“Silence is not a deprivation, an empty void. The more space we make for stillness and silence, the more we have to give both to ourselves and to others” – the quote of Thich Nhat Hanh stands as the core philosophy of our first graceful interview guest of 2020, Karianne Kraaijestein.
The South-Korea born woman, raised in the greenness of Netherlands, set as her mission in life to guide us with quiet stillness so we could better fulfill our own missions. Living in multiple worlds, somewhere between motherhood, a career in marketing communications, running her own agency, Bhagavad Gita, Buddhism, Patanjali, Sufism, western classics, poetry, meditation, mindful movement, philosophy and the deep body intelligences of Ashtanga and Yin, a new wisdom and softness emerges reaching for higher understanding of life, just as it is.
We’re proud to call this founder of YogaFest our friend and partner and are immensely grateful for a chance to share a bit of her world with you. We hope you enjoy the warm, honest, substantial and heartfelt interview that follows. Take from it what you need today, get still, listen, grow, be.
1. What happens if we get still and silent and why do so many contemporary people have such a problem just being and not distracting themselves with trinkets all the time? Why is savasana one of the hardest asanas and what is this restlessness in just being?
By being active whether that is mentally or physically we can avoid feeling what is really going on below as we are too busy with distractions. The moment we get still we experience that emotions, feelings and thoughts arise. These can be confronting, disturbing and even painful and our mind wants to escape from that uneasy place. It can make us sleepy, it can tell us it is too hard, or tells that there are so many things on your to do list, restlessness can come up or you start feeling all the physical tensions in your body. But once you realize that is part of the game you can look at it with amusement and just see it for what it is, welcome it like welcoming Mara at tea and then just let it go.
2. How much plasticity is there in the brain and how do we change old habits and patterns which exhaust and muddy the experience of deep beauty all around? How important is to check in with the present and what is the best way to get unstuck from rummaging through the past or feeling anxious about the future?
The brain is fascinating and old patterns can be changed and new behavior can be learned. But it takes first a willingness and then a steady dedication to unravel those old wirings, seeing your patterns without any judgement, acknowledging that those strategies served you when they were needed but no longer do. It also takes courage to start changing your actions and silencing your inner critic. Change can bring up fears as you are entering unknown territory, whereas the comfort zone is outdated but familiar, and will pull at you for a long time. It needs lots of loving awareness and compassion and with that comes freedom as you learn to live in the present.
3. How did you get into yoga, mindfulness and meditation and when did you start teaching? Does the teacher need its students just as students need the teacher and what has teaching taught you? How do we cultivate patience and release ourselves from imposing constant expectations on life?
My first yoga class was a when I was pregnant with my daughter 20 years ago. It was the start that led into a path from traditional hatha to Ashtanga Mysore to Yin yoga. And in which meditation, started 10 years ago, became more and more important and today has become my main practice.
Teaching was never something I aspired to. I resisted for a long time and started about 3 years ago. The combination of meditation, mindful movement and philosophy flows naturally from my heart. Being able to transmit these teachings is both giving and receiving. There is a natural exchange of energies that is uplifting for both.
Truly seeing who you are and releasing all the veils, illusions, conditionings and “protections” is at the heart of learning to accept, embrace and say yes to all what is. It is not you who can control events in your life but you can learn to relate differently to it. Tenderness and nonjudgement will become part of your new vocabulary.
4. How much does the quality of our thoughts, emotions and attitudes shape the wellbeing of our physical body and vice versa? What has been the hardest thing to master (or get better at) for you personally and of what are you most proud of? When do you feel most connected to the world? What’s been your most important lesson by now?
Visualize anger or fear and feel the sensations in your body and then visualize happiness or love and notice the visceral sensations arising in your body. The sensations linked to these emotions are very different and it that simple; your issues are in your tissues. To quote psychiatrist Bessel van der Kolk “The body keeps the score”. Every trauma or event is stored in your body. And to stay healthy it makes so much sense to be aware of the effects and how to truly neutralize that.
And one of my strategies used to be to block unpleasant feelings mentally. That might seem to be a great way to neutralize them but in the long run it is not. By not feeling unpleasant emotions and thoughts, joy, deep connection and true aliveness cannot reach you either on a deep level. It is as if you have put a filter in between life and you experiences. So you might need more extreme events to feel more and feel you live a full life. But actually you do not, at least that is how I see and have experienced it. The moment you let go of these veils and let in all, the good and the ugly, something radically changes. You become so real, so honest, and yes, also so vulnerable. It takes some time to find your balance in it all. But the reward is that you start living fully, enjoying all, even the “harder” moments. You become more selfless and true deep meaningful connections are made.
5. What are you most excited about in the foreseeable future? What do you have planned and where can students join you? What message would you like to share with all of those contemplating starting their journey into a more mindful and meditative approach to life?
Coming together for a weekend or a week is one of the most beautiful ways to dive together in the practice. Having more time together gives the chance to go deeper and that is where the magic happens.
This year I give the following trainings:
– silent weekend retreat Befriending Your Mind, Netherlands
– Yoga & Meditation Art of Stillness Koufonissia, Greece
– silent weekend retreat Living from the Heart, Netherlands
FIND THE RETREATS HERE
6. Wild Card question: What do we take for granted in this world?
I am afraid we take so much for granted – Life, health, friends, loved ones, our job, nature, the world. For most, it takes years before we realize that control is an illusion and through a crisis we realize we are so meaningless on the grander scale of Life. But once we do realize, something comes back and that is deep gratitude for all what is. And you can cultivate gratitude. Just before you fall asleep you can name 3 things you are grateful for. It is a practical daily practice and you will see and feel the effects. It is a practice I started with my daughter when she was a child at 19 and we still sometimes do that together. It is also a great way to connect with your loved ones to say that out loud to each other.