dogs, health, being able to follow my path, being privileged to travel, the beautiful and clean nature in my home country – these things are uncountable! I am also grateful for the losses, challenges and complicated relationships in my life because it is by those difficulties that I have become what I am – not by the happy and shiny days.

How come yoga then has “ruined my life”? When one gets more clear and conscious of one’s intentions, values, and attitudes, it is not possible to not to live in harmony with them anymore. At least not for me. So, at the mature age of 49, I voluntary quitted my well-paid, respectful job. Although I loved to work with the greatest colleagues one could imagine, respected my bosses and the big, but still family-owned business as an employer and was good at what I was doing – I still did it. Why? Because being a part of profit-growing, hard-valued and tough business world is not aligned with my personal values and this makes me feel both being exploited and being an exploiter of the system. Idealistic perhaps, but I wish to use the rest of my working life for something that produces more human welfare and less money and consumption to this earth.IMG_20161209_180328

“Do not dwell in the past,
do not dream of the future,
concentrate the mind on the present moment.”

– Buddha

 
I did not make my decision hastily: I have gradually grown to it. I started to study social psychology at the University of Helsinki a few years ago and I had been on a study-leave for my studies almost two years before I returned to my work last Summer. I found myself being posed to doubtful questions like “How did you have the courage to do this?”; “Was it worth it?” My last Winter gone mom was seeing this big change to happen to me and accused me of being “absolutely crazy” if I would leave a good career and economically protected life behind me. I am quite happy she did not have to witness my final decisions and this, in fact, made my turnabout easier. Questions by slightly suspicious, and probably even a bit jealous colleagues only strengthened my plans to change the course of my life.

Now it has been only a few weeks after I left my job and I am basically on a holiday my economics being on a strong basis for the following Spring. This means, of course, a certain degree of ease and freedom to enjoy and get the most out of this time. I am aware, and I have a strong will, to do my share of being a responsible and dutiful member of the society, so naturally, I am going to have a job and a more normative life after I have finished my studies. I am also aware of being privileged to have these kinds of opportunities to choose from and I am deeply grateful for that. I feel that my duty is to somehow pay back of this newly found happiness to my friends, family and yoga students and even to the less fortunate members of society to that extent which is possible for me.

Yoga has really changed me as a person and many have paid attention to this change. In few cases, the change in me has affected to formerly close relationships in a way that it has been inevitable to let go of some of them but I feel that this is part of the process and just must be accepted. I have even received some feed-back of this change: my son asked me some years ago when he was still living at home: “Mom, how come you seem to be so happy and content?” After I answered him that I had spent a long week-end at a yoga retreat on the island of Kadermo which I regularly visit, he replied: “Oh, I see…so it will soon pass.” I recently had a treatment by an osteopath whom I had not visited for a long time. She pointed out that I was so stiff in my upper body that it was a miracle that I still had blood circulating to my brains (I had had long days for weeks on my laptop due to studying and working simultaneously). But she also said this to me “Your muscles are stiff, but there is completely different energy flowing in you since we last met: you are so much more alive now, Maria!” And that is the point: it feels so good to be alive! Yoga might have ruined my life from a materialistic or normative point of view, but at the same time, yoga has saved me.

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I am not a Believer, but…

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In recent weeks I have visited a church more often than in last three years together. Usually I, like most Evangelical Lutheran Finns, only go to a church to attend special occasions like weddings, funerals or baptizing. I find Evangelical Lutheran religion and its church services mostly grave, somber and joyless. Besides, I am not sure if I believe in the doctrine so much that it would endorse my faith in one God or in the meaning of absolution – quite the opposite in fact.

Why then I would go to church and plan to do so also in the following weeks – in the whole spring when staying in Stockholm as an exchange student? Churches are beautiful and peaceful places filled with good energies. Here in Stockholm church doors are kept open from morning until late in the evening and you can enter for a quiet moment by yourself, sit on church bench and just be on your own for a while without any specific intention. But most of all, churches in Stockholm arrange attractive activities to all sort of people not questioning whether one is a member of the church or not.

At the moment the most sympathetic and popular reality show in Swedish TV is “Gatans kör” (Street Choir): a bunch of homeless people in Stockholm who gather in a church to be led by “Gay Tenor” Rickard Söderberg – a big hearted opera singer – to get their voices heard and find some joy in singing together. This is really something else than formats like “The Voice of…” or “Idols” where wanna-be-stars are exploited in terms of commerciality. For me “Gatans kör” is like an icon of “Folkhemmet Sverige” (Sweden, the Home of All Peoples) where equality, humanity and involvement are living values, not only words stated in orations.

