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Transcending nature

James Anderson

Editor's note

This article is a journey of discovering the body through means of the spirit. The author shares his efforts at self-healing through inner means: its trials, joys and strengths with all who are openminded about such an approach.

"I am no more a vassal of the flesh,
A slave to Nature and her leaden rule;
I am caught no more in the senses' narrow mesh.
My soul unhorizoned widens to measureless sight,
My body is God's happy living tool,
My spirit a vast sun of deathless light.1"

Now and then, I find myself submerged in cloud. The effect can be quite suffocating: it is like being bound into a tight shell. It cramps and limits the being. As I climb higher though, the haze starts to thin, but still it somewhat blurs my view. A new world of rapture is manifesting before my eyes but I am unable to see it. Occasionally, though, the cloud parts slightly and I perceive some hint of a new creation of unimaginable beauty.

Ahead of me stands a vast mountain range that I intend to traverse. I am not alone; there are others climbing too. Over the centuries, a few great ones have scaled these very peaks. Higher and higher these masters climbed but still, I am told, there were these wisps of cloud around. Perhaps that is why some accepted the inevitable, closed their eyes and detached themselves in blissful solitude from the world below. Man in general, however, is rarely able to rise above the smog. I feel that he largely accepts it as his lot and it has become for him a fact of life.

So what is this cloud? It is just an image of the nature which engulfs him, or to be more precise, the prakriti of mind, life and matter. In its ignorance, it blurs his sight and separates him from the true consciousness. The lower nature imposes a gravitational force: it chains man to the soil. Indeed it has an important role in the divine play itself as it constantly reminds him that his work is still undone.

But nature can be transcended. We do not have to accept it; we can go beyond. We do not have to accept our present limitations; we can go through them. The process of yoga is, indeed, one of transcendence. And there is the sun after all. When it rises to its full glory, this sun of truth will eventually burn away the clouds. Our vision will become crystal clear and a clear path will eventually guide us down to the luminous world below. Man can at last step forward to his divine destiny.

1. Sri Aurobindo. Collected Poems. Pondicherry, Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1972, p.133.

Laws of nature

Nature has built a mighty edifice. To support this superstructure, she has constructed a myriad of laws. These laws, so immutable in appearance, are partly formulated to satisfy man's own image of littleness. They keep him within narrow limits. I believe that he has become accustomed to them and, to a certain extent, he takes them for granted. To question them is futile as layer upon layer of human knowledge bases itself upon them.

Perhaps I might also include certain medical knowledge in that category. From personal experience, I have found that sometimes its science seems altogether too ready to consign what it considers as 'lost causes' onto the scrapheap. At the bottom of this, I feel, lies an almost fatalistic awe of these so-called 'laws of nature'. They stand like a towering fortress and impede man's advance. The only way to reclaim our divine birthright is to exceed these boundaries, but most of us do not even conceive of that possibility. To humanity at large, these laws are simply unchangeable and absolute; there is nothing that can be done about them.

The law of physical decomposition and, indeed, death is possibly the most striking of them. But just how absolute is it? The Mother adamantly states that the 'forces of decomposition' can indeed bethwarted:

"It is only the physical being which grows and decomposes. But this comes from its lack of plasticity and receptivity and by its very nature; it is not inevitable. Therefore there is room to think that at a given moment, as the physical consciousness itself progresses consciously and deliberately, well, to a certain extent and increasingly the body itself will be able, first to resist decay which, obviously, must be the first movement and then gradually begin to grow in inner perfection till it overcomes the forces of decomposition(1)."

The Mother affirms that the laws of nature are not absolute. As she says, the universe manifests itself in a limitless array of combinations, an almost innumerable mixture of varying elements. So,

".if the universe is new at each moment of eternity, we have to acknowledge that absolutely nothing is impossible;..(2)."

How can anything repeat itself, She asks,since no two combinations are alike? So to comply with these 'laws' only

".cuts you off from the creative Power of the Spirit, it cuts you off from the true Power of the Grace, for you can understand that if by your aspiration or your attitude you introduce a higher element, a new element what we may now call a supramental element into the existing combinations, you can suddenly change their nature, and all these so-called necessary and ineluctable laws become absurdities(3)."

