söndag 22 mars 2020

A reflection from A Dollhouse - the female loss of time

 ”But so have thousands of women done”

That is my favourite line from Ibsens Dollhouse. It is Nora´s reply to Torvald as he explains to her that he would gladly do anything for her but not give up his honour.

But beyond honour, and more importantly, what Nora and all the thousands of women before her had given up was their time.

The Nora I came to know through our recent local play has like every human being, a rich and complex inner life that is however out of reach. Because between the domestic life, the sociable chores and putting on a happy face for her husband, how could she ever find the time and space to dig deeper?

Nora is far from alone in her desperate need for contemplative solitude. And she is far from the first.

The history is filled with big male philosophers and artists. Women on the other hand have, for centuries, simply not had the possibilities to develop independent, creative thinking. I cannot help but agree with writer Brigid Schulte, who argues that a woman's greatest enemy is a lack of time to herself. “Pure leisure, making time just for oneself, is nothing short of a courageous act of radical and subversive resistance”, she writes.

Virginia Woolf entertains a thought experiment in her book “A room of one’s own”, published in 1929. What if Shakespeare would have had an equally talented sister? Her fate would most like not have been to become a celebrated poet and writer.

Woolf writes:
“She was not sent to school. She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of reading Horace and Virgil. She picked up a book now and then, one of her brother's perhaps, and read a few pages. But then her parents came in and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers. (…) Perhaps she scribbled some pages up in an apple loft on the sly, but was careful to hide them or set fire to them. Soon, however, before she was out of her teens, she was to be betrothed to the son of a neighbouring wool-stapler.”

Sadly, the history books are brimming with loss of female potential. Loss of female leisure.

“There is something at works in my soul”. The line is the feminist writer Mary Shelley who died merely 30 years before Ibsens Nora took the stage at the Royal Theatre in Denmark. Shelley, who stole time to read and write as a young girl, was fortunate enough to live a more unconventional life where she was able to tend to that which scratched her soul. She wrote the literary success Frankenstein, mere 19 years old. A mythical tale about human hubris, the need to be loved and the heartbreak of being ostracized. Many sceptics believe, to this day, however that Shelley was not the real author. Her husband has all too often been praised in the absence of general female credibility.

In the last scene of Dollhouse, Nora replies to Torvalds adamant reminders of her duties as a wife and mother with “I don’t believe that anymore to be true. I believe I am first and foremost a human being, just like you”. She tells him she needs to leave in order to make space for what she has lacked the most: time. Time to think, time to unravel her thoughts and time to find out what truth means to her. 

What Nora did was perceived as a very radical act at the time. In some ways it is still considered radical, just as Schulte writes. We just speak of it differently. Nora was thought to throw away her honour along with her quest for time. Today a woman might be deemed lazy or self-obsessed for wanting to spend her hours simply with herself, perhaps doing absolutely nothing. 

The historical loss of female time is a tragedy. But by the thousands, women are taking back what is a deeply human need and want. To scratch at that which is at works in our souls. To take back time

Photo: Stefan Öhberg /Nya Åland

fredag 20 april 2018

The coming of rage

You are the dark song
of the morning;
serious and slow,
you shave, you dress,
you descend the stairs
in your public clothes
and drive away, you become
the wise and powerful one
who makes all the days
possible in the world.
But you were also the red song
in the night,
stumbling through the house
to the child’s bed,
to the damp rose of her body,
leaving your bitter taste.
And forever those nights snarl
the delicate machinery of the days.
When the child’s mother smiles
you see on her cheekbones
a truth you will never confess;
and you see how the child grows–
timidly, crouching in corners.
Sometimes in the wide night
you hear the most mournful cry,
a ravished and terrible moment.
In your dreams she’s a tree
that will never come to leaf–
in your dreams she’s a watch
you dropped on the dark stones
till no one could gather the fragments–
in your dreams you have sullied and murdered,
and dreams do not lie.
-          Mary Oliver

”I am so mother-fucking-holy-shit-angry!”
30 pairs of eyes stare at me as I stand in the heart of the circle, heart racing, hands clenched in trembling fists and anger literally fuming from my body like dew on a hot summer’s day. I have never been this angry in my entire life.

And then it all kind of goes blank.

A few days earlier.

It was a sunny day in the beginning of March and I was halfway through the retreat of my dreams. I had gone on a budget-shattering adventure to California to sit in a circle with my favorite author and 30 likeminded people and ponder the story of the world and re-imagine a more life-sustaining tomorrow for all of us. It was the eclipse of my story-themed year and the highlight of my narrative journey – a journey towards the more beautiful world my heart knew was possible. I was here, I had arrived. I had so many expectations, yet did not really know what to expect.

But I sure as hell did not expect this.

Instead of the bliss I thought I was going to step into, I found myself increasingly agitated, triggered by both people in the group and the exhausting soul-searching ventures into the past, and not at ease with my own emotions. I struggled to find an outlet for this increasingly uncomfortable feeling in my chest and took my escape to the nearby stream. 

I sat down on a log, far away from the crowd of people I had distanced myself from.

I was not feeling like myself, but at the same struggling even with the concept of “self”, thinking that “well, if this is how I am feeling, this is also me, right? But what if I don’t like it?”. Frustration arouse again and I shouted out to the dancing waters “WHY am I feeling this and what am I supposed to do with it?!?” With no answer but the never ending rush of flowing water, seemingly taunting me with its simplicity and ease of being, I sighed and stomped my way back to reality.

