CLEO FROM FINLAND
A NEWCOMER AT WORK FOR THE LAND!
I was born in a small town called Imatra in south-east Finland, only 750 kilometers below the Arctic Circle. And as much as I love hot South India, I truly love the Scandinavian cold and snowy winters!
My path towards Auroville was long and full of many steps. I started yoga practice when I was 12 years old. I was completely fascinated by the books that I borrowed from the library and I did weekly Asana sequences for myself. Later on, when I was in high school, I went to a yoga course, because I knew that it would relax me during the exam season. After, I moved to Helsinki, the capital of Finland, where I started to go to a Buddhist center for meditations. I was 19 or 20, and I went there twice a week and for some weekend silent retreats for two years. I felt the peace and calmness, and finding meditation really changed everything for me.
Before finding meditation – I used to party a lot, I had difficulty to control my anger, and my language was quite bad too. You see, I had a job where I earned more than my parents so I could come and go as I wanted – party, travel – whatever I wanted. But after I started regular meditations it literally flipped everything around. The people at work couldn’t recognize me anymore and started to ask what happened. Even at that time, I couldn’t fully relate fully to the Buddhist way of looking at life and the philosophy, maybe I was too young. I’m deeply grateful because those meditations completely transformed my life.
So I continued searching and found Ashtanga Yoga. I was very active body-wise and I used to go to the gym and boxing lessons, so I felt like Ashtanga yoga was something that was in line with me, and I wanted to do. But quite soon I realized that even if it was good for the body, I felt no deeper meaning in it.
And finally I found an esoteric yoga school which was not only just practice but also knowledge about meditation, energies, chakras, meridians, acu-points, Hinduism, Buddhism and other spiritual traditions, saints and masters and a lot about awareness and how to expand consciousness. It is a very vast course of esoteric information. I knew after one weekend course, «This is the right place for me!» And I’ve been part of that yoga school for more than 20 years.
In 2005, I moved to Copenhagen, the capital of Denmark, and the home of the renowned storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen.
I started teaching yoga in a sister school of the same yoga school and I lived in the ashram for seven years. I did karma yoga, for example: cooking and being the chef for 40 to 150 people, and taking care of the yoga school’s reception and shop.
I also studied Gestalt therapy with a very wonderful group of loving spiritual people. One of my favorite parts in Gestalt therapy was the gift of dream work which helped me personally a lot.
I got to know about Auroville probably 25 years ago through an article in a women’s magazine. I was very inspired and I thought «Okay! This is one of those places that I will visit one day». Yet it took quite many years to actually come here. The first visit was in 2008 and I remember looking at Matrimandir from behind a fence. It was raining like crazy – everything was muddy, and everywhere was very dark because there was no power in the area. That was my first visit!
I came back again the next year 2009 when I moved to Chennai. I can remember the exact weekend – I was with friends, and we went around on motorbikes, and I really enjoyed it. After 6 months I returned to Copenhagen but kept coming back and forth to India several times for holiday visits.
Some years ago, I had a serious back injury that kept me in bed for a few months on morphine, and I knew that something had to change. My first aim was just to get my back in order and somehow basically get myself back in shape.
So I came to Auroville! I think it was rainy again – in monsoon November. I stayed for two months in my friend’s house, got treatments and slowly got better. I love nature and so I really really enjoyed it. And that was one of the things that really caught me in Auroville – the nature! I felt a very healing energy, and it was on that visit that I knew I wanted to move to Auroville.
But it wasn’t as easy as that! First, I had to go back to Europe where I had student loans to pay off. I worked a lot for one year, and paid off my loans so I could come back to Auroville! When I did, a friend took me to meet Helena and Padmanabhan at the Land Board to find out if I could do volunteer work at the office.
Again I had to go back to Europe, this time to apply for my entry visa. After almost two years of working as a volunteer, I began my Newcomer process. The process has been mainly smooth – but because of Corona and the lockdown, there were some delays. Both of my mentors, Uma and Hans, are wonderful and supportive.
I have stayed with my original work with the Land Board where, with Anjali, I’m one of the
two secretaries along, of course, with Jothi of LFAU.
A part of my work is being part of a team that is creating the new land database – the institutional memory for the land. This was greatly needed and has really raised the professional level of the work. It is a very complete and integrated database for land-related information – photographs, maps, documents, the history of events, reports of what is pending and what is completed and of issues of all kinds, legal and otherwise.
The group has been working for about one year, improving and testing it, and now we are using it almost daily, adding and retrieving information. Of course we are still improving it.
In our weekly group meetings, we discuss what is and isn’t functional, and what else can be improved or done. For example, things like «Can the feature be changed back because the new update isn’t actually what we thought it would be and doesn’t help our work?»
And I enjoy those meetings. It is very rewarding because the database project helps us to feel that «Yes we’re moving, we’re moving forward!» Actually, I feel we really making a big difference and it will help the people who will work with this after us. At times the work at the Land Board office is challenging and sometimes very stressful. But well, there are always challenges in life. I’m happy to be part of the Land Board team working towards Mother’s dream and lands for Auroville.
Apart from my work, I have some dreams for contributing to Auroville in other ways. One is to do classes for women about femininity. Also in the future, I would be interested in doing art therapy combined with Gestalt therapy or individual Gestalt therapy sessions, as I did before in Europe.
And, because my background is as a textile designer, I’m again seeking more ways to get in contact with my artistic side. At present, I go for Mandala classes every Thursday and I love it – it’s like therapy. I could possibly also do some design work with my free time.
One of my dreams is to find out how I can contribute to going forward towards a bigger sense of Unity and a spiritual family of Auroville. I’d like to find ways to get the people who are also longing for that to get together.
For the moment, I don’t exactly know how, but I deeply and strongly want to be part of creating this more unitary feeling, not just all living together but really feeling like a spiritual family working towards the same goal.
And I mean this for people from outside of Auroville too, because even if you don’t live in the same place you can be part of one spiritual family!
Every step towards the goal of feeling and living the reality of unity is a step in the right direction. I love the transformation and the progress!