Why I have an owl in my logo
Or how to enjoy life more in the face of your own mortality
Maybe you have already been asking yourself why – out of all animals – I have chosen an owl for my logo. In case you are a yoga teacher or an interested yoga student, you may even have been asking yourself if there is an „owl asana“. As far as I know there is no asana named after an owl (please tell me, in case you know of one). So, what does the owl represent for you? For many people in the Western world, owls are a symbol for wisdom and intuitive knowledge. Reaching past the reflexive mind is also something we are trying to achieve through the practice of yoga. We are trying to reach deeper levels of understanding that lie beyond the rational mind. Yoga in its original meaning was all about trying to see what’s hidden to most people, eventually reaching an ultimate reality beyond illusion and deceit.
Over the last few years, owls have become more and more popular in mainstream culture (a bit like yoga), to the point where you can hardly walk into a shop, café etc. without finding any kind of „owlish“ object, ranging from piggy bank, to kitchen towel or even to owl cafés (in Japan), where you can stroke real owls while sipping your matcha latte or whatever else you’re having.
However, did you know that owls are actually rather unpopular animals in many countries up to this day? The reason for this is that owls are also known to symbolize life transitions, change and ultimately death. This is why owls were feared and hunted after for centuries. While death doesn’t always have to be taken literally (it may also mean letting go of old habits or a situation that no longer serves you), apart from symbolizing wisdom, I also really like this „darker“ side of owls - their mystical side and ultimately their connection with death. These topics are also very strongly intertwined with the history of yoga. Did you know that there were (and possibly still are) meditation practices in Tibet where yogis used to meditate on a grave yard to fully embrace their own mortality? I am not saying that we have to go this far but I would nevertheless like to suggest a few possibilities on how we can integrate our own mortality into our life in a way which is enriching and which allows us to enjoy our life on a deeper level. The following three tips are once again derived from my own modest life experience and will be rounding off my reflections on life and death (for now). Of course, they are by no means new but as we all know hearing or reading about something and integrating it into one’s own life are often two very different pairs of shoes.
1. LIVE EVERY DAY AS IF IT WAS YOUR LAST ONE
I don’t know why but I am blessed with a mindset that never allowed me to close my eyes in front of death. On the contrary – from a very early age, I always tried to live day after day in my life as if it was my very last day. I still picture death every day, most often while riding my bicycle around town, knowing that at any moment a car could crash into me and this would be the end of life as I know it. Living my life in the face of death has multiple consequences on how I go through my days which leads us straight towards tip number two.
2. PRACTICE COMPASSION & FORGIVENESS
Whenever possible, I try my best to resolve conflicts with other people. This doesn’t mean that conflicts are somehow inherently bad. On the contrary, conflicts are a necessary fact of life and avoiding them often makes matters worse in the long run. Further to this, there may be conflicts with other people that cannot be resolved at the present moment, as it always takes the willingness of both sides to approach each other again after a conflict. Especially in these situations, I actively practice compassion and forgiveness on a daily basis to make sure I don’t hold grudges against anyone. I can honestly say that there is not a single person in the world I carry negative feelings towards in the form of hatred or anger, which of course doesn’t mean that I agree with all the actions of other people.
3. ALWAYS GIVE YOUR BEST
Finally, I try to live my life in a way that allows me to say goodbye at any moment. For me, this means striving towards the ideal of doing everything I do whole-heartedly. If I notice – for example in my professional life – that this isn’t the case any longer with a particular activity, it means that I have to give it up (like language teaching a few months ago). Doing things whole-heartedly brings me fully into the present moment. Of course, I also have goals/visions of what my life could look like in five or ten years from now but I nevertheless try to live from moment to moment every day. And if all was over tomorrow, there would be no regrets, as I have really tried my best, even if that might not always have been enough…