Written by Christina Zipperlen
Originally posted here.
I question things. I always have. I question rules, dogmas, the meaning of life – and myself. The last one a little too much in the past…to the point of eating disorders, low self esteem and depression as a teenager. I am deeply grateful – and relieved – that I was able to turn this self-destructive self-doubt around.
How did it change? I guess it started with my therapist introducing me to meditation, yoga and breathing techniques when I was 17 – with which he changed my life … if not to say saved it. I know that a big portion of my recovery stems from falling in love with these practices – and thus with my life and body. I wasn’t familiar with fancy yoga teachers, never had been to a yoga studio (at the time none even existed in the small town in Bavaria I grew up in), I didn’t know yoga outfits or special yoga language were a thing and I certainly didn’t post yoga pictures on Instagram (Facebook wasn’t even around yet). All I knew was that it felt good to breath, to gently move my body, to just be, helping me to learn and become friends with myself and this body again, allowing me to drop the fears, sadness and anger for a moment.
I learned that when I studied and meditated on Lakshmi, I was able to find a manageable way to notice positive qualities in myself. It didn’t feel like I was praying to a foreign goddess. I felt that I was acknowledging and invoking her qualities in my own being. Qualities such as generosity, gratitude, respect and valuing sustainability. I also started seeing those qualities in others more clearly. When I reflected on Ganesh, I felt supported by his strength to help me overcome challenges in my life that I felt too small to tackle on my own. When I tuned into the essence of Saraswati, I deeply felt the gratitude for the arts and creativity flowing through me, allowing me to notice this magical life force. And when I felt Durga, I connected with my own strength, sense of justice and courage. In other words, I found tools to connect more deeply with my human qualities. I had found playful ways to bring out the best in me, to allow vulnerability, to feel supported and not alone.
Eventually, my devotion to these practices of studying yoga, meditation, the power of our thoughts, pranayama and mantra led me into the big, colorful New Age jungle of self development and yoga. The moment I arrived in Bali 8 years ago, I felt home. It felt like this magical place was embracing me and I fell in love with the devotion present everywhere on this precious island.
Shortly after I moved to Bali though, I was also introduced to the other side of the yoga world. I found myself living in one of the centers of it all – the very town ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ was written in. I discovered a level of materialism, exploitation and sense of elitism that I didn’t expect in a world that advertises bliss, acceptance, love and peacefulness. I felt confused to come across charlatans taking people’s money for healing practices they hadn’t mastered. I felt disheartened to encounter marketing geniuses using the symbolism of yoga as just yet another stream of income.
At that point when the internal questioning started, I had already founded my company – a jewelry & clothing brand working with mantras, Hindu gods and goddesses and yoga apparel targeting exactly that market. So I unavoidably had to come to the question: How do I justify running a company that uses this exact symbolism from a culture I wasn’t born into? Was I creating just another yoga brand with empty symbols trying to monetize a culture that isn’t mine?
Fortunately, my questioning nature is a good listener and has learned to converse with my soul quite eloquently over the years. And my soul had its answer ready: “Well, you know,” it explained, “the thing is, these gods, symbols and practices aren’t empty to me. They are home. I feel deeply honored to be sharing the beauty they brought into my life with others who might benefit from these messages. It is what makes me sing and lights me up. I love sharing these symbols to invoke qualities such as trust, love, courage and a sense of justice in others. Some of my favorite days are when the local Balinese priest comes to our office to bless our creations and pray for our team. This is not a religion. It is a practice of being more human, more vulnerable and more embracing of who we are and who we can be. That is the part I want to share. I want to share the feeling of peace when we meditate, when we drop self-doubt, when we love and accept others, when we take care of our planet. And when we feel that we are at home and nothing needs to be questioned because we are 100% in alignment with our purpose.”
And I have to agree with my soul – I know that this is what I want to be doing in my life: To pass on the healing I have experienced. These practices have become a part of who I am. I am not claiming that I was born into a Hindu culture. But I live in one now and have for many years. These practices have added a richness, brightness, healing and hope to my life that I never felt before – and they vibrate in and through me. And through it all, cultural appropriation is a topic beyond close to my heart. I live on an island of constant prayer, offerings and devotion that are penetrating my heart, soul and artistic expression and is all that wants to come forth when I create. So when I sit down to draw or design, they are what wants to emerge.
It is my prayer that these messages are felt. That together we can get past a world where humans exploit each other, the planet or themselves.