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Lyn Laubscher

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March 2016

A yogic heroin

My Seated Buddah

Yoga and art have helped me through many a challenging time.

In 2000, needing a change of direction (a reinvention, if you will) I arrived in Taiwan, in time for the very noisy Chinese New Year celebrations, to teach English.

The challenges

The challenges were many: the culture shock; the struggle to get what was agreed in my employment contract; the incredibly long hours; the lack of sleep; and the nearly complete isolation.

For my first trip outside of South Africa (except for traveling to Zimbabwe with my parents, as a child), I chose to not only go to the other side of the world alone without support but I chose to go to a place that did not speak English.  I have never shied away from challenges, and have sometimes even sought them out but this was taking it to a whole new level.  My poor guardian angels were working overtime to keep me safe and sane.

The only help I had was a travel guide book and an English / Mandarin dictionary.  My only communication with home for the first two months (until I found an internet cafe and discovered the joyous wonder of email for the first time) was letter writing, which took several weeks to get a reply on.  This was even before mobile had become commonplace.

I was constantly tired from getting only 3-4 hours sleep a day, six days a week.  Giving night classes at the school, I still had to travel to Taipei to attend classes in the required teaching methodology, before dashing back to Tsaotun (central Taiwan) to prep for the nights classes and then only walk back home at around 2 in the morning after marking and closing up.

It was just a few months after a 7.6 earthquake (known as the 921 quake – 21 September ’99) epi-centered just a few kilometers from Tsaotun, which killed more than 2400 people and injured 11000 more.  The large cracks in the thickest of concrete structures were still vividly evident everywhere.  The broken buildings, roads and windows revealed the power of nature, like I had never seen it before, and gave my first quake experience a new perspective as it taught me how to completely surrender.

Taiwan, in the midst of election preparations, was being constantly buzzed by Chinese fighter planes threatening against opposition to its reunification.  Even as trucks, heavily ladened with enormous loudspeakers, where trawling up and down the streets at all hours of the day and night bombarding all and sundry with unintelligible election promises.

I rarely knew exactly what it was that I was eating, both because I was unable to read the menu’s but also because what was supposed to be ‘pork’ did not taste or look like any pork I’d eaten before.  I discovered that I fortunately had a fairly strong constitution, for most visitors would become ill within the first week.

I regularly cried at the treatment of the poor animals and cringed at the things I saw in the markets, bewildered that they could even be considered food.

Being a good head and shoulders above every other resident, I tended to stand out and quickly realized that to try to blend in was a lost cause.  I made peace with it, mostly ignoring the open stares and trying to not get upset at the blatant rudeness of it all.  I was also the only white female in the town (the only others being: two Mormon missionaries and the headmistress’ fiancé), which added to my ‘oddity’ status.

During one bus journey, going to morning studies in Taipei, with such hectic humidity that the interior condensation literally ran down the inside walls of the bus and dripped off the ceiling, I had an uncomfortable experience.  It was not the drips off the ceiling running through my hair, which made me uncomfortable, nor was it the incessant staring.  This time, it was a couple of fellow passengers, a group of forward women.  Pointing at me, they chatted amongst themselves, as they stared at me with expressionless, unreadable faces.  This was nothing new but it all changed when they surrounded me.  Pushing right into my personal space, they reached out to touch my face, arms and hair, as though to make sure that I was real.  It was like something out of a horror movie at first, until I realized that they were simply curious – and that itself was curious.

Meditation kept me sane

Though challenging, Taiwan gave me such a great deal of learning and growth in return.

Living on the 11th floor (of the only building in town over four floors in height) I overlooked a mountain upon which stood a beautiful Taoist temple.  On Sundays (my only day off) I would brave up and go exploring the town, especially appreciating the many temples and shrines on every street.  Back at the apartment, I began to meditate whilst looking out over the temple, to reenergize myself for the coming week.

I found inner peace and calm, and so began my journey to yoga.

Yogic beginnings

Back home, having found such benefit in meditation I took it further to learn yoga and It was a perfect and natural fit.

