Eye gazing yoga in a coastal cave.

Ever looked a stranger straight in the eyes for minutes in a row without escaping?

My wonderful yoga teacher, Laura, suggested to do a free class in open air followed by a picnic on the beach. She invited all her students to come and also friends were welcome. In my enthusiasm I said yes to this marvellous idea. When I arrived at the destination, a coastal cave, we were only with a small, but nice group, some faces I had seen before. “We’re going to do yoga in couples,” Laura said.


Immediately resistance arose. I don’t like practicing yoga and sit or stand in uncomfortable positions together with someone else. I looked forward to doing yoga like we always do, especially after a long bike ride in the warm evening. Sun salutations and stuff. Okay, you’re here now, I said to myself and I sat down on my mat. We started with some meditation, sitting across each other, eyes closed. I placed my right hand on my heart and my left palm I placed on her hand which she held on her heart. I peeked with one eye just to see if I did touch her hand at the right spot. We breathed.


Then Laura said to open our eyes and to look at the person in front of us and to gaze into that person’s eyes. See the colours of the eyes, look well and see what lives in and beyond those eyes. I started to smile at her, an Argentinian young woman, who was a stranger to me. She smiled back to me, her blue eyes were beautiful. So far I felt okay, but a little while later while we kept looking into each other’s eyes, I began to feel shy and uncomfortable. I looked away for a second, my mouth felt nervous. Still I thought her sparkling eyes were friendly and beautiful. Quickly I watched the other couples. They looked utterly focused, but one couple was also a couple in life. To look your partner in the eyes shouldn’t make uncomfortable or shy, should it, but a complete stranger? So, for them it’s easy, I judged. I stared back into her eyes and she looked into mine. Minutes seemed to take longer than ever. Sometimes I closed my eyes just for a few seconds as it felt quite intense for me. I tried to relax and hoped my eyes weren’t too restless to look into. When Laura said we could leave our positions to embrace each other I finally could escape and I felt released.

This was difficult. I felt so incredibly shy and vulnerable during this intimate eye gazing. We gave each other a hug and finally my resistance for doing yoga together vanished. This ancient tantra practice is meant to open your heart and to be more present. During class we touched each other’s hands, legs, arms, backs in several yoga positions. After the eye gazing, I was fine with that. There was surrender instead of resistance. I thanked her; her name was Lucia.

Group hug

After an hour or so, we did a breathing exercise all together, we sat in a circle, closed our eyes and placed our right hand on the back of the person next to us. When the class came to an end we did a fat group hug, which is always nice. I love group hugs 🙂 The cave started to get darker and I wanted to get on my bike to cycle home, which isn’t close anymore. But I stayed, had a glass of gazpacho that Laura’s husband had made and I realised it was a perfect occasion to practice some Spanish as well. After 5 years on Ibiza I still feel insecure when speaking Spanish in a group. That’s because it doesn’t happen often when I’m in a Spanish speaking company where no English is spoken. It’s the second time that evening I found myself out of my comfort zone. But it’s true what “they” say: that’s the place where things happen.

Con Amor,


How our human experiences connect us.


Why sending hearts to a grieving, distant friend isn’t stupid.

Last December a friend of ours lost his wife to cancer. She was only 48 years old. Some years ago she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She recovered from this nasty disease, incredibly relieved and grateful she could finally close this black chapter in their lives. Only a couple of years later it snuck up on her again and she found herself struck down by cancer for the second time. This time she wouldn’t survive. In the end she knew she wouldn’t be able to see her three children grow up, with her youngest daughter only 13. She knew she had to leave her husband behind. As the ultimate organiser of this young family she even arranged her own funeral.

A cruel realisation

I still have her message on my phone asking for our latest address. Reading this I got the uncomfortable feeling she was preparing for the worst, but somehow I couldn’t believe this was true, I must be crazy, and I blocked this distressing thought from my mind immediately. Only a week later I found out it was the painful truth. Thinking of the thoughts, the feelings, the emotions she must have felt approaching the end of her life, leaving her family behind, it’s something so incredibly sad and impossible to grasp. I have just one way to express what I feel as my own father had to undergo the same fate: cruel. The cruelty of a disease which slowly dominates the body, slowly killing it while the spirit, the mind, has the intense desire to stay alive and just live. Just live. There are still so many plans in life, so many reasons to live for, so many stories to tell.

Haunting thought

On the days my father was very ill with leukemia and had to stay in the hospital he still thought he would return home, that he would recover from all this and would continue living his precious life with my mother. His spirit was so much alive, his life wasn’t finished yet as he felt there was so much to live for. Spirit and mind full of life, while death creeps into the bodies, destroying organs, veins, cells and the very life blood. Being aware your body won’t survive and you will leave your partner, your children behind, while your mind is still very much alive and healthy. This realisation is one of the cruelest things in life. I think about this and I know it doesn’t make any difference, it doesn’t change a thing, but it haunts me. I need to burry this thought as I suspect I will never make friends with it as long as I live. The death of my father when I was 24 years, a young student who didn’t know much about life, changed me forever. My life which used to be light and without worry, except for the nerves around exam time, suddenly became troubled and heavy and although the sharp edges would fade over time, I knew it would never be the same.


Now I know death is life, life is death. Death is very much part of our lives. However, it doesn’t mean it is always fair. Death sticks his head around the corner, enters young lives, lives which need more time, lives which are full, lives which know love. I didn’t only feel grief, but also hopelessness and anger as it felt extremely unfair my father died of cancer, still young, just like it felt very unfair when our friend’s partner, mother of three children, died.

Tough guy

Last week on a Wednesday evening when I biked through the dark countryside on my way home from yoga class I was thinking of our friend who’s a widower now and a “mappa” as he calls himself (in Dutch: he’s both a pappa (dad) and mamma (mum)). I’m thinking of him and his family quite a lot, but don’t know what to say except that I’m thinking of them. These words accompanied by a heart emoticon I had sent him a couple of times these last months. I noticed that since I don’t know what to say, we’re living in separate countries and the fact he’s absolutely no talker, he’s a tough guy and isn’t particularly known for expressing his feelings, I refrained from getting in contact. That evening on my bike I suddenly thought this was not right. Why not send him another heart and let him know he’s on my mind, although I knew he’d probably reply “thank you” just like before? By the light of the moon and my bicycle lights I rode through the darkness that evening, feeling the crisp air on my face, and I decided to contact him as soon as I got home. I was glad I did since a conversation followed and I truly noticed it was appreciated. It seemed there was a little bit of hope shining through the words on the small screen of my phone in that moment. It’s strange, I know from experience how we need people to care for us when we’re grieving, friends who care for our loss and give us a warm hug, because there is not much to say, the fact somebody cares is all we need, but this time I hesitated. I was filling in his reactions as being a tough guy and thought that to keep sending hearts would be a stupid thing to do. No it certainly isn’t, we all need someone who cares, a distant friend in this case, when we’re dealing with personal loss. Like the sea connecting our countries we are connected by our human experiences of which death and loss are an integral part.


Con Amor,



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