Podstel – Place to be in Bucharest

Deeply rested after the meditation course, I continued the journey in Romania. Luckily I was not alone, but had some amazing people from the course with me. We travelled along the coast to Vama Veche, a beautiful little town at the shores of the Black Sea. Although the main season had passed, we could still get a taste of the atmosphere of what is still considered to be a hippie town. Indeed it has a special atmosphere.

joyful atmosphere on the shores of Vama Veche

We had a wonderful time, with many little adventures. Walking in the beach, watching the sun set or going for a mud bath.

It was really nice to have some meditators with me and extend the feeling we enjoyed at the retreat. Finally however the day came where the boys had to go back to their lives. We thus headed back to Bucharest.

Alone in Bucharest

After the last one of my travel mates had left, I was on my own for the first time since the journey had started. Having no plan may sound like a lot of fun, but it hit me right then, that it can also be quite a challenge. Not knowing where to go and what to do next, I decided to stay some more days and see where life would lead me to.

On Couchsurfing, I found Daniel. His personal story about travelling the world and eventually opening a hostel to create a special place for travellers inspired me. I still went for an Airbnb first. The story however kept coming up in my head and clearly pointed me to go that place – to Podstel Bucharest.

Beginning of a new adventure

The moment I arrived, I felt comfortable. Stepping in to their door, I was asked to name one of my favourite musicians. I was thus welcomed with Johann Sebastian Bach’s soothing vibes of harmony. This was indeed a special place and as I would soon find out, the beginning of yet another adventure.

After spending one night, I went for a long walk with Paulo, a medical doctor from Rio, who is part of the Podstel Team. We had a wonderful day, exploring Bucharest, its historical sights and its vibrant orthodox chapels. After that walk, Paulo asked me to stay. There was a special event coming up and he wanted me to participate.

The Annual Podstel Gathering

Once a year Podstel closes down its two hostels in Bucharest to gather all of their friends which they have met during their travels, to meet up, enjoy each others company and share the knowledge gained. As fate would have it, one of them had cancelled last minute so there was one spare bed for me.

Thus began yet another beautiful week. Admittedly it was bit tough at the beginning. Coming from a retreat of deep meditation, the change to the vibrant atmosphere of Bucharest and the hostel was rather drastic. Yet a good opportunity to integrate the increased level of silence. I stuck with my program, took my time and started to get to know what turned out to be a unique and highly diverse group of people, including retired high school teachers, life coaches, young entrepreneurs, business professionals, authors, students, nutritionists and enthusiastic travellers.

In the mornings we had the opportunity to participate in Yoga classes from an Ashtanga Yoga teacher. I immediately signed up and was indeed grateful to learn some more postures, gain some new insights and share the joy of practicing Yoga together.

Throughout the day we attended a variety of workshops. Although very condensed, some of them were quite inspiring. I especially enjoyed Hannah’s talk on minimalism. I had heard about the concept before and was keen to dive deeper into the topic. The idea of stripping away the excess and focusing on what’s important appealed to me. Especially since it is not just about the things we keep, but about the emotions we feel, about the actions we perform. It is about prioritising and finding what is dear to us in this life, about finding purpose and becoming part of a community that strives to spread love and inspiration. She rounded it up wonderfully with the phrase: “create more than you consume”.

Equally inspiring was Cynthias introduction in the mucus less diet healing system. This concept was brought up by Arnold Ehret, a German nutritionist from the early 20th century. He suggested cutting out any food that would build mucus in the body, which in its essence points to a mainly plant-based diet, with lots of raw fresh food. Cynthia herself had lived on that diet for a couple of years now and it had helped her to free her body of toxins and more so, to get in tune with nature. I could sense right a way, that she spoke from a position of love and clarity. Not only from what she said, but from the delicious food she prepared for us.

These are just two of many beautiful presentations dealing with a variety of topics such as, traveling the world for free, understanding and dealing with one’s fears or the art of seduction.

Besides the inspiring presentations we went on an amazing hike, to which I will dedicate its own little entry, and rounded it off with a relaxing day at the spa. In that week I learned a great deal of transforming knowledge and more so, built many new friendships. Friendships for future travels and maybe even for common projects. I am truly grateful for that magnificent week.

group shot of the Annual Podstel Gathering 2018

Should you ever be in Bucharest, go check out Podstel. It is a wonderful place where both travellers and locals get together and share the joy of knowledge and inspiration.