And reality was that I needed to reach out. To someone, to anything. I needed to step into my vulnerability, as established love-and-belonging guru Brene Brown would say. I found a guy from the group standing not too far away, a bearded, poncho-clad young man who had been studying with shamans and had offered healing sessions for anyone in the group feeling the need for it. And I thought to myself “well, obviously I am in the need of something.  Here is something.” So I approached him, and law and behold – asked him for something I thought I needed and wanted.
I stood awkwardly next to him and barfed out my question before my “take no space and make no demands” – side of me had a chance to swoop in with frowned eyebrows and a swift hand on my mouth. 

“Could I ask for a healing session?” I interrupt him as he is making nice small chat. He looks at me kindly and smiles. “Of course! We are gathering a group in the yurt later if you want to join”.
An hour later I find myself with three others from my group huddled in a yurt by the ocean. We all sit in a circle and the bearded guy takes a look round the circle. “I thought we all could share a shadow side of ourselves that we would like to integrate into our being”.

“Oh, well”, I think to myself, “here we go”. I take a deep breath and tell them the story of the unicorn with sparkles and sunshine in her hair, who is always cheerful, positive and smiling, cracking jokes at the crack of dawn and always in the pursuit of making other people feel comfortable, even when it comes at the expense of her own integrity. A unicorn who as a toddler was knighted “a ray of sunshine” the day her father died and has entertained the world since, on a mission to turn frowns upside down and to make sure there is enough sprinkles of stardust for everyone, equal and fair.
But this unicorn was seeing that the magical world she was living in, this enchanted fairytale, was starting to rip at the seams. Well, because you see, the unicorn was not always happy. Sometimes the unicorn was uncontrollably sad and gloomy. Sometimes she felt hollow and hopeless. And sometimes the unicorn found herself at a stream screaming at water.

The unicorn had started to realize that her magical kingdom was less magical because it only allowed for a certain kind of unicorn to graze its lush steeps. And somehow it made the kingdom less real. And the unicorn knew that she had to wander into the darker sides of this fairy-tale land in order to fully become queen of these hills.

And this was the story I shared. After taking a deep exhale, feeling slightly uncomfortable to be babbing on about unicorns (and speaking slightly too fast in the true spirit of “oh, do not let me take up all the time and space here now, oh-dear-oh-dear”) poncho-guy looks over at me with an interested look and says “it seem like you need to find your witch in the woods”.

“Well, I guess so…” I say, but leave the healing session slightly baffled. “Well, where does one find her?”, I think to myself as I stroll into the room where our next session is to take place.
The group leader takes his seat and introduces the next exercise, to venture out in nature on a quest for answers. We are to take a burning question with us, go outside, find an object, meditate on it and see if we can bring about clarity in our pursuit of answers.

“Well I know my question alright” I think to myself and head out into the sunshine.
Still feeling like the grumpy cat I have morphed into, I swerve off the path towards the sunny beach and go into the shady woods instead. “I don’t want to go stare at the glittery ocean”, I retort to no one who is asking. I follow the path, looking for something that can serve as my meditation object. A huge tree catches my attention and I go around it to go sit at a bench conveniently placed in front of it. I sit down and look up.

“You got to be kidding me!”, I yell out to the silent forest. “Come ooooon”.

In the giant tree trunk a woman’s face is staring back at me. (Okey, I am not on mushrooms here. The woman’s face is in the form of a metallic art installation, but I mean, you get the hint from the Universe, no?)

I had found my witch in the woods. I start laughing. And shake my head. “This is too obvious”, I think to myself, but sit up straight and take in the sight. Mindfully. Looking for answers.
“Alright, here we have this huge ass tree. It has a giant tree trunk with this fierce woman face on it”, I whisper to myself as my eyes trace the bark of the colossal tree as it spreads out into branches that reach towards the sunshine. Amongst the green leaves the birds chirp, the sunrays glisten and the butterflies swoon (too much?). That is where all the magic happens. My eyes trace the tree trunk back down to the roots again. “But the branches are held up by this massive core, this seemingly peaceful, yet powerful tree trunk that in the shadows lays the foundation to its blossoming”, I say to myself in way too pretentious wording and realize. I need to re-connect with my dark tree trunk.

As I finish my tree gazing I make myself ready to leave, but before I bid tree woman farewell, in an attempt to make this encounter more personal, I stop to ask her name. I hear a slight rumble in the air, as if a storm is coming and I turn to her with raised eyebrows and an amused look on my face. “Really? Storm? That is very ominous, even for a tree lady”. So I leave the tree trunk with the menacing stripper-name and return to the group where we all have a little sharing round before it is time for dinner.

But still, even after having found my witch in the woods, I am haunted by my annoyed, angry demon. It is scratching from the inside and not even chocolate cake seems to be calming it down (and then you know you have an issue). I step outside on the terrace in the cool evening breeze. I am accompanied by one of my roommates, one of the sassier sorts, who after a 15 minute talk already has got me snapping my fingers and bobbing my head with fiery comments like “Heidi, goddamn, let your inner bitch out”. I am feeling a fire blossoming up inside of me and I definitely need to have an outlet for it. I go find one of my other roomies, a charming and no-bullshit kind of girl, who recently told me she had picked up the art of bellowing as a way to release anger and frustration. I grab her and tell her I need to let it rip (and not the smelly way). We go out on a cliff by the thundering waters and yell our hearts out for 5 minutes. With a slight light-headed feeling and a raspy voice we walk back to the restaurant.

