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Manizales

Mindfulness in Manizales, Colombia

Lessons Learned From Attempted Robberies, Graduation Parties, and Letting Go of Love 

If you’re anything like me, staying mindful sounds easy when you read it in a book. Of course you’ll slow down and take a deep breath when faced with a challenge. What else would you do? 

Well, the “what else” commonly involves panicking, ruminating, and watching your mind get out of control. When things get tough, staying mindful can be challenging. 

I’ve faced many such challenges over the last eight months. After selling all my furniture, quitting my job, and stuffing my life into a backpack, I’ve been living in Latin America since March. Most of my time has been in my new adopted home of Manizales, Colombia. 

In this article, I’ll bring you into a few of my more unusual Colombian experiences. I faced difficulties, but each hurdle came with a valuable lesson. 

March 15, 2019: The Colombian Graduation Party

colombian graduation

My very first Colombian Graduation

On my second full day in Colombia, I found myself at a graphic design student’s graduation. Specifically, I was one of three guests at the ceremony. Even more specifically, I was seated directly between the other two guests: the girl’s divorced parents. 

I was rather nervous. Sweating with impressive consistency, I attempted to make conversation. Back in March, my Spanish was pretty lackluster. Filled with anxiety, I didn’t know what to do. 

But then, all of a sudden, I realized everything was going to be ok. What’s the worst thing that could happen? I took a deep breath, and I felt like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders. I got my sweating under control (though that may have been because someone finally opened the doors to the auditorium…it was quite hot). 

Often, we find ourselves in situations where we’re afraid of how we’ll appear to other people. One way to calm ourselves down is to realize everyone else is human, just like us. They’re unlikely to judge us, condemn us, or even notice if we’ve made a mistake. By taking a step back and realizing it’s all going to be ok, it usually is. 

July 12, 2019: The Broken Computer 

mindfulness in manizales

My Spanish replacement computer

After spending a couple of weeks visiting family in the United States, I was back in Colombia. During my time back home, I had bought a new laptop. I was very pleased with this laptop—that is, until it broke on my third day back. 

I’m a writer. That’s how I make my money. No writing, no income. Unfortunately, I now had no way to put words on the page. My initial reaction was to spend a few hours running around like a chicken with its head cut off. 

What am I going to do? How could the computer break so soon? Why is this happening to me? 

I was planning on being in South America for another four months, so this was quite the problem. I created nightmare scenarios about how clients would fire me and how I wouldn’t get a new computer quickly enough. 

You know what happened? I walked back into my apartment and realized there was a desktop computer I could use. It was sitting right there. I had even used it before. How could I forget? 

When we’re in a state of panic, we’re often blind to obvious solutions. We spend so much time worrying about the problem that we can’t find the easy fix, even when it’s sitting right in front of us. 

Since then, I bought a $200 laptop that I use when I travel. Neither the apartment’s desktop nor my new laptop is an impressive machine. Plus, both computers have Spanish keyboards (it took me days to find the apostrophe key). Nevertheless, the world kept turning. I kept writing, and now I have a story. 

It’s natural to let the mind race when you encounter a challenge, but try to take a moment and calmly evaluate the situation. It will all work out eventually. It always does. 

July 31, 2019: The Attempted Robbery 

manizales, colombia

The scene of the crime

I was on my way back from a concert when I felt the man jump on my back. Honestly, I wasn’t surprised. I was told never to walk by the soccer stadium after a match, but I thought I could make it home. 

Walking through a red sea of Cali supporters, I felt uneasy. Eventually, my fears came true. While one man was one my back, another stuck his hand down my pocket. My phone pocket. Bad news. 

I managed to push them both off me and directed a stern “No!” at them. It was the best warning I could muster. I promptly speed-walked away until I found some policemen to use as cover. After about a minute, I continued my power-walking back to my apartment. Luckily, the prospective thieves came away emptyhanded. 

When I got back to my apartment, I reflected. I wasn’t angry at all. Why wasn’t I upset? It was strange. 

After a few minutes, I started to feel compassion for the attempted robbers. Perhaps they needed money to feed their families. Maybe they wanted to look cool in front of their friends. Regardless of the reason, I realized they wouldn’t have tried to steal from me if they were happy and secure. 

When others try to do us harm, it’s usually because they’re in a bad place. Instead of vilifying them, try to see things from their perspective. When you try to understand their side of the story, you realize they aren’t terrible people. They’re trying their best, just like you and me. 

Today: Saying Goodbye 

nature in colombia

The country that stole my heart

As I write this in November, I can’t help but look back on these experiences with warm nostalgia. My time in Colombia has taught me more than my formal education ever did. After months of meeting new people, speaking Spanish, and attending yoga classes where I was the only man, I’ve grown to love this country. 

For a variety of reasons, I’m leaving Colombia in a week. As a side note, none of the reasons have to do with Colombia itself—this country is filled with magic and warmth. 

While I’m excited for the next chapter in my life, a big part of me will miss this place. The small buses that cost $0.70 and don’t have actual stops. The lush green hills that surround the city. The amazing friends I’ll remember forever. 

But this is all part of the process. If we cling to the things we love without ever moving on, we’ll never be happy. All good things must come to an end. 

And so, at this very moment, Colombia is teaching me my last lesson. With everything being impermanent, we must be grateful for every moment. Gaze out your window. Smell the flowers. Smile at a stranger. I’ll always look back at this experience with a warm glow of love. Gracias, Colombia. Te quiero. 


