(The letter was originally posted on my blog.)
Dear friends, it’s been a while!
For the past six to eight months, I’ve been struggling with my mental health due to the demands of my work and other commitments like moving house. I didn’t want to add any extra pressure by not updating my blog, so I’ve been quiet for a while.
In this letter, I want to tell you a story about how I found love, peace, and connection through yoga in Morocco.
At the end of August 2022, I flew to Morocco by myself. After a 20-hour flight, I took a five-hour train ride from Casablanca to Marrakech and settled into an eco-farm for a month-long residency.
It was there that I met Anetta, a German yoga teacher who was visiting with a group of seven other girls.
From the moment I met her, I could see that Anetta’s beauty shone from within. She would practice yoga alone at night, lighting candles in Yoga Shala for herself slowly and gracefully, strolling barefoot in the garden to feel the warmth of the earth, embracing the sky with open arms and smiles in the bath of fresh air, and holding my hands tightly when she felt happy for me.
As someone who is used to wearing a polite mask in Tokyo and interacting with others, I have to admit that I was initially reserved around everyone: after all, I’d seen plenty of girls in Tokyo who embraced elegant living and a love for the earth as a brand.
But once looking closely, you know that Anetta’s beauty is not branding, but comes deeply from her heart. Because before loving everyone, she loves herself in the first place, and that this love and affection became the cornerstone of her resistance to outside distractions: she won’t do things that go against her own intentions and intentions. She could close her eyes and meditates quietly in the midst of chaos. She also has a very childlike side: happily picking and sharing ripe figs when she found them in the garden, happily smearing her hands with wet mud over her face while hiking.
Thanks to Anetta, I felt the beauty of yoga for the first time in my life. Under her guidance, I realized that yoga is not it is not about pushing yourself to your physical limits or achieving self-improvement. Instead, it is about slowing down, listening to yourself, and finding peace and joy in the present moment.
In a peaceful Traditional Berber House 3000 meters high in the Atlas Mountains, Anetta gathered us and shared her past, where she was unsure of herself and suppressing her inner self; but when she embraced her true self and blossomed naturally, opportunities and friends came her way.
Then she handed me the sharing stone in her hand and asked, “Yang, do you have anything to say?” Suddenly I was a little overwhelmed. But when I looked at the stone in my hand and stammered about the stress I had accumulated in my life in Tokyo, I don’t know if it was because of the beauty of the nature or the warmth of the girls’ attention, but I sobbed and found the courage to open up about the struggles and stress I had been carrying within me.
“It has been a long time since I was used to greeting others with a smile, and I haven’t shown true feelings in front of others. The warm hugging with you girls made me realize how much I have lacked true embraces in the past few years.”
Then, as I looked around, I saw tears filling the girls’ eyes; they embraced and held my hands, telling me that my smile was so lovely and that I shouldn’t cover it with my hands.
Then one by one they hugged me tightly.
At this moment, I realized people could feel my inner core beyond my outer appearance, so all the things I couldn’t let go of and was afraid of were just illusions, weren’t they?
And so, as we sat on the luggage rack of the jeep, wrapped in the strong winds of the Atlas Mountains, we flew downhill. At that moment, I knew that the old me had been buried on the 3,000-meter peak, and that a new, deeply loving, and confident version of myself had been born.
On August 31, I had a deep conversation with the girls. I realized that the fixed idea of “growing up” is an illusion, and that it is more important to accept yourself in the present moment and let things be what it is. I learned why die we build up fake confident, and how to drop the mask and forgive your true self. Sometimes, we build up fake confidence as a way to protect ourselves from feeling vulnerable or exposed. But in reality, this only serves to distance us from our true selves and others. By learning to forgive ourselves and let go of the mask, we can start to embrace our true selves and connect with others more authentically. This can lead to greater confidence, happiness, and fulfillment.
We danced in the shala and laughed as we swam naked in a cold pool late at night. Half of my body felt the warmth of the lime floor and half felt the nourishing water of the pool. As I looked up at the starry sky, I felt like I was a part of the earth.
On September 3, Anetta’s demeanor became much more relaxed and happy after the yoga retreat.
She sat on a small bench in the back kitchen, swaying gently back and forth, and spoke to me with gratitude. “I’ve been quite aloof and serious this week,” she said, “but I could sense that you understood and gave me the space I needed. I am grateful to you for that.”
My heart pounded with emotion as she spoke. I had always known that I was sensitive to the state of others, but this was the first time someone had recognized it and expressed their gratitude. I felt my heart open up completely to Anetta at that moment. Furthermore, I told her honestly, “At first, I was skeptical of you because I was afraid of being hurt. But then I realized my mistake, and I now feel very guilty.”
Anetta laughed heartily at my admission of guilt. “At first, I couldn’t open up fully to you because you always had such a big, goofy smile on your face,” she said. "But as we talked more, I realized that your words and actions were full of wisdom. You have a very different kind of seriousness and earnestness that is both charming and convincing. "
“And by the way, as a model, I know how exhausting it is to have to smile all the time. So don’t feel like you have to force it!” (At this point, we rubbed our cheek muscles and laughed together.)
I wondered to myself, why Anetta seemed to say exactly what I wanted to hear.?
I had always been self-conscious about the corners of my mouth drooping naturally, and I was afraid that people would think I was angry if I didn’t smile all the time. As a result, I always forced myself to smile when I talked to people, even though it was exhausting.
However, Anetta was the first person to tell me I didn’t have to smile all the time, and that my true and confident expressions were beautiful without the mask of a smile.
In Morocco, I felt warm and loving emotions I had never experienced before. It became clear to me that it was time to leave my old circle of friends and embrace my true self and the wider world.
After returning to Japan, I decided to become a yoga teacher and enrolled in a program to study and learn more about the practice. I plan to take a break from school next year to focus on my teaching.
Meanwhile, Anetta continues to organize yoga retreats and work as a model in various places. I hope that more people will have the opportunity to participate in her retreats, as the world needs her and her yoga.
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