“Damn, that was efficient”, I tell her.
“I know”, she responds with eyes glistening.

Back at the door to the restaurant she asks me what I am going to do now. I hesitate. I was going to this lecture, but I also just want to go chill in the hot-tubs (yes, hot-tubs).
“You can always leave the lecture if you don’t like it”, she says, shrugging her shoulders and then catches the panicked look on my face. 

“Oh, you don’t do that, do you?”. 

And she is right. I don’t. That would entail making someone uncomfortable (aka the lecturer) and perhaps upsetting said same person. But I decide that I will do it. 

“I will go to the lecture and if I don’t like it, I shall leave.”, I say in a dramatic fashion worthy of Scarlett O’Hara and make my way to the lecture.

Which turns out to be filmed. Oh shit.

I somehow subconsciously (sneaky subconscious) find a seat IN THE MIDDLE of the audience, still set on that if I need to leave “I am hereby giving myself permission to leave – however awkward I feel”.

Ten minutes into it I know I need to leave. It is not a bad lecture at all and the topic is very interesting, but my adrenaline-filled body is not up for it. It is up for running a marathon or soaking in a hot tub. Definitely not listening to a talk on mindfulness. I glance around and feel hot sweats rising (which does defy gravity, I know). I take a few deep breaths and muster up courage, tell myself that “if the lecturer takes this personally, then that is up to her, I cannot take responsibility for how other people will interpret my actions”. I look at the woman next to me who is holding a glass of wine, wishing I could snatch it and gulp it, but instead I smile nervously and whisper “I need to leave”. She looks at me slightly confused. She is probably wondering why this flustered, pink-faced woman is wiggling in her seat and eying her glass of wine, informing her about her up-and-coming exit. I take another look around the room, at the film camera in the back of the hall and I bolt. I grab my jacket and somehow make my way through a handful of cushion-seated ladies and grey-haired men and burst out into the evening air, feeling victorious. I JUST UP AND LEFT A LECTURE. WHILE IT WAS BEING FILMED. I AM SUCH A REBEL. 

I make my way, victorious, to the hot tubs and float under the stars, sharing lovely small-talk with some ladies and finding myself just slightly re-centered and not as angry and annoyed after having not one, but TWO small victories won for my inner Storm today. I close my eyes and smile.

But the next morning I wake up. Not smiling. “Holy shit, what the fuck is going on with me”, is my first thought as small ripples of anger tingle through my body. But they are soft ripples on the surface, like an ocean awaiting gushing winds. But nevertheless, they are there.

I get dressed and I decide not to go to yoga, because I fucking do not feel like it and no one is going to make me (entering toddler mode). But before I head to breakfast I make my way through the woods to pay respect to the tree woman. Both she and I know that there is something in the air and I feel like I might need some backup.

I find her patient face in the shadows and I put a hand on the tree trunk, close my eyes and whisper: “If there is a space and place for me to express my anger today, I will honor my rage and give it permission to be expressed in a respectful way”. I open my eyes and find myself smiling at the woman’s serene expression. “Oh, shit might be going down”, I whisper to her and head down to the restaurant.

I grab some breakfast and seat myself next to two of my group-comrades. A woman and a man. Both just the loveliest, most empathetic creatures. I am still stewing inside a bit, but put on a smile and greet them with a sunny “Hi!”. The woman smiles back and asks me “How are you doing?”. ‘
“I am doing well”, I respond with faked ease.

But then something crashes inside of me. Just like that. Enough pretending.
“No. You know what? I am not doing well. I am not fine. I am fucking angry.”
She looks at me slightly baffled.

The man leans over, compassionately intrigued (only a few people can pull this look off). The woman puts her head closer to mine. “I feel angry too”, she confides in a whisper.

My hands start trembling and I start crying. Which is what always happens when I try and express anger. Two pair of kind eyes are staring back into my tear-filled ones.

“I hate that I always start crying when I get angry”, I say and get even angrier at my body’s total disrespect for my internal fury. How dare it mask it with tears? Goddamn. GODDAMN.

The man looks at me with a mix of compassion and determination of his face (also a very interesting combination I know). “Heidi, we are going to have a session today that is called Forum, where people in the group can bring up issues and have their feelings and emotions acknowledged and seen by the group. If you bring this anger into the circle I think it could be very powerful.”
He squeezes my hand and gives me an encouraging nod. Then he leaves.

“I, I don’t know. Well, hmm… Maybe… Oh dear”, I half whisper to myself as I take away my dishes and head to the group room. Feeling like something is going to happen. Something needs to happen.

The teacher starts with introducing the Forum, a form of conflict resolution tool used in intentional communities once they realized that everything is not always roses and rainbows.

“Without having a space for this kind of stuff to be brought up, they crumbled” he says and continues with explaining the procedure. Everyone who feels called to express something can enter the circle and give a “performance” while walking in loops in front of the others. And then the other community members (in this case our little story-group) are allowed to mirror that persons performance as a way of giving feedback.

I am sitting in my seat, absolutely on the verge of exploding. I am having hot flashes, cold flashes interchanging (if this is how menopause feels like - then holy shit). I am literally shaking with so much repressed anger, triggered during the workshop but definitely built up over the last 28 years of my diplomatic existence. My lovely Canadian roomie seated next to me gives me a gentle nudge and asks me if everything is alright. “I am just feeling a bit frazzled”, I say, which is quite an understatement.

