amazing ways to start the day

In Greece people use the saying “how your day will turn out is shown from the morning”; personally I’m not a fan of this saying because it suggests superstitious thinking and if believed, can essentially determine one’s mood for the entire day if the morning proves particularly unpleasant. I prefer to think that any moment of the day, regardless of what has passed before, is a moment when we can hopefully start afresh and change its course for the better. However, the positive habits and rituals that we dedicate ourselves to in the morning can indeed help boost our state of mind, mood, physical resilience and flexibility and overall outlook so that the day ahead flows in a more upbeat, dynamic and enjoyable way. The tips I will write here come from years of research – books, websites, interviews and of course tried and tested techniques to which I’ve added my own touches and wanted to share with you. As the mom of a preschooler I’m well aware that there is often little time to spend doing some of these morning rituals, but if you can slip in even a few minutes of some of them or one on different days, or do some after you’ve dropped your kid/s off to school, a little later in the morning, that will still make a positive difference.

So as Maria said in The Sound of Music, “Let’s start from the very beginning!” at the exact point that you wake up (either because your child has decided to tap you on the shoulder and offer you a handful of slime that he has “cooked” for your breakfast or because your alarm clock just rang so you can get your ass to work or because, oh you lucky blessed one, you have had a full night’s sleep and have woken up naturally).

Give Thanks

Whether you can lie in bed for half an hour meditating on gratitude or just speedily run through a quick list in your mind of the top things you are grateful for – even that your little one thoughtfully “cooked you some slime for breakfast”, that you are still here, that it’s a new start to your life, that you have a bed to sleep in and clothes to wear, hot water to shower in or food to eat, gratitude is the highest vibration to connect with at any time, and especially at the start of your day. “Acknowledging the good you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance,” according to Eckhart Tolle. Even if you wake up feeling particularly miserable and disgruntled with life, go deep to findat least one thing that you are thankful for – maybe simply that you are breathing!

Stretch

Whether you do a full yoga session or just a few Winnie The Pooh stretches up and down, or stretch your body out in bed into a star shape and upon sitting up at the edge of your bed let yourself do some backward twists to flex your spine, a little stretching goes a long way to reawakening your body and gently releasing any stiffness from your sleep. After saying good morning to our dog, who in turn taps her tail enthusiastically onto the wooden floor in response, my son and I greet her in a quick downward dog and she gets up to do her own natural stretch to mirror us. This makes stretching fun and easy.

 

Body Brushing


Body brushing, also known as dry brushing, is a fantastic way to exfoliate your skin and open your pores (that’s why it’s best pre-shower) while also activating your lymphatic drainage system and kickstarting your circulation. For vanity’s sake, it has been shown to firm skin and reduces cellulite, while on a more medicinal level it helps release small aches and pains by causing your energy to flow more freely. Starting at the soles of your feet, brush in firm strokes upward along the inside and then all other sides of your legs, then your bottom, then in a circular direction on your belly area, up your back, up your arms and up from above the breasts in the chest area. 

Tongue scraping
While you sleep, a layer of toxins rises and forms on the surface of your tongue. That can indeed make one cringe at the thought of a morning snog (though it may be well worth it and offer other benefits!). Instead of swallowing them all back into your organism again, the ideal thing to do is to use a tongue scraper or even the back, non-cutting side of a knife or a spoon to gently but firmly scrape the sludge off and rinse it away, several times, before even brushing your teeth (because brushing your teeth before doing this will again involve spreading all the stuff from your tongue all over your mouth). I know it’s icky, and several people I’ve recommended this Ayurvedic practise to have told me they tried it once and felt so disgusted they couldn’t do it again. But. Isn’t it better to remove it? I find it far ickier to swallow it all back down! And I can guarantee that it helps – on mornings after a night out when I’ve had a few glasses of wine, for example, as soon as I do the tongue scraping I feel my mind clear (not completely of course, if I’m particularly foggy-headed, but significantly!).

Enjoy your shower

For me, a complete hydrophile, hydroholic and water baby, showering is a wonderful ritual both morning and night. It cleanses us of stale energy, refreshes our mind and, whether you are using soap or not, offers the chance to massage our body. It’s also a great time to repeat your favourite affirmation for the day, or just sing! Make sure to splash a lot of cold water on your face as well, as this activates the vegus nerve, which lifts your mood, clears your mind and strengthens your immune system.

Colon-cleansing drinks
For 10 days at a time every two or three months, I follow one of these rituals, which help cleanse the intestine, which is the basis of our overall health, by reducing the bad bacteria and detoxifying.

  1. Psyllium husk water: In a tall glass of water add a heaped teaspoon of psyllium husk and stir very very well. Drink it all down at once, and then follow that by drinking yet another glass of plain water. The psyllium swells (like linseed or chia) and becomes gelatinous inside the intestines, absorbing toxins, fats, mucus and harmful bacteria which are then released in your stools. This is a good ritual to do for restoring gut health, especially if you are trying to lose weight, as it also creates a sense of fullness. Only do this in the morning, on an empty stomach, and wait around 15 minutes to half an hour before eating.
  2. Apple cider vinegar water: Add 1 tbsp of organic, unpasteurised (fermented) apple cider vinegar to a glass of tepid water and sip slowly. I just take it around with me and take sips as I’m getting ready. This too detoxifies the intestine, balances your pH, decreases blood sugar levels, lowers cholesterol and boosts gut health.

Another common morning drink is warm water with a big squeeze of lemon, and some like to add a teaspoon of organic honey, both of which are packed of nutrients (like vitamin C and antioxidants) and help balance and kickstart the gut.

Power smoothie
There are endless recipes to find online for great breakfast smoothies – from green juices to elaborate fruit and vegetable concoctions, but I’m writing my favourite tried and tested rituals here so these two are the best I’ve tried:

1. For a foggy head and tiredness: a shot of juiced ginger with a big squeeze of lemon and a pinch of cayenne. Fortunately, I don’t need this very often, but it’s definitely a zingy way to start the day.

2. Super-tonic milkshake:
I like my chocolate drinks (chocolate-everything!), but this is the adult, supersonic tonic version, with a few alternate renditions. In a blender add almond, hazelnut or other milk of choice, a heaped tablespoon of raw cacao (high in antioxidants), a heaped tablespoon of adaptogenic powder such as ashwagandha (this is an especially great for women, widely used in Ayurveda as the top health tonic, as it helps reduce stress, balance hormones, offer energy and strengthen immunity – at night it’s great in a warm milk with turmeric, cinnamon, cardamom and honey) or maca powder (energy booster and even a sexual tonic) or astragalus powder (widely used in China as an immune-system booster), a teaspoon of cinammon (blood cleansing, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial, boosts digestive health), a pinch of cayenne pepper (if you like heat) for heart health, a tablespoon of crushed linseeds (packed with Omega 3s) and a shot of espresso (wakey wakey!). Blend all the ingredients with a couple of ice cubes and hey presto! Another version is to exclude the cinnamon and cayenne and instead add a few tablespoons of nut butter – peanut, tahini, hazelnut, whatever you like, for extra protein and other nutty benefits. Yet another option is to add half an avocado and a banana as well, both packed with heart-healthy fats, collagen, B6 and other mood-enhancing vitamins and minerals like potassium and magnesium). Mixed frozen red berries are also high in antioxidants and vitamin C and mix well with chocolate.

Prepare your medicinal tea

While pottering around the kitchen preparing breakfast and tidying up, I always make time to boil a full kettle and prepare a large jug of herbal tea that I will refrigerate and sip in an ice-packed glass throughout the day (if you’re living in a cold country you can simply skip the ice and sip at room temperature, or add a bit of boiling water to your cp to heat it up before drinking if you want it hot). The key ingredient is the amazing herb that Greeks have used since ancient times because of its high iron content and mightly antioxidant content, Mountain Tea, called Tsai tou Vounou, which recent global studies have proven is also an amazing preventative herbal medicine for Alzheimer’s and dementia. I usually add fresh or dried mint and lemon verbena in summer or chamomile, linden and a stick of cinnamon in winter.

Another jug you can prepare to refrigerate is with vitamin water – just water (ideally filtered) that has chunks of any well-cleaned, ideally bio fruit and herbs chopped into it. The vitamins and minerals from the fruit and herbs will infuse into the water so when you drink a glass of it you’ll get a healthy, refreshing boost.

Walk your walk

I live in a hilly urban landscape and walk my son to school and honestly, that half hour daily up and down walk makes the world of difference to my day. If I were to start the day by just sitting at my computer I know I would feel completely different (as I mentioned in my introduction, everything I write here is tried and tested!). If you are a parent and your kids take the bus to school, try and find a way to add a half hour walk to your morning – if you are commuting to work get off a few stops earlier, if you work from home push yourself to go around the block a few times or let yourself explore different parts of your neighbourhood. If you have plenty of free time, hop on a bus or metro and get out in a place you’ve never visited and just walk around to discover something new.

Meditate or daydream while you do morning chores

I have around 20 plants on my balcony and as I water them with the hose I stop at each one, really trying to observe its individual beauty with my eyes, and speak my favourite affirmation, which I repeat to each plant as I water it (hopefully the plants don’t get together at night and bitch about me! ;)). This way I’m sharing my wishes and affirming to myself at the same time, by offering the plants their sustenance. I also like to talk with myself (it’s apparently more of a sign of genius than madness, haha) or visualize about my dreams, goals and projects while I’m doing mundane things like washing the dishes, chopping vegetables or sweeping. This is all meditational practice – who said you have to sit in the lotus position and chant Om to meditate? Meditating doesn’t need to have a direct spiritual purpose either – you could be letting yourself zen out while feeling the sudsy lather on your hands under the warm running water while you wash the dishes, and in that moment of sensual awareness your state of tranquility may be the perfect time for a great creative or even hardcore practical solution to pop up.

Try Donna Eden’s Daily Energy Routine
This is an excellent energy medicine sequence that kickstars your organism and clears your mind, while balancing the left and right parts of the brain. Even if you feel too rushed to do it all at once (although it only takes around 6-7 minutes), do parts of it at different parts of the morning. I sometimes do some of the thumps while walking along the street (Ok, first I look around to see there’s no one walking right behind me!). When I was presenting live on the radio I used to do the chest thump and the cross march a few minutes before going on the air. The studio technician started off by pretending not to notice, then asked me one day what the heck I was doing. When I told him he started doing it too!:
Watch Here!