There is a saying that…when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

I was fortunate enough to find an Iyengar yoga instructor who became a mentor.  When she later moved away our bond was halted.  Though sad, it was also beautiful, as it kept the experience about the yoga and connection to the Creator and that personal journey, rather than becoming about a ‘guru’.

A yogic heroin

Standing prayer.jpg

Yoga and meditation have allowed me to explore so many new and exciting revelations about my own mind, body, abilities and soul…that there could be no doubt that the heroin of ‘Birthplace of the sun’ would need to embody that.

She would need to access her ancient memories, seamlessly connect with the Creator (God) and be able to heal others.  She’d have wisdom and faith to overcome the evil, hate-filled ghosts, which haunted and sought her destruction.  She had to not only be a spiritual person but also a very strong woman, as she grew in her power to face her demons.  And finally, she needed to be compassionate as one of the Birthmothers of Earth, to complete her mission and save her people…and that is what she became…

References

Taiwan 1999 earthquake: http://www.history.com/topics/1999-taiwan-earthquake

 

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of downward dogs and life lessons

You have made tangible the previously intangible. Yoga has called you to truly understand and share its beautiful essence on your journey, and you have done so with stunning eloquence. Thank you so much for sharing this, Chanyado.
Lyn Laubscher

chanyado

The Lion

I am five years old. My mum has gone mad. Sitting on her heels, fingers splayed out on each knee, her eyes bulge out, pupils rolling back into her head. Her mouth is wide open, so wide I am worried her skin may start to rip at the corners. Her tongue sticks out as if she is trying to catch raindrops. She breathes in. When she breathes out, a long aggressive ‘haaaaaaa’ comes out of her mouth. I am terrified. This is my first introduction to yoga.

Kapalbathi

My grandfather spends several minutes everyday sitting cross-legged on the floor doing a series of breathing exercises. He forcefully thrusts his stomach out and extends it as if he is mimicking being pregnant. And then all of a sudden it snaps all the way back in disappearing into his spine. His tummy undulates like a rippling fleshy wave, in and…

View original post 1,628 more words

The agony of art

Flooded temple

A personal perspective on the reason for preserving art and historically significant locations throughout the globe.

Egyptian Temples: moved, gifted and destroyed

I was always fascinated to hear my uncle recount his epic adventure drive up Africa, around Europe and on to Moscow, in the 60’s.   How he struggled with wild animals, no roads or accurate maps, warring nations and a shortage of supplies for there were no corner cafe’s to plunder with what cash he had.  Of particular interest were the grainy projected images flickering on the bed sheet hung against the basement garage wall, of Egypt’s temple marvels.  I drowned in unspeakable sadness when he shared what would no doubt be their flooded fate once the Aswan High Dam was filled to capacity.  Though interested, the rest of the group in attendance did not appear to share my appalled horror at their loss and that had always mystified me.

So imagine my joy at finding out that others had felt the same way and had actually saved many of them.  These angels of history had gone to considerable time, effort and expense to delicately and dangerously dismantle the tons of beauty, saving them.

 

Nubian temples copy
Relocation of Egyptian Temples

Twenty Two Nubian monuments, including the approximately 100 foot tall Abu Simbel Temples (right image: 1244 BC) were physically relocated to higher ground on the shores of Lake Nasser.  Despite that, some like the Buhen Fort could still not be saved.  A small number were even gifted to contributing nations, such as the Debod Temple in Madrid and another went to New York, which though not ideal and without a doubt highly controversial, at least assisted in their preservation.

Today the relocated temples (built by King Ramses II) are a major Egyptian tourist attraction, second only to the pyramids at Giza (4,575 years old), and have themselves repaid the costs of their recovery in the wonder of thousands of tourist dollars.

Udaipur sunken temple

Having long since buried my teenaged distress over the temples, it was a surprise when the emotions resurfaced after visiting the ‘Daughter and Mother in law’ temple (11th Century) located just outside Udaipur, in the north west of India.   On the way there I was exhausted, from days of traffic and traveling to get to the six cities I’d visited in just two weeks.  Leaving the driver behind, I walked tiredly down the hill noting a sign on the way, which revived me to an extent, for it resonated so strongly with me: ‘Sustain your heritage and feel glorious’.  At a distance though it was obvious that despite being sustained, a number of the steeply carved, stone roofs had been unfortunately lost to the ages.