When I read this radical message, I was transfixed by a new world of possibilities. The words inspired me. The body is not necessarily condemned to degeneration and atrophy after all! By conceding such a 'law of nature', I had actually been swallowing a heavily disguised formation. Although deeply ingrained and presumably 'tried and tested', it was still a distortion of the Truth, an appearance but not a fact. A higher element can always intervene. Indeed, as the Mother says, by complying with this notion,

".it is as though you were putting an iron curtain between yourself and the free action of the Grace(4)."


Sri Aurobindo writes that the only means open for man to transcend his nature is yoga. Other than that, one can resort to what he calls the 'Yoga of Nature' itself which takes thousands of lifetimes. Yoga, through conscious sadhana, affords man the opportunity of doing this work in a single life. The traditional yogas, I understand, had taught man to rise above and detach from the cloud of his nature; Sri Aurobindo's yoga now teaches him the way to disperse it. In this yoga particularly, every aspect of man's nature is made malleable to a higher force. No minor detail is ignored; no stone is left unturned. The complexity of man's nature explains why there are no short cuts. It is not a piecemeal approach. The whole nature must be transformed for the work to be complete, - ".nothing is done until everything is done(5)."

It is an assiduous process, requiring, at least in the initial phases, immense personal effort. I feel that this means will always be needed as long as the notion of a separate self exists in the being. Personal effort however, as Sri Aurobindo says, is gradually transformed into the movement of Divine Force and I know that only Her Force can achieve this goal. I have vividly found too that by surrendering to the Mother, the work of transformation becomes the responsibility of the Divine itself. When I am living in my truth, the Mother guides me every step of the way. It is as simple as that. Ultimately, like many of us here, I do this work out of love for Her: that is what sustains me. Once indeed, when asked by a sadhak on the 'best way' of doing yoga, She replied:

"You have to aspire, you have to reject; but the best is if you can keep me in your heart, if you love me, then you will have to do nothing. I shall do all for you(6)."

There are so many challenges along the way that without this love, life for me would be like being lost in a desert. With love, the Inner Teacher emerges. With love, I also find the joy of service and collaboration. The work simply makes me feel so alive; it is the knowledge that I have, at last, found the purpose of my existence.

There is the joy of adventure too. This becomes particularly apparent to me when I work on the physical. No other yoga, I believe, can realistically claim the divinisation of the body as a professed aim. Certainly, nothing else can also give clear guidelines on how to achieve it. It really is such a glorious opportunity, one worth dropping everything else for! Occasionally though, I find the physical sadhana to be very problematic. I often experience myself trudging through a veritable 'virgin forest'. Sometimes I feel myself going round in circles with no noticeable sign of progress. Then, out of the blue, a connection is made, the alignment returns and it is as if the Mother has started walking my steps. The mind simply can't explain this: it can never be forced.

As I understand it, two factors lie at the root of the difficulty. Firstly the inert nature of the body itself must be conquered. A higher will must intervene. However, Sri Aurobindo informs us that it is the resistance of the subconscious which acts as the greatest barrier to physical transformation. As a storehouse, it constantly throws up past habits and associations into the outer nature. The only way, I believe, is to open the whole being to Mother's Force and Light and eventually it will percolate down to the lower domains. Everything must be made conscious, everything must become true. The obstacles are so immense that without the joy of adventure there is no hope. I am convinced too that many quicker 'fixes' are available but I feel nowhere else can the complete panacea be obtained. The work is very complex, but essentially the aim is very simple. We must manifest what we are in essence: totally divine! That takes time.

Inner perfection

So the first step of my journey was to become aware of this truth - that, in essence, I am perfect, that deep inside is a core that remains untouched by the distortions of the surface being. That part has no need of transformation; it is a portion of the Divine already. The key is to translate this perfection into the outer nature. This knowledge is exquisitely expressed by Sri Aurobindo himself:

"So also all perfection of which the outer man is capable, is only a realising of the eternal perfection of the Spirit within him. We know the Divine and become the Divine, because we are That already in our secret nature(7)."