 

 

 

a song from the uterus

Singer and holistic therapist Clara Davaar
Davaar teaching one of her women’s seminars, which she organizes around the world

Clara Davaar appeared into my life one day out of the blue on Facebook messenger – she had found my website and got in touch to tell me she was planning to come to Athens to teach a workshop called The Voice of the Uterus that she’s been running around the world. A few weeks before I’d had a session with Soul-Sounding healer David Kennet during which he worked miracles on releasing and clearing a great deal of stagnant, negative and blocked energy from my first and second chakras, areas that if in balance permit a sense of survival, belonging, security, sexual power, creativity and intuition. Areas that I knew deep down were blocked but had not had the courage to face or enough knowledge to deal with (we are always better at healing others than our selves) – perhaps because I didn’t know where to start, or because there is such a critical, conservative sense of shame and guilt associated with them, owing to staid and religiously conservative cultural beliefs related to the reproductive area when it comes to women. So when Davaar sent me a message asking whether I knew of any spaces to suggest for her seminar, I saw it as a clear sign that this was Step II on my path to reconnecting with, and reawakening my sense of self as a healthy, balanced, powerful, sexual and creative woman who honours her femininity in all its strength and vulnerability. I immediately thought of Meredith Pavlides, a holistic therapist, teacher and superwoman-organizer of the holistic healing community in Athens, who runs a new space called ATMAsphere in Syntagma, and the rest is history.

As the weeks passed and the date of the workshop neared, I wondered more and more, “what IS the voice of my uterus?!” and realized that not only was I completely incapable of grasping the mere concept of my uterus as having any voice at all, except when it has sometimes ‘cursed’ at me in those pre-menstrual moments that have had me reaching for painkillers. I also realized that although I have a very strong sense of my heart, my brain, my intestines and sometimes my kidneys and their voices, when I tried to conjure even an image or feeling of my uterus beyond the textbook picture all I could hear was silence and all I could see was pitch darkness. Why should this be? After all, it was that very uterus that had so capably and gracefully been the first home of a spark that developed through nine months into a fully developed baby boy. During my pregnancy, I viewed my uterus as a super-flexible miracle machine made of Technicolor fibres with uber hi-tech wiring that included things like an automatic dimmer-switch for the perfect lighting, food delivery service, plush cushioning, fun and floaty water and temperature control that offered my growing boy all that he needed. I would light candles, take baths and, hands on uterus, sing to him with all my being. Then I would gently rub vitamin E oil over my belly, feeling the spa-style attention soak through my uterus and into my baby’s heart.

And now it was a silent, pitch-dark space?


On the day of the seminar, as it often happens, I didn’t feel like going. I felt too vulnerable and a bit embarrassed by the idea of sitting in a room with a bunch of other women talking about our uterus and sexual organs. I dreaded the idea of partner-work or being asked to dance or writhe around the room as so many teachers of such workshops demand, which brings out all my teenage self-consciousness and makes me want to run as if from a raging fire. I took out my deck of Angel Cards and asked “should I go to the workshop today?” and the card I picked was Body Care. Ok, that was a clear enough answer! As I entered the light and air-filled space I was surprised to see a circle of completely diverse women. There was one rock-style woman with tattoos and jet black hair, a shy-looking woman with aquiline eyes, a hippie skirt and short white hair, a heavy-set woman with dark hair and a more conservative look, another woman with a sweet face who looked 16; there was no “type” and that in itself made me immediately feel like I fitted in. Clara, with her dark, wavy hair, huge smile and bright eyes exuded a confidence in her Argentinian temperament as she addressed us with humour and gentleness. She asked us in a very matter-of-fact way to go round the circle and talk about our self with regards to our sexuality, our connection to the history of our uterus and of our relation to vocal expression or singing. As if hypnotised, because after all none of us really knew each other at all, and this was seriously personal stuff we were about to share, we each spoke our truth. We heard each other’s stories feeling the speaker’s pain, remorse, rage, melancholy, fear, but also pride, bliss, hope and power. Just in doing that, we immediately realised that first impressions can be so delusive – there is so much more depth, complexity, magnificence, aching vulnerability and immense strength in the people you stand next to every day. Most important of all was the sinking realisation that despite how different our lives and perceptions and habits are, we are all reflections of each other.

Full Stop!

Then we put our chairs aside and sprang into action. We started moving, shaking, massaging, swirling and swaying all parts of our bodies sectio by section, at first gently and meditatively, breathing in and out silently, and soon enough with a build-up of more and more motion and vocal expression upon exhaling. The sense of apprehension I’d had before going had disappeared – I felt completely safe and at ease, empowered and happy to be part of the game. “Movement creates excitement, and excitement creates lubrication, and lubrication creates life!” Clara kept calling out in between her hilarious “aaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhs” and “wooo-hooooooos!” My body felt activated and alive, and when we reached the point of placing my hands on my uterus I could feel its ‘pulse’ – yes! We’ve made contact! And then I tapped it gently as Clara suggested as if saying “hello” and feeling it right there and flooding it in my mind with light, breaking away that lonely, sad darkness I had left it in for so long.


This reconnecting experience in itself was enough of a reward for having attended, but there was another incredible gift to follow. Standing in a circle and holding hands, our eyes closed and our bodies swaying gently from side to side, we were asked to sing whatever came to us, simply to share the feelings that were coming from our reawakened bodies. The older woman next to me began to sing in the most heavenly, rich voice, and I was joyfully startled. Another woman sang, without words, a sad and deeply moving tune that emerged from her. Then another sang what she wanted to say – how happy she felt to be there and how grateful she felt, off-key yet so full of love. The woman I’d considered as conservative-looking surprised us all the most with her amazing, deep blues-jazz voice that would have made Aretha Franklin blush. I had a moment when I thought of singing Piensa En Mi, Luz Cazal’s incredible song, to express that at least in spirit I was there for them, but as it was a thought I went with my spontaneous feeling instead and sang a happy and playful jazz song I’d written years ago based on W.H. Auden’s ‘As I Walked Out One Evening’, because after all, that’s what my uterus – rather than my brain – wanted to sing.

Teacher, therapist and participant Meredith Pavlides relates her own experience of the workshop:
“I truly enjoyed the event of ‘The Voice of the Uterus’ with Clara Davaar. The group of women were so strong and beautiful and we shared a lovely dynamic. Clara is a fantastic guide and can truly hold the sacred space needed to dive deep within – the environment was held so gracefully. She’s very experienced and the class was amazing. Everyone’s face was glowing afterwards. This work is so important for women and I’m so glad I had this wonderful experience, and to share the sacred connection with all the women there. Clara will be back for more courses in Athens and I strongly recommend it for other women! I will definitely be there in love and gratitude!”

 

“The first thing the male establishment wants to control is uterus and birth. You might call it womb envy. But even worse is the fact that we are still using the male model of sexual response for women.”
— Betty Dodson

allowing yourself to be a victim

As an empath with a very high level of self-consciousness and a near hyper-awareness of the world around me – with all its energies – I spent a great deal of my childhood feeling sad for myself. There were always reasons, many of which I fervently reported on in pages upon pages of my giant, collage-covered, hard-back diaries that I stated at an early age. Although my home life was postcard-perfect, and I was blessed with loving parents who offered me the best of everything, especially nourishing love, it was as if I was carrying another world inside me. I would journal that so-and-so doesn’t want to be my friend, the boy I am in love with doesn’t like me, I wasn’t given the role I wished for in the school play because the girl who got it is prettier than me, I’m terrible at maths and my teacher thinks I’m an idiot… and so the list of my demises went on, replete with melancholy to depressive analysis regarding my terrible luck, and how lacking I was in so many areas. Mind you, at the same time my sadness was an energizing force for my creativity – I retreated into a world like all the depressive, alcoholic writers I’d read about – Ernest Hemingway, F.Scott Fitzgerald, Sylvia Plath, Dorothy Parker – and spent my days writing poetry, plays, stories and later even jazz songs.

At university, I began to blossom – meeting more like-minded friends, despite our pretty enormous in some cases differences in culture and upbringing, I felt more empowered and upbeat. I experienced my first love, fortunately, a man with a gentle soul who showered me with kindness and affection, and through our sexual relations, I grew more into my womanly self. But the sense of victimhood continued to lurk in my depths.

When I started working as a journalist in the city during my early ’20s my self-confidence went up one more notch; I was quickly and quite easily given good positions with a rewarding pay and felt esteemed by both my employers and my colleagues. I had money and no real responsibilities and enjoyed carefree years during which beyond my work which I loved my main concern was hitting the town and discovering myself anew. Perhaps because I felt so carefree, yet still aware that despite a happy-go-lucky lifestyle there was a lot of unresolved stuff inside me, it was around then that I started to be drawn in earnest to searching deeper within myself. I started reading books on psychology, self-help, spirituality, esotericism and the healing arts and started practising yoga. And then I fell in love again, entering an intense relationship that I knew from day one would be nothing like the rosy-tinted-focus first love I’d experienced a few years before. For several years my sense of victimhood started rearing its ugly head – although often not without reason  – yet, I did not actually believe that my ongoing insecurities and feelings of self-pity or that things were not going as I wanted was my way of playing the victim. That was something others did, like a friend of mine who was always, but always complaining about something going wrong – there was literally drama after drama occurring in his life and he was never happy, and I became so fed up with his repertoire that I started to avoid him, as I realised he was perversely enjoying the dramas and I, as his friend had to pay for it by hearing every tragic (and depressing) detail every time we met.

As I started delving deeper into the healing arts, what I kept getting from teachers, healers, therapists and writers in various renditions was the message put so perfectly by Eleanor Roosevelt when she said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” That you are only a victim if you see yourself that way. It made perfect sense, and as it gradually crystallized in my mind I felt freer and stronger. Shakti Gawain was writing about Creative Visualization – how we can visualize what we want, and then “The Secret” came out bringing to the west the mystical truths (and a barrage of other books, healing systems, films and businesses) about the Law of Attraction. That too made perfect sense – I realised that I had been a natural manifester as a child and teenager – making a lot of my technicolour daydreams come true without trying at all, and now I comprehended that this was actually a formula. I saw that had been attracting situations and feelings because that was what I had been dwelling on, visualising, literally creating and drawing the energy of into my life. Just as the shamans ascertain that we dream our world into being, I was both dreaming (there were a lot of great things going on too!) and nightmaring my world into being.

My perspective on myself and life overall started to shift dramatically. I started to see how almost everything – from the thorny interaction I had with the rude taxi driver or the bright mood I woke up with or the job I got offered or the accident I had were all my creation, and thus my responsibility. That everything I was experiencing came from within, from my subconscious programming, from the fears, traumas, dreams and desires that resided deep inside, and basically from how pure the intent was when I was subconsciously setting it and catalyzing it into actuality. So I began to actively work on resolving the conflicts within – the ones between carefree spontaneity and dull calculation, fear and love, pleasure and pain, self-confidence and shame. It was – and still is – an endless process, but every little step is movement in the right direction.