Lovely people, deep wisdom and ever increasing bliss

Just one day after my last day at work, I flew over to Bucharest, Romania to start my little adventure. The days before had been somewhat chaotic so I felt relieved, that finally the journey had begun.

In Bucharest I met up with some friends from Germany, so that we could depart together to  Mamaia, Romania to attend the International Young Meditators Course. Mamaia is a beautiful little land strip located at the Black Sea. We were very lucky to have both the beaches of the Black Sea, as well as a beautiful lake right next to the Hotel we were staying at.

Black Sea shores in Mamaia

We were welcomed with open hearts and thus began 10 beautiful days full of joy and deep meditation.

Transcendental Meditation

The International Young Meditators Course is an event, organised by the Global Country for World Peace. In this course young people from all over the world come together to practise Transcendental Meditation (TM), brought to the world by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.

TM is a simple to learn technique with profound effects. Not only is it joyful to do, but you can actually witness the transformation you undertake, expanding your consciousness and living a more joyful life. It is taught one on one by a certified teacher. After receiving your mantra, you continue to practise twice a day for 20 minutes. Having tried different techniques before, I stuck with this one as it provided a systematic and effortless access to that inner field of absolute bliss and silence. A field I had formerly tapped into just by mere chance.

On such a course the routine consists of three main ingredients: deep prolonged meditations and Yoga, knowledge sessions, dealing with a variety of spiritual topics, and sharing the joy of togetherness.

Deep rounding and the group effect

Due to the support of both the environment and the experienced teachers, we were able to prolong our usual programme, during the course. We did two rounds in the morning and two more in the afternoon. One round consists of a set of Yoga Asanas, Pranayama, TM and rest. The Asanas are easy to do and help to direct your awareness on your inner body, preparing you for the meditation. Being relaxed and warmed up, you continue with Pranayama, more specifically anuloma viloma, a breathing exercise. This breathing exercise increases the coherence of the brain and calms you down even further allowing you, in the most gently manner, to drift over to the meditation practise itself.

Being in a group, you are supported by each of its members. One might think that meditation was only an individual and exclusively inward directed technique, but on subtle levels you keep interacting with your environment. Diving into the deeper levels of your Self, you create a higher level of coherence, not just within, but around you as well. Now imagine being in a room with 50 people, each of them radiating peace and love, you might begin to understand the cumulative effect that is created. It is a silent and joyful atmosphere conducive to deep experiences.

With each day I began to shake away the stressful days before the journey and explored deeper states of being, feeling joyful and connected to everything that is.

High spiritual knowledge

Another beautiful aspect of the course were the knowledge sessions. Usually a tape of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi would be presented. Dealing with all sorts of topics, from higher states of consciousness, the concept of karma to practical day to day wisdom, like the proper way of communication. I enjoyed each of the tapes for the knowledge displayed stimulated my thirst for wisdom and gave practical advice.

One thing that really stuck with me is “Yogasthah Kuru Karmani” – established in Yog (Self, Being), perform action. To be established in Self, means that you are your true Self. It is that transcendent quality within yourself. When you dive deep in meditation you might access exactly that. It is rather vague in the beginning, difficult to comprehend, yet strangely familiar and peaceful. Experiencing this state on a regular basis, more and more of it will be integrated and become vivid within yourself. You peel of layer after layer of all the constructs that are built around yourself to eventually become your true Self. Being established in this state means that there are no more constructs, just you. You don’t worry about the future or past, about success or failure, you are simply present in the moment and from that state, you perform action. Stemming from that level of joy and silence, the resulting actions will be much more powerful and beneficial, not just for yourself but for everybody around you.

Friendships built

In the environment of the course this idea becomes ever more vivid. Experiencing that state of being on a daily basis, the creativity and joy rises and rises. In each conversation I had, I experienced deep connectedness and inspiration. It was actually during this course that I became more and more inspired to actually write this blog. But it is not just the deep mediation and conversation, but more so the prolonged walks on the beach, the swimming in the ocean, the music by the lake and the beautiful outing to the Danube Delta, that gave great joy and became the foundation of many new formed friendships.

It is a true delight to experience such an immediate connection with people from all around the world. Each of us has its own cultural and personal background, its story to tell, yet on the level of being we are all connected. 