Walking around I first admired the amazing craftsmanship of their creators, etched onto every inch of their exteriors.  The small (barely two meter wide) interiors did not disappoint either.  I imagined I could actually feel the presence of the crafters living on through their creations.  Looking up at the intricately carved ceilings made me a little nervous of entering some, for fear they may collapse due to their state of disrepair.  But, that did not prevent my risking life and limb, as their intricate beauty drew me irresistibly in.  Eventually having absorbed every corner and flattening my camera’s memory in the process, I’d seen them all.  Unwilling to just leave, I walked down to the lower edge of the complex to gaze out over the lake.  Standing beneath the beautifully carved stone archways, I took in the cleanliness and good repair of the grounds, and though sad that the monuments were showing their age, I appreciated the care that was obviously still taken of them.

Finally, dragging myself away I continued on my journey to a larger temple complex not far from there.  Barely half a kilometer down the road, whilst passing a lake, something caught my eye resulting in a double take.  The remains of a temple projected above the water to which it had obviously been sacrificed.  Begging the driver to pull over I quickly took the lead photograph of this blog.  I suddenly, and uncharacteristically, lost all desire to explore further that day, as I once more experienced the near pain of its destruction.  Being so near the ‘Daughter and Mother in law’ temple, was a good indication that the art of the sacrificed temple was similarly glorious, and possibly originated from the same local craftsmen.  But now…its Art and beauty were basically lost forever to the fish of the lake.

It had all been…about the Art!

The agony of it, which only fellow artists truly understand:  The decades of thankless up-skilling; the many hours planning for perfection; the agony of self-doubt fearing your own shortcomings to execute that perfection; the physical pain, injury and suffering sacrificed to every craft (the often literal blood, sweat and tears); and the time forever lost to its creation.  Finally, stepping back to really see and feel your contribution towards beautifying the ages, hoping it is enough to inspire others to experience it for themselves.

“I did not have to speak the language of the artist craftsman or even know their story to appreciate it…to feel it.  Art is the ultimate divinity of expression…and destroying it was tantamount to sacrilege.”

The examples above could possibly be considered excusable, as they were lost in the hope of a better future.  An entirely different matter is the willful destruction, and, or neglect of art and ancient sites of historical significance.  It doesn’t matter if it is for reasons of: rebellion; or the enforcement of a different ideology; or war; or for a lack of focus on preservation – the result is the same…an inexcusable loss of something precious.

Artistic beauty is the expression of joy, a celebration, and desire for peace, for to create it requires turning the mind away from negativity towards hope.

Birthplace of the Sun

Taking that all back home to South Africa meant that there could be only one location for my novel (‘Birthplace of the sun‘) and that was the Adams calendar site, in Mpumalanga (Views on the age of the calendar include: the oldest man made structure on earth, and 250 000 years old. Stonehenge, in the UK, by comparison is 5,115 years old).  It is hoped that increased awareness will ensure greater focus on its preservation, so that it may not one day be lost beneath a road, a development or another ploughed field.  Though the calendar has been left mostly untouched thus far, the many thousands of stone circles in the area have not been as lucky, for many have been flattened and lost to progress.  Those that remain have done so either by luck (due to their location not being easily accessible), or due to local farmer and landowner efforts to leave those on their lands undisturbed.

Think on the time it must have taken to determine the exact alignment of the stones to the solstices.  Imagine the effort it took to locate and transport the large stones, to then work them into shapes and stand them upright.  Wonder at the dangers its craftsmen faced, as they lived in a land that was still freely roamed by big 5 game, endangering their very lives.  How important this must have been to them to take the time and focus out of their daily survival requirements just to create it.  Sympathize with their artistic wounds that did not have a doctor or hospital to heal them and with no modern miracle medicines to prevent their infection.  Feel the pained hands working such hard rock with only the most basic and primitive of tools, and yet they persisted.  One has to admire the dedication required to create such a place and you have to feel it uplift your spirit in return.

