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.

 

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

waking up the god within

I had interviewed hypnotherapist Dr. Dwaine Hartman a week before going to his evening workshop at the urban chic Inner Flow Athens City Centre space in Monastiraki, and I’d watched several of his video talks and interviews. Yet I didn’t expect what I experienced within those four hours at his Feel The Magic event, and how I have been experiencing the world in a different way since. As soon as I saw him in person I felt a certain familiarity that neither shook or confounded me but that felt reassuringly pleasant. As I took my place at the front of the class on one of the few remaining empty cushions, I turned to look at him and our eyes connected for what felt like a long time but was probably just a few brief minutes; there were no powerful messages or feelings, just a comforting connection, like saying hello again in a gentle way to someone you have not seen in a long while. “Separation is the core of all problems in our society,” Hartman says. “Nobody looks into each other’s eyes and says “I see you”.


His workshop centred on issues that have been central in my life during the last few years – the importance of being able to connect with myself as well as other beings on a real, deep, heartfelt level, without the mind infringing upon this process; my hungry desire to reaffirm the importance and power in my daily existence of my imagination, (which I rode on throughout my childhood and adolescent years, sometimes with incredible results as I manifested things big and small that I’d relished in dreaming up, but had lost touch with this way of being when I became a busy, stressed and somewhat jaded “adult”). Albert Einstein said it brilliantly when he wrote: Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Another major focus during the workshop was developing the awareness and ability to locate, face, observe and let go of the dastardly internal critic, of which he says:The base to all human suffering is the lack of connection to our supportive unconditional source. So what do you think gets in the way of that connection …. that is right … the internal critic. Now what if I was to share with you that this part doesn’t even belong to you?” Resulting from years, maybe aeons of social conditioning, the inner critic resides in each of us, and manipulatively finds ways to sabotage our best efforts, especially as soon as we start to feel we are finally getting where we wished to be.

Hartman teaches above all the essentiality of connecting to our inner child, who came into this world sill completely in tune with its source. He reminds his students that in our heart we hold an inherent knowledge of truth. He teaches his students to acknowledge, befriend and utilise their own god / goddess nature, that part of them that is the creator of their reality at large.

I watched him work with personally with attendees  to help them let go of thoughts, ideas and physical feelings some had been carrying and felt confined by for many years, and I recalled the concept that miracles don’t have to be huge and dramatic, with thunder, blazing lights and holy visions of biblical proportions – even a small but significant shift in one’s consciousness, a reawakening to our sense of who we really are beyond the ego and a mind inundated with messages of who to be by the media / education systems / certain family practices and society can change one’s life forever. It can bring on spontaneous healing, which will sometimes last for minutes or hours before one stubbornly returns to a prior state – but will have shown them who they can be nonetheless – or can create a forever shift. Either scenario, presenting the actuality of healing whether short-lived or eternal, is a miracle, when the alternative is continuing to live in a stagnant state of hypnotic misery.

This, above all, is what I enjoyed of observing Hartman’s teaching – his combination of creative yet practical, good-humoured techniques with a renewed sense of remembering that it is up to us how we choose to perceive and live our life. He is neither the first nor the last teacher to convey this awareness in others, but he is definitely one of too few inspiring therapists who this world needs in order to shift its consciousness for the better on a mass level.

Amusingly, most of Hartman’s one-to-one interactions with participants ended with shared laughter; the type that comes from relief, when seeing that the horrifying monster in the mind was in fact just a little mouse ingeniously practising trickery with shadows; the laughter that comes from the gratitude of acknowledging that with patience and observation, answers can be found; and of course the giggles that bubble up from finally being able to laugh at one’s self for its long-held, life-defying and ludicrous need for intricately structured drama. That very drama can cripple us in so many ways, which can be very severe, but once we can see beyond it, and detach our self from the clutches we have so kindly paid to sponsor the services of, then we can hopefully laugh.

Hartman calls himself a Trance Alchemist, and works with people on a one-to-one basis through Skype and in person, as well as travelling around the world to teach workshops. His two-day workshop is a more dynamic extension of what we got a taste of on September 11th, and following that, he runs a five-day course for those who want to learn how to be Trance Alchemists who can then use his techniques professionally or personally on clients and friends.

Dr Dwaine Hartman is the author of ‘Value Your Vibration’. CLICK HERE TO VISIT HIS WEBSITE NOW.

 

katia boustani’s healing breathwork

Rebirthing Therapist Katia Boustani has been empowering individuals and helping them change their lives through her work as a Life Mastery Coach and Breathing Coach in personal and group sessions. Having spent over a decade studying various forms of Breathwork, she has a list of certifications and credentials in this field, and has worked with the world’s top breathwork experts, such as Sondra Ray and Leonard Orr. She lives between Athens and London as well as travelling far and wide for workshops. Here she tells us about her own path and about the process and value of breathwork from her perspective.

How long have you been a Rebirther?
Since 2005 but I was into yoga and breathing way before that! I was fortunate enough to have a great yoga trainer who integrated the value of breathing into our sessions with fantastic results. I’ve been deeply in love with breathing since the late 90’s!

How did it all begin for you?
In 2005 a Rebirther came to Mykonos (where I lived) and I received my first rebirthing session. It was such a profound experience even from day one! I decided I really wanted to learn it and I’ve never looked back. Training to become a facilitator was truly one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life, both from a personal development and professional perspective.

“As Leonard Orr (the founder of Rebirthing) says, the breath is not dangerous but the mind is! The mind and its resistance is what causes fear.”

What can rebirthing offer us?
So much! Firstly, it’s a simple breathing technique to use whenever they need to see things from a different perspective, but it’s also way beyond that! Rebirthing is deeply healing. It’s a way of living; an incredible tool that accentuates life and brings presence and familiarity with ones senses! It works on so many different levels it’s impossible to answer this in so few words…

What types of people does it work best for?
Anyone with a belly button can benefit from learning to breathe in the way that they did before their breath became impeded by life and it’s stresses…

What’s the rebirthing process?
It’s best to commit to 10 sessions for a true and profound benefit. The true nature of sessions is for the client to learn to breathe properly and improve or elevate their thought process so that they can manifest different results in their life… It is an ongoing learning experience. A session lasts two to three hours and includes some talking, breathing and then sharing, whereby the client is given some affirmations or exercises to work with until their next session.

Can it be scary, or dangerous?
As Leonard Orr (the founder of Rebirthing) says, the breath is not dangerous – but the mind is. The mind and its resistance is what can paralyze us with fear. And as we know, fear is just a negative use of one’s imagination…. Or, as I love to refer to it, fear is just excitement without the breath! So sometimes people are afraid before or during sessions because of what they THINK might happen… this usually passes quickly though and they are always left with a feeling of relief, bliss and peace…

Rebirthing workshop in Samothraki island

Can Rebirthing be combined with other therapies?
Yes, but then it is not rebirthing! Rebirthing is designed to empower people by learning to use their own breath to heal themselves. When someone adds something to it – which is done by the facilitator to the client – it is no longer empowering in the sense that someone else has to DO something to heal you.

What is your NUMBER 1 PRIORITY when you are offering a session?
To support the client through their process in Truth, Simplicity and Love.

How has it changed your life?
In so many ways! Most importantly, it’s given me the power to be the master of my mind instead of its victim.

Rebirthing seminar with Katia
Breathwork