Yoga and it’s relation to meditation and the power of home-made food / Travel Insights Series #3

This is part 3 of my reflection series on the travel insights I had during my 14 month trip through South-America and how I am applying them being back in ‘normal life’. You can find part 1 here and part 2 here.

The second place I went on to volunteer at was another farm in Brazil close to Sao Paulo. This farm, however, was focusing on using their vast space to host events rather than focus on agriculture (they had some staff for it, but kept it on a minuscule scale). The dwellings belonging to the farm were beautifully restored. Scattered all around the property, they included a swimming pool, a bar, and a chapel that hosted weddings. Our task as volunteers was to help with housekeeping and running the events – catering, ticketing, setting spaces

Due to the variety of our assignments, we had no fixed schedule, which made it difficult to be ‘off’ work, never knowing when you’d be expected to help again. We were in a rather remote area as well with nowhere to go. A fantastic plus was having a restaurant-sized kitchen at our disposal to e.g., make yogurt, etc. (see more below). I spent a good two weeks at this farm, leaving all together with some new friends I had made and others who I am still in touch with to this day.

Again, I will show you a part of my post and then write my reflection and how I am taking this into my current life.

Left farm no. 2. It’s been a place full of new experiences and challenges of adapting to an ever-changing schedule and environment. Yet I’ve shared it with great people in our small green volunteer house, which quickly became home 🙂 and which I will miss ❤️

I learnt how to make yogurt and cheese (and vegan ice cream out of bananas ❤️), indulged in popcorn over movie nights, shared many fun conversations and connected with people. It’s awesome what each of us can contribute to a community of travelers: recipes and homemade food, haircuts, embroidery, handmade bracelets, songs, guitar play, life stories,…

So many ‘product’ can be made from scratch, for example yogurt, bread, cheese…! I wish we would still learn more about this. However, being in a country such as Germany where a lot more products are available at a low price, I understand why people wouldn’t spend their time making things from scratch all the time. I remember making natural yogurt in Brazil and Peru because unsweetened yogurt was hard to come by and expensive. Here in Germany, you can buy organic yogurt for a little over one dollar for 500 grams, so no, I do not have to make it myself anymore….

It isn’t only about the price either. There is a lot of satisfaction in creating a meal or food in general. You can see the result immediately, instead of having to wait for a while, which is the case in most scenarios in life. I have met people who loved kneading bread dough, or who could spend hours on some peculiar task such as decorating a cake. Call it meditative creation 😉

I had the chance to practice my Portuguese at the farm’s festival, selling coupons as the cashier and making drinks at the bar – finally putting into practice what I’ve been working on over the past months! Shows again that the best way to learn a language is by simply speaking with whatever you have!

I experienced beautiful and experimental concerts – small artists who are given space to express themselves in beautiful surroundings.

It shows that a remote place doesn’t have to be lonely or boring – get a few people together, and the whole place will change its atmosphere.

This place also taught me that it isn’t necessarily about being in a ‘vibrant area,’ but that people can enrich your life – you don’t need a buzzing concert to create a great atmosphere. Everywhere in the world, you will be able to find people that you will connect to, as long as you stay open for new experiences. Everyone you meet can teach you something, and has a story to share as long as you create a space that is conducive to do so! I am feeling grateful to have read this old post of mine, as I started thinking in a very narrow mindset once back in Germany, thinking I would have a hard time meeting people who I would be able to connect with (and of course and thank God I was wrong in that).

I learned how yoga is not only exercise but how it can deeply connect you with yourself and be a way of meditation in itself.

Over the last months, I haven’t been practicing yoga as much as I thought I would. I have focused on some higher intensity home workouts as I felt that was more beneficial to me during the winter with me not being active outside much. However, I have found my meditation practice to increase whenever my yoga practice decreases, as if one is trying to make up for the lack of the other. I definitely see the connection that the two have. Yoga is much more than exercise and has so many more facets to it than is known to most people. I feel as if I’ve only dipped my toe into the beginning of this vast ocean an hope that I will continue to explore it!