What are the activities that bring me to church here in Stockholm besides of the silent moments by myself? Is it hard to guess? Naturally: meditation and yoga. I have been meditating (and done pranayama, too…) by myself in churches of Helsinki in Finland, when having had a long day down-town and not been able to find time or place for meditation somewhere else. And I know they have meditation groups in Finnish churches, so I think it is quite acceptable – in the end: what is the difference between a meditation and a prayer? The syntax perhaps, but finding inner peace is the main objective in both. Practicing yoga might be more controversial in a church: cultivating your body is not something you could imagine being encouraged by church. I do not think that yoga is something that we could have in Finnish churches yet: correct me, if I am wrong here. Swedes are always a few steps ahead of us! The yoga classes on Thursday evenings at the Engelbrekt Church have been extremely popular. First two classes were free of charge but now they cost 100 SEK (=11 USD); a sum that will be donated to charity for education of girls and preventing genital mutilation of females in Africa. The yoga classes are led by charming yoga teacher Hanna Linder whose clear voice echoes beautifully in the church and her simple instructions make the practice available to everybody. At church one can sense the movements, asanas, combined with breathing getting more mindful and smoother than ever before. And I must say that savasana could hardly get better anywhere else than on a floor of a church: you feel like floating in a vast emptiness.

And meditation then? There is lunch meditation every Monday and after work/study meditation every Tuesday at the Hedvig Eleonora Church, a beautiful church located in Östermalm, the area in Stockholm where I love to hang around and “fika” (have a coffee in a cafée), though the area is not for poor students. Fortunately attending meditation does not cost anything and you can always afford a coffee and study sipping your Latte and watching people. Church offers perfect circumstances for meditation: spiritual atmosphere, silence and peacefulness. What else could you hope for? Have you ever padded on a church floor without shoes having your woolen stockings on? I have done it in between meditation sessions and it felt great: the touch of the floor made of stone and no sound of your steps.

My headline might trigger a question about what I believe in? I could say yoga is my religion, though not in a conservative sense. Yoga offers me a spiritual path to follow and tools for attaining somewhat higher consciousness. Yoga is for me a way of life, a philosophy and a synthesis of body, mind and soul connected by the companion that stays with me through good and bad until the very end: the breathing. I pondered upon the question “Is yoga a religion?” in a blog post I wrote 18 months ago: I do not think that as such a relevant question anymore. “Who am I?” is the question I am working on right now (and probably the rest of my life). By yoga and meditation I am trying to get closer to my authentic self and find some peace of mind that would last and comfort me at the times life gets rough. Like tomorrow when I am to attend my mother’s funeral. Shanti Om!

Going on Being

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“Going on being,” the capacity we all have to live
 in a fully aware and creative state unimpeded by constraints or expectations.
(Mark Epstein, 2000)

 It is almost a year since my last posting. What happened? Well, life is what happened: the daily routines, a lot of study work, teaching & learning yoga, some traveling and a depression again for the whole autumn. It really took me down this time and hold me so long I thought I would never crawl up again. However, I did! Every thought, every feeling, every situation will pass – it is just a matter of time. Patience has never been my strongest feature.

During the autumn, I gave up my quite challenging pranayama practice and turned to Zen and Buddhist meditation practices instead. Doing nothing; expecting no results and having no thoughts of good or bad quality of a meditative practice; feels good for a person like me: the one that always tries her best at any price and aims high. A weekend Ashtanga retreat on the island of Kadermo with my dear “yoga family” in November was the final turning point for me to feel good and content again.

The beginning of year 2017 was a big step towards my all-time dream: to live for a while in Sweden, in Stockholm, the city I have loved since my twenties. As an adult student at Helsinki University, I was approved as an exchange student to the Department of Psychology of Stockholm University for five months. Besides of interesting courses my aim is to learn fluent Swedish both in written and oral communication as well as to taste the Swedish type of living as genuine as possible. So no hanging around with other exchange students, but severe studying and associating with new local acquaintances on top of my old Swedish contacts.

Having said goodbye to my family; the sons that already left home, my dear dogs Pipo&Niilo and my husband who is glad for a five-month-holiday from occasionally challenging wife: I left for Stockholm with high hopes. After two days of my arrival, shocking news from home reached me: my 80-year-old mom had suddenly passed away. This really came unexpectedly: though she was fragile and needy, she was still living at her own home not having any severe illness and being able to walk her small dog twice a day.

What happened to my dream? I decided to stay here in Stockholm, because there was nothing much to do to change anything: she was gone. For ever.