The ways of connecting with our inner being are well documented. Concentration, we are taught, is essential: it acts like a laser, fusing all the strands of our being at a single point and penetrating deep into our core. In that vein, I am able to offer myself in adoration to the Mother who is seated deep inside me. She dwells in the very centre of our being, the psychic itself. One doesn't have to look far to find her. Occasionally it will be cloudy and so a strong will may be required. But the way of the heart is, for me, the best. The alchemy is built on true love: it brings an immediate response. The inner being ignites in rapture and the delight of existence unfolds. This, I believe, is the first step to transcending one's nature.

Inner way

Once conscious of this inner perfection, I start trying to attune and harmonise this with the body itself. First of all, the Mother says, you must realise those points of disharmony that are found on the surface,

"You must become aware of the points where this harmony does not exist; you must feel them and understand the contradiction between the inner consciousness and certain outer movements.You must become conscious of this first, and once you are conscious of it, you try to adapt the outer action, outer movements to the inner ideal. But first of all you must become aware of the disharmony(8)."

Really, the Mother does all the work for us! I can only observe, call and offer. I find it a simultaneous process. I summon their Presence, I scan the body and I watch. I observe the Force flowing through the body. If a knot comes to the surface, I stop and simply become conscious of that point of disharmony. There is invariably an inner reason for an outer disharmony. The awareness invariably produces a radical shift and that point then reintegrates with the Divine flow. All then can become aligned; all reverts to a harmonious whole. Sometimes the process may be more protracted. Usually, I find I need to identify the reason for the dislocation. The Mother working inside me and the inherent wisdom of the inner being give me that spontaneous knowledge.

At times, a word may be needed. It's as if I were picking up an intruder with pincers and, through identification, it becomes saturated with Her Light and gets transformed. It is the Truth Consciousness in action and I feel that nothing can prevail against it.

This consciousness can change the body; it offers the capacity to transcend its limits. The Mother says
". that the method we use to deal with our body, maintain it, keep it fit, improve it and keep it in good health, depends exclusively on the state of consciousness we are in; for our body is an instrument of our consciousness and this consciousness can act directly on it and obtain what it wants from it(9)."

Dynamic work

When the body is bathed in light, it is very understandable to remain absorbed in a totally passive state in order to receive this higher force. Sometimes though, whenever the inner connection has been thoroughly established, I have found it very useful to stand up and initiate some gentle movement. Sometimes, it is good to just slowly open the eyes. It depends on the circumstances. Whatever I do, the inner contact must be maintained. A distinct change of vibration and sense of dispersion are sure signs that I am losing it. Sometimes I find it preceded by the faintest stutter inside. The sense of action itself too can sometimes distract me a little from the inner contact, but if I feel the Presence slipping away, I stop, realign myself inside and attune to Her once more. The body simply becomes a channel for the Force. The secret, I feel, is to maintain this contact for a longer interval each time. With practice, the work can rise to a more dynamic level: it is here in action that She initiates the change. When the inner being is aligned, outer alignment too seems to automatically follow and it translates into more conscious action. The body can then become a reflection of its luminous core.

Ideally, all our movements should be imbued with this quality. Sometimes it just emerges spontaneously when I feel the body in a state of joy but I do find this practice very helpful. I believe it works in a very dynamic way, integrating the inner rhythm to the outer motion. Indeed, the certitude for me is that I so tangibly feel the Mother's Presence whenever I do it.

Ultimately, the aim in this work, for me, is to bring out and integrate the true master of all movement, that is, the psychic being. Its nature, I believe, is one of spontaneous knowledge. What I might call the true movement is based upon this. This movement can never be coerced by the mind. The mind can, in obvious circumstances, really help the body. It can give it a sense of discipline. However, as the journey with the body proceeds, something else has to take over. The sign of this movement is unmistakeable: it is totally unpremeditated and it has none of the grating struggle I associate with mental effort. Indeed it is almost effortless and comes from an entirely different domain. To find the key to this realm with the body is one of the richest discoveries I can ever possibly hope to make. After that, I feel, the work must be consolidated into all outer movements. As always, the Mother gives such simple advice on the best way:

"And then, when you have seen what does not harmonise, you must gather the will and aspiration to change it and begin with the easiest part. You should not begin with the most difficult thing, you should begin with the easiest, the one you understand the best, most easily, the disharmony which seems most evident to you. Then from there, gradually, you will go to the more difficult and more central things.(10)."

