Issue 7, 16 August 2012
|Teaching Trip to Holland and Belgium -
My teaching trip started with Long Weekend for Women,
13-16 July in Laren. From my point of view regarding lessons there
wasn’t any particular difference whether a group was women only or mixed, and I
believe that the other teachers shared my view, except for some of the evening
treatment sessions. However, it was interesting to hear from a young
participant, at the end of the course, that she doubted whether she would have
shared her feelings and thoughts so easily to new acquaintances if it had been
a mixed group.
The daily programme ran from 6:30am till 10:30pm with
1 and ½ hour break after lunch, with chanting, correction of posture, yoga
asana, meditation, acupressure, compresses and other treatments, philosophy,
sharing and out-door exercises, and with carefully selected natural vegan food.
These varied activities stimulated the participants, most of whom didn’t know
each other beforehand, first to bring out stress and tiredness from daily life,
to journey together in each other’s ‘up and down’ phases and then to open
up in the group as if towards their best friends. One participant said that she
had never experienced such deep inner silence before as she did during lessons
in this course.
It was not only the participants who had a
full schedule, but also the four staff members (Mizue, Sara, Valentine
myself) fully rotated in teaching, cooking and managing the
programmes or adapting to changing situations, with sensitive
required for 16 hours a day. Attending other teachers’ lessons
important in order to share a common experience with the participants.
Readers will understand why I counld take only one photograph at the
end of the
The key to working like this is not to do it with a
duty-mind or tight tension, but to try to consider the whole group and
situation as one’s own matter, which is another practice of expanding one’s
mind wider and deeper regarding what ‘I’ is. So, ‘Well done!’ to Sara and
Valentine, the two teacher trainee apprentices.
Thus spending time communally for 4 days, everybody touched
self-reflection, self-affirmation, and gratefulness to all; a taste of living
together with awareness of individual importance; the joy of living.
Laren Dojo is located in the country side in the middle of
Holland and has been guided by Mizue Tamaki since 1986. It is not a big
congress centre with elegant bedrooms or luxurious furniture. Instead, the
dining chairs are of a non-uniform design as gifted by different people, simple
hand-made cushion covers have been washed many times, now showing different
colours and shades, and many such things are prevailing harmoniously
in the pleasant living room that was previously part of a farm house. And, once
you get engaged into its courses, you will see the practical beauty of the
big-barn dojo – the main space for activities- and realise its surprisingly
well-organized functioning system, which Mizue’s ideas penetrate in details, in
order to bring the greatest benefits of activities to participants.
‘As we live in a world where there are people who have no shelter whatsoever
and the earth is filled with pollution, it is our aim to keep the material
aspect as simple as possible.’ Laren Dojo is a very unique place that can offer
Okido Yoga holistic training, and is world-widely attracting students who want
to study Okido Yoga seriously.
|Belgian Okido Yoga Week link to Photo Pages
Okido Yoga Week in Belgium was
organized by the
International Shiatsu School, and was held in a boarding school, surrounded
by large green spaces, near the River Scheldt (Shelde) in Antwerp. Two other
courses ran in parallel with independent programmes, by sharing common time for
morning exercises and meal times.
From my point of view a lot of effort was
needed in preparing and discussing the outlines and programmes as the staff had
never worked together in a team. And also because, it seemed, a strong image of
physically dynamic exercises had prevailed there for Okido Yoga but not much of
gently-deeply-penetrating exercises or the philosophy of Okido Yoga had been
introduced in good balance. Although the course ran 15-21 July, I arrived on Tuesday
the 17th after teaching in Laren. I soon found this team of staff
(Jan, Iris, Wilfried and myself) was a most comfortable one to work in, with
mutual respect and open-mindedness, and the participants welcomed me warmly.
the next day, there was a big burst to openness at ball game time after the
lunch break. Some participants were natural comedians, but gradually the whole
group atmosphere was escalated and we just couldn’t stop laughing at whatever
happened with the balls or people.