I learned how feeling into an uncomfortable feeling instead of trying to suppress it through food/drinks/distraction will help make it ease away.

Feeling into uncomfortable feelings instead of suppressing them with food – well, this one is one that I am totally aware of and still majorly struggle with!

Food seems like a lazy way to ease a bad feeling. It’s like knowing you should make a salad or a wholesome meal, but you reach for some processed snack instead, just for the ease of it…. I have found moments in these past weeks where I found myself reaching for food because I was upset/bored etc. first questioned myself in WHY I really wanted to make that feeling go away. Sitting with it for a while, noticing it, feeling into it, is not exactly bliss but it eventually eases and that’s when you start feeling more whole again (and proud of yourself for going through the struggle). Most people I know struggle with meditation and I thoroughly think that the struggle is the moment that we can learn from as long as we’re willing to go through it.

I learned how challenging yet necessary it is for me to set boundaries (in this case, about my own time and work vs. being available all the time).

This place for me was one that taught me that disorganization could cost you so much time, even when you have quite some at hand.

I often think about how to maximize what I get out of my time. Sometimes you waste time by being disorganized, misplacing things, starting one task without finishing it, jumping over to the next. I also get reminded that when you have a job that is not 9-5 but in which you are expected to be available outside of that timeframe in case necessary, you need to make sure to set your own boundaries: replying to emails at times that you don’t think are interfering with your own private time, i.e., not during weekends or late at night. By setting your own boundaries, you are protecting yourself from being ‘always on call.’

And my stay reminded me again and again how age is just a number and how it differs from the age we actually radiate! You can learn so much from people younger and older than you, and it is great to see that the older you get, the younger your soul can seem. ☀️

Again, I knew this, and I encourage other people to try it! I have fantastic friends that are twice my age and friends that are over a decade younger than me. I have learned from both sides and seen a maturity in certain aspects well beyond the years in my younger friends and a sort of ‘playfulness’ in people you’d think of as much more serious!

One of my friends once gave me the quote’ strangers are simply friends you haven’t met yet,’ and from my own good experience, I often think back of this quote fondly!

On a practical note….
I experienced that electricity is not a given and how to adapt to a day or night without it. Internet at home can be such a luxury (every time it rained, our internet at home went off – so quite often :P).

I’m constantly on the verge of hating how connected we are thanks to the internet and at the same time deeply grateful for it. Another point I’m trying to figure out how to handle it within life. These days I think the benefits of a good internet connection are again even more highlighted than at other times.

However, I am feeling the danger of always updating the news, which is seemingly changing every couple of hours. There is, even more, a need now to use the internet responsibly.

I also experienced how nature can turn a tiny creek at the back of our house into a raging stream after just a couple of hours of rain 😛
Arriving in a city after three weeks on the farm was surprisingly disappointing. Nothing I had missed, not even the coffee shops. All I wanted to see was some green nature…
Quickly found the next remote place ….update soon. Hint: I’m finally at the beach 😉

And this is what the post will be about – volunteering in a different setting.

The last point again is one that made me most happy to have experienced. I’m even less materialistic than before my trip and am finding less and less value in the convenience and consumerism of larger cities.

The simple farm life / Travel Insights Series #2

Here comes part 2 of my blog series about reflecting on my travel insights from my 14 months in South-America. If you’re curious about part 1, jump here: Accepting myself without make-up.

This week’s reflective post talks about my first experience of working as a volunteer on a farm in Brazil. The farm was a recently created small area by a local who had traveled the world for several years before deciding to take over his ancestor’s land. He had created a space for people to practice meditation and yoga, set up a cafe with live-concerts and a mandala garden for people to handpick vegetables of their choice. I spent about 2 weeks there. The farm was located along a dirt road and we were not able to go anywhere. Food was purchased in town twice a week but we mostly ate what we were able to harvest. It was a very simple and no-frills place filled with people who put their hearts into this kind of work and worked on the mindset of living a simple lifestyle.