In practical terms, in my case, this means to begin with more elementary things about the body which are usually taken for granted, like alignment or distribution of weight. Indeed, I find myself often going back to such basics and almost starting from scratch once again. This is a recurrent feature of my work on the body: when things go awry, I recover lost ground in order to regain a solid foundation.

The physical, when there is mental striving, can sometimes find itself tied up in knots in doing this work but the answer can invariably be obtained through the body itself, but only when it is left to itself. From experience, I have found that sometimes the simplest of movements prompted from deep inside can facilitate and restore true alignment and harmony throughout the body. The hallmark of this action is its spontaneity; it is totally without calculation. Up to that point, the mind may want to endlessly fidget and adjust. However, I have found that as it quietens, the inherent knowledge will inevitably rise to the surface. A true foundation to this long inner work is then securely laid. A link is made.

Divine momentum

It is interesting that whenever I empty myself of thought and meditate, without specifically calling for any intervention in the body, I also automatically feel a rush of Force flooding through the brain. The Mother has given an explanation for this. She says that once an aspiration, for instance to heal, becomes fixed, the Force can work in any circumstance.

"Even if you make yourself an absolute blank, that does not change the nature of your aspiration or alter its domain. On the quality of the aspiration depends the force that answers and the work it comes to do. To make yourself blank in meditation creates an inner silence; it does not mean that you have become nothing or have become a dead and inert mass. Making yourself an empty vessel, you invite that which shall fill it. It means that you release the stress of your inner consciousness towards realisation(11)."

From the beginning of my life here, I have been blessed with considerable help from a few of the Mother's chosen instruments. Nevertheless, I am still often approached by people who ask why I don't try a certain healer or a new therapeutic approach. My answer is brief - I am cautious about allowing anyone to stand between me and the Mother. To tell the truth, I am a little wary of self-proclaimed channels - the genuine ones usually go quietly about their work and say little. Now and then, someone new may emerge to present a new angle of approach but I intuitively feel that the 'inner way' is what the Mother wants of me and I am so humbled to adhere to it. Apart from anything else, it is such a beautiful opportunity to unlock the treasures of my inner being. It gives me the chance to gaze straight into the eyes of my Inner Teacher.

I also see little sense in chasing after doctors and their prescriptions. I am very mindful of the Mother's often quoted words that,

".all physical remedies. are simply palliatives; they are not cures, because they are not strong enough to touch the living centre of the thing(12)."

Besides, for me, the body's recovery is only one aspect of the sadhana. Though obviously indivisible from the central objective, it is not an end in itself, although maybe it used to be. True 'wholeness', I feel, is an inevitable consequence of this practice. I trust in the Divine Grace and its infinite wisdom. In spite of the difficulties, there is so much more richness and plenitude to my life now and that is entirely due to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

I feel it is not good to keep asking for proofs: that can only erode one's faith. But in this way, there is a conviction when I observe the body itself. When I feel centred, the body automatically resonates to a more harmonious tune. On the other hand, no matter what outer work I may be doing, if I feel flat inside, the physical will appear limp and lifeless too. Years ago, the body used to 'run' on adrenalin. Now it depends on joy. I find joy expands the physical consciousness. Joy has become the oxygen of the body, without it, it is sunk.

I feel a balance should be maintained. I do find that methodical exercise helps to make the gross body more supple and energetic. Inevitably, that makes it more plastic to the intervening Force. Sri Aurobindo says that
".if we start in any field at the lower end we have to employ the means and processes which Life and Matter offer to us and respect the conditions and what we may call the technique imposed by the vital and material energy.. It is not that the action from the two ends cannot meet and the higher take into itself and uplift the lower perfection; but this can usually be done only by a transition from the lower to a higher outlook, aspiration and motive: this we shall have to do if our aim is to transform the human into the divine life(13)."