It is only an hour flight back home, so I have had the opportunity to travel home to make the arrangements needed with my brother. It has been a lot to think about: both about arrangements back home and the ones dealing with my studies at a new university and moving to another country. Not so much time for grief and sorrow. It is waiting for me.

I have come to thoughts how the Universe arranges things for you. Early in the autumn, I had decided to participate in a course here at Stockholm University called: “Creating meaning in life in situations which threaten existence” including a lot of course literature of death. Food for thought. My landlady, charming Buddhist Helen, has turned out to be a wise and compassionate mother figure for me. Therese and Zoila, teachers at a local Ashtanga Shala Yogakala, with their peaceful and steady presence, have both guided me in my yoga practice in a manner that feels both safe and comforting. Not to talk about the Tara Kadampa Buddhist Center, where I found warm and down-to-earth community with whom to share my spiritual practice. So, I am just fine. The sorrow can come.

Before my leave for Stockholm, the last words between my mother and me were:
“Be a good girl in Stockholm, no messing around!”
“Mom, it’s only five months, you will be fine. I’ll be back soon and I will call you every weekend!” She answered: “I will be ok: I have always managed myself.”
Well she did not. But I will be a good girl. Almost like a nun.

At the still point of the turning world

“Time past and time future allow but a little consciousness.”

In my previous post two weeks ago I promised to write (once a week) here to reflect my practice of the eight limbs of yoga Patanjali defined. Because I had been feeling very restless for months, not able to concentrate on anything, I decided to start with dhyana (concentration, meditations, reflection) and use the mantra OM as my concentration method.

A week  felt like just a day, and I found myself rushing from one place to another and not concentrating enough on my practice. Forgetting the practice for days… And coming back to the practice when I found out that I really, really need it.

I still feel restless and not able to focus, so in the coming week I will continue to study the concept of  dhyana and practise. This week I will try a concentration method, dhristi, which involves fixing the gaze. You can use external objects such as a flower, or a tree, or a candle, for example.  You can also gaze inward at the chakra centres, particularly at the third eye. In October, using a candle is the perfect method.

There is such beauty and harmony when you focus on the divine. In one word, it’s love. Or as T.S. Eliot put in so beautifully in Burnt Norton, the first of his collection of poems in Four Quartets:

At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;

Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,

But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,

Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,

Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,

There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.

I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.

And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.

The inner freedom from the practical desire,

The release from action and suffering, release from the inner

And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded

By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,

Erhebung without motion, concentration

Without elimination, both a new world

And the old made explicit, understood

In the completion of its partial ecstasy,

The resolution of its partial horror.

Yet the enchainment of past and future

Woven in the weakness of the changing body,

Protects mankind from heaven and damnation

Which flesh cannot endure.

    Time past and time future

Allow but a little consciousness.

Yoga every day

It’s been long since I last wrote. Summer was somehow very intense and went by really fast – too fast. I have been feeling restless for months now, for no apparent reason.

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Maybe too much pitta although I consider myself being a kapha? I have never studied ayurveda or visited an ayurvedic practitioner, so I won’t go into discussing that theory any further. What I want to do is to get back into my regular yoga practise again. I have been practising through the summer months quite regularly, but I was travelling and had some longer pauses not doing any yoga or meditation at all. And because the studio where I used to go went out of business I haven’t really found another place to go. The advantage is that I have learned to practice at home, but the downside is that I miss the energy of a group. The restlessness and imbalance I have felt are partly a result of not doing enough yoga and forgetting my true self. Too much daydreaming about trivial things and too much time spent on Facebook or on Tinder (gasp!)

So, here’s what I’ve decided to change the situation and find my natural balance again: yoga every day!  Yoga is not only asanas, but as Patanjali, an ancient yogi-sage, defined almost 2000 years ago, it is integration and wholeness, where the eight limbs of yoga make a whole. In his yoga sutras he divided the path of yoga into these eight limbs:

  1. yama  (five moral and ethical precepts – “outer”, social discipline)
  2. niyama (five moral and ethical precepts – “inner”, individual discipline)
  3. asana
  4. pranayama
  5. pratyahara (mind withdrawal from the senses)
  6. dharana (concentration, steadiness of mind)
  7. dhyana (meditation)
  8. samadhi (union with the divine, enlightenment)

To help me to find my inner peace again I will keep a daily diary and share something once a week here about my practice of the seven ‘angas’,  of my daily yoga. Seven, not eight, because samadhi I don’t expect to achieve in this lifetime. 🙂 The coming week I will concentrate on dharana. I will do asanas, pranayama and meditate;  and try to follow the ten “commandments” of yama and niyama. But my main focus will be in steadiness of mind, focusing the awareness to realization of the higher Self, the divine.

My mantra for this week will be OM.

om