But. I took the concept of rejecting victimhood a little too far. When I heard of other’s misfortunes, of course I felt empathy for them, and hope for them to reclaim their health and happiness again, but a stern little voice inside me, in the disguise of wise, said exactly what I was constantly saying to myself. It interpreted the incident that had put them in a state of victimhood as something that they had not yet worked out, and thus it was manifesting in that painful, or unpleasant or somehow debilitating form. Broke a leg? Maybe you actually needed a break from your workaholic life or overdemanding family, or maybe you’re feeling you can’t move forward in life. Cancer? There must be so much unresolved sadness or anger that has been eating away from you and that you have not been letting yourself heal, release and clear. Earache? There must be something you’ve heard or don’t want to hear that has caused you pain. There was always that thought in me – just like I was over-interpreting everything since childhood in my over-conscious and analytical state I was now doing that with regards to health and life when it came to anything I did or that happened to me that was surprising or noteworthy in either a positive or negative way. This was the message I – and dare I say we – are now being bombarded with by the New Age movement and our commercial society at large, from self-help gurus to advertisers, in a world that is increasingly pushing us to live as isolated individuals. “You can do it for yourself. It’s all up to you. If you buy our product you will look/ smell/feel powerful while doing it yourself, you strong, self-sufficient MF!”

The essential message out there is that suffering does not make you a victim, nor does it make you a perpetrator toward yourself, but it does all come down to your personal responsibility and power. Being a victim is equated with being weak and completely unable to help yourself. It also means that you have to ask others for help, which you need to survive, which is a weakness.

There is some valuable truth in these concepts, but fanaticism will fail anyone. Yet it wasn’t until recently when I experienced not one but a handful of life’s greatest stresses that I developed a fresh outlook. A wonderful spiritual teacher to whom I was relating my overwhelming problems at the time said I had been very “stoical”, and that this was a strength but that it wasn’t necessarily good for me. The word stoical brought to my mind my father and other strong men I have known, and I felt the word was transfused with a male energy, serving as a paradigm for survival that had infiltrated my being: stoicism = strength. This was the first step toward me having a huge realization regarding victimhood.

The second and final one came when I was having a Coactive© Coaching session during which the coach asked me how things were going in my life. In an as non-complaining or pathetic voice as I could muster, I listed all the challenges that I was facing at the time. There was a silence as she regarded me with surprise and compassion. I felt uncomfortable because after naming all the things I’d been facing I had started to feel quite deeply sorry for myself. “I don’t want to sound like a victim,” I finally said in the spirit of honesty, “but it’s been bloody hard!” She looked at me and gently smiled. “Well, what’s wrong with being a victim?” she asked. “And what does it mean to you to be a victim?” Momentarily I was stunned. I thought hard but could only come up with my well-structured schpiel, the carefully constructed belief system I had been so staunchly living by for so many years. “Well, being a victim means that I’m not taking responsibility for yourself!” I said, “it means I am not in control of myself or my life! That I’m a bit pathetic. Or that I’m blaming other people or circumstances for my own incapability to cope…” There, that was a thorough enough definition, I thought, of the atrocity known as ‘being a victim’. “And what does ‘not coping’ mean?” she asked. What an obvious question, yet so very difficult to answer for some funny reason. “Well,” I began, “as I said, spiralling out of control of my own life, feeling a mess, and basically feeling sorry for myself!” And then she said something that was one of the biggest lessons I have ever learned so far, the lesson to which I have dedicated this article: “But those are things that you are actually experiencing right now. Painful, difficult things. Life-changing things. And you are suffering a lot…Anyone would, it’s normal! There is nothing wrong with being a victim, or letting yourself feel sorry for yourself.”

As she said that, something inside my heart opened, like the door in a dark house swinging open and letting in the sea breeze and blazing sunshine. As Rumi wrote, “wound is the place through which the light enters”. By acknowledging my wounds and letting myself feel heartfelt self-compassion, I could finally allow it to heal. Yes, I suddenly thought, I can permit myself to feel my bottomless sadness; to feel sorry for myself. I have been through, and I am going through a lot of turbulence and pain. It hurts. It simply is. I am a victim of my circumstances, why they were created is a different story that can be explored through time.

We always talk about our inner child, and how important it is to care for it. Would I say to my son that he was acting like a victim because he simply grazed his knee and ended up having a big cry over it? Of course not, he needs to cry – it’s one of his ways of expressing and releasing emotions. It’s all about balance – neither is it helpful to overindulge in the concept that by taking responsibility for our self we cannot define our self as a victim, nor in the idea that victimhood is an OK state to be in on a general level. But to allow myself to say, ‘Poor me, I’m feeling so much confusion, instability, uncertainty – fuck! This is so hard and I don’t deserve this!’ is OK. And that’s when after years of not crying, I began to cry me a river. Tears would come over me unexpectedly; I wept while washing the dishes, walking on the street, talking on the phone, sitting at my computer. I kept remembering my first shamanic teacher who told me that crying is cathartic, natural and healthy, but as soon as one starts to think of things while crying, one must stop right there, because then it becomes a dramatic intellectual play in the mind, not the release of real emotion from the soul. All the sadness pouring out was making me a wreck. It had been so much easier when I wasn’t a victim!

But time heals the heart, as do long chats with the loving friends and family who like angels have been beside me every day just an email or phone call away, often reaching out to me, checking up on me. When you accept that you are a victim, you can reach out for help. I realized that it’s OK to accept help from others. Gradually the tears started to get less, and my sleep started to be deeper, and one day I found myself actually able to smile – not grimace – at myself in the mirror. Of course I – like you – am never going to stop being vulnerable in some way or other. Self-compassion, true self-compassion without the need to interpret, analyse, justify or explain the pain we are going through is so crucial. That’s the only way you can give yourself a real hug and say ‘I love you so much, you can be exactly as you are with me, and when you are ready, I will do my all to help you heal. And you will! When you are ready. First, let yourself be broken, and cry.’

hearing myself through silence

Following a bit of a lull in my posting, I’m back to write about the Silent Retreat I recently attended. 

Welcome to Noosfera! Our keys and welcome notes


So here I was, on a Friday evening, beholding the dazzlingly white full moon, surrounded by the black silhouettes of vast mountains, caressed by an icy alpine breeze, with an orange cat called Paprika curled in my lap, hearing the sound of… howling wolves?! At first I thought it might be a tribe of inebriated youngsters possessed by the lunatic spirit at a nearby village, but later it was confirmed to me that jackals roam free on the mountaintops. I had just finished a gentle, grounding and refreshingly awakening evening yoga class, the first of several to take place during a weekend retreat organised by Athens-based yoga teacher Tina Myntz Zymaraki. Only minutes before I had embarked on my journey into a silence that was to last until Sunday afternoon. We had each selected an Osho card from a pack that was to act as a message to set our awareness on, and before delving into non-talking we went around the circle saying our name and one intent we had during the weekend. Mine was Kindness, but by the end, I got Gratitude instead.

Other participants walked by beaming “good evening!” smiles on their way to the dining hall in the super-elegant Noosfera main house, and feeling a rumble in my tummy I decided to follow suit. Decorated in a neo-traditional English country style that soothes both eye and spirit, the living room/dining room area was imbued by silence, and all I could hear was the sound of the flames dancing in the fireplace and cutlery delicately clanging on plates. A woman in her 50s who was clearly there with her bestie was cracking up so much she ran out of the room with her hands over her mouth to stifle her giggles as her friend cried (silently of course) with laughter into her soup. This would take some getting used to.

As we feasted on creamy pumpkin soup and crunchy croutons followed by a mountain of quinoa, lentil, orange and fresh herb salad and toasted wholewheat pitta bread with hummus, my fellow silence-vowers and I avoided eye contact with each other, as Tina had encouraged us to. The Silent Retreat aims to encourage actually immersing yourself deeper into your being by disengaging from the outside world, she told us, not simply zipping your mouth and throwing away the key. Being a slightly anxious mother I carried my phone with me but not for an instant was I tempted to enter the world of the internet – in fact, the mere idea of social medialising even as a voyeur revolted me.

On the scene as a yoga teacher for around 17 years, Tina is only one of two individuals in Greece who organizes silent retreats, and was inspired by her own experiences at the Ananda Ashram in New York, where she lived for a while: “The idea was very attractive to me, especially as I interact with others a lot,” she said, “so as of 2010 I started introducing small periods of silence in my weekend retreats. Over time, those periods were extended, and I started to organize semi-silent retreats. Students always told me how valuable the experience proved for them, so over the past three years I’ve been indulging them in silence more and more.” (See the end of this article to find out about Tina’s upcoming retreat).
Let me set the scene of where I was before telling you how my own journey into silence unfolded. Noosfera Centre, built especially for wellness and holistic retreat workshops of all varieties, is located in the Peloponnesian mountains, near Xylokastro. Arriving in the dark, I couldn’t yet see the magnificent views that delighted me the following morning – mountains carpeted in thick greenery, smoky valleys, patches of traditional villages here and there, a gleaming snowy peak and a relieving (for us sea aficionados) strip of blue in the distance.

Give me a window unto nature so I may witness myself

Noosfera is a new generation holistic hideaway, lovingly created five years ago by journalist-turned-author (of six books, including the bestseller Mystic Odyssey) and therapist Ioulia Pitsouli and psychologist/psychotherapist Maria Xifara, who live here for half a week throughout the year, as holistic wellness and psychology seminars of all varieties take place. The main house and accommodations are all built in low wooden cottages decorated in a rustic yet modern style, with accessories like fluffy Guy Laroche towels and flocculent duvets. The choice of space for this particular retreat was a very carefully made one on Tina’s part, as she felt it was important for participants to enjoy creature comforts while making sense of silence – many silent retreats around the world are held in far more monastic, daunting circumstances in order to strip away distractions.

I’d longed to try a silent retreat for many years, so I jumped at the chance to do so when this workshop came up. The concept was to spend two days doing our best at staying schtum and combining that with soothing yet not undemanding yogic practice. On the morning of the second day, we participated in a more energetic class aimed at connecting us to our core. As I have been facing some challenging personal issues lately, halfway through the class I retreated into child’s pose when I started feeling it was getting too demanding for me. Something in me was pissed off and simply refused to carry on. As I curled up on my mat I felt a wave of sadness rise up from the depths of my heart, and pour out through my eyes in tears. I was about to do my usual stoical routine, to tell myself to put the ‘self-pity’ aside and get on with the practice, when I remembered that this was not that kind of class, nor was that kind of class that I need in my life. If I had been in a different state of mind I would have cherished the upbeat challenge, but at that moment I couldn’t find it in me to push myself any further when I’ve felt I’ve been squeezed enough in other areas of my existence. So I got up and walked out, feeling fully supported in doing so. 

