Become your own master – in conversation with Marieke

When I decided to make an online healing circle, I had in mind creating some space for sharing of practices, of stories, of life-paths that could inspire, shift and build confidence. I was focused on friends and eventually, I got to realise that I was limiting myself. For soon I realised that when you believe in what you do, when you have a sense of purpose and vision, soon, the universe will come back to you in unexpected ways.

One of those ways to begin with, is this interview itself. It was a big surprise for me and hope that I will manage to pass on this feeling. Marieke is a beautiful human, Kundalini yoga teacher, based in Amsterdam, who’s mission and spirit lead and empower. She is one of those women that has vigour and joy in her words, and whose rich story is worth writing about. She carries that energy and directs it through each of her words. Thank you so much for the openness and availability to meet me and to share your story, your kind and wise words with the readers. I am humbled and hence would invite you all to get to know her here, or follow her on Instagram.

1. Short intro- some lines about what are you doing right now. ( work, hobbies, discoveries, what wakes you up in the morning and makes you feel alive)

I started to practice yoga when I realised that I was on the verge of burnout and I needed something to get me back to myself. I then started to practice Kundalini Yoga in Amsterdam, and it was also here where I met Tim, my partner, on an early morning sadhana. We started to work together, organising yoga workshops. Then it eventually happened, we got together and organised our first trip to India with a friend of ours. What was clear from the beginning is that we shared that common interest for the practice, for spirituality.

At the moment, we are planning to organise a teacher training, here in the Netherlands. Otherwise, teaching here in Amsterdam and organise retreats during summer, around Europe: in June in Croatia, then in Italy. Afterwards will be at home to prepare for September. In October we could maybe go back to Morocco, as it is such a special place for us.

2. first contact with yoga- when, where and how §.  short reflection-  a challenging, key moment or maybe a crisis that is linked with the start of your practice

I practiced yoga for a long time just for myself- to stay calm and get rid of tension. I was running my own NGO for more than seven years – doing theatre projects with children, in countries such as Namibia, Kenya, Ghana, Honduras, Indonesia. These were underprivileged kids, that were living on the streets, doing jobs here and there to survive- really hardcore stories. I would work together with local organisations to help them gain more self-esteem through theatre. It was very intense and challenging as it was a real hard work. After these seven years I was on the verge of having a burnout. At the time, I felt I needed to change something and take care of myself or else I would go down the drain.

I started with the way I was nourishing myself- detox. Not eating gluten, sugar, no alcohol, no meat (I was vegetarian since I was little anyway), no additives or preservatives. This has been really significant for me, as it helped me to shed layers, to come towards the core of the why I was working so hard all the time. A lot of unprocessed trauma since my childhood, that I wasn’t able to tackle and honestly I wasn’t even aware of the impact it had on me.

My trauma became my survival mechanism. It became my strength, my talent, but also started to bring me down. During this time I got the urge to try a Kundalini yoga class. A friend of mine was doing Kundalini yoga for some time and she was telling me about it, it seemed as a sect for me , like a cult. People dressed in white, wearing turbans, she had to wake up at 4 in the morning, take cold showers. “No, thank you, I don t want to do that hahah” But during the detox I started to feel the drive towards it and decided to give it a try.

I really liked the practice itself – I never moved and breathed this way. When we started to chant the mantra, it really struck me, that I said myself that I have to do this more often. I felt that I am not alone, that something is taking care of me. After 6 months practicing on my own in Ghana, I came back and decided I should do a teacher training. That was in 2012.

And this is how it all started…

Some people told me that I would never be able to make a living out of it. I did want to give it a try though, so I created a website for teaching in Amsterdam, I made flyers, was really active on social media. In three, four months I started to teach full time.

