Posts Tagged With: Africa

Looking back after 3 years in Kiwiland

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Stubborn Adventure

Stubborn, sensitive and impatient, these characteristics are all known to me. I see them as strengths, they have brought me where I am today: New Zealand. Three years ago, I stepped on a plane to follow my heart with two suitcases filled with clothes and shoes. What else do you need? I said goodbye to my dear family and friends. My mum was crying, I wasn’t this time, since after being separated for six months; I was finally going to see my love again. All the preparations were finished, I was going to step on a plane and start a new adventure. I couldn’t wait! A one-year-try out, that was the plan. We had hardly been together since the first time we met. He went off to China and I went off to Africa. After 4 months I finally came back in The Netherlands and in the meantime he had booked his one-way ticket to New Zealand. We fell in love anyway and enjoyed our time together for the next two months. In the midst of a starting relationship, when the butterflies are abundant and the love is intense, we had to say goodbye. He had made his decision to go back to his beloved New Zealand, a final short love affair would be a good way to end all his years in Holland, was the thought in the back of his mind. I don’t think he realised he was dating a pretty stubborn young lady, who was going to follow her heart, no matter where that would lead her.

Sensitive Challenge

Three years later, we have bought a house and I am teaching yoga and guiding people through inner Journey. I could never have imagined my life would be like this, if you would have asked me five years ago. I exchanged my pushbike for a car and my apartment for a spacious home with a bit of land, chickens and a veggie garden. I exchanged my busy life for a more back to earth relaxing lifestyle. My birthday is now in the middle of ‘winter’ and Christmas is celebrated on the beach. I have exchanged the plenty of good shopping opportunities in Holland for plenty of beautiful quiet beaches in Northland. Lots of change and challenge have appeared for this sensitive soul and will still appear. When I was in my teenage years, I decided to get my driver license as the first one of my sisters. My parents were a bit surprised, their sporty, spiritual, environment friendly daughter was going to get a driver license? Most of the time in my childhood we were without a car, we did everything by bicycle. I really treasure those memories, of our special cosy family. I have never been a fan of driving a car, although I really love my car now, especially on a rainy cold day, so I stay warm and dry. My one secret reason to get my license, was the idea I had in the back of my mind: working in the midst of Africa doing development work and driving around in a jeep. I imagined myself making a real difference to the world, and to truly assist others living a better/happier/healthier life.

Finally feeling and finding love

After several trips to Africa, my eyes opened. Do I really make a difference? Why do I want to make a difference? Do I want to boost my ego? I realized I had so much more work to do on myself, before I was truly able to assist others. The people I met on my trips appeared to look more joyful and happy than the average European. Who needs to learn from whom? I realised that I was trying to do good, while my inner world was rumbling: insecure and restless. If you haven’t connected with the peace, quietness and contentment within you, how are you going to create more contentment in the world, outside you? The Journey was extremely helpful for me to live a more joyful, happy, content and truthful life. One of my last trips to Africa involved Journey Outreach: this was a rewarding, fun, challenging and interesting time. Doing journey work while in the so-called developing countries and my beloved Africa, would be the perfect combination. While occupied with travelling and where to go and live, my love suddenly arrived. As impatient as I am, I had been longing for romantic love for a long time and had written down plenty of pages in my diary on how my ideal partner would look like, behave and so on. I often doubted if I would ever meet the right guy. I promised myself, I would rather stay by myself than choose for a relationship that didn’t feel 100% truthful, fulfilling and happy.

Togetherness

We have learnt and experienced so much together. I can’t imagine living apart anymore. So yes, I would recommend everyone to follow your heart, no matter how scary, unknown, uncertain or awkward that might be. If you really trust your heart, your life will be an amazing journey. My uncertainty and doubts about work has completely disappeared when I decided to teach yoga and meditation. I feel immense grateful to be able to share my passion to follow your heart and live the life of your dreams. I believe that if I can assist in creating more inner peace in myself and others, I truly make a difference in the world. It is rewarding and so empowering to do and live your passion. My dear friends in Africa, I haven’t forgotten about you. My intention is to promote a more mindful way of living to benefit the whole world. Yes, I dream big. I hope to arrive again on African soil one day; to integrate my practice on and off my yoga mat. As a thank you for how Africa taught me to slow down, to appreciate the little things in life, to truly live like we are all connected as ONE.