Any exercise, I feel, can be made conscious. By maintaining an inner poise, the body can be elevated to new levels. By remembering and calling the Mother before exercise, it brings Her into my work. Now, each time before I begin, I pray for Her to guide the body to a new level of progress and elevate it to a new plateau of attainment. By being conscious of Her at my side, the work becomes a joy, not a mental routine, but a free coll-aboration in Her play. As far as the body is concerned, I find that true progress is always accompanied by a feeling of joy.


The implications of this work are so vast that it is not surprising that it is beset with so many obstacles. Armed only with a search-light, one has to look into the very jaws of the Adversary. The work of transformation begins with the individual. He is the microcosm: one defeat can have vast implications. The Adversary can be quite cunning at times. He searches for our weak point and then burrows deep on that spot until our nerves snap and we throw in the towel. In the worst circumstances, one can become his slave. Ultimately that is perhaps one reason why the Mother says that an unshakeable faith is the best armour.

I guess the biggest bugbears I face stem from an overactive mind. As an instrument, the mind can be a very powerful tool. It has considerable powers of reasoning, clarity and organisation, but for me, it seldom knows when to stop and keep quiet. When this happens, my personal effort only translates into a mental striving. At worst, it can truly cramp the being. For me at times, it has an occasional tendency for self-judgment which is totally counter-productive, manifesting at times in a mood of self-depreciation. I also realise now that it is merely an inverse form of vanity. The Mother says:

"To discover how to do the work and what is the best way of doing it is very useful. But to look at oneself doing it and admire and belittle oneself, that's not only useless but disastrous (14)."

Both traits, the Mother comments, are "equally bad". That is why She says that,

"The best thing is not to be occupied with oneself(15)."

Preying upon this weakness is a susceptibility to negative formations thrown from outside. I once heard some wise words from a spiritual teacher. He said that if you want to grow a tree, you fence it with wire so that the cattle can't gorge themselves upon it. In the same way, if something worthwhile is quietly growing inside you, it is better to be vigilant so that your aspiration is not snatched away by negative or hostile suggestions.

The only fail-safe way, I feel, of building this protection is to cultivate by practice what Mother calls a 'spiritual atmosphere'. From very early in my sadhana, that has included being very careful about the company I keep. The state comes from living inside and by throwing out anything that opposes the truth. Once established, it gives an enormous protection against the shifting currents of the outside world. It's like living in a bubble constructed by the Mother. However She warns:

"But naturally, if you open all the doors, listen to what people tell you, follow the advice of this one and the inspirations of that one, and are full of desires for outside things, you cannot create a spiritual atmosphere for yourself. You will have an ordinary atmosphere like everybody else(16)."

I find I have to always be alert and vigilant but it is imperative, at the same time, to try to always maintain an attitude of goodwill. I have discovered that a feeling of sourness only attracts what it fears. A sense of balance should be maintained.

If this atmosphere is not in place, I find myself very exposed. In the worst circumstances, the bubble can even get punctured. I then get pulled into an altogether external mode of consciousness. A glib comment, a disparaging remark or even just a look can have very harmful consequences and the body tends to shrink.

I have also learnt to be watchful about negative formations from the medical profession. Sometimes a snap diagnosis or 'convenient label' is conveyed to me and it can truly jar. Some doctors fail to realise that their labels often have a tendency to stick. Perhaps they don't always appreciate how much trust their position is likely to inspire. When all is said and done though, it is not the comment which damages but the way I react to it. There is no point in looking for excuses. One must truly be a warrior in this yoga.

However, formations can work both ways. A positive formation or an encouraging remark can elicit tremendous hope. I often find helpful company to be a real boon. I also find it good to continually build positive formations for myself. To consistently affirm to myself my wholeness creates a significant shift in the being. One must guard against the prophets of doom in this work. Ultimately though, I find a quiet trust in the Divine is always sufficient.

