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A minute with: Iole Damaskinos–Vernhes Yoga & Mindfulness Instructor, Ecopsychologist, Environmental Activist


Where do you live and with whom?
I live in a village in Paphos with my husband, my kids, a cat and a tortoise.

What did you have for breakfast?
Two figs and a piece of halloumi.

Describe your perfect day
Wake up at 6am, have a cup of PG Tips, find my tortoise, pet and feed him; go kayaking followed by a yoga stretch; read for several hours, build a chicken coop with my kids, paint it outrageous colours; go for a swim, lunch on the beach, read some more, beat my daughter at tavli, potter around my recently begun food forest, and finally watch the sunset with a good friend, brandy sour in hand, and my cat curled up against my feet.

Best book ever read?
Inner Engineering by Sadhguru It is the most clearly worded psychology, yoga and mindfulness book I have ever come across. It clarifies the nature of the human mind and body. It is very inspiring and teaches how to be truly in charge of one’s being and one’s life energy, how to live with compassion and dignity, letting go of unnecessary mind traps and distractions.

Best childhood memory?
One of my favourites is from my childhood in South Africa, watching my dad and my uncles chasing after a huge ostrich to get me a feather. Needless to say, they did not succeed!

What is always in your fridge?
A jar of Chyawanprash–a kind of Ayurvedic super-jam. It’s an immunity booster packed with natural vitamins. And several totally empty containers, courtesy of my kids.

What music are you listening to in the car at the moment?
Hamilton, the songs from the musical, as my children are obsessed with it and now the whole family knows every single lyric.

What’s your spirit animal?
The tortoise. I think a tortoise is a great teacher in poise. It quietly goes its own way without harming anyone. It can be one with its environment. It knows when to withdraw from the world and shelter in the sanctuary of its own body. And yet a tortoise can be utterly single-minded, keeping its eyes glued to the goal, and move towards it with unstoppable speed when it wants!

What are you most proud of?
To be honest, I don’t really feel pride. Life is a series of transient successes and failures…I don’t overly dwell on any of them. But what I feel grateful for in my life (if I may re-word the question this way), is that no matter which country I’ve lived in, or under what life circumstances, I always managed to find the joy and delight unique to that particular environment and moment in time. I always found ways to improvise a good life from whatever “ingredients” I had available, express myself, and stay true to my soul.

What movie scene has really stayed with you?
There’s a 90s movie called The Big Blue, about freediving but it’s a metaphor for life. There’s a scene where the protagonist’s girlfriend tries to call him back from the dive but he says he can’t come back because he just has to know what’s down there. That scene stayed with me because I can really relate to it–the longing to go to the depths of life, the drive to know what it is really all about, what truth is.

If you could pick anyone at all (alive or dead) to go out for the evening with, who would it be?
Vandana Shiva– she’s a feminist scholar, physicist and food sovereignty activist. I think she’s a wonderfully dynamic, outspoken woman and a voice of honesty and sanity in the world.

If you could time travel when/where would you go?
A pirate ship in the 1800s…but we wouldn’t hurt anyone. Just sail to islands and discover things–like exotic species. A kind of zoological/botanical pirate ship. Actually, I just really want to drink rum and hang out with Jack Sparrow.

What is your greatest fear?
I fear for future generations, for my own children’s future. Our world is suffering. There is such mindlessness, an autopilot planetary destruction. There’s this ruthless market energy of overconsumption and consumerism. My fear is that we (my generation) will fail the children. That we will not be able to generate a strong enough antidote to this destructive energy. But I have hope. Many people are starting to recognise that we cannot carry on this way.

What would you say to your 18-year-old self?
“Darling, shoulder pads do NOT look good. On anyone. But you were right about U2, they are indeed legends. And visionaries.”

Name the one thing that would stop you dating someone
Unkindness. Also, if they weren’t willing to help me name my chickens.

If the world is ending in 24 hours what would you do?
I would try to find everyone who blessed my life to say ‘I love you’ and ‘Thank you’. I would ask my husband to bake his signature chocolate lava-cake one last time and eat a very large portion of it. Then I would probably go float on my back in the sea…with my kids…until the lights went out.

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