Do you ever feel like you’ve been completely broken down?
Do you feel that someone has done wrong to you or life isn’t going as you planned?
I’ve recently experienced and explored these questions while experiencing a conflict in my romantic relationship. Romantic love can generate an emotional response to what we value highly and it can trigger both extreme happiness and painful suffering.
Similar to warring countries with opposite ideals, a partner can drop an emotional bomb on your heart, possibly shattering your dreams and desires. You may ask, how can I rebuild my heart from this point?
I’ve learned that yoga is a practice of minimalism and awareness. It is about letting go of negativity and cultivating a controlled mind that is light, flexible, free, and at peace.
When I think of rebuilding and freedom, I’m reminded of my recent trip to Dubrovnik.
It’s been proclaimed by George Bernard Shaw in 1929, “If you want to see heaven on earth, come to Dubrovnik.” This city reminds me of the beauty, freedom, and strength of a controlled mind.
Dubrovnik is among the 10 best preserved medieval walled cities in the world, where peace means prosperity, and one of the most prominent tourist destinations in the Mediterranean Sea.
The prosperity of the city was historically based on maritime trade. There is a theory that major construction of Dubrovnik took place before the Common Era. However, it achieved a high level of development, particularly during the 15th and 16th centuries, as it became notable for its wealth and skilled diplomacy.
A main feature of Dubrovnik is its walls that run over one mile around the city. The walls run from 13.2 to 19.8 feet thick on the land side but are much thinner on the sea side. The system of turrets and towers were intended to protect the vulnerable city.
Do you have a wall around your heart? I’ve realized that sometimes my walls of past resentments have kept me from showing the love, truth, and vulnerability that my partner seeks.
The city boasts of many old buildings, such as the Arboretum Trsteno, the oldest arboretum (a botanical garden of trees) in the world, dating back to before 1492. Also, the third oldest European pharmacy is located in the city, which dates back to 1317. Few of Dubrovnik's Renaissance buildings survived the earthquake of 1667 but fortunately enough remained to give an idea of the city's architectural heritage. The Rector's Palace is a Gothic-Renaissance structure that displays finely carved capitals and an ornate staircase.
These old buildings remind me of what we call “emotional baggage.” Our past contains memories and perhaps ruins of disappointments or hurts that sometimes remain as a foundation for our understanding of values in the future. Sometimes these memories can be triggered by a similar event or symbol. As a result, we can get stuck in negative loops of confused thoughts.
However, the good news is that we have the power to control our thoughts! The primary cause of happiness is a controlled mind that is light, flexible, free, and at peace. Secondary causes of happiness concern positive external conditions. Imagine your mind as stable as a mountain, the backdrop of Dubrovnik. I can control this constant changing continuum of my mind, although it sometimes behaves as a spoiled child that tries to get away with anything. Through practicing patient acceptance, our mind is able to accept fully and happily whatever occurs.
We are all on this journey to happiness. Let’s see the steps and try to follow the pathway. Onofrio della Cava envisioned a pathway as he completed Dubