Holding on to that which serves no purpose 

About being scar(r)ed for life.

It had been a rough second week. There had been emotional dramas all around and as the course progressed into what she felt was a mayhem of unresolved conflicts and unpredictable outbursts, she withdrew deeper and deeper into a cold state of fear.

With the logic of a twisted mind she told herself that this was good for her. That she allowed herself to feel fear. Probably something great, like anger (!), would come out of it. So she took care of that fear by cradling it and crouching in corners, sobbing into multiple layers of Kleenex, and by choosing to sit with some distance to the group, covering her ears when it got too much.

To be fair nothing bad had happened to her that week, nor had she discovered some terrible suppressed memory. She had only witnessed others fall down or crack. Yet in doing so she inevitably felt the chaos of rumbling feelings that lay a mere two millimeter below the surface as soon as all the participants entered the big room, where all meditations and therapeutic exercises took place. However, by being exposed to what she felt had no border or limit, the lightest shift in energy or the smallest remark simply sucked the life force out of her.

Rock bottom came when she completely lost connection with what was real. She could no longer distinguish what was her pain, a pain from the past, or something of the present, and what was other’s hurt. Naturally, she refused more and more to enter her body as there were way too few handles to hold on to, no emergency break to pull, and what met her just made her cry. There was simply no protection available, and no guarantees of survival were given.

She sat there with tunnel vision and tinnitus, could not feel a single part of her body except her high pulse that kept running all over her body. Her hands shook, shoulders were tensed and her stomach a tight not. She cried (a lot) yet she wasn’t entirely sure why, but the waterworks kept coming. In a place like this, where there’s always someone on the floor crawled up in fetal position bawling their eyes out, she thought her reactions were a sign that she was normal.

Professional advice: Give this feeling you’re experiencing a movement and a sound. 

But how does one give a sound to the loudest silence you’ve ever heard? What movement represents that of frozen terror?

Ironically, the theme of this second week was about staying in touch with your body. An easy one she had thought, as she truly loved the body she was currently in possession of. Yet somehow, she had spent most of the week dissociated from herself. Had it not been for a couple of brilliant exercises that gave her exactly what she needed, some truly amazing insights, then she’s not sure she would have dared to continue. Had it not been for the post-course, unwavering support of the best psychologist she knew, then she probably would not had felt so good about going back up there again.

This friend of hers, because that is truly what the psychologist was, had a practice named Kintsukuroi. To repair with gold. To repair the cracks with gold to make the once broken object more valuable by letting the scars be the unique point of beauty. She loved this idea. He friend helped her understand what had gone wrong for her that week and what she could do differently. She was not afraid to face her pain and fear, but she had completely misunderstood what it meant to take care of your own feelings.

Professional advice that feels doable: When it gets too much; move around a little. Start communicating what is going on.

Now, a month later, I feel ready for the third week. For seven days straight we will connect with our inner child and poke around in the deepest of wounds, the longings of the child. Everyone say this is the toughest one, and one of the best. Prepare for endless sadness and anger.

I am ready. Nervous, yet confident in my survival skills.

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Scarecrow spotted in Bali, Indonesia.

FLawesome

About the good and bad in people.

We are there because we long to be free, want to heal, discover a greater potential in ourselves, or maybe getting help to start the life we were truly meant to live.

The group has almost 30 participants, plus a wide range of different therapists each week, the miraculous masseuse and four assistants. Each course is filled with yummy vegan/vegetarian food (because my body is my temple), active and silent meditations (because all answers lie within), therapeutic work (yeah, we all need that) and loads of dancing (and we dance like no one is watching). One week at a time the group take on a different theme and play life with each other.

There are lots of hugs and tears, howling and roaring, as trauma, desire and secrets are shared in the group. Some people ramble on like there’s no end to it. Other freeze and can’t bring themselves to speak a word. Shame. Fear. Love. Silliness. Craziness. All kinds of crazy actually. Some hide the truth behind sad stories or permanent smiles. Some share their normal reality and don’t realize they’ve told the saddest story of them all.

Together with this group of young and old, male and female, mostly Swedish, very normal people (seriously, not a single freak just one or two groovy souls), I try to stay present, try to let go, try to hold on, and most of all I try to only go nuts when told to.

Thankfully there is silence at all times outside of the big room where we do all excercises. There is no small talk, no chitchat, and no need to make friends with anyone. All and any conversation should be held with oneself. Repeat your personal mantra and meet yourself!

Phones, laptops, books, candy and other distractions are surrendered upon checking in and is kept locked away until it is time to leave. Our only means of distraction are the journals we are given to write in. The surrounding nature is gorgeous and there is absolutely nothing else to do around this house. So we quietly sit and stare into space, journal frenetically, walk along snowy paths where few, very few, people walk. And when it is the right thing to do we walk close to each other, hug in the hallway, or whisper for hours in the dark.

I always get some sort of revelation about myself or about life when I am in that house. And I always spend a surprising amount of time fantasizing about very inappropriate things. I guess it is part of the package. To enable my maximum potential (yup yup, that’s why I am there, spiritual growth and inner peace is secondary) I must also discover and accept my flaws.

I kind of thought I had it all nailed by now, especially considering how much of this hippie stuff I have been doing since the past couple of decades. Not to mention the many hours of therapy. But somehow there’s no end to what can be found and explored. Good and bad. Doing this course, is quite the sandbox of living. For me it is above all a chance to disconnect from my intellect and at a safe place go all in emotionally.

Because sometimes I have a serious problem with seeing the obvious, recognizing what I feel. I spend so much time in my head that I unintentionally twist my emotions around. Or shut them out. In life, what really matters is after all the people we keep close and the experiences we gain as we chose to live our life to the fullest. I do not want to miss out on that. I do not want to miss a single moment of ecstasy, boredom or whatever else is.

On Monday the second course begins. I am ready. I am flawesome. It will surely be heart-wrenchingly fabulous.

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Photo credit: Bethany Chuah
For a selection of fabulous courses that will take you on an inner journey towards yourself; check out baravara.se*

*I am not sponsored by Bara Vara, and I take absolutely no responsibility over the development of your soul. Peace!

Going crazy in the morning

About dynamics

The sun is not yet up so the big room with its whitewashed wooden walls is kind of dark. But in about an hour’s time the first sun rays will join their dance, and when they all take of their blindfolds it will be morning. With the exception of some pillows here and there, the floor is empty and there’s a light smell of something clear and fresh that lingers in the air. A couple of guys are stretching, trying to rid the night and sleep from their bodies. Others sit still and stare into inner or outer darkness, caught in thoughts or emotions. Almost 30 people are about to die and come into existence again.

She is cold and trying hard to convince herself that doing this morning mediation each and every darn day of this course will be good for her. Her mind has some serious doubts about it. Maybe she’s doing it all wrong, maybe she will waste all efforts by not giving her all for those first three horrible phases of the meditation, the painfully long first half hour. She loves the last two phases, so it’s maybe not that bad. But does she really have to breath, scream and die? Some people just aren’t very angry you know. At least they’ll work up a sweat. She will get her heart pumping. She tries to get herself into meditation mood. Observe what’s happening. That’s it, nothing more. No expectations. Ha!! Who doesn’t have expectations of dying?

The meditation starts and for 10 minutes her breath is forceful and chaotic. There is not a lot of space for air to flow through her nose. Assisting the breath with her entire body she flaps her arms, gently bouncing her knees. Keep focusing! All around her air is forced out in strong unrhythmic pulses. It’s easy to lose oneself in breathing. To stop witnessing what’s happening, to stop meditating, to be nothing but air. But she knows it’s coming and her scared mind runs around high on oxygen. She hears dragons fly through the room.

Catharsis. Go crazy. Go all in. 30 people scream their lungs out, hate, cry, talk back, laugh, kick mattresses, hit pillows, push down walls, whatever you do don’t stand still. The room starts to get hot and energy levels are rising with each roar. Have you ever heard a bunch of respectable grownups shout as loud as they can? Hold nothing back. Let shit go.

She’s relieved when the next phase starts and now all she has to do is die. Jumping up and down with her arms stretched out over her head, each hard landing on the floor is met with the mantra Hoo! This brutal compression and exhaustion of the body shake things up. Shoulders start to ache, sweat drip, her breath is short and she feel strange. Her body feels weird. She is supposed to completely exhaust herself. She doesn’t dare.

Stop! Freeze wherever you are, and be nothing but a witness to yourself. Listen to whatever comes up. Hear your true voice. Be real. Be perfectly still. She gets nauseous. Thinking she might faint. Again.

The sun starts to find her way in through the windows, filtering the air, making the room glow. A group of 30 mildly insane people start to dance. They celebrate the day. Celebrate life. Knowing that it is good to be alive. 30 brave spirits twirl. It’s a new day. It’s a new life.

The F-word

About power.

As a teenager I lived a year in Nairobi, Kenya, sharing a room with another Swedish girl. This girl had fizzy black hair that covered half her face, she sang in a electro-pop-band in Sweden, and she was terribly homesick in the beginning (which equal parts terrified me and just caught me by surprise). She was political and alternative. As for me, I was in love with the novelty and the adventure that is Africa, feeling nothing but relief for being far far away from our motherland.

My roomie was also at times incredibly frustrated with me. Why could I not just say that I was a feminist, when I so clearly had those particular opinions and often argued for the rights of minorities/ underprivileged/ for a better world/ you get it. But I refused.

I was all for equality, naturally, but I didn’t want to join a battle that was fought for and by women. During this time in my life I held in very low regard anything feminine. I had shaved my head, wore only baggy clothes, and I spent most evenings getting high with the boys, listening to hip-hop. I was not in a war against men. I did not want to promote women per se. I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a woman.

A few years later I found love in Sweden (this also equal parts terrified me and caught me by surprise). No one has been more crucial for my personal development to identify as a feminist and for being able to continue the discussions of structural injustice that leads to the oppression of certain groups in society and the world.

Maybe he could do this because he too was forced to experience inequality because of appearance, tho not always gender based. Maybe he could do this because he loved me, and slowly but surely I began to love myself. Maybe he could do this because we could for hours at a time discuss everything from nature v/s nurture to class and race, bringing strong arguments to the table from several schools of thoughts.

I had gone from refusing to identify as a feminist to choosing to study anthropology with a focus on gender and sexuality at university. This mean I spent a degree worth of time learning about how gender is created in different cultures, how different people from around the globe view the body and it’s functions, what mysteries and taboo we create around sexuality.

Today, when I meet people that say they don’t want to identify as feminists, I guess I pity them. To understand feminism you are almost required to have some understanding of social science and how power is constructed. You have to be brave enough to say I live in a system that expects different things from me because of what’s in between my legs. I am aware that I have an active role in maintaining and creating my own society, for better or worse.

Feminism is the belief that all genders should have equal rights and opportunities.

Being back in Sweden it is clear beyond any reasonable doubt that gender equality has come far here! Of course there is still a long way to go to utopia. But unlike in Singapore (which after all is the place I’ve spent most of my adult years), most people here recognize that our current binary gender-hierarchy is unfair and limiting, for everyone. Here, feminism and other equality battles are normal and often expected rather than questioned.

Coming back to Sweden has been a relief that I did not know I longed for. There is an underlying sense of comradery. It is also crystal clear that structural influences in society are crucial to create permanent and positive change.

I now collect and savor little moments that pile up within me and become strength. Like when the university teacher insist that the woman who in class raised her hand first should speak first and not let the guys next to her talk first even though she was herself inviting him to do so. Or when my friend is out buying a skirt to the father of her son, because the son has been teased at kindergarten for wearing a dress and now daddy decided to always wear skirts at home to neutralize this type of clothes and allow a sense of freedom in dressing up. And when I find in the Instagram account of my most favorite museum, the girls from “Girls like us”; a TV series by the state-owned channels SVT, of 5 women who identify as transgender.

It is good to be back. It is good to see with new eyes. And to be seen in another way.

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Photo-booth in Japan.

And you are?

About beginning a new chapter.

She did feel a bit nervous, stepping in to the yoga shala at 7.30am on her first day of yoga teacher training. There was tension in her shoulders, her heart was louder than normal and she smiled at everyone including her own reflection in the mirror and a statue. She felt pressured by herself to fully be herself, to show her true colours and let herself be seen as she is. And she wanted to be perfect. Or at least great. Outstanding in some way.

In an effort to give her nervousness space, recognising her emotion without letting it control her entire being, she asked herself why she was nervous and realized it was not about spending a month with a bunch of strangers. It was something else. Her sense of importance around her upcoming achievements lived inside a bubble she recognized as her Future. Her nervousness centred around the idea that if she hated this, or worse – sucked at it, the bubble would burst.

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Walking over to Taksu, where my yoga training takes place, on a cool wet morning.

She took a deep breath, filling her lungs with “jungle air” as the yoga school was located in an oasis of greenery right in the middle of hippie-town Ubud, Indonesia. She reminded herself that even though this situation in some ways were a new one, this was far from her first life-transition, and she was not in completely unknown territories. It was more like coming back to where she had started, that place she somehow always had circled around or kept coming back to.

The group was small, 8 students, 3 teachers undergoing teacher-training- training, a beautiful course leader that moved like a prima ballerina, and the owner, a strong willed lady with passionate fire in her eyes.

She listened to the noisy roosters calling out to each other as they roamed the bushes around the shala. In the middle of the shala a beautiful flower mandala became the centre point around which yoga mats had been placed in a circle. They had been told to sit quietly in meditation, so it was tricky to get a feeling of who these people were. There would of course be some sort of introduction, where they would all have to say their name, where they’re from and something else – maybe their favourite chakra, or the colour of their aura (this is Ubud after all). She contemplated different ways to present her own current situation.

Option A. I’m Swedish, I’m in my mid 30’s and I’m about to move back to my mum’s house in Sweden. I don’t really have a job, but I think I know what direction I’m heading in. I love yoga but I stopped all the other hippie-nonsense about a decade ago, and I am now worried that I have regressed in a desperate attempt to find my footing again after a divorce that broke my heart and in many ways shattered my reality. I have two cats, and I want many more. But I can’t because I’m allergic.

Option B. I was born in Sweden but I have lived abroad for the most part of my life, spending the last 9 years in Singapore. Moving from a successful career in the corporate world to the glorious mayhem of starting up my own business in the health and wellness sector, I’m on my way to move back to Sweden. With a lot more than 10,000 hours of emerging myself in a fairly expansive selection of everything from crystals and healing with herbs, to self-help and the 4-hour approach, as well as religion, psychological therapies and scientific research – feel free to ask me anything about physical, emotional or spiritual wellbeing! I have two fur-kids, my cats Batcat & Robyn.

She decided that option B was the better one. And she remembered something Brené Brown talked about in her book Rising Strong. Permission slips. Giving yourself permission, and actually writing that down, keeping the note in your pocket. She silently wrote hers on a note to be placed in a pocket of her heart.

I give myself permission to try, fail and succeed.

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Off day exploration around Ubud, here at Jungle Fish.

Namaste och välkomna

Vi börjar alla dagar kl 7.25 med meditation, andnings övningar och yoga. Kl 10 är det frukost följt av lektion i yoga filosofi och anatomi. På eftermiddagarna har vi yoga workshop, övar på att lära ut yoga samt finslipar vår egna teknik. Samtliga kvällar spenderas med att göra färdigt de uppgifter som ska lämnas in varje vecka och förbereda morgondagens klasser. Söndagarna är lediga. Då utforskar vi Bali och jämför stressnivåer.

Wake up.

Kick ass.

Be kind.

Repeat.

B. K. S. Iyengar yoga