When the teacher ends his talk, he opens up the circle by asking if there is anyone who would like to go first. I shoot up. And almost startle myself. Usually I am not the one to claim anything that I dearly want by grabbing it upfront. I usually sit and wait for someone else to give me the space, to acknowledge the humble sparkling unicorn smiling brightly in the corner. But this is not the unicorn. This is the witch in the woods.

I realize that there is no turning back now and make my way to the middle of the circle. And explode.
I am pretty sure it was not pretty. Which is not was it was meant to be either. But holy shit it was releasing. After maybe a ten minute rage-fit I calm down and sober up. I look at the space-holders who tell me to be with this emotion and to ask myself what this angry Heidi is trying to tell me. I stand still for what feels like year-long minutes, just being with the aftermath of the Storm.
And then it hits me. Of course. It is Storm. I close my eyes and speak.

“I need to allow myself to express anger in a healthy way, because when I give way for the storm, I also give way for the clarity that comes after it. It is the calm after the storm.”

I open my eyes and look at the space-holders who smile and nod gently. “Before you take your seat, I want to you to walk around the circle and look everyone in the eye”.

So I walk. I see and I feel seen. I stare into tear-filled, compassionate, soft, encouraging, smiling eyes. Eyes who have watched the most vulnerable, hidden part of myself be fully disrobed in front of them. After the session ends, one of the men approaches me to shake my hand.

“It was a pleasure meeting you today, Heidi”.

And all of a sudden the ban of the dark woods was lifted and the magic kingdom just got a bit darker – and a bit more real. And the unicorn learnt she was also a bad-ass witch.

torsdag 14 september 2017

Without stories we would go mad

Last week I waved goodbye to a summer of big-city news reporting.

And as with every journalistic job I have had I am once again left humbled and amazed.
Humbled by people. Amazed by stories.

I am in awe of people sharing their stories, reaching out to newspapers with their hearts and experiences on their sleeve, ready to put it out there, make their voices heard.

I am grateful for the people who give me their time and attention when I call, approach or e-mail seeking comments, answers or knowledge. They could simply say no (alright, some of them do, but mostly they are pretty polite about it), they really are not obliged to offer me anything. Yet they do.

I am touched by the voices, crackling over the phone from hard to reach destinations and dangerous places, conveying a glimpse of a reality hard to grasp.

I am moved by the struggles that people face in their lives and that they are willing to share, for their own sake and for others.

I am blessed to bear witness to laughter, love and all those small and big things that make up a life and to be given the opportunity to put some of that into writing.

I am impressed by colleagues, who keep on doing this job, day after day, year after year. Despite hateful e-mails, angry phone calls and being called advocates for “fake-news”. They keep hunting, digging and writing. They work relentlessly, with dedication and joy.

I have spent this summer, like so many before, gathering, collecting and conveying stories. And I am amazed to find that that well is never dwindling. My job as a journalist is to create a space and a place for these stories to be shared, to come alive and to be passed on. My pen is a mere vessel for the magic of stories. And I find that to be a privilege and an honour.

But stories are not confined to the newsroom. For me, some of the story-magic of this summer has happened outside my work-place, or actually on the way to and from my job.

During my nightshifts and early mornings I have had the great pleasure to be taxi-chauffeured to work. In those odd hours between midnight and sun-rise, I have been the receiver of some pretty amazing stories. Instead of staring down my phone, avoiding eye-contact or focusing on yawning out the window, I decided that first night of June to be fully present in that taxi and inquire into the stories of the drivers. I have heard tales of girlfriends (weirdly enough a lot of them Finnish), of travels, families, financial situations and big life-decisions. One man told me he uses his daughter´s Spotify when he drives around at night. I don’t know, but something about that was so endearing it left my heart a little bit softer. Another one happened to have a dad from Finland and we ended up having a cheerful conversation in Finnish.

The trips have usually never lasted more than 10 or 15 minutes, but they have always left me feeling a bit more connected to the world and the people in it. And amazed at how much you can learn about someone else in 10 minutes.

There are stories everywhere, big and small. And they all deserve to be heard.

One of the stories I have both been covering and taken great interest in (like the rest of the world) is the disappearance of the journalist Kim Wall. A dedicated journalist, whose voice will be greatly missed. Her studies in the US were sponsored by the same organization that financed my journalism seminars in US and Israel and something about seeing the organization’s dedication to the now deceased journalist appear on my Facebook wall struck a chord with me. She was gone - and with her a lot of untold stories.

The loss of an impactful voice highlights the need for more voices. In the wake of Kim Wall and in the path of every other great storyteller and story sharer there is room for more. There is a need for more. And everyone has a story. It is all about getting curious enough to seek it out and being brave enough to share it. I happen to have a profession where I get to do this on a daily basis. That makes me pretty darn happy.

Cheers to the storyteller within us all!

Without stories we would go mad. Even in silence we are living our stories – Ben Okri

söndag 14 augusti 2016

My Vipassana experience - Ten days of madness

I was a shipwreck. Or rather, I was clinging onto the pieces of driftwood scattered across the stormy seas originating from the flaky (but fabulously pink and sparkly) ship I had been frantically sailing from harbor to harbor in an endless pursuit of … well, yes… something. Swimming in murky waters of uncertainty, I was growing weary of the tiny lifeboats I exhausted myself building. I was drowning.

This is when I found myself signed up for a Vipassana course. Described as “a way to eliminate suffering” I was grasping at anything that would help keep me afloat. ANYTHING. And something about the teachings, the philosophies of the meditation-technique resonated with me. Yes. Yes, this was exactly what I needed to do. There was a reason I stumbled upon this. This was a real lifeboat.