My friend Dorian and me enjoying a most stunningly beautiful sunset

Connect and share the joy

It is that experience of connectedness that provides optimism for the time to come, for it is not just this little group of mediators that radiates love and positivity.

I think we can consider ourselves lucky to be part of this period, in which collective consciousness is on the rise. Now to boost this rise even further, I would deem it essential not only to create more of these groups, but to start connecting with others as well. Start to see the common purpose, regardless of your cultural background, of the meditation technique you practice and the religion or philosophy you follow. So we may experience together the joy of this life, as we did during this wonderful course. 

Group shot of the 2018 International Young Meditators Course

The Courage to fail

This post elaborates on the topic of failure. Failure is usually associated with feelings of negativity and sorrow. However, depending on our perception, it can be a valuable teacher. To develop that attitude it is important to understand where these feelings come from, which lays foundation to a more accepting approach, eventually leading to an appreciation of failure as a teacher.

Where does it come from?

We live in a world driven by performance and perfectionism. It begins in the very early days of our education. When we are in primary school, grades are introduced to give us a feedback on our performance. There are tests, competitions and exams. What starts out as a rather innocent comparing between the pupils, reaches the parents. They themselves have in most cases specific expectations of their children, which leads, depending on the grades, either to complements or admonitory words, causing the parents to apply a little extra pressure. After all the grades determine which secondary school and later on which university we can attend.

It is not just in school though. In sports, music, arts… whatever it is, there is in many cases very little room for actual expression, or rather it is overshadowed by the exaggerated focus on performance. We are expected to perform. Failure is simply not an option.

The willingness to be our very best is totally natural. It is an essential part of evolution. But the expectation, be it our own or the one of our peers, to excel at everything we do, puts a relentless pressure on us. Some might argue that the pressure is helpful or even needed, in many cases however it may lead to results, that are not to the best of our abilities and more so, do not meet up the set expectations.

How can we deal with failure?

There are different ways to deal with failure. Usually it may come with a reaction of disappointment or with the promise to work even harder next time. But when failure continues to happen it may lead to a bitterness and to a fear – the fear to fail again. This is a very delicate situation as it hinders us to take risks, to explore new paths – quit the job that makes us unhappy, end the relationships that do not fulfil us, or just do the things we secretly want to do.

But this is not the only way to deal with failure. We can also try to accept and understand it, see the beauty in it. We can ask ourselves questions like: Why did I fail? Why do I feel so bad about it? What is it I really want to do?

To elaborate on the question of why, many answers are possible. It might be a poor preparation. In many cases however, we feel we have prepared ourselves pretty well and yet still the results were not satisfactory. Often it is our worries, that hinder us to do the best we can. It is the fear to fail. To reduce that pressure prior to the event, one possible approach is to imagine the worst possible outcome. We may tend to dramatise the situation. Sure there will be disappointment, but we will still be the beautiful beings we are, just a bit wiser than before. Even if it means that a certain career path can not be pursued, or a relationship will not work out other doors will open, new chances will arise.

Still, why do we feel so bad about it? This can mainly be seen in the expectations we have. It is not only our own expectations, but the expectations of our peers and on a bigger level even of society itself. We feel bad about failing, because the results do not fit the image that has been created around us. It therefore questions not just our ability, but our whole personality. This can be very painful.

However it is exactly that pain, that vulnerability that allows us a deeper understanding of ourselves. We may find out that the constructs we had built around ourselves are not true. Now we could just try to cling to them, but if we apply loving acceptance, we may actually get rid of one of these false images. This is a beautiful thing as it widens our horizon, and brings us closer to our true self. It brings us closer to what it actually is we want to do. What it is that makes us happy and therefore allows peak performance very naturally and joyfully.

Seeing failure as the beautiful teacher it is

In the end failure itself is not a bad thing. If we apply a loving and accepting attitude, these situations not only provide a deeper understanding of ourselves but can give directions.

Applying that mindset the fear to fail will fade away and eventually give rise to the courage to fail. An attitude that allows you to innocently try out the things you want to do. To act without tension and pressure, but rather from a field of silence and enthusiasm, allowing you to enjoy every bit of life.

I therefore encourage you to see the beauty in failure, to accept it as the valuable learning experience it is. Let it help you to grow and guide you on your own path, leading to ever increasing happiness.