Yoga teacher Tina Myntz Zymaraki

Later in the day, we got to enjoy a different kind of class based on restorative asanas and self-care, an aspect of yoga practice that Tina has dedicated many years to develop. As a former Ashtanga devotee, she has over the years realized the vital significance of listening to her own changing body and treating it with love and respect, rather than forcing it through a sequence that has caused her several injuries along the way, despite how much discipline and caution she applied to following the rules. “For the last 150 years, yoga practices have been centred on young male students, but in the west, the average class is made up of women, many of them in their early to late middle age,” she notes.


“For several years I have focused on studying and practising bio-mechanics and human anatomy, aiming to help my students work from the inside out to enhance strength and suppleness by listening to their own unique needs,” Tina explained. “I take on a more innovative approach that is not strictly bound to classic prototypes but instead can be adapted by students so that they reap all the benefits of yoga without straying from their sense of self. As my favourite teacher, Richard Freeman says, ‘yoga begins with listening” – listening to your own needs. It’s your body, your time, your choice, your yoga. Yogis have always been anarchists and revolutionaries so why should you go to a class and obey what you are told if it feels wrong to you or causes you pain?” she points out. The Self-Care class was my absolute favourite because that was exactly what I needed in combination with the inner and outer quiet. First, we were shown how to use a tennis ball to massage our feet, necks, shoulders and back in the most blissful tension-releasing tennis fun I could ever conceive of. Next, we lay down (but were asked to make every effort to stay awake) for a mesmerising Yoga Nidra session in which Tina guided our awareness across every inch of our body with her softly spoken words. When at some point she said “and now move your awareness to your fifth finger,” I anticipated she would next guide us to our sixth; that’s when I realized how incredibly relaxed I was.

The location and the practice of silence offered us all the golden opportunity to take time for ourselves while feeling warmly united in a rare experience. I relished the chance to stretch and breathe as well as read inspiring books (one day I read half a book lying by the fire – it might be a decade since the last time I did that!), go for nature walks overlooking spanning views of natural landscapes, play with an overenthusiastic spaniel who had an endless supply of cones to be chased, and to write, write, write (my child-like sense for writing was reignited and I wrote throughout my time there. On actual paper. Using a pen.). And then there was the deep sleep that highly oxygenated alpine air bequeaths.

My favourite spot at Noosfera

On the first night, I experienced an amusing moment when I realized how useless it was to try communicating at all. After cuddling Paprika the cat I realized my jacket was pretty stinky; she’s adorable but I’d assumed that as she belongs to such a pristine place she’d be sweet-smelling, perhaps with a fragrance like the rooms we stayed in, named lavender, spearmint, pomegranate, or would have a natural Liberty’s fragrance. But no such luck, so I decided to air my jacket on the terrace in the room I was sharing with two girls, who were sitting there at the time. For some reason I bravely ventured to wordlessly re-enact why I was hanging it out to air- first I pretended to be Paprika, with the catwalk, swooshing tail (my arm), pointy ears and alert eyes, then re-enacted myself cuddling her, then smelling my malodorous jacket and looking shocked thus needing to air it. They looked at me and laughed, and I had no idea whether they thought they were rooming with a madwoman or had understood even a tad from my charades. It was at that moment that I resolutely decided that as amusing as it could be (especially for others!) it was probably best to do away with voiceless social banter.

Colouring INwards

The second and final night, there was another moment of hilarity when the waitress walked ceremoniously across the room holding a tray with a single collonaded glass of rose wine that one of the participants had ordered, with everyone turning to stare, many of us feeling a mixed emotion between empathy (silence brings stuff up, wine might help), confusion (wine is fun when you’re talking) and envy (why didn’t I think of that?), much to the embarrassment of the participant who had ordered it. After dinner many of us selected a mandala design to colour in and sat around the fire on the floor for hours bringing them to life – I hadn’t felt that way since I was seven, at school, hearing only the incessant sound of colouring pencils on paper.

Our silence was broken on Sunday afternoon, with a sharing circle during which we each related our experiences. There were tears. There was laughter. This was followed by a conversation-friendly lunch, after which we all posed for a few photographs together (below) and went our separate ways.

As Bjork once said, “It’s Oh So Quiet!” Shhhhh

I felt reinvigorated, rested, and subtly yet profoundly changed as a result, like I had learned a secret that had been in me all along. More and more research is being done on the benefits of silence, and a recent Finnish study revealed that it actively enhances brain and emotional health: “The scientists discovered that when the mice were exposed to two hours of silence per day they developed new cells in the hippocampus. The hippocampus is a region of the brain associated with memory, emotion and learning.”

I was also relieved that the nightmare scenario I had self-deprecatingly envisioned before going there, that my cheeky monkey brain would take over and I’d be constantly trying to shut out my restless mental chatter, didn’t happen even for an instant. In fact, I found myself observing and feeling everything more intensely; I savoured food with greater pleasure (I did notice I was eating more than usual, perhaps to fill the ‘gap’ of not using my mouth to spout out conversational gems), became more aware of my body and movement – from ease and flexibility to tightness and restriction, rested in the enhanced clarity and calm of my head. “Silence offers us a different kind of quality in our thought processes and how we relate to others,” Tina said. “It offers us the opportunity to respond rather than react. So I see it as a natural extension of the yoga practice.” There were uncomfortable moments too, at some point I felt as though I was at an airport with a delayed flight hanging around and waiting. Not wanting my young son to feel I’d fallen off the face of the earth, I spoke to him on the phone for a few brief moments as I sat on the park bench facing the mountains and sea. “I love you, I love you, I love you!” he squeaked. And after I put my phone away I felt literally engulfed by the silence of the mountains in a way I’d never experienced before. I yearned for him, worried for him as if he lived in another world. Then I looked at the sea yearned to fly across the valleys to it like the birds swooping around. I wanted to lie in the grass. I was dreamy and tranquil yet felt vulnerable, detached and alone at once.

The author settling into Warrior II with a view

I returned to the endless fracas of Athens renewed, feeling as if I’d connected with a new awareness in myself, one that comes from even 24 full hours of silent observation. Being surrounded by others who also don’t talk was divine because I realised that every word you hear around you instantly registers as a thought or emotion in the mind, even if it has nothing to do with you. So I have vowed to stay away from other people’s conversations if I’m craving peace. Like most of the others, I felt I could have stayed a little longer, and was a little rough to have to return to reality. Yet fortunately, silence is free and can be found everywhere, especially within. All you need to do is commit to it, tune in, and hey presto, you’re there.

 

TINA’s UPCOMING SILENT RETREAT (21 & 22 April)

Mountain Refuge Silent Yoga
A little before summer seduces us to her shores, join Tina for two days combining a few of her favourite things: yoga, cooking, silence and nature. Experience the joy and stillness which emerge effortlessly when we spend time on the mountain and its stunning vistas… (click for more info)

stepping into the shaman’s path

And so the journey continues. I keep being drawn to the people and practices that can remind me what I already know, in my heart, but cannot yet fully grasp in my mind – not that it should really matter! That I am already one with everything. That I have all the answers I’m seeking. That everything is an illusion and truth at once. That to learn, and change, requires discipline. That once I can relinquish the idea that such discipline is uncomfortable, difficult and yes, even painful, (because it requires me to let go of patterns, behaviours and ideas that I’ve been ‘indoctrinated’ into by belief systems founded on creating molds), the practice of being, truly, will be easy. Because when I am in true connection with my soul, I will not be trying so hard. In fact I won’t be trying at all. I will just be…

Roel Fredrix

Dutch shaman and teacher Roel Fredrix has been visiting Athens on and off over the last year, running workshops on shamanic healing and the Medicine Wheel, via a course called the Inca Mastery of Life Training. I attended Fredrix’ workshop on Munay (heart energy) at Inner Flow Centre Athens and discovered lifetime techniques for empowering and healing the self and others. One exercise was centred on creating an energy drawn from the earth and from the heavens and concentrated within the heart, and then adding to that a profound sense of joy. It was amazing as I practiced sending this energy to a partner I worked on, as she talked about some of her most painful memories. As soon as she would get stuck in a sense of trauma and sadness I would send my joyful, loving heart energy to her and she would feel soothed and would move on. “The most serious thing of all, the Q’ero shamans say, is humour,” Fredrix told us, adding that when your heart is filled with laughter and joy it is at its strongest and most protected from outside energies.

Two days after the workshop I had the pleasure to interview Fredrix to delve deeper into who he is and his teachings.

Alexia Amvrazi: Who are you?
Roel Fredrix: Who am I? That’s a good question. Actually that’s what the whole journey is about. Who are we? Who am I? I can give you an answer on many levels. My name is Roel Fredrix. When I give an answer on the level of the mind I will tell you the stories of my past and my profession and what I have been doing in life, and that I am the father of three kids, and that I come from this part of Holland. That’s one identification on the level of the mind. But on my journey I discovered that I’m not that. Those are only roles that I play and identifications with stories in my mind. I’ve had quite some mystical experiences, and when you transcend the ego you find out that you are the process of life itself, and that what you call you is everything. It’s you, it’s us, it’s everything that is expressed as the divine. I’ve experienced myself as many things; I’ve had a lot of shape-shifting experiences. I’ve experienced myself as a volcano for example, or a star. When you have these kinds of experiences you realise that you can shape-shift into anything, and the experience comes from just a shift in awareness. So, it’ hard to say who I am (laughs). In the normal world I am just a man.

A shamanic mesa, which is like a medicine pouch or transportable altar.

AA: You say “just a shift in awareness” but for many people that is very challenging to achieve.
RF: Yes. It’s not “just” a shift in awareness… It can be a shift in one second that happens spontaneously, or it can be a shift that you need to work for intensively. But the only thing is that you have to remove something to reach it: your belief system, your mind, your programmes or ‘software’.

AA: What drew you to shamanism?
RF: In the beginning I wasn’t drawn to it at all. I was educated as a physical therapist in Holland and had my own practice. I was always interested in alternative medicine, since I was 16-17 years old I was studying about the paranormal, astrology, numerology, I had a dream diary as a child… but then I got into the medical training, and they program you with western, medical, scientific thinking, so that went away for a little while. Until I was around my 30s. First I had my sports career and I worked in the sports world and teaching about sports injuries and that kind of stuff. But there was a sudden change in my life – I was in the Dutch National Team of Ultimate Frisbee and I was playing in the world championships in Sweden and in the first game I broke a bone in my foot. This was after I’d been training very hard for a year to get in the team and make it there, and then it snapped. I had put everything in my life aside for that training!

AA: Did you feel you had subconsciously caused that accident for yourself?
RF: Yes, I think so, nothing is coincidental. I needed to stand still in life, and reflect on the path that I was going towards. So from that moment I decided I’m not going to do that again! 

As a physiotherapist I was using some alternative therapies in my practice -kinesiology using muscle testing. A rheumatologist was sending a lot of patients to me whom I couldn’t test because they had inflamed joints, so I was seeking a way to see into them via their subconscious through the layers of pain and trauma without muscle testing. I read and followed the practices related in Brandon Bays’ ‘The Journey’ but that required working on people who could use visualisation, and some people can’t.