I deeply bow to all the teachers in my life, especially to one of the most inspiring, wise, empowering and enormously missed woman in my life: my mum.

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Confessions of a White Yogini

More Confessions! Read my latest article on Elephant Journal:

http://www.elephantjournal.com/2014/06/confessions-of-a-white-yogini-jacinta-aalsma/

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Afro Flow Yoga

Have you heard of the latest dance-yoga combo yet? Nope? Neither did I, till yesterday. This combination is especially close to my heart, since I am deeply in love with yoga and have a strong connection with Africa and its culture as well. African dancing is an energetic, fun, powerful work-out and I always felt so much better after having danced and connected with my fellow dancers. As if I left all my worries behind and arrived back in the moment.

Leslie Salmon Jones, a professional dancer, holistic personal trainer, yoga instructor, wellness coach and public speaker founded Afro Flow Yoga in 2008. Her inspiration was her connection with African spirituality, yogic principals, the intrinsic expression of movement through nature’s elements and a transformational journey throughout Africa and the Caribbean.

Her Afro Flow Yoga classes usually start with meditation and breathing like many yoga classes. After that Afro Flow Yoga takes a different unique approach, you begin to dance in ‘moving meditation’ to the beat of African drums. Your focus is on your breath and mindfulness as in a vinyasa yoga class or a walking meditation. The use of African drums represents the heartbeat; and African dance enhances the feeling of being rooted to the earth. Leslie Salmon Jones:

“We’re all different, and Afro Flow Yoga celebrates those differences. We’re not separate either. We’re all here on this earth together.”

The good news is you don’t have to have a dancing background to be able to participate in a Afro Flow Yoga session. It is about being comfortable in your own skin and letting go of judgment about yourself and others.

“It is about find liberation and freedom, and then moving it off the mat”.

I am so excited to learn about this new movement! 🙂 I hope you are enthusiastic too to deeply connect with the soulful rhythmic drums, energize your chakras, gain strength and flexibility and rejoice in the bliss of feeling renewed, grounded an peaceful! For now, I will do a happy dance in my living room and realize that the world is an interesting place, ever-evolving, ever changing.

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You Do make a difference

 

A couple of days ago I saw the movie I am a slave. I was upset while watching and still feel emotional if I think about it. This 2010 movie shows the story of one woman’s fight for freedom from modern-day slavery and gives insight in London’s shocking slave trade.

It makes me feel frustrated, angry and sad to see the reality of these inhumane practices which are still going on. I can’t understand how you can treat other people like that, how can you lack so much empathy and compassion? Africa and its culture are close to my heart. I always tell myself I was probably born in Africa in my past lives to explain why I was drawn to this warm continent from a young age. A lot of movies about Africa mainly show the dark, sad and scary parts of Africa. Africa is so much more than that. The culture is warm, friendly & loving. It is hard to feel lonely in Africa surrounded by curious, helping and supporting people. The music is transforming and the attitude and wisdom of the people is inspiring. They live in the Here and Now like their second nature, no need to learn mindfulness or relaxation techniques what is so needed in our hectic busy Western society. After watching ‘I am a slave’, I felt a strong urge to help, to make a difference. How? While I was doing voluntary work or research in Africa, I had the feeling that I wasn’t actually making a difference. Gradually I moved away from development cooperation and the wish to work for Non-Governmental or Not-for-profit organisations and shifted more towards yoga, holistic health and health promotion in the country of residence (New Zealand at this stage). Is that selfish? I don’t know. I only know that I believe you can make a difference by starting with yourself. So what does that actually mean to me?