Then, one evening I went to sleep and I heard this really loud voice, that sounded very strict, and told me that I should buy the domain ‘kundaliniyogaschool’. I said I will check it next morning. When I went online, I saw it was available, and decided to buy it. At the time I had no idea what I was going to do with it. So I just bought it and decided to see what I was about to do with it later. We took a year to start to create the first videos, build the website. It was a «go as you grow« thing. This is how we started our online business and eventually we even combined it with the traveling, we organised journeys to India, Nepal, Morocco.

3. magic pill- what is that instrument which helps you most in stressful times?

Thank God I don’t feel stressed anymore! We have periods when we have to go hard, and then we shift back and relax much more. What helps me? Going for a walk in the park, get some oxygen, some movement. Or I go to my harmonium and chant for a while. It is nice to have some -go to- rituals or activities that take you out of the stressful situation. Also, I guess it is that which you long for in that moment, whether its some good food, rest, more energy, some oxygen, inspiration, using your voice. The question is what is it you need to give yourself in that moment?

4. Who is that one figure, that mentor that you mostly connect with? ( can be anything- human, non human, object or element of nature)

This week I went to a dance performance, a friend of ours was dancing there. The performance was so powerful. I was really in awe. The fact that we are able to create such beauty, such magic, really inspires me. There isn’t so much of that one person that inspires me, but the beauty that we are able to create, of course, beside all the misery. Seeing that, being a witness, inspires and gives me hope.

5. what brings you on your mat every day? what is your routine?

My harmonium teacher said that in the beginning you plant a tree and you put a fence around so you can protect the tree The practice is the young tree and the fence is your discipline. You have to make it your own, you grow it, you recognise your patters, you gain the strength to not enter these into these patterns anymore. But in time, the tree grows stronger and it doesn’t need the fence anymore. The practice becomes a natural part of your time, you are able to show up for yourself, be compassionate and understand and stay with your emotions. That is your practice. A natural part of your life.

Yoga is the support to really show up for the moment, for yourself with awareness, with consciousness, to make the choices that support you and those around you. So you can be of service to yourself and others. It takes some time as we need to grow that tree stronger and bigger. Then we realise that everything in life is an opportunity to practice.

6. what does yoga mean to you, how does it impact your life?

I really like to share things that come from my heart. Its a beautiful thing to show up for myself and then enable me to show for others. It brings me a lot of joy. Besides, I love chanting, is one of the things that I love the most. I am now taking harmonium classes and also training my voice. I really feel the healing powers of using my voice, release tensions.

We are given all the tools we need to keep our minds and body healthy if we choose to do that. Knowing something and not doing it doesn’t really help. The practice of yoga is like musical notes that create a melody. We should eventually recognise that we can be our own teachers truly. That is the pinnacle of the teacher training, so that people can understand how to create these sequences themselves.

To become your own master.

Going to the basics, why asanas work the way they do, add breath work to them, add mantra, and why would you do that? What extra dimension would it give? Adding all these elements to asanas is what makes Kundalini yoga so powerful. It helped me release a lot of emotional package.

7.  some wise words for those that are at the beginning- students and teachers. 

Show up for yourself first, compassionately, bring joy, listen, be present with other people when they talk, be there and be kind. That is huge. If everyone will make this the biggest practice that would be beautiful. Honour that opportunity to show up for yourself. You don’t have to be the best, but just to make that practice a gift to yourself.

For me just bringing my hands together and close my eyes and take a moment in silence. Being with the decision to practice in that moment, to tune into my breath, and feel the sacredness of my breath, a breath that sustains me- that is a great moment. I am connecting to that source of life that is flowing through me, expressing through me, that I have the opportunity to have this amazing body. Like wow. I can use this body to move, to breathe, to chant. Then you recognise that everything is an opportunity to learn something, to reflect upon yourself, to give, to serve, to show up, to observe and change your patterns.

I am a spiritual nomad looking for trouble! I love travelling, writing is my favourite form of expression and I will never say no to coffee! I dedicate my free time in practicing yoga and meditation as well as learning more about transformative education and development. I also love dancing and I could talk forever about love. :)

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