So when I read about Soul Retrieval on the Four Winds Society website I thought “oh wow! In this way the shaman is going into the subconscious instead of the person himself.” I listened to Alberto Villoldo’s Soul Retrieval CD and then I checked if he was giving courses and he was giving courses in Holland! I immediately went to the course, and it felt very strangely familiar. It was like I’d been doing this for years. I started using it in my work, and from my first sessions I had great revelations and insights. For the people I was treating it was about getting traumatic experiences out of their system. But the message I kept receiving was “that’s not important my son – it’s much more important to show you this, or that, and to make great connections with guides.” It gave me really crazy experiences.

AA: So would you say that our said-trauma or pain is more like a prop, covering up other things that are there that need addressing?
RF: Yes definitely. It’s one of the ways that the ego holds us from experiencing our soul. And the more trauma you have experienced in your life, the louder the voices in your mind are. The sub-personalities, the archetypical voices in your mind, like the controller or the protector, or the fear or the perfectionist, all these impulses that give thought in the mind, are very loud if you have a lot of trauma.

AA: So they shut out even more the strength and peace that you have inside?
RF: Yes, and that’s what I like about the shamanic path. First, it’s growing roots. It’s first taking care of the wounded ego, so the ego voices get less. It turns down the ego, softens it, and so it gets much more quiet inside. To make space to hear the whispering of the soul. And as soon as you start to hear that, you know ‘ah, my life is not only about what’s going on in my head, my life is a journey of the soul.”

Fredrix with a participant during the Munay teachings workshop

AA: So it’s also a way of looking at pain or trauma in a positive way, would you say, because it’s your gateway directly to going into a higher state of being if you can resolve it…
RF: Yes, and almost all people come to the spiritual path because they are seeking something. They are seeking healing, love, happiness… So people always come to the path because they don’t have it – they don’t feel happy, lovable, or they don’t feel free in their lives. So they start looking for something.

AA: So since you started on your path as a shaman, how come you found yourself in Greece?
RF: That’s a nice story – I was on a website as a graduate of the Four Winds Society; there was a teaching company here in Greece,  and they were searching for someone to teach Munay-ki, which I was doing in Holland. They happened to pick my name from the website, where there were many other people listed, and asked me to teach here. The coincidence was that I was at that time looking for new ways to express myself. I wanted to go deeper and not only teach small workshops but offer a deeper education. Meanwhile, my secretary, who is also on this path and receives private sessions from me, one day during our session said she had a dream she needed to tell me about – she told me she had dreamed of my father, who has passed away, and that he said ‘I am helping you to work abroad’!

What is the most important aspect of your teachings? 
Once you step into your soul’s path and recognise that you are not an ego you can create a re-identification, realising that you are not your stories. You realise that you are on a journey to express divinity in its highest form, so you grow into mastery, that’s why my course is called Mastery of Life Training. To master your energy, your wounds, your mind, your emotions, to master your love, your wisdom and your power. And as you move to the last step, it offers you opportunities to awaken to who  you really are, and to set your own vision of how you want to bring that awakening into the world. What is your highest vision of expressing yourself? What do you want to give to the world? Because in the beginning the wounded ego only wants to take. At the end you identify with everything and you want to give, because you know that in the giving you are giving to yourself.

INFO:
In JUNE 2018, Roel Fredrix will be teaching the South Direction of the Medicine Wheel in two long, intensive weekends (1-3 June & 8-10 June) as part of his Mastery of Life Training in Athens. For more information contact Roel Fredrix at: roelfredrix@gmail.com

a chat with athens’ top (vegan) chefs

‘Dirty’ Vegan chef Nikos Gaitanos

Nikos Gaitanos is a chef specializing in vegetarian/vegan cuisine. He has worked as a consultant at vegetarian/vegan restaurants in Greece as well as in the UK. Currently he is Head Chef  of “Healthy Bites” and “Vegan Nation” restaurants in Athens and “The Saints Stores” in Thessaloniki. He is the author of the cook book “Dirty Vegan”.

What is your food philosophy & practice?
Keep it simple; I love creating recipes with just a few but very high quality ingredients.

Were you ever a meat eater? How did your personal interest in vegan food begin? 
I was a meat eater long time ago – I actually haven’t eaten meat for 29 years! At first I was vegetarian, then a pescatarian and recently I started following a plant based diet. I first heard the word ‘vegan’ eight years ago. At first I couldn’t understand why they didn’t eat any animal products but gradually I began to make the connection, and after my sister became vegan somehow she manage to convince me to change my diet too.

How / when did you take vegan cuisine to a professional level?
I stopped cooking meat 13 years ago, because I started to feel it’s unethical to do so, especially when I wasn’t eating it myself. Since then I’ve worked only in vegetarian and vegan restaurants.

Can people easily get all their nutrients from a vegan diet?
The earth provides us with unlimited fruits and vegetables that have all the nutrients we need, so I believe we just have to eat a little bit of everything!

Is a vegan diet difficult to follow? What are its top advantages?
Initially it can be difficult because to say that you want to change your diet is just the first step. After that you have to deal with a society that is so widely based on the suffering of animals, and with the theories and comments of your family and friends. Last but not least you have to research and decide what you are going to eat from now on. Nowadays it’s much easier than it was a few years ago because the internet provides us with all the information, recipes and ideas you need to make the transition. More and more people are turning vegan every day and that makes it even easier. When you change your diet, you change your life, and you become a member of an ethical society; vegans are helping each other in every way.

What is your best advice for someone considering going vegan?
My advice to those who want to go vegan is to open your eyes to really see the injustice that’s being done to animals, and then block your ears to all those who try to tell you not to do it. What we learn from our fathers is not always right… We are the masters of our life and if we see and feel that something is wrong we must be the ones to change it, or at least we have to try to.

What is your goal as a vegan chef in Athens?
I want to provide excellent food choices for vegans so they will never feel that something is missing from their diet. At the same time I want to encourage the meat-eaters to discover that vegan food is packed with flavours, and that the choice is endless.

Athenians are showing increased interest in vegan food. Why do you think that is?
There are numerous reasons for this. Some are just curious about this relatively new (to Greece) trend, and some are simply fed up of meat and prefer to eat something healthy. Some are curious about making the transition, and want to find out what it would involve, try foods and learn more. The fact is that Greeks overall, not just Athenians are changing – actually people all around the world are changing in this sense as veganism is becoming a larger reality every day and nothing can stop it from happening!

Do you teach people how to cook vegan?
Over the last few years I have been teaching at cooking schools and running workshops on vegan cooking. So far I’ve taught at (Dipnosophistirion School of Gastronomy)in Athens, been a cooking workshop consultant in Thessaloniki, and worked at the Culinary Studies Centre in Herakleion, Crete.

What are your favourite vegan foods, what do they taste like and why do you love them?
My favourite foods haven’t change throughout the years – I love pizza, pasta, souvlaki and burgers! I’m a junk-food lover and the name of my first cookbook says it all: “Dirty Vegan”.

 

 

“What we learn from our fathers is not always right… We are the masters of our life and if we see and feel that something is wrong we must be the ones to change it, or at least we have to try to.”

 

Partners George Cassimatis & Esco Essence

Both Esco and George are yoga teachers and have been cooking and experimenting with plant-based food for more than 20 years. Esco is from Finland and has been working as a freelance chef at yoga retreats, private homes and corporate events. He teaches workshops and is a visionary raw food artist & vegan chef. George founded Triopetra Yoga Retreat in 2004 in the south of Crete and opened Soul Kitchen, Organic plant based restaurant in Rethymno, Crete in 2010. He gave up the city life for a good 12 years to study yoga and nutrition and now aims to share his passion for food and healthy living in Athens. Their vision is to create a working space where they can offer highly nutritious plant-based food and create awareness through workshops and education. With their business, The Plant Kingdom, they plan to deliver food to your homes and offices mainly by pre-order. They will create their own line of healthy food products which you can purchase at selected shops around Athens and of course serve our daily menu at our home base in Paleo Faliro.

 

Vegan chefs Esco Essence and George Cassimatis

What is your food philosophy?
Our food philosophy is based on the principles of healthy wholesome plant based foods. Foods that are nutritious and contain all the necessary elements that our body requires daily. Also the taste and appearance plays an important role on our plates. Our ethical choice is not to cause harm to other being and to work with local producers that share this vision in their work. Our everyday work is actually a creative process to find the balance and better ways to do things, to become inventive and curious and share our passion for a good life which starts with what we eat and goes on to what we think and what we do with our time on this planet.

Were you ever a meat eater? How did your personal interest in vegan food begin?
We both grew up eating traditional meat and fish dishes and slowly through questioning these cultural values and experiencing other ways of cooking from vegetarian to vegan to raw, juicing and fasting we found that our body and mind responds much better without the animal products and ethically this is a big disaster and problem we need to address and face in our time. We do not need to kill or exploit animals at the rate we are currently consuming. If you look into it, watch Eathlings for instance – you will probably agree that it is madness and definitely not a sign of an evolved civilisation, rather it is the opposite.

How / when did you take vegan cuisine to a professional level?
George: I started Triopetra Yoga Retreat in 2004 in the south of Crete and there had the time and great opportunity to experience the great food our chef Chris Clark was preparing daily for 6 years and since have enjoyed cooking with many vegan and raw food chefs from around the world when I started Soul Kitchen Organic Vegetarian Cafe in the old town of Rethymno in 2010. This has given me a good experience and now together with Esco we know what we are doing and doing it very well. Athens we feel is ready now for more and more vegan and healthy lifestyle.
Esco: With years of practice and with many & various experiences & travels. Practice is most important, and with much practice you become professional.

Can people easily get all their nutrients from a vegan diet?
Food is so important so yes when you pay attention and have time to prepare you can be super healthy on a vegan diet. For our climate here in Greece we recommend most of the time to eat 80% raw and 20% cooked food and you need to eat a lot, so much bigger quantities of salad and fruit everyday is perfect.

Is a vegan diet difficult to follow? What are its top advantages?
Nothing is difficult when you know what you are doing and know how to prepare. Advantages are good you get a good sense of well being, good health, vitality and longevity. We truly recommend for meat eaters to try and experience for themselves how they feel after 1-6 months cutting all animal products from their diet.

What is your best advice for someone considering going to a vegan diet?
Listen to your own body and everyday to taste and try something new, so you will find your own balance and taste and happiness. The transition period can last from 1 month to 3 years, to adjust to the plant based eating. We have already a solution as we offer daily meals 100% plant based and Plant Kingdom delivers Monday to Friday to peoples offices or homes so we do all the work for them to experience this food and in all cases our customers are very happy, energized and satisfied with our choices and food. Dinners with non vegans, well now there are plenty of vegan choices in most restaurants and more and more vegan cafes & restaurants popping up that are doing great work here in Athens & Thesaloniki.