So, there I was on a train out to the middle of nowhere in England. Broke, up to my ears in deadlines, anxious and stressed as a rabid hamster, and still, there I was. Just hours away from embarking on a 10 day silent co-existence with approximately 100 strangers, about to meditate for 100 hours. I must be crazy I thought. This is ridiculous. Absolutely ridiculous. I called my sister in a last-minute attempt to flee the situation. “What on earth am I doing? Why can’t I just get a 9-5 job and be a proper adult?” I kept on saying to myself “Sit down in the goddamn boat woman, stop making life so fricking hard”. Then it dawned on me. I didn’t have a boat, remember? It had been utterly obliterated. I needed to build myself a new one. And I was determined that this new boat was going to be a proper one. A majestic tank. A warrior of the seas. A unicorn-ship of the waves.

I washed up on shore on the English countryside with all the bits and pieces of my poorly constructed joke of a boat and noticed that I wasn’t alone. I wasn’t the only one descending on the sandy beach this sunny morning with salt-drenched hairs, ruffled clothes, a bit scratched or bruised, and with a mildly confused gaze. Besides from my fellow ship-wreckers there were even more people showing up to face the harsh morning sun. Some in modest home-build boats, others finding their way out from the woods, and some just sailing in with a broken compass, stopping to find a new route home. There were the curious adventurers, explorers and then there were the locals, who knew the area and strolled around the pebbly seaside mindfully, carefree.

We were all going to share this beach. It had begun.

“You must be sure that you are willing to stay for the entirety of the retreat, all 10 days”

The facilitators asked for probably the fourth time. Were we absolutely sure we could abide by all the rules and did we realize that this was going to be hard work? If not, we should back out now. Leaving mid-course wasn’t really an option.

A slight flutter of doubt. Could I really? Should I really? I can still run away. Who am I trying to fool? I am not a real meditator! I am a fraud, here again trying to hustle for worthiness in yet another area. I would not make it. I shouldn’t even try. This was utterly irresponsible. I had real matters to attend to. I didn’t have time for this. Oh, and did I already mention it was crazy?

But then a line from a book I had just been reading came to me. “Healing is a gift that life gives us, but it is also a mission we have been given”. Since when is it irresponsible to take responsibility for your life? For your happiness? Yet another line from one of my favorite authors, Elizabeth Gilbert, made its way into my train of thoughts: “You have to work relentlessly for the manifestations of your own blessings”. I was here now. To work. This was where I was supposed to be. To work on this wrecked ship of mine. I texted my sister. “I am going to make the most of this and see this as a job, this is going to be my mission now for ten days. May it make me or break me”.

A cookie caught my attention, as customary in my daily life. A girl a couple of years younger than me reached out with a Digestive and a cup of tea she had brought for me. We started talking and soon I was chattering left and right and realized I wasn’t the only one questioning this endeavor. “I have never even meditated”, one of the women exclaimed with laughter. I exhaled. We were all frauds, we were all mad and irresponsible or we were all brave as fuck. I couldn’t really make up my mind which. I just knew we were all there for a reason or another. Something about this mission had resonated with all of us and I knew, if they could make it, I could make it. At least we would be miserable together.

And so, we exhausted ourselves with chatter for one more hour. What do you talk about when you know that you won’t be able to talk for 10 more days and you have 57 minutes left to empty you word-well? Oh, maybe noble words of wisdom and citations of great minds? No, we talked about snapchat, asparagus and floppy-discs. “Floppy discs are like Jesus, they died to become the icon of saving”. I heard myself saying, reciting some silly 9-gag image I had seen the other day. And the others laughed. That is how desperate we were to fill any voids of silence. 5 minutes left. Nervous hysterical laughter.

And so the time had come. Silence. We weren’t allowed to make eye-contact, gestures or touch anyone for the remainder of the stay. We were from here on now to work as in solitude.

Day 1. The gongong (ohyes, they went full Tibetan on our asses) rings at 4 am. Time for meditation. I go in full of energy and leave the sitting hall 2 hours later, surprisingly pleased with myself, exhilarated to be honest. I had survived my first sitting! Sure, my mind had wandered aimlessly for a majority of the time, but still! I had sat there! Persevered! Now time for breakfast.

I didn’t know what to expect and was in awe of the buffet of porridge, toast, fruit, yoghurt and various spreads laid before us. So perplex that I ended up having porridge, oats, corn-flakes, sunflower seeds, peanut butter and yoghurt all in one bowl. That should tell you something about the nature of my frazzled mind at that point. I was simply in a state where I couldn’t make any decisions and I kept looking around at others plates to see what they were eating. Glancing at my neighbor’s neatly sliced toast with a smooth layer of tahini and the porridge with meticulously chopped pieces of apples I stared down into my bowl of disaster and thought to myself “well, isn’t this symbolic”.

After breakfast and one hour of rest (without permission to take naps – even though- yes I sneakily did the first two days) there were two more hours of meditation before lunch. Two hours of just concentrating on your nostrils and the air moving and moving out. Moving in and moving out. In and out. Endlessly it seemed like before the food bell rang again. A delicious vegetarian meal was served and then, wait... What? No more food? NO MORE FOOD!? Just more meditation and then a fruit snack and hot lemon water at 5.