We should all take action, in such struggles for retaining humanities artistic soul.  It is an unspoken duty to history and to those who walked these lands before us – an honouring of a sort.  An honouring of them, their efforts and hopes, as well as an honouring of our future generations need to still look upon and feel them for themselves.

If you agree with and / or have an opinion on this important issue please share this and comment here.  Thank you.

 

References not linked within the content above:

Egyptian temples:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aswan_Dam;
http://classroom.synonym.com/did-egyptian-government-relocate-temples-abu-simbel-6930.html
and http://www.touregypt.net/featurestories/Philae.htm

 

 

 

An incredible location

Calendar center stones 2 snap copy
The two center stones of the Birthplace of the Sun
The Birthplace of the Sun is situated just outside the small tourist town of Kaapse Hoop (Afrikaans for: ‘Cape’s Hope’) in the North Eastern province of South Africa, known as Mpumalanga (Zulu for: ‘The place where the sun rises‘).

I visited Inzalo Y’langa (Zulu for: ‘Birthplace of the Sun‘, also referred to as ‘Adam’s Calendar‘) in 2009, on a day tour led by Michael Tellinger.

He has extensively researched both the calendar and the thousands of stone circles in the area (Blog).  During his research, he consulted ancient African knowledge keepers who revealed that the site was linked, in local cultural lore, to the creation of humanity.  He notes on Facebook, ‘Inzalo Y’langa – Birthplace of the sun – (is) where humanity was created by the gods.’

Though considered to be many thousands of years old and being known to the ancient African knowledge keepers, the calendar was only brought to the attention of the public in 2003, by the South African pilot Johan Heine.  Whilst photographing the area from above one of his pilots crashed, and in trying to locate the crash site he came across the calendar.

The two center stones of the calendar act as a sundial, whilst its outer circle of stone uprights align to the compass points and solstices, tracking the movement of the sun about its circumference.

As I wondered about the site I felt compelled to meditate in two of its locations.  First, I touched the two center stones (pictured above) and felt such an incredibly powerful sense of love and connection to the universe that tears silently gathered in my eyes, as my heart overflowed with it.  Later, kneeling to touch the birth place stone, I got a sense of levitation and of floating weightlessly above the ground.  I should make it clear at this point, that though I love yoga and meditation, and have begun to write fiction, I am ordinarily a frightfully practical person who is seldom taken by flights of fantasy.

Those impressions were so powerful, however, that I can still feel them now, as I think back on it.  I decided to combine them with some of what is known of the site, and let the story flow about and through it all.

My inspired start

Art has always been my great love, my northern star in a sense, and I recently rediscovered a lost branch of it, writing.  How it happened…its rediscovery…is actually quite an odd story and one which undoubtedly motivated few other authors initially.

December 2015, found me without reading material and, being that laid back time of year just perfect for the pursuit, I knew it required immediate remedying.  Searching about, I simply could not find a sufficiently captivating read in the usual sources and locations.  Whilst racking my brain for creative new directions to scour, inspiration struck, and I decided to create one for myself.

I began with a single idea, as I do when I create a work of art, letting it develop naturally, thereby allowing it its own life and will.  I have the belief that true creativity is purely drawn from the Ether (a universal source, if you will), and that if one excessively tried to control its direction, it would lose its true beauty.  Or, as Michelangelo put it when asked how he created David, he said: “I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”  He was always there.

That single idea, for my first novel, was to highlight the existence of Africa’s very own ‘Stonehenge’.  Few in South Africa are even aware of its existence, never mind the need for its preservation.  In the news for some time now has been the frightful destruction of historically significant, often ancient and priceless, sites due either to conflicting modern ideologies or to progress – flooding areas to build dams or flattening lands for roads or buildings.  These tragedies need to be halted.  Things of beauty, intelligence and historical reference need to be kept sacred for our children.  With this in mind…there could be no doubt that central to my first novel had to be ‘Adam’s’ Calendar, know to locals as ‘Inzalo Y’langa’ or ‘Birthplace of the Sun’.

And so it all began.

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