What is your goal as a vegan chefs in Athens?
We want to spread the knowledge & experience we have through our food and also with hands on seminars and workshops we are planning to do this year. We plan to create a vegan/raw food cooking school here in Athens so that all this philosophy can become accessible to everyone interested to learn. Even teaching mothers how to cook healthier & tastier food for their young ones at home, switching away from dairy products & sugar to plant based creative, tasty and nutritious alternatives.

Athenians are showing increased interest in vegan food. Why do you think that is?
The younger generation seems more alert, sensitive & conscious of the ethical issues we are facing with our food. Many also understand and feel the health benefits of a plant based diet so it seems natural that even in Athens it is starting to grow and more people are asking for vegan food in their daily lives. So naturally again more and more businesses will transition to serve those customers.

Do you teach people how to cook vegan? If so, what kind of classes do you offer?
We are planning a series of workshops starting this February to teach people how to cook vegan and healthy meals and show them how easy it can be when you learn the basics so you can start very soon to try on your own and experiment with new ideas and ways to satisfy yourself and loved ones. We will teach one three hour classes once a week in a new workshop space in Dafni, Vouliagmenis Ave 223. This will be a series of three months training and then we will do the advanced workshop too and start a new series for beginners. More info on our website and Faceboook page coming up soon.

What are your favourite foods, what do they taste like and why do you love them?

George: I love eating big kale salads everyday with carrots and avocado, lemon, olive oil & black Himalayan salt. I love the textures, the freshness and taste of prana – life force the plants give us.

Esco: I like to eat everyday something different , so I combine whats in season with all the five sense of taste to create tasty flavors and to fully enjoy.

“We want to live with real peace inside and to actively participate in the necessary exciting changes our modern age is undertaking. We are experienced enough to give you good nourishment, good energy and inspiration for a good daily start.”

rene mey’s emotional medicine

Master Instructor Anilu Fiz (R) at one of her trainings.

I first heard about Rene Mey through a friend who was diagnosed with a herniated disk which caused acute sciatica. She was in agony for a month before she had her first session with a Rene Mey volunteer. Cortisone pills helped only temporarily, the prescribed swimming only made the pain worse, but from the moment she felt her friend’s healing hands, she was filled with immense love and every day brought improvement. After three weeks of daily sessions, she felt completely renewed and six months later has not had a twinge of back pain or sciatica since, even though the MRI showed chronic long standing damage.

I started to research Rene Mey, a French humanitarian who was offering respite to the wider public and teaching energy healing techniques throughout south and north America, and in recent years eastern and southern Europe, and about whom even a movie has been made. A Jesus-like figure, Mey’s message is one of spreading compassion and love throughout the world, by teaching his techniques, which he is said to have received instruction on from light-beings.

Rene Mey offering healing at a workshop.

The techniques are described as Emotional Medicine, based on Mey’s ideology that our emotions rule 85% of our overall wellbeing. There is extensive scientific research proving that emotional injury registers in our physical body exactly in the same way as a physical pain; if we can clear emotional / mental blocks and create flow, our physical health inevitably improves. When you have a loving intent to help another and you focus on both the physical and emotional pain of another, using techniques that include hands-on energy healing and tapping in places that are blocked, the health-giving effect is powerful and reaps high results. There are indeed countless testimonials from people who have been treated by Rene Mey volunteers for periods of time as short as a few months and like my friend, have experienced complete recovery.

His master instructors teach volunteers around the world, who then are encouraged to go on to offer this healing to anyone in need, free of charge. He has also created health clinics for the poor, and his volunteers supply food, education and assistance to those in need.

Intrigued and excited by this news I attended a workshop when master instructor Anilu Fiz came to Greece several months ago. Based in Mexico, she was in Bulgaria offering trainings and two Greek volunteers organised a three day stop-over here to introduce the Cellular Regeneration, the first of the three techniques, to the Greek public. Around 30 of us present were taught the technique, which we practiced on each other, and which can be done in the standing, sitting or lying down position, and were encouraged to offer it to anyone who needed it.

The real objective, as Anilu Fiz says in the video below, is to go out and offer it to the homeless, refugees, the elderly, the sick – ideally not to keep your abilities only to the confines of your immediate surroundings, because real compassion comes from actually having contact with those we don’t know and understanding them better, caring for them, offering them the kind of help no one usually wants to give. Personally I haven’t done that yet, but I intend to every day, and I know I will start to do so very soon. It takes time to digest such a new way of looking at what we can offer to others on a wide scale.

There are currently three energy healing techniques taught, all described as Emotional Medicine.

The video below was conducted on Skype at the end of December 2017. The sound quality is not ideal, as our connection was bad and our calls were interrupted 10 times! So I did my best with what I had, because Fiz is very busy and time has lately not been a luxury for me either, with the sole intent of getting Rene Mey’s message across. Please help by sharing too if his mission resounds in you.

NEWSFLASH!
Rene Mey will possibly be visiting Athens, Greece at the end of January 2018 and Anilu Fiz will be back for trainings in February of this year.

 

the flat-out truth

Throughout life we are told about doors, and I don’t mean the cool ‘70s rock band. “When one door closes, another opens,” they say. Or “make sure you choose the right door to walk through”. Or “close the door to that experience”. The phrase that I haven’t heard before, but that I have been experiencing over the last few two months is “when some important doors open, many doors also also slam shut. In your face.”

Me looking stoical

I have taken on a pretty stoical outlook, to put it mildly, and it’s not really in my nature to be like that. I’ve always considered stoicism to be a rather sad and tedious coping mechanism based on suffering deeply while being too proud to reveal it, and instead pretending – to yourself and / or others that you are cool, collected, brave and well, just fine! Weird. My reason for taking on this alien stoical manner of being is that I felt from the very start of my door-slamming odyssey that I was receiving some kind of coded message from the universe (the type only Benedict Cumberbatch would be able to solve). I knew that I needed to remain patient and see where it was taking me and why it was there.

I won’t go into the ugly details, but the form that this door-slamming took was in a series of rejections, rebuttals, apathy, lack of compassion, meanness and cool disinterest from various parties in various sorts of situations – be it individuals to whom I relied on for friendship, those I reached out to for help, support or guidance, agreements that I had made that were not honoured by the other party, and hurtful or finicky criticism that seemed to come out of nowhere. Basically, the constant and horribly surprising message I kept getting from the universe was something like “Tough shit, girl! Life is tough, you better believe it!” So I chose to soldier on and try to take it in my stride.

After around a month of being unusually stoical, which as I said is a completely new thing for me as usually I immediately face, express and release my emotions, the series of horrid little pokes and bites and shards of broken glass in my feet began to cut me down. I started to feel empty, drained, and well, flat. I even wrote a poem about it.

 

A flat poem

Flat,

that’s how I’m feeling.

Flat.

 

You could doodle on me in the gaudiest colours

or step on me when you pass by.

Make an airplane out of me and hurtle me across the room,

or blow your nose with me when you cry.

Flat, like I have just one dimension,

flat, like I can never again grow or rise,

flat, even when I try to set bold intentions

so flat I can’t even react to my drab demise.

 

I’ve felt depressed or anxious many times in my life, but I have not often felt flat. Flatness is like being a zombie, without the technicolour ’80s clothes and harrowing groaning action; just a half-dead yet curiously alive person who manages to get through every day as normal but when the day ends, and especially when a new day begins, feels like it’s Groundhog Day and that life is not really being lived. But it keeps going nonetheless, with a big, empty, silent part inside, that happens to be thick and spongy like a pillow that’s suffocating the heart moment by moment.


As the disabling flatness spread, a little voice inside of me finally cried out to my resolutely stoic brain. It whimpered “WTF?!”
My stoic brain heard it and said “Shhh, you are fine. You have a loving family, you have your health, you have work you love, you are alive and have choices.” It said that in a monotone, not like it didn’t really believe what it was saying, because it has no personality to speak of to be as complex as that, but like it was automatically the “right” thing to say. But that little voice coming from my heart that was being stifled came from a part of me that was not feeling particularly strong or brave, because those are characteristics you can only have when you have faith, yet it was still able to be a little curious and aware. And that very part with the meagre victim voice started to grow desperately sad, and that sadness started to wear an armour of anger. I became an angry person who felt like having the occasional weeping fit but couldn’t even do that because I was too flat. I started to lose my enthusiasm, vision, passion, interest in doing, even thinking or feeling anything beyond flatness. I wanted to dive into bed and do nothing but read existentialist literature and fantasize about being paralytically drunk in a Paris cafe with Jean Paul Satre, to tell him I finally understood, but I felt so flat I didn’t even really want to do that.

The WTF? was like a root however, and somewhere inside me a plant with answers began to grow, like a unfolding mathematical formula. So the universe is showing me that life is hard, but why now? Especially, as I had recently reached a climax in my life – learning new healing techniques that bolstered my existing understanding and connection with healing, meeting fascinating individuals, having gifts come to me from out of nowhere, shifting into a completely new sense of self, one that I knew was what I had been moving towards for years that had finally come to fruition. Why all the pain of flat-out rejection and heartlessness? I wondered – was I sabotaging myself  via my subconscious – ie. ‘you think you can be happy darling? Ha ha! Now you’ll see how wrong you are, because you don’t deserve that!’ No. I was not, I knew for sure. This was definitely an “outside” job. So what was it all for? Why the damage?

And then it clicked. Exactly because I have shifted into a strong sense of self as a person and as a healer, I have to now work on taking on the full responsibility to heal myself. Not look for the healing, the help, the joy, the confirmation, the answers outside of myself.

For so many years I have gathered so many healing tools, but what’s the point of having them if I don’t put them to good use, starting with myself?! For decades of attending workshops and seminars and yoga classes I have (ok, somewhat judgementally) observed some individuals who are just junkies riding on the things they learn – they go from one workshop to the other and never really heal or shift on a deeper level, they just skilfully surf a wave, and often those very individuals also love to roll off a whole list of what they have learned how to do.

But in truth, you could have attended just one of those workshops and have just one tool and have discovered incredible and multifaceted ways to use it for the benefit of yourself and others. Just like consumers today pack their homes with objects they have bought to make their life better, easier and more exciting (and enviable) that they hardly ever use, the same goes for healing.

So unless I can be my own doctor, teacher, healer, guru, lover and friend, I cannot be happy. I cannot have that spark, that oomph, that success of living life with meaning, purpose and reward that my being has been yearning for. Life and all those in it are not oblivious to my needs, they can feed, enhance and colour it in a million ways, and so can I, but if I get stuck on the pain of not receiving what I need and want in the way I have envisioned, I’m lost, I am no longer living, I become flat. And all I will be able to keep seeing is the doors that are being slammed in my face, rather than the ones that are open, and perhaps always have been, but I’d never seen them because I stood fretting in a dark, dank corridor, and they were just round the corner.