NO MORE FOOD. “What am I to do??! I need to eat, that’s the only way I keep my sanity! “I need my mouth be entertainnnnnnneeeddddd and I am going to be sooo hunggggrryyyyy”, my inner, chubby-cheeked, cookie-nibbling five-year old yelled hysterically. I filled my lunch plate up to the rims as if I was going to hike out on a 10 mile treck. “I might make it now”, I thought pleased with myself but soon drowsy from the gigantic portion. At the 7 o´clock discourse our Vipassana guru Goenka (a sympathetic Indian man with a glowing face being projected on a big screen in the meditation hall every night for one hour) explained the food-situation. “It is best to not be over-full when meditating”. No shit Sherlock.

At 9 p.m it was time for bed and I crashed onto my pillow and stared up into the ceiling. “Only 9 more days, only 9 more days”.

Day 2 I was mentally packing my bags. I couldn’t take one more hour of focusing on my nostrils and that tiny little area underneath our nose where we were supposed to feel sensations. I was going mad. MAD. During the two longer meal breaks I wandered aimlessly in the teeny-tiny wooded area we had been provided with for “recreation”. There we all strolled around, heads bowed down on the tiny paths, like patients from a mental institution let loose in the court-yard, trying not to run into each other (run is the wrong word, it was more like small slow-motion crashes without sound). During my midday “promenade” I heard a car on the other side of the fence and it filled me with nostalgia. “I know that world” I thought to myself longingly and then objectively examined my previous thought. “Heidi. You have been here for 42 hours. Get a grip woman”.

So the days piled up. I started to be able to tell people apart by recognizing their feet. I don’t think I have ever been so fascinated with feet in my entire life. Or my fingernails. I would scrutinize them daily, realizing that my left pinkynail is actually a bit wider than my right one, imagine that!

The meditation was still a challenge and during the breaks I had started the task of trying to sort out my life. But my mind wasn’t cooperating. I was sitting there, underneath a tree, preparing myself mentally, bracing myself and then shouting out (in my head obviously) “come on then, hand me those big life questions now!”. And what did I think about? Soups. Was my favorite really carrot soup or had I started preferring lentil soups now? Oh, yes, and how come Kellogg’s chose a tiger as their front figure? And what was the name of that tiger again? Was it just… No, it couldn’t be. Yes, I believe it was… Just… Tiger? No, no, no, wait. It was Tony, Tony the Tiger,  That´s almost worse to be honest. Something about that name just doesn´t sound trustworthy. Well. He did market a product that mostly is made up of sugar. Of course he would have a name that sounds like a questionable cheap car-dealer.

Yes. Those sorts of questions aroused. Deep stuff, I know.

On day 3 I actually started to make head way with some issues and had one of those ahaa-moments (I have read somewhere that an ahaa-moment is actually when your soul recognizes something as a truth, something it already knew – LOVE THAT) and I was sitting, basking in the sun, relishing at my newly found wisdom and then this old indian woman sits next to me and lets a big fart rip.

So much for enlightenment.

I also found myself having a lot of arguments with my inner teenager. You know, the bored, eye-rolling, rule-ignoring brat with heavy eye-makeup.
- “This sucks. I want to do somethiiiiiingggg” – she would howl relentlessly. “I know, I want to sing!”.
- “No, Heidi, you are not allowed to sing”. I would answer calmly.
- “Well, I DON’T CARE”, she would yell back defiantly. “I am gonna sing now”.
- “No, you will NOT, young lady! You will NOT!”
- “Try and stop me”, she would growl.
So I gave in, like any overworked teenage mom.
- “Okey, we will go out into the woods and you are allowed to sing ONE line from a song, okey? ONE LINE”.
Off we went into the woods and I let my inner teenager pick the song and she busted out… “You spin my head right round, right round, when you go down, when you go down, down.”
Mic drop. My inner teenager has horrible music taste.

On day 4 I had started peeling sunflower seeds, chopping them in half and eating them one by one. Slowly.

Halfway through the retreat my mind had surprisingly enough started running out of stuff to think about and meditation was getting easier. And my head was not liking it. That’s when it started getting desperate. Such an attention whore. “Look, look, LOOOK! Listen to meeee!!”, it would scream. It was frantic, lacking coherent words and arguments it started throwing out shapes and forms. “Look, look! Here is a big, pink, blob! Look at it! Oh, and looook noooow, NOW it turned into a cupcake and now it’s growing legs and it’s running away. Chase after it, chase after it!!”.
See? Desperate I tell you.

And then the crazy part of my brain started springing into action whenever the opportunity arose. You know that weird part that keeps making you question your own strength of will and decency and well, general self-preservation? The one that starts whispering when you stand by a cliff or a big bridge. “What if I was to jump…?” You laugh a bit at the thought, but then you end up taking a step back from the edge. Just in case. Well, THAT part had a BLAST. Example: the girl meditating in front of me had only one earring, a silverloop, and that excited my inner weirdo to the brink of insanity. “What if… What if I were to just, you know... Bite it. Bite a hold of the ring and just hiss at anyone trying to rescue the attacked woman from my teeth-grip”. For three sittings I sat with my jaws tightly clenched. You know. Just in case.

But that’s when the movies began. Movie plot after movie plot unraveled in my mind accompanied by the never ending soundtrack of Pitbull-songs (again blaming that teenage-brat living inside of me) and Foo fighters “he doesn’t look a thing like Jesus”. And that of course made me think about Jesus and how he would look in a music-video with Pitbull.
Interesting, is the answer you’re looking for. Very interesting.