I’m going to comment below each of the ‘bullet points’ I had written regarding this place.


Leaving the first farm…

Some reflections on what I experienced and learnt.

Most of them are things I knew but you get new awareness about them when you’re exposed to these situations first-hand:

1. Farming is really hard work and I have lots of respect for people who choose this as a profession. It’s so easy to just grab veggies from a tray at the store. But if you have to grow them from a seed to a seedling to a fully grown plant (and harvest when you need food to cook with) you realize how much work is behind this and how much we take a large choice and beautiful veggies for granted (and how we complain when things aren’t available/look beautiful/change in price due to bad weather/harvest)

This had been my first farm-stay during this trip. I had experienced some in Japan a few years before, so it didn’t feel like a completely new territory. 

It did, however, bring a fresh wave of awareness regarding food production for me. I was reminded that our perfect-looking food often means that it is ‘modified’ or ‘adjusted’ in a way that makes us consumers buy it. The food that we are buying in the supermarket often isn’t 100% natural, even though we might look at a salad and picture it coming right from a small farm’s field, that’s being farmed by hand.

It also sparked the wish for me to have my own place at one point, where I can grow fruit and veggies. I’m still more than far from that, but looking at farmland now, makes me wish that I could just knock on the door and help out for a few hours, digging in the dirt, turning beds, planting seeds, harvesting and feeling that close connection with the land…

2. Living with little can be as rewarding as living in an overflow. You work with what you have and can be totally satisfied with it. This refers to food for example: my cravings for sweets and snacks almost completely vanished as they simply weren’t available or had to be made from scratch. And the little snacks I brought with me became a real treasure ❤️ you definitely appreciate what you have a lot more! (And someone baking a chocolate cake can make your week!)

Well…. Back in Germany, I am totally enjoying eating all the good chocolate that can be bought here (It is chocolate heaven in the supermarket!).

The living with little still applies to my life though. I moved to a new city on the train with a small suitcase and my backpack and have hardly increased my possessions – and thanks to Corona, I’m not tempted much anyway. Joke aside, I don’t think it will change my shopping habits as I have tried to reuse as much as possible, even things I bought 10 years ago for my first flat in the Netherlands and that I’ve kept since then!

3. I tackled my fear of cooking for other people (especially a group of people). I love cooking but mainly for myself (I can take my own judgment about my food :P). At the farm I had to cook for the volunteers sometimes and it was excruciatingly difficult for me in the beginning. I wasn’t familiar with some spices and the limited selection of ingredients that I would have usually used. However, something in my attitude and mindset shifted and after a while, I just didn’t think about my fear anymore but just went on with the cooking! (still don’t think I’m the greatest at cooking but at least I can feed hungry mouths ;)).

This was one aspect I had worked on during the year.  I am quite an introvert and like living by myself. I love cooking but I am not used to cooking for other people much. When I cook for myself and don’t like it, then I just have to take it the way it is. I remember growing up surrounded by people who feared other people’s judgment about their cooking very much. It was always seen as a scary thing to do, almost being sure the other people wouldn’t like it. 

I’m aware that this aspect stands for a much bigger issue – the fear of criticism and of being rejected for the way one is. Again, this is probably something most people struggle with and it might express it for me in my fear of cooking for others. As always, confronting the fear helps and realizing that if being judged, that it would be the meal that would be subject of the criticism and not your own person directly.

4. The biggest obstacle in life is yourself. You’re able to make yourself feel the worst and the best at the same time, depending on your attitude. And yes, that’s a lot easier said than done and a real skill to (continuously) work on in life 😉
Now off to the next farm and new experiences!

Hm, wise-me. I don’t think I can add much more to this other than that I’m hyper-aware of this every single day. I have to watch out, to not beat myself up too much and show compassion towards my own ‘flaws’ and I hope so do all of you. ❤

Back next week! Stay safe, healthy and sane everyone!