And yes, the world and life and all those in it are also harsh and cold and self-centred and ignorant, and so am I. That is nature, we are Yin and Yang, we are sometimes cruel to be kind or thoughtless to others because we are so focused on other things. And existence requires some hard choices, the constant conscious practice of loving, discipline, clarity, intelligence, intuitive cunning, patience, compassion and a resilient sense of humour. Every day is a mission with innumerable twists and turns that in moments require serious consideration, decision-making and positive action – if I am exhausted every day I have to go to sleep early, if I feel drained I have to cut out bad habits like that soothing glass of wine at night and focus more on good ones like making a special tonic to drink, going for a walk in the forest, taking an aromatic bath with a hefty dose of Epsom salts.

Above all – is the ability to let go of the pain that comes from facing the hard truths of life – whether it be the knowledge that billions are suffering in so many horrifying and unfair ways every day or that the person whose heart has suddenly turned to stone and consequently broken yours, perhaps always had heart made of stone and although I suspected as much I didn’t want to acknowledge it. 

And finally, prayer. When I first awaken in the morning if I can stop myself from jumping out of bed and leaping into digital / get-things-done day-mode I will lie there breathing, feeling my heart as I clasp my hands together and pray for all I love and feel such gratitude for. In that prayer I will also indulge in asking for the things I truly hope for with all my being. And for a moment, maybe a few hours, days even if I’m lucky, I might savour the relief that I am no longer feeling so flat, because life is for the living and it’s up to no one but me to honour that.

 

travelling with awareness

I first met Joe Tornabene when I attended his Sound Balancing class at Ilium Center of Light, a class that was described as somewhat “legendary” by various of my performer (musicians and actors) friends and not only. Having just actively returned to the world of sound healing after a session and interview with Soul Sounding practitioner David Kennet, I was eager to remain on the powerful flow of auditory therapy.

A New Yorker of Italian origin, Tornabene is an award-winning musician, stage and film actor and sound designer. He has been deeply connected to Greece since 1997, while also teaching workshops  on performance, awareness, sound balancing, improvisation and energy perception in around 10 countries and performing solo and in duets, and playing the baritone saxophone in Europe and the USA.

A few weeks after trying his class, I visited Tornabene in the place where he was being hosted in a charming part of Plaka by his choreographer friend Anastasia Lyra. After I entered a beautiful rustic-style courtyard and then a small but cozy space where Tornabene was staying, he said “Before our interview, let me show you something” and led me through to a laundry room. “I’m not going to show you a laundry room!” he laughed, before heading through yet another door in the maze-like interior of this old Plaka mansion, like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland. Intrigued, I followed him through to the other room, seeing mirrors with bubble lights and rows of costumes. “Er, this looks like a dressing room?” I said, confused. “Yes,” he said, opening yet another door, “come!” And on to the next area – dark, until he turned on the lights with a clack and saying “look!” swayed his hand forward to present to me an entire theatre down below us! “We are in the Mikroskopiko Theatro” he told me, as I looked down, completely amazed. “The walls and seats are 2000 year-old Roman walls!” he informed me, just adding to my surprise. It is here that Lyra presents dance and music performances she choreographs, and where Tornabene had the good fortune to rehearse any hour he liked. Back to his “bachelor pad” as he laughingly described it, we sipped our coffee and got on with our interview.

“We work with experiential anatomy, which is accessing the different energy qualities, the different body systems. It’s very powerful work for the performer and also of course on a therapeutic level,” Tornabene says. As he talks, I can’t help looking around me to “listen” to other parts of him spread across the space: his baritone saxophone, books on sound healing, tuning forks in their boxes, and alas, even a telescope. “I lived in Sounio for a summer, and wanted to see the stars from there,” he smiles.

A RoseAnne Spaldin-choreographed performance at New York Live Arts

All the studies and research that I do, feeds into the central core idea of energy awareness – the awareness of the energy transforming, and being able to navigate with that, either in a therapeutic setting, with the intention of balancing and creating a healthy dynamic; in the performance work it’s about expanding your expressive range and getting a much stronger and deeper relationship with the dynamics of space, the rapport with the audience etc. So it’s quite a circular, radial way of researching and developing work as opposed to a linear approach.

HOW DID THIS AWARENESS AWAKEN WITHIN YOU AS A PERFORMER?
There were three major streams – in the Early 80s I was sound-designing and composing for a New York Choreographer, RoseAnne Spradlin, she’s an award-winning choreographer & still quite active in NY. She was studying the body-mind work, Bonnie Cohen’s work, and she started describing the music that I was bringing to her in those terms. I said “What the hell are you talking about?!” She would describe various musical textures as very “bone-like” or “very organ-like” or “accessing skin” and so forth and I got very, very curious about this, I said “what is this?”

John Beaulieu

“So we started doing Body-Level work at her apartment in NY and I started sensing a possibility of developing a much richer relationship with the movement, music, energetic thing that I was involved in. Then I also had a colleague who was studying the Laban work, and so Laban’s space and effort started to also be a stream in this. And then at the end of the ‘80s I went for therapy sessions with John Beaulieu who was working at Polarity Centre at that point (he shows me his book, Human Tuning, Sound Healing with Tuning Forks, published 2010). It was 1989 and we did speaking therapy, he worked with Tibetan bowls and with tuning forks that he designed and I purchased from him at that time, which are based on the Pythagorean numbers which have a very curative aspect, and also hands-on work. And at the end of these sessions he turned to me and said “Joe would you like to do this work on other people?” cause he had a sense that there was something starting to move in me. I got terrified! I couldn’t imagine working with a recipient on a massage table and actually using my voice and the forks. But he had this very interesting smile in his face when I had this reaction cause he knew that something would happen.

“So I started using that particular work – the fork work and voice work – and started developing it so that I could become a better musician, and it has very strongly informed my work through the years. And then I moved to Greece and in 1997 I met Jenny Colebourne.

WHY DID YOU MOVE TO GREECE?
I met a Greek woman in Amsterdam when I was teaching at the School for New Dance Development and using Amsterdam as a base to teach in other countries in Europe in theatrical work primarily. I had the Amsterdam working Group and we met once a week for two years, exploring a work called Experimental Listening, where you listen to a recorded piece of music and we would write down our reaction to it – on any level – the phenomenological level, the emotional level, and then we would do an hour to an hour and a half doing experiential anatomy exploration – for example we would work with the bones through touch, movement, accessing the energy of this body system. And then we would re-listen to the music and we would share and journal and process, and the results were quite astonishing – the perceptual changes, the relationship changes with how we entered the music and what we heard and what we were sensing and how the space transformed and so forth. These results were published in Contact Quarterly the year after in 1997.

“So as I said I met Jenny Colebourne and she said I’m going to organise a workshop for you at Ilium Center of Light. I said “you want me to teach this stuff?!” and she said, “Yes!! Do it!”. We had 17 people in the first workshop, and it was really marvellous – I felt a fluidity with it, an ease with teaching it and working with it.

Jenny Colebourne, who Directs The Ilium Center of Light in Kolonaki, Athens.

“In late ’97 I also started teaching at a prominent theatre school here, where I taught for five years. I started integrating the experiences I was having in the therapeutic work, my own, by that point 20-something years in the performing arts, primarily with dance & theatre, and this integration started to occur. It worked very very well in the theatre setting, the students that i bump into now 20 years later still say they use the work, and how rich it was, etc.

IS IT MAINLY FOR PERFORMERS OR FOR ANYONE?
In the therapeutic work we are using a lot of explorations that I have developed and use in the theatrical training, but it’s designed to have a therapeutic base as well. So these two streams are by now quite integrated in my work.

WHICH PART OF YOU DO YOU FEEL IS MOST PROMINENT?
I think they’re pretty well balanced… In the article  Cycling through awareness protocols, creating music from a body-based energetic perspective” published in Berlin last year – that’s pretty much the essence for me – I create primarily solo work – my performance work and practice regime is driven by my awareness and sensibility of moving through varying body systems, energy systems and so forth, and witnessing the influence of these different energy transformations, and allowing this to manifest in the moment-to-moment creation of the work.

HAVE YOU STUDIED HOW YOUR MUSIC AFFECTS THE AUDIENCE?
I generally get very positive responses – that it’s very warm, and generous and has a healing aspect. But it’s in the development stage – I think in 30 years maybe it will have matured a bit. I’ve only been at it for 35-40 years  – it takes a while! (laughs)

WITH YOUR MUSICAL PERFORMANCES YOU’VE WORKED WITH ALL KINDS OF MUSICIANS AROUND THE WORLD. HOW DO THOSE PARTNERSHIPS EMERGE?
I’ve worked primarily in dance & theatre and I choose the musicians I work with very, very carefully. They have to have a sensibility, they have to be very strong & confident improvisors. With dance & theatre I love entering this wider, energetic context – my sound goes out into a space, there’s a kinaesthetic aspect occurring, perhaps text, and I start to nurture what I call the third entity, this energetic thing that arises between the sound I’m creating and the other aspects on the stage.

SO THATS SOMETHING YOU CAN’T QUITE REHEARSE FOR
When there are rehearsal situations, it’s more about finding how we might walk into form, how we might inter-relate in those terms. But rarely are things set; I work with mature people so we trust our ability to interact moment-to-moment and witness the evolving form and to nurture that. When I do solo performances the only thing I plan is about the first 30 seconds so I can have a tiny bit of comfort to kind of cut the ice a bit. But for the next 30-40 minutes I’m travelling with this awareness process and how I’m sensing the audience, the space, how I’m listening to the silences, what came before the silence will inform what comes after it – and in the ideal situation I really trust this process.

SO EACH TIME IT’S DIFFERENT
Yeah. I try to continually break the syntax of my gestural work, that’s a large process for me. But it’s really driven a lot by how I’m sensing how my body is informing the process moment-to-moment. It’s challenging and quite an amazing energetic place to be.

IN OTHER PARTS OF YOUR LIFE HOW DO YOU FIND THAT PLACE?
The therapeutic work (laughs)…has saved my life, literally! I used it to balance my psychology and my inter-relationships with every aspect of my life. I’m constantly trying to learn; it’s a massive learning process of these minute changes that we continually absorb in our lives because of the complexity of our lives, and to really monitor those and to understand how they’re affecting my energy levels, my general health, my psychology – and to be able to transform the ones that are creating negative issues.

 

“I have this belief that ancient Shamanistic rites were also built around this premise. They were not only going through a curing ritual but also imparting to the health-seeker ways to understand his or her energetic body and all the other parameters of moment to moment life ways so that they could walk away and enter self-healing., If you study the way shamans worked, it’s such an energetic foundation to their work – even the herbs they used – all of this was energetic vibrational type of medicine and approach.