In the meantime, the meditation got serious. One third through the retreat we were introduced to the Vipassana technique which is a way of self-transformation through self-observation. It focuses on the deep interconnection between mind and body, which can be experienced directly by disciplined attention to the physical sensations. It is this observation-based, self-exploratory journey to the common root of mind and body dissolving mental impurity that is meant to result in a balanced mind full of love and compassion. Well, sign me up for that!

We were now scanning our bodies in search for sensations to gain better understanding of our mind and the interconnection between them. Every body part, piece by piece was to be equanimously scrutinized. According to Vipassana teachings, there are two main reasons for misery, craving and aversion and they manifest in the body as sensations. Now it was time for us to face those layers and layers of misery surfacing from the unconscious and trying to remain balanced as we were realizing that everything is in-permanent. The nature of sensations is that they arise and they will eventually pass away. That is the law of nature. The key is to remain balanced and not let the spawn of misery shake us. This we then could apply in real life in dealing with difficult emotions and situations resulting from either overly clinging to stuff or profusely frowning upon things.

All good and well, right? But. I started doubting, worrying. With this technique we were trying to rid ourselves of craving and aversion. But… but… maybe I like craving? (we will not even start with my cookie-addiction here). And what determines what a craving is and what is a “healthy” want and ambition? And also, this whole staying equanimous through misery, will that also put a damper on the highs of life? To be able to appreciate the good, you gotta have the bad, right? Was I by the end of this going to be an emotionally flat-lined vegetable? I was freaking out, so I booked an appointment with the teacher, a woman exuding compassion and warmth. She listened to my anxieties patiently and said “Oh, no, you will still want things in life, but the difference is that if you don’t get it, you won’t be thrown into despair. And with joy, it will actually be a purer form of joy, since you will be aware that moment is fleeting”. Smart woman, that one. I was relieved and went back to work. Back to purifying the mind little by little. A grueling endeavor. They had warned us. It was going to be tough. And they were right.

On day 7, we were all broken. There was no energy left in the atmosphere. I had become a sticky rice ball, and not the fun sushi-kind topped with soy and pink salmon. I was a plain, over-cooked rice ball with questionable hygiene. I had barely enough energy to get myself to the toilet and I was convinced I left a trail of goo behind me in my attempt to snail my way to the showers. Lifting my head and looking across the yard, it looked like a scene from a zombie apocalypse. People were laying sprawled out everywhere, sitting stoically with blank stares or just standing, staring at leafs or whatever bug that would happen to cross their path. The only intellectual entertainment provided was the 7 o´clock discourse and I never thought I would be so thrilled to see an old Indian man wearing a towel talk for 1 hours and 15 minutes. But they were good talks, enlightening talks. About how misery is a product of our own making, that nothing outside of us can affect us unless we let it affect us and that we are all responsible for our own happiness. It all resonated with me, giving me ahaa after ahaa. BUT this Indian man, talking to us through a recording from 1991 (ohyeesssss) kept coming back to the importance of knowing the truth. Feeling it. Not merely intellectualizing it.

So, I decided to put 110 % into this. I wanted to know the truth. I wanted to understand misery at the physical level. Stare it in the eye. So, I dusted myself off from sitting for too long on the beachy sand dune, looking across the sea for answers, and started picking up the pieces of my wrecked ship. One by one. Relentlessly.

I sat for two and half hours without moving. Going through my body, piece by piece, feeling the vibrations, sensations. Hotness, coolness, tingling, throbbing. And then. A massive pain. In my left butt-cheek (yes, very poetic). It made me uncomfortable and my first reaction was to start wiggle around in an attempt to soothe it. Then I caught myself. No, Heidi, remain calm. So, I kept scanning my body, focusing on my breath, and slowly the pain went away. I was buzzing. I GET IT NOW. Misery isn’t permanent! As long as I stay balanced it will eventually subside and even out. I can objectively observe my misery without letting it throw me off into a soggy ditch of despair. I determine my reaction! It doesn´t control me!

On the next day, my old friend anxiety raised its ugly head in my chest in the form of intense throbbing and I was short of breath. I recognized it, welcomed it and calmly said “oh hi, there, I have been waiting for you”. And I waited it out. I focused on my breath, scanned my body and eventually noticed my anxiety fading away. I hadn’t let it got the best of me.

I was walking on clouds. Feeling lighter by every experience, by every meditation session, ridding myself of old baggage and gaining more and more insight about my sensations, my feelings and their interconnectedness. And then, THE PAIN struck. I thought I had experienced pain before, but naaa-aaah. My left thigh had been a blind spot for a while (not having any sensations) and then suddenly BOOM, massive, excruciating pain. I tried to breathe through it, tried scanning my other parts, tried to observe the pain objectively, but it started spreading through my body, making me dizzy and light-headed. I couldn’t focus, I was losing balance and the pain was unbearable. I felt myself starting to come to the brink of passing out and I gave up. I opened my eyes, cradled my legs in my hands, the pain immediately went away and my body just started shaking. I started crying without being able to control it. I walked out of the meditation hall and sat in a corner, in a little ball, shivering and crying. After 10 minutes I looked up with a tear-drenched face and decided to go back in. On trembling legs I stood up, went back to my seat and finished the session.

After that I was shaky. I had to talk to someone, so I went to see the teacher. I told her about my experience and she looked at me with a soft gaze and said. “Heidi, that is a good thing, that was some really deep stuff surfacing.”
But how to handle it?, I asked.
“When we face the storm, we put down our anchor, the breath, and we hold onto it.”

