So, here we are on a Balinese beach at sunrise, with an open heart, facing this challenging red ball of the sun, a symbol of rebirth, and a transformer of spiritual bottlenecks.
When I first arrived in Bali, I did not know that I would be writing this book. I had a few sleepless nights when I got here, and I knew that one more step was necessary for me to be able to better serve my purpose: I had to be able to share it. Eventually, in a very curious way, this book became part of the process.
I am the creator and founder of Yoga Fusion – Yoga in Action for Post-Conflict Reconciliation, and I wrote Heals over Head to support the project and the dreams behind it.
After working with United Nations Agencies, NGOs and Governments about a year ago I established a Participatory Action Research (PAR) Network of individuals, NGOs, Yoga Schools, and private businesses interested in expanding the benefits of yoga for trauma to areas of violence: from open war, to structural violence, and natural disasters. There are already few initiatives world-wide that are exploring holistic approaches to trauma healing, and some of them are starting to bring yoga to contexts at risk. However, sustainability and coverage are still a major problem. My goal is to overcome these problems.
Through Yoga Fusion, I am acting as an interpreter and mediator, bringing the best of two worlds together, the world of yoga and the world of development projects … I am trying to open a window on healing and psychosocial well-being, using the body where minds might be too overwhelmed to make the first step towards renewed common goals and shared dreams of how communities can move forward.
Phase I: collecting and complementing good practices and developing a comprehensive research as awareness raising tool for policy makers.
The most recent activity in Phase I is a volunteer cooperation with Peace Revolution, an international NGO that uses meditation and inner peace to promote peace world-wide. The goal is to improve their Self Development Program (SDP), adding yoga modules in order to make it more accessible and effective for young people from different cultural, geographical, social and ethnic backgrounds. Additionally, Peace Revolution as well as Dunna, a project that in Colombia is converting former death squad members into yoga teacher, and other PAR members are being included into Yoga Fusion’s research, to support the critical review of existing holistic approaches to world peace, contributing to advocacy and awareness-raising about these practices at a global level: once that there is evidence of good practices mobilizing resources gets easier!
Here you can find a taste of how the body & yoga can contribute to development discourses and add substance – as in ‘practical solutions’ – to policy frameworks that are already recommending to tackle trauma and human resilience in contexts at risk – i.e. World Health Organization (WHO) declaration on mental health for populations affected by war; UNDP Human Development Report 2014.
Phase II: making trauma sensitive yoga accessible to vast populations affected by trauma. Even assuming that we can train enough local yoga teachers – or send enough volunteer teachers – to cover the population affected by trauma in refugee camps or schools in areas of war, ‘Who is going to cover the costs? Who is going to make it happen?’ The goal of Yoga Fusion is to develop very simple and yet effective and culturally sensitive modules of yoga therapy and train who already belongs to these communities and is already included in an income generating system to ensure coverage and sustainability. Yoga therapy exercises for PTSD are rather simple practices, what counts is ‘how we teach them’, and who better than local school teachers, community leaders, and people who already are part of people’s life to create a safe environment where simple sequences can support transforming lives and community resilience?
Yoga Fusion is everything I am: an economist, a conflict & human security specialist, and a yoga teacher. Drama, trauma, & therapy all in one person? Yes, and a little more: some lessons learned in almost three years of living on a small island in the Pacific – Yap, Micronesia.
The beauty of Yap certainly restore[d] a sense of interconnectedness, well-being, [and] meaning in me … through my daily yoga practice I absorbed the beauty of Yap and when I left, yoga carried Yap with me to my next adventure, to my next island. I did not leave beauty: I embodied it.
Every morning when I step onto my yoga mat I engage in an act of presence. My body remembers everything that happened to it. It remembers pain, trauma, love and Love. Everything is stored in our bodies, in everybody’s body. And in the body of society.
Every morning when I step onto my yoga mat I allow my body to help me in the process of forgiveness: forgiveness of my own mistakes, forgiveness of the pain that others caused me. I forgive every morning, I let go.
Unlike my mind, my body does not analyze the details of why and how it is tight, of why I cannot let go of certain feelings or emotions.
