There were so many firsts! I experienced my first trip to the Arctic! I was invited to teach a private Yoga retreat for a small community of goldsmiths in the Sami village of Kautokeino, Norway. I flew into Oslo, Norway and met with a friend whom I'd met a couple of years ago on another Yoga retreat on a private island in Greece! It was wonderful to tour the city with a local! I arrived at noon and we met at a cafe. After drinking some much needed caffeine, we started our walking tour of the city. We walked along the river, Akersleva, from the Nordre Gate neighborhood. We walked all over the city from the Opera House overlooking the Inner Oslofjord, to the Palace, theatre, oldest Church / building in Oslo, to a sculpture garden high up on the hillside, down Lover's Lane (Kjaerlighetsstein) to the Vulcan, a riverside area of hipster restaurants and street art.
I flew from Oslo to Alta (2.5 hour flight) and then got on a bus to Kautokeino (2.5 hours away via bus) in a mild snow storm. The bus driver didn't seem to mind at all as he chewed and twisted his gum with great enthusiasm, speeding around curves without the slightest care, as I sat white knuckled the whole time, chanting the Maha Mrtyunjaya Mantra for my long life!
I arrived at the highest point in Kautokeino, where the only hotel in the village was perched. I was lovingly met by my dear friend Sunniva Juhls, who I also met on a Yoga retreat I taught on Silver Island. She is the daughter to the creators of Juhls Gallery. Her parents created an Gallery/Museum/Living Community in Kautokeino and she wanted me to offer Yoga to her employees.
Her mother, Regina, left Germany during World War II and found herself cross country skiing Norway. When she met the Sami reindeer herders in northern Norway, she lived and learned from them. When they told her they needed a goldsmith to create and repair their traditional jewelry, she and her husband went to Sweden in search of a goldsmith to apprentice under. After being refused for weeks, they finally met an old goldsmith who took them in and taught them his craft. He gave them tools to start when they returned home. Upon returning to Kautokeino, they built a one room home/workshop and began their life long legacy, building a new addition to their "home" every decade, sharing Sami culture with everyone who walks through their doors.
Regina is now 76 years old. So she didn't take the public classes I offered everyone else daily for 2 weeks for 2 hours per class. We met privately so I could work with her on an individual basis. She is a remarkable woman, with loads of stories of her world adventures! She is a woman after my own heart! She is a true explorer! Her collections range from the souks of north Africa, to Russia, to India, to all over Scandinavia! Her mission is to uplift traditional, nomadic people from all over the world and her inspiration comes from the nature and solitude she surrounds herself with!
Kautokeino is the perfect setting for a Yoga retreat! It is majestically still and quiet. The sky paints an ever-changing portrait of peace, perfect for meditation. The severe cold encourages one to stay indoors and look inward. Our focus was the head, neck and shoulders, establishing balance in the physical body through the foundation. We were a fluctuating group of 7-14 people and we all made fast friends. Since many of the goldsmiths live on site, we were able to enjoy some special time together.
I got to offer various Ayurvedic Healing Treatments and shared 1 on 1 time with new friends. I was invited to a Chinese Rooster New Year celebration, my first! We shared a traditional "hot pot" meal, cooking various ingredients we all brought, in the simmering broth, that we sat around for hours! We laughed, shared stories and represented 7 different countries: Norway, Sweden, Finland, USA, Germany, Turkey, and China. We wrote our "New Year" wishes and dreams on a tissue paper balloon that was inflated from the heat of a candle. We sent our hopes into the sky that was colored with aurora borealis here and there.
We celebrated our life together! From the darkness of the winter season, from November to mid January, the sun hides away from view. I was lucky to be there for the first sunrise of 2017! I went cross country skiing, with thoughts of Regina's epic adventures in my head, in -15* Celcius weather, to a place high up in the mountain plateau where regina built a bench to sit and contemplate and write her poetry. Her bench was buried almost to the top back! but I stood were she sits and looked upon magnificent view that captured her heart. I witness the rising sun as it peaked up above the hillside around noon time. As I was skiing back "hOMe", I get to see it set within the same hour it rose! That was a first for me!
I was reminded of the Gayatri Mantra, which is one of the oldest mantras next to OM. And I found myself chanting it often when I would see the sun. It is chanted as a greeting to the Sun, Surya or Savitur, which was praised as the life giving energy.
Here it is written in it's original script:
ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः ।
भर्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑ धीमहि ।
धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त् ॥
Om Bhuh Bhuvah Svah
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yo nah Prachodayat
~ The Rig Veda (10:16:3)
"O thou existence Absolute, Creator of the three dimensions, we contemplate upon thy divine light.
May our intellect be stimulated and bestow upon us true knowledge."
Listen to the Gayatri Mantra