Changing the body

I find that changing the body can be an interminable task. Every detail has to be considered with minute precision. The body is the proverbial dog's tail: it has to be straightened innumerable times until it stops going back to its original shape. This is the chief obstacle. The Mother says:

"To change one's body one must be ready to do millions of times the same thing, because the body is a creature of habits and functions by routine, and because to destroy a routine one must persevere for years(17)."

So progress is made inch by inch. Now and then, on rare occasions, the body makes a leap. Sometimes it falters and might even go back. If I have an accident or succumb to illness, for instance, the consequences are more severe and it is almost as if it must start once more at ground zero.

Persistence is, for me, the key. So working inside has become a regular practice. I generally keep a fixed time and place for this as I find the continuity greatly enhances my work. The cells themselves must be taught a new way: the way of light. It is indeed a process. Inevitably, a change of consciousness occurs. Slowly an understanding develops; something like an inner vision emerges. I believe this can be done through repetition as it is the only dialogue the body understands. Each time I feel the body open to the Mother's Force and Light, it becomes lighter and freer. At those times, I feel my movements assume a greater fluidity. The secret, I believe, is to maintain the contact with the Mother longer each time in order to help it endure. This sustains the flow. Nature inevitably tries to claw back what she has reluctantly relinquished. That is the challenge. I must keep going.

An enduring trust and steadfast patience, I believe, are the only two ways to see this work through to a victorious conclusion. In The Synthesis of Yoga, Sri Aurobindo names time (kala) as one of the 'Four Aids' to yogic progress. Now I can truly see why. Whenever I truly surrender to the Mother's supreme wisdom, time becomes my ally. The mind quietens and the being regains a harmonious rhythm. On such occasions, I trust that the alchemy will unfold in its own time. On the other hand, if I make time my enemy, the weight of expectation only throttles the being.

The Mother, indeed, comments on this very subject:

"But when you tell yourself, 'It is all right, I didn't succeed this time, I shall succeed next time, and I am sure one day or another I shall do it ', then it becomes your friend(18)."

Motiveless work

I don't find it fruitful to keep end-results in mind when doing this work. Indeed it is only the mind, I feel, that tries to construct results for the being. The Mother constantly reiterated that the results of the work are best left to the Divine. This is actually the Mother's work which I do out of love for her. Why frame boundaries, I ask, when limitless horizons are starting to manifest before my eyes? With a sense of devotion, the work, however arduous, becomes a joy. Even difficulties become opportunities. A new world is materialising in our midst and we must widen ourselves to embrace it. "There must be a great widening", the Mother says, "to make room for the movements of the Supermind(19)." In reality, we make ourselves so small! There is a Vastness tantalisingly close to my reach; I need to work and expand to accommodate it. So work I must. I need to climb higher too, until the day comes when I might make that leap, stretch out my wings and glide down to the golden fields below.


1. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 7. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p.426.

2. The Mother. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 8. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1977, p.313.

3. Ibid. p.316

4. Ibid. pp.316-7.

5. Ibid. p.402.

6. (ed.) M.P. Pandit. Breath of Grace. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 2002 (2nd ed.), p.41.

7. Sri Aurobindo. SABCL, Volume 20. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1970, p.48.

8. Op. cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 7. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p.1.

9.Op. Cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 9. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1977, pp.108-9.

10.Op. cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p.2.

11.Op. Cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 3. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1977, p.98.

12.Op. Cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 6. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p.369.

13.Op. Cit. SABCL, Volume 16. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1971, p.8.

14.Op. Cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 7. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p.20.

15.Ibid. p.19.

16.Op. Cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 6. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p.357.

17.Op. Cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 7. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1979, p.105.

18.Ibid. p.385.

19.Op. Cit. Collected Works of the Mother, Volume 8. Pondicherry; Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, 1977, p.206.

James Anderson lives in Pondicherry and is working on his body through this way.

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The steep ascent


Laws of nature


Inner perfection


Sri Aurobindo


The inner teacher


Our secret nature




Transcending the limits


True movement




'Inner way'


Joyful body


Overactive mind


Shifting currents


Positive Formation


Sustaining the flow




Climbing higher


Golden fields