I have often asked myself whether the body is the only real tool for forgiveness that humans are equipped with.
Heals over Head is not just about trauma and drama, it is also about healing, happiness and love – and plenty curious anecdotes played in spiritual and real world islands: from Yap, to India, Bali and the World.
What does happiness have to do with a project on trauma healing? Isn’t lack of pain a good enough aspiration?
Ultimately, happiness is an ethical matter, and Yoga Fusion as development project is built on the expectation of a happier world and the ethical concerns around it. So, I feel it is essential to look into the biggest issue of all: happiness.
Are we entitled to be happy? Will the world ever be happy? But, mainly, what is happiness? Because if happiness isn’t a thing, maybe healing isn’t either.
With a little help from serendipity, fate and Bali Spirit Festival you are bumping into my project and the book that supports it – and perhaps you already have a little token of it: the bookmarks distributed this year during Bali Spirit Festival, at Bali Buda and at Desaseni‘s Yogathlon, or through Kula Magazine!
A few months before I started writing, I was randomly told something quite surprising by a fortune-teller who happened to sit with me and a dear friend in a little café on a cold beach in The Netherlands.
I was told that what I was lacking at this point in my life weren’t ideas or intuition, but my own voice. For someone like me, who talks a lot, this was rather surprising to hear.
Like every good yogi, the first thing I thought about was my throat chakra, that light blue chakra that sits between our embodied knowledge and the mess of our mind. The voice, that hidden part of the soul that allows us to have empathy because it exposes us to the world, was locked in my case. How was I to develop my project if I could not share with the world where it was coming from?
Then I came to Bali, from where I am writing to you all. I presented my project to a group of people at Hubud, an innovative collaborative working space, and someone recommended that I write a book if I wanted to involve a wider audience in supporting my project.
At first I did not make the connection with what I had been told by the Dutch fortune-teller. I had left that story up north where it happened. But eventually, one day, riding my bike in the Balinese sunset, that story returned to me from the cold beach in the Netherlands, all the way to the heat of Bali.
So, here I am in Bali, moving one step forward in this Yoga Fusion adventure. Another day, another sunrise.
I cannot help but wonder, ‘How can people affected by trauma in conflict areas and areas of natural disaster find their sun; how can they experience a rebirth within a space of safety?’
How can people be present to their sunrise under a curfew, in a refugee camp? How can people in temporary shelters or kids who go to school crossing flooded areas be escorted safely towards their sunrise? How can survivors of war rape find that safe place from which watching the sunrise becomes bearable again? What could bring a feeling of safety to people living constantly under stress in contexts at risk?
And here I am asking myself, ‘What can I do to create safe places where trauma can be handled and the sunrise is not so scary anymore? What can the world do?’
If you want to be part of this dream of yoga in action get Heals over Head & spread the word!
You opened your eyes and listened to my story. Now, close your eyes and think of a colour. I pick green.
What we see, bright and shining, is what is reflected back to us. Green is green because every green object absorbs all the other colours and gives back a vibrant intense green for us to enjoy.
This is what happens when we give back something. This is what happens when we give back yoga, expanding its benefits to contexts at risk: it makes us shine, vibrant – it makes our own practice glitter with magic.
THANK YOU for being part of the world of this project and for joining in its dream. THANK YOU for sending out there the message that this IS a world where we all can be the change we wish to see!
Before saying goodbye and let you snuggle up with the thoughts around this book, its project, your life and dreams, I just would like to send all my love to the wonderful islands of Yap State that less than two weeks ago have suffered the consequences of Super Typhooon Maysak. There are ways to help. It is a different project, but not a different dream. Yoga & Yap healed Me. I cannot ‘not’ try to give it back.
There is no such a thing as mine and yours when it comes to humanity: we are all one whether we like this or not, whether we are aware of it or not. On Yap, my body remembered its being one with the universe, and my mind envisioned …’
With all my love,
– See more at: http://blog.balispiritfestival.com/2015/yoga-heals-war/#sthash.AJnjMrJW.dpuf