Interview by Alexia Amvrazi

INFO:

TEACHING:

TORNABENE’S SOUND BALANCING CLASS @ ILIUM CENTRE OF LIGHT (Dimocharous 18, Kolonaki) take place every Wednesday. It can be attended as a year-long series or as a one off. For more information call: +302107231397.
Tornabene describes the workshop as follows:
“My workshop at Ilium is really about empowering the individual to find ways to manage their health & psychology & emotional flow, giving the very simple techniques that they can start to travel with, so they can become more self-sufficient and more confident, and trusting in this innate aspect of human beings to balance & heal the energy body. I really believe that this process of healing was also a teaching process for the recipient to become a self-healer.”

Tornabene also teaches at SECRET PLACE in Maroussi

UPCOMING PERFORMANCES:

* 9 -12 December 2017@ KINITIRAS
A presentation of Kinitiras’ Residency for composers and choreographers, presented by Joe Tornabene and Thalia Ditsa.

Children’s performance Stin Hora Tou Giati (In the Land of Why) at Kinitiras Theatre as a musician / mover on December 17 & 24 and January 7 and 14 2018.

* Performance as actor / mover @ Kinitiras Theatre production Deep Sigh (Βαθύς Αναστεναγμός) which opens on February 9th, 2018 and will run until the beginning of March.

PRIVATE SESSIONS:

He also offers private Sound Therapy Sessions  using Therapeutic Touch, tuning forks, voice, movement.

 

JOE TORNABENE ON YOUTUBE

greece’s modern father of homeopathy

Last stop on the ferry line heading into the sunset from Volos off towards the Northern Sporades islands lays Alonissos, an unspoilt, pine-cloaked island. This unique destination chiefly draws visitors who come to swim in its clean emerald waters, dine on langoustines, walk on its many forest paths and visit the rare Mediterranean Monk seal, at the National Marine Park as it’s one of the few remaining habitats of this endangered species.  

Alonissos is home to the beautiful National Marine Park where the Monachus Monachus monk seals live

Alonissos attracts a regular gathering of multicultural visitors for a completely different reason too: as we drove around the Milia area five kilometres from the port town of Patitiri, we were intrigued by the stream of atypical tourists walking along the sides of the road with great purpose in the midday sun. There were women clad in a saris, east Asian ladies holding paper sun umbrellas, northern Europeans dressed quite formally rather that the usual T-shirt and shorts. Soon the mystery was solved when we discovered that these small groups were in fact all doctors who come the island to attend courses at the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy. Yes, it turned out that apart from seals, delectable dinners and lush nature, Alonissos is also home to the only institution in the world that’s dedicated exclusively to the teaching of Homeopathic Medicine.

Doctors from around the world attending Dr Vithoulkas’ Homeopathy Academy course      

The Academy is directed by the multi-awarded and highly recognised Professor George Vithoulkas, and opened its doors in the early 1990s. We had heard about the internationally acclaimed Greek homeopath and the Alternative Nobel Prize (Right Livelihood Award) he was honoured with in 1996 ‘for upgrading Classical Homeopathy to the standard of a science’, and being fans of complementary medicines we rushed to visit the Academy and ask for an appointment with the professor himself.

Professor George Vithoulkas at his desk in the Academy of Homeopathy on Alonissos

Mind you, it wasn’t easy, as the professor is extremely busy year round. Apart from his courses and seminars, which take place at the Academy as well as online, he also writes books and records lectures that go to universities far and wide in the world. In the past the professor would travel to the universities where he taught, but he now prefers to remain more settled on his beloved island of Alonissos, where lives year-round, apart from attending important international conferences where he is regularly invited to talk.

The illustrious homeopath is a real legend on the island, where everyone speaks of him with awe and respect, and his reputation transmits to medical communities and not only, worldwide. He was a major protagonist in the resurgence of classical homeopathy after WWII, and continues to strive for the better understanding, use and acceptance of homeopathy in our modern age.

After applying for an interview with the professor by fax, we decided to visit the large stone Academy building and peruse its lovely tranquil grounds and the reference library, where one can buy some of Vithoulka’s most famous books such as ‘The Science of Homeopathy’, ‘Materia Medica Viva’, ‘Classic Homeopathy for Anxiety and Jealousy’, ‘A new Model For Health and Disease’ and ‘Homeopathy – Medicine for the New Millenium’ in Greek and in English. It was there that we had the great luck to bump into the Professor himself and introduce ourselves in person. He was friendly and accommodating, and agreed to an interview, which is something he rarely does because of his lack of free time. He offered us plenty of additional background material for our research, showing his no-nonsense efficiency and professionalism, and kindly invited us to visit him at his organic farm villa a couple of days later.

When we arrived at the picturesque location, set away from the road on a hillside covered by pine forests, we were most fascinated to see a red electric car parked in the driveway, and Professor Vithoulkas told us how he had been offered this vehicle as a gift by a German doctor at an international conference. This is only one example of the devotion shown to him by his students and colleagues; the entire, very elegant lecture theatre at the Academy was a gift from a Greek heart surgeon. The car, just like his very home, which is surrounded by olive, plum and apricot trees loaded with plump fruits, sheep grazing the nearby fields, turkeys making a commotion and the deep blue sea sparkling in the background, truly represents his life philosophy of living with awareness and esteem towards the environment, the society, as well as oneself. Nibbling on a plate of freshly-picked apricots, we comfortably began our conversation.

IMVTY: What brought you Alonissos?

GV: I came here in the late sixties to seek out a man whom I had been told was very wise. I found him and we talked; he asked me what I did, and I thought to myself oh here I go again, I will have to explain what homeopathy is to a shepherd, but as soon as I told him he looked at me and gave me an excellent definition, in fact I think it was the precise definition that is in the Encyclopedia Britannica. It turned out that this shepard was extremely knowledgeable, he probably had a photographic memory, but he was not particularly wise.  On the bright side I really liked Alonissos, so I eventually bought this land and have gradually made it my home.

Do you live here all year round?

GV: Yes for a long time now, I used to travel a great deal all round the world you know, teaching and lecturing and currently I am a professor at the Kiev Medical Academy, Medical Faculty of the Basque University in Spain, and the University of Medicine in Moscow, but I do not travel much any more so I do my courses by video mostly. But this has been my base for years, and we therefore built the International Academy of Classical Homeopathy here on Alonissos.

You teach only qualified medical doctors and dentists at your school. Why is that?

GV: Yes.  My aim is to provide these official health specialists and practitioners with a very powerful tool with which to combat or prevent disease and to help their patients get well……. and homeopathy is very difficult to learn, even more so than medicine.  With the growth of homeopathy as a successful method, people are no longer suspicious about it; however there are many charlatan practitioners and teachers who are appearing to fill a need since there are too few properly qualified homeopaths… It is my strong belief that homeopathy’s eventual downfall could occur mainly due to a number of “creative distortions” that are injected into the main body of knowledge by the “imagination” and “projections” of some “modern teachers’ of homeopathy.

Since many of our students are receptive to such myths and stories concocted by flights of wild imagination, many so-called teachers have risen to fill this gap. Believe it or not, there is a Berlin Wall remedy! And some teach that if you look like an animal you need an animal-based remedy; others go so far as to think that if you write the potency and name of the remedy on the bottle, it instills the given attributes (he chuckles in disbelief). After many years of work we have finally managed to create a Postgraduate Degree for medical students to learn homeopathy in the University of the Aegean, based in Syros.

But do you believe that only qualified doctors should be able to learn and practice homeopathy?

GV: No not at all, although this is my policy. I believe that after proper 4-5 year training in a good homeopathy school, any qualified individual may practice.

 

Although millions of people swear by it, there is no scientific evidence proving that homeopathy works.

In your opinion, what lies behind the British Medical Association’s claim in England in 2010 that homeopathy should be cut from the National Health Service, since it is an unproven science?
GV: As I mentioned earlier there are unfortunately some practitioners who are not properly qualified and also some who make claims that are just not based on reality, for instance – that homeopathy can be used as a form of vaccine for epidemic – which is simply not true as every individual needs a different homeopathic remedy specific to their case. So these claims bring the entire practice into dispute.

That’s one of the reasons; the other is that homeopathy is becoming the medicine of the new millennium, so doctors and especially pharmaceutical companies (with multimillion dollar profits) are feeling very threatened (homeopathy is non-chemical and inexpensive), so this is why they attack homeopathy. It is not coincidental to note, however, that countless medical doctors who were asked to examine the principles and effectiveness of homeopathy, on seeing the results and learning more, have become staunch supporters of this method.

What is your main advice for healthy living?

GV: Basically it revolves around one word – cleanliness. Your conscience is the most important thing to keep clean, but so are the body and mind. Health in the physical body is freedom from pain.  But if you don’t have pain is that health? No, you need something else in order to say somebody is healthy – and that is having well being as a general state. But many mentally ill individuals can have strong bodies – a lot of energy, so therefore the definition has to also address the psyche (the emotional part).

Thus, “healthy people” are those who are not overtaken by any passion – the concept of pathos is based on that idea which overtakes and makes a slave the soul (our emotional part). If you are living in the serene state, with freedom from passion, in a state of calm, that is a dynamic state. I feel that I enjoy that state but I do not become a slave to anything.

And this leads to the soul – the soul has to be free from selfishness, from ego.  Once you achieve this there is an inner click and you enter the world of ideas. The ideas of a selfless man help humanity, while the ideas of a selfish man destroy others. Even in disease there can be harmony. I believe this is the ideal to work towards.

A healthy individual is one who is creative, with a double purpose, firstly to help himself, but at the same time being creative and giving to the society, and this the society is equally benefited by what has been created.

Meeting Professor Vithoulkas was indeed a pleasure, for we felt that we discovered the man behind the big name – an individual who has dedicated a 45 year career in which he has personally treated over 170 thousand patients, many of them prominent personalities from the fields of culture and politics throughout the world, such as Indian philosopher Krishnamurti, whose side he stood by for many years as his personal homeopath, and former Greek premier Andreas Papandreou).

Above all, as he confirmed to us himself in our discussion, his life has been about a challenging and important mission, to reverse thinking processes that prefer the use of pharmaceuticals over treating the individual holistically, to educate not only the elite but also the masses about the power of nature – and of man himself – to heal, as a process that involves the mind, body and spirit, and to offer, as he put it, “powerful tools” to those who have the position, expertise, clarity of intention and intelligence to use them effectively. Such is a mission that requires serious responsibility and commitment, but also reveals a larger, more valiant hope for humankind.

Interview by Adrian Vrettos and Alexia Amvrazi
As first published in www.greektravel.com