Next session I was ready. I knew the pain was going to come back. I had given up and it was going to come for round two. And after a while it did. The sensation was getting stronger and stronger and I was tensing up. But as I saw the storm coming I put down my anchor and stuck with my breath and scanned my body. The pain lingered. And lingered. And I realized that pain and misery can exist without throwing everything of balance. There are ups and downs and sometimes there are both at the same time. The pain, however, like the natural laws command, subsided. It eventually went away and left only a warm, subtle, throbbing sensation. The storm had passed. My boat was still intact, clucking gently on the soft, vibrating surface.

I stepped out into the sunshine and lay down in the grass. My body started shaking again. But this time with laughter. I lay there, with the sunrays beaming on my face and I laughed uncontrollably. I simply couldn’t contain it. I was laughing for no reason at all, other than pure joy.

On the last day of the retreat, an hour before we were allowed to start talking again, I sat with a cup of tea, enjoying my last minutes of silence. It was a breezy, sunny day, but I was sitting in the shade of the tree. The sun was heating up the right side of my face and after a while I noticed my left cheek getting colder, shaded by the leaves and cooled by the wind. I felt the slightest sensation of misery arising, just the subtlest notion. Well, that is ridiculous I thought to myself and turned my face so that both cheeks could enjoy the sunshine, a moment that I knew was fleeting, allowing me to fully enjoy the warmth in the present. In the now.

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.”

Lao Tzu

torsdag 18 december 2014

onsdag 12 november 2014

Someday is now

En reklammakares sanning

"The power of willful ignorance can not be overstated"

En PR-arbetare förklarar hur det går till det här med att sälja in saker (i det här fallet främst kött) som vi annars kanske inte skulle köpa (om vi visste hela sanningen). Förpackning, slogans, "green"-washing och prat om teknik och framsteg är en stor del av att det säljs både onödiga prylar och charkuteriprodukter (av djur som knappt kan andas och stå under sin korta livstid), men den största orsaken till att ifrågasättbara produkter existerar är.... wait for it... konsumenterna! Vi väljer att inte se hur våra produkter tillverkas, vad de innehåller och hur de påverkar djur och natur, utan väljer att tro på reklammakarna.

"Everyone is prepared to look the other way"

tisdag 11 november 2014

Att vara en man

Snubblade över det här idag. En snabbkurs för "män som tappat bort sig själva i jämställdheten".

Män som får lära sig att vara manliga genom att hålla fokus på varandra trots att de distraheras av "sexiga kvinnor" som åmar sig. "Cringeworthy" fick en helt ny innebörd.
Manscoachens förklaring toppar det hela: "Det handlar ju om att vi ständigt distraheras av saker (?!) runt omkring oss, det är bra att kunna stå kvar i sig själv och så att man kan driva sju företag och ha 30 anställda som Paolo (Roberto reds. anm)"

Kan vi bara snälla sluta dela upp alla människor i manligt och kvinnligt, lägg fokus på att hitta ditt eget jag istället för din egen könsstereotyp. Urk.

Synd att programmet, med titeln "Man och manlighet" inte tog tillfället i akt att diskutera den begränsande mansrollen och vilken inverkan den har på män och deras självförtroende och liv. Inte att tuta det gamla manshornet och sminka upp en massa brudar som sidoattraktion. Blä.

måndag 10 november 2014


Mitt gamla mineralpuder börjar vara inne på sista flämtande kornen (c/o mineralsmink, räcker en heeeeel evighet), så bestämde mig för att köpa en ny dosa när jag trillade över en ekologisk bb-cream. För att vara helt ärlig så visste jag faktiskt inte vad en BB-cream är. Men köpte den, tog hem den, provade den och kom fram till att vad det än är så gillar jag den. (nu googlade jag och wikipedia säger att det är en "all-in-one facial cosmetic product to replace serum, moisturizer, primer, foundation and sunblock" - låter väldigt fanceypantsy). 

Har den senaste tiden satsat på att få hyn i skick igen och försökt dricka mycket vatten, rengöra sminkborstarna regelbundet, scrubba, ansiktsmaska mig samt mumsa i mig havtornskapslar med jättenattljusolja och omega. O den har blivit bättre :) Så nu behöver jag inte något väldigt täckande på facet och då passade bb-creamen väldigt bra. Den är väldigt "skir" om man nu kan använda ett sånt ord för en kräm o ger en fin lyster. Men den kunde vara aaaningen mer täckande. Plus att den är lite i det dyraste laget, lite på 30 euro, men försäljaren sa att den var väldigt dryg (it better be). Passade på att köpa en läppenna (har en massa underbara läppstift av märket benecos som jag byter mellan, men de är lite åt det glansiga hållet och ville ha en matt röd färg, det här var perfa). Köpte även en benecos rouge (benecos är lite av ett budgetmärke inom ekokosmetika, bra priser och bra kvalité - men kanske inte för bassmink) i en lite kallare färg nu till vintern (har annars ett korallrouge i puderform av C/O mineralsmink som jag älskar).

sådär, då var det slut på det här parentes-inlägget. (over and out)

Var även in till clas ohlson o köpte de där miljövänliga värmeljusen som jag bloggade om tidigare.

Och ekomärkt målarfärg. Köpte ett gammalt sybord för 15 euro som jag ska sandpappra o måla vackert ljusblååååååå. Nom.

lördag 8 november 2014


Åååååh, sovmorgon och lördagsfrukost med enhörningstofflor o camino. Fabulous.