Michael Bjorn Huseby is a freelance writer specializing in health, wellness, and travel. He loves practicing yoga, writing music, and attempting to speak foreign languages. If you want to learn more, visit bjorn2write.com

Wellness Around the World: Latvian Summer Solstice

latvian summer solstice celebrationMy name is Datza and I was born and raised in Latvia. I’m currently a teacher and owner of Datza Studios here in cozy Eastlake neighborhood. Latvia is a tiny country by the Baltic Sea, just across from Sweden, east of Poland and west of Russia. Yasss, we were part of Soviet Union but we have way a different language and culture. Proud to be pagans, proud to be Latvians!

I love love my country but somehow life brought be me to US. First, it was east coast for a few summers and a little over 15 years ago – Seattle. Change is constant and life thrives on change; it is the essence of the 2nd chakra and the story of my life. It’s also one the main teachings of Yoga (union of mind, body and soul).

Yoga for me is more than just asanas, yoga is the practice through which we are able to liberate ourselves and create the freedom we desire (in the yoga universe we call it Moksha). I’m more than grateful for my Yoga Teacher Training at Samadhi where most of the teachings were about yoga philosophy and most of the practice teaching was done after the regular hours with friends, other trainees and our mentor. Shout out to Jennifer Isaacson, Kathleen Hunt and Steve Shiva!

garden yogaIt’s been over 10 years since I was introduced to yoga and I constantly find similarities between yoga and my upbringings in Latvia. As pagans, we believe that there are higher spirits and nature Gods who guide us, who help us, and who can also destroy us, if we are ignorant to their messages. Yoga sutras states:  “Ignorance is the seed of the suffering.” We have our Earth, Wind, Sun and other gods similar to Hinduism where there is Kali, Shakti, Shiva etc. We have Latvian mythology symbols weaved into our clothing, put in our houses, and even on our bodies. We accept that mood and energy levels change, and when we get sick the first treatment would be natural remedy – herb tea, mixture etc. Ayurveda would be the word we know here and is a sister of yoga!

We have always been taught to live in the moment – the power of NOW. We believe that happiness is freedom and you become more free by getting together and singing and dancing (which is pretty much a must for every event), whether it’s a name day, birthday or other festivity. Every 4 years we have a National Song and Folk festival when Latvians from our country and abroad come together for a week and express themselves through singing and movement.

Did you know that Latvian language is one of the closest languages to Sanskrit? Did you know that we still celebrate summer solstice and it’s a national holiday? Summer solstice celebration is the biggest festivity in Latvian culture, same as the Deities celebration in Hinduism (celebrating deities like Kali, Shiva etc.)

latvian summer solstice attireIn Latvia we call it “Jani” and it is always the night from June 23 to June 24 when all Latvians participate in joyous festivities just like the ancestors did centuries ago. “Jani” celebration dates back to middle ages and is a celebration of nature and the changing of seasons mixed with all traditions.

Yes, it is a national holiday!  Everyone tries to get out in the country to their relatives and our friends and just eat, drink, dance and sing.

I can tell you for hours and go in details but to keep it short yet sweet, there are few things which are just plain mandatory and you will find during the celebration:

  1. Bonfire – definitely the hallmark of the festivities. We sit by the bonfire and wait for the sun to come up. Late in the evening when the bonfire becomes smaller, we jump over it which signifies ridding people of their burdens. Couples jump together and the magical force of the flames binds them for life. The bonfire also helps to keep the insects away.
  2. Latvian food– must have “Jani”cheese (a sour cheese made with caraway seeds) and beer. Gotta keep our bodies alive all night long!
  3. Garlands for everyone made of oak leaves or wild flowers – they were believed to have magic powers during the summer solstice. Houses are also decorated with birch oak and rowan branches to keep the evil spirits away.
  4. “Field Trip Into the Woods” – it is believed that the Summer Solstice night is the only night when one can see the mysterious and mythical fern flower. No one really has seen it yet, but it is a great excuse for couples to wander into the unknown. The fact is, 9 month later there are lots of newborns.
  5. Stay up till the Sunrise – we are up in the North and daylight on the “Jani” night is only a few hours. If you end up falling asleep by the time the sun rises, you will be sleepy all summer long and who wants that? At dawn, one should find water and wash their face in order to have a fresh glow all summer long. Walking through the morning dew is said to bring wealth.

summer solstice bonfireSummer Solstice from early childhood has been the highlight of the year because finally we could stay up all night, wander around in nature and see family and friends getting silly, yet happy.

I’m more than stoked to announce that we will be celebrating the Summer Solstice and National Yoga Day on Friday, June 21st at our Studio – Datza Studios.

Most of our studio teachers will be there to guide you through their own variation of Sun Salutations since the Sun is what we celebrate on Summer Solstice. In between, Teju (professional story teller from India who is going back on her travels after the event) will educate us on Creator (Brahma), Preserver (Vishnu) and Destroyer (Shiva) and how it is linked with the summer solstice even though down in India they don’t celebrate it (too close to the equator).

The best part – you will feel and look good since after the practice there will be a Nordstrom beauty pop-up with oxygen facials and other goodies.

For more info & to register, follow this link.


Datza Telmane is a local yoga teacher and owner of Datza Studios in Eastlake.