On Thursday morning, a couple of challenges called on me. One was
from two people who had thought the ball game had not been for them and wanted
to attend only their favourite lessons. Attending and experiencing all lessons
without usual judgment is one of the keys of Okido training, but to make this
possible, the staff has to be very sensitive and practical to respond to any
problems. The other challenge came in the form of a polite inquiry at the
Just before the meals on Wednesday, I had taken the opportunity
to introduce Oki-sensei’s ‘Pledge to Absorb Nutrients’ by asking all
participants to read out its English translation together, which we always do
in residential courses in Suffolk and Laren. The content of this pledge is not
only for ‘good appetite’ or ‘thanks to the cook, farmers and nature’, but also
for calling forth our awareness of and humbleness to the Life-force. We can
meet the essence of Okido Yoga in the words of Oki sensei’s pledges for basic
daily life activities from waking-up to sleeping.
The comments made at the
breakfast table were that some participants, or many, felt resistant to read it
aloud as a pledge. I had never met this problem before, but the
importance was neither taking form nor following someone else’s pledge blindly,
so, we did silent individual awareness for the next meal and took the subject
on board in the whole group discussion. Many contributed their opinions. Even
after that, there was more development on the subject, which felt really good
to talk about openly and honestly, whilst respecting different views and
Through Thursday and
Friday, the course continued with effective lessons, healthy food, jokes and
laughs. The last day had the only fine-weather morning, and so we walked to the
beach to exercise, walked back, gathered in the dojo and meditated. Then
everybody, including the staff, wrote reports on their reflection, inspiration,
and evaluation of the course. After that, we sat in a circle and spoke about
our own thoughts in turn.
A participant said: on occasions of partner
exercises, she chose her favourite people in the beginning, but later she came
to work with whomever, which was a good feeling of liberation from her ordinary
judgment; it was a feeling of growing. The person who had earlier wanted to attend
only her favourite lessons (now) said: she had an incredible week, strongly
supported by genuine-hearted people, in group intimacy as well as individual
space. Another said that he felt much stronger than before and received a lot
of inspiration about practice in daily life. Another participant said: from his
past experience he had come to join a very tough physical course but, when
meeting the diverse group (male/female, young/old, fit/ill) on the first day,
he had doubted whether he was in the right place, and then journeying together
till the end, he realized a different kind of value in working and sharing joy
with other people.
After everybody finished the evaluation, the participants
took the last opportunity. One person read out his very own ‘Pledge to Absorb
Nutrients’, and the whole group presented a ‘chanting’ book to the staff
members, singing a verse to each individual of us. It was so moving. At the
very end, we had a photo taken and had lunch together.
I am very glad and moved with this achievement
together, and with much more, fun and warmth. I am going in November for
another Belgian Okido Yoga Week. And it looks like some people are coming
again. Looking forward to it!
Belgian Summer School
Summer School, 22-28 July, was held in the same place immediately after the
previous trio of courses. The programmes consisted of cooking lessons and lectures
on macrobiotics, workshops on various body works, lectures on oriental medical
arts, lectures on environmental issues, Japanese taiko drumming, Okido Yoga,
and so on. Without following a specific intensive course, participants could
choose lessons or lectures from rich programmes, or to have free time. No doubt
that many went to explore the beautiful old town of Antwerp and came back for
healthy delicious meals. It was an ideal setting for a healthy holiday to those
who would like to encounter new inspiration.
There was a big celebration
party at the end where Okido Yoga participants also revisited to enjoy this
In fact there was another
week, 8-14 July, to make three consecutive summer-school weeks in
total. Ampleness and inclusiveness are the best words to describe my
the whole, owing to a basic spirit of the organizing team of the International Shiatsu
School (Mieke, Suzanne, George and Jan). I must also mention
that Mark Hanna, a top macrobiotic chef, and his kitchen team did a grand job to cater for the
three entire weeks.
To all I met
in this whole trip
Thank you for a wonderful experience.