  • Building peace with who you are
  • Making peace with your family
  • Forgive wholeheartedly
  • Living your life from your inner truth
  • Speak and action from your heart
  • Listen with lovely ears to the world around you
  • Choosing for love instead of hatred or anger
  • Decide to be mindful and have compassion for yourself and the ones around you
  • Shift your thoughts from what you don’t like to what you do love in life

I believe every day you can make a difference. Meditation or mindfulness connects us with the wider consciousness – that we’re we all part of. This connection makes us realizes we’re One. Your happiness is my happiness; my grief is your grief. Every day I choose again to see the best in everyone by realizing we were all born the same; as innocent shining little creatures full of potential, freedom and joy. Our thoughts form us. So choose wisely. Choose for Peace & Compassion. For me this is True Yoga. I can be exactly who I am with all my weaknesses and strengths and thereby I hope to inspire you to be who you are. Together, we create a more peaceful, healthy, balanced and happy world.

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In between Outbursts of Happiness and Emotional Hangovers

Loving Happiness

Loving Happiness

Welcome in my crazy ever-changing world. Lately I have moments I’m feeling overwhelmed by happiness. I cannot remove that smile from my face and feel so unbelievable grateful for my life and myself. There is not a clear reason why this state of happiness suddenly arises. It just is and I let it be.

And then, the next moment my world starts to tumble and I arrive in a negative dark world. It feels like I’m kicked off the top of the mountain back into the valley. I’m an expert in crying and can do that for a couple of hours with some dry breaks in between (I should look for the Guinness World of Records for crying one day). After a while my head starts to ache and feels heavy because of all the tears. I go to bed with this heavy head of mine and wake up with the feeling of a hangover. Often, there is a clear happening that brings me into this sad place. Afterwards, I often feel ashamed; why have I made such a big drama of most often something little. I feel sorry for my partner who I pulled into the drama with me.

Crying is good?!

Crying is good?!

While in Africa, I had my crying moments as well. There I learned it is not acceptable to cry unless someone died or your house burnt down. It is a sign of a weak person. I agree there are many persons who have way more reasons to cry compared with my Western comfortable life. Though, I don’t think it is a necessary a bad thing to do; it is an outlet of your emotions, what is natural – just have a look at children to confirm that.

For sure, I’ll never be that super emotionally stable person, but always will continue to experience ups and downs. That is all right and I can live with that. My personal learning curve at the moment is to balance my life a bit more – including my emotions.  I’ll make the same mistakes over and over again, till I learn and grow. With hindsight, I’m grateful for the confrontations life faces me with. It allows me to develop myself and get to know myself more and more. I feel grateful for all the gurus who appear into my life in the most unexpected circumstances and appearances and who provide me with the most inspiring advice and comments.

There is so much to be grateful for and happy about. Let’s bow our heads and smile.

Enjoy your smile

Enjoy your smile

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Off The Mat and Into The World

Inspiring words

Inspiring words

I have just finished an inspiring book: “Zen Under FireA New Zealand woman’s story of love and war in Afghanistan” written by Marianne Elliott. Marianne Elliott is a lawyer, who has worked as human and environmental rights advocate in the Gaza Strip and in Afghanistan. She gets to practice her yoga, meditation and compassionate action in the most war-torn parts of the world. In these challenging life and work conditions, she experiences the beneficial and transformative effects of yoga. As a sensitive person she gets told to harden up to be able to work in the extreme conditions. She can’t, she is touched by the people she met and the hardship and injustice they face. She deals with feelings of guilt, angriness, confusion and hopelessness. Instead, she learns to transform her sensitivity in a character quality.

I have been confronted with the injustice in the world during my time in Africa (Senegal, The Gambia, Uganda, Kenya and Ghana). Therefore, I can easily empathize with Marianne’s idealistic nature, her sadness while facing the ‘tough world’, and the feeling your work is never done, you can never do enough. You have doubts about the effectiveness and utility of your work. Do I do any good with my research or am I just harming the people/situation even more with my questions and presence? Yoga is a tool for her to deal with the daily stress and to bring her body and mind to peace. She discovers a profound inner wisdom, her true self by integrating yoga in her everyday life. The book is praised as ‘kind of like if Eat, Pray and Love happened in Afghanistan and the stakes were life and death’. Since she not only deals with the injustice she sees around her, but also with the difficulties of romantic relationships in war-torn parts of the world. Her stories provide you with an eye-opener and bring you down to earth. Her book leads me back to the true nature of yoga and the real purpose of life. It makes me stop worrying, instead being grateful for my wonderful life. Marianne has put this beautifully:

“In the West we are taught to believe that we can craft our lives into exactly what we want them to be. In places like Afghanistan the myth of being in control is exposed as exactly that, a myth. Real peace, I have learned, comes not from being able to control my life but from accepting my life as it comes. Real happiness comes not from getting everything I want but from embracing and deeply appreciating everything that I have. This is the beauty, and the power, of grace, surrender and gratitude.” 

Yoga off the mat, into the world

Yoga off the mat, into the world

For more inspiring work of yogis who take their yoga off the mat and into the world, visit: Off The Mat and Into The World

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You will die and pay tax

As we know life is full with changes, uncertainties and letting go’s. In fact, all is uncertain; your job, your marriage, your health, your passions and so on. As my father-in-law-to-be would say there are only two certainties in life: you will die and you pay tax. Though, most humans try to hold on to certain circumstances, people, jobs, ideals, objects. Or we are looking forward to have our lives changed soon, since we are not content in this moment. I’m no different from anyone else. I am afraid for change and sometimes a bit excited if the change includes a step forward. Yoga supports me to rest in this ‘unknowingness’, to trust life and to relax in my body, mind and spirit.  

Thoughts, doubts and worries

But sometimes I would like to run away from uncertainty and change. I want to know what is going to happen and how my life will look like. I want to prepare myself for the upcoming changes and more importantly I actually would like to know what I really want to do with my life. In terms of career, I am not really sure where I would like to go. I have my dreams, but I’ve doubts if it will work out, what the best way is to realize my dreams, if I’ve the guts to actually do it and if my dreams are really my dreams. Welcome to my mind and always existing thoughts, doubts and worries.

Being comfortable with discomfort

While practising yoga you can experience discomfort as well; your standing in chair pose (Utkatasana) and your legs are starting to ache and thoughts arise how long we’re going to stay in this pose. You would like to run away from this discomfort, you would like to change your pose. This situation encourages you to stay in the moment, to be with the discomfort, to be content in this moment. Happiness is not gained from future changes or by moving forward. Happiness is waiting for you, here in this moment.

I don’t know

I don’t know how my job situation will look like in a month’s time. I don’t know if I will be a Yoga Teacher in the end. I don’t know if I will continue writing. I don’t know if I’ll be living in New Zealand for the rest of my life. I don’t know if I will start a family in a couple of years. I don’t know if I’ll run out of money soon and so on. It can actually feel quite refreshing to realize you don’t know anything at all. My challenge is to rest in this unknowingness and to transform obstacles into challenges and opportunities. Don’t enjoy your job? See it as a possibility to explore other work areas and to discover your dreams.

Happy smiles

Are you moving to the other side of the world, far away from your family, friends and familiarity? See it as an opportunity to start all over again; make new friends, choose new careers, explore new sports and hobbies, improve your work-life balance. It is almost like you are born again, fresh. I feel very grateful I actually have this opportunity to start all over again. It sometimes feels a bit egocentric and at the same time I feel blessed to live in a beautiful country with a great partner and a good work-life balance. At these moments, I realize work doesn’t really matter that much. Work doesn’t have to influence my state of happiness. I think about all those big smiles I met on the faces of children in rural Africa. In a materialistic way, they have almost nothing, but in a spiritual way they are fortunate and blessed. Let’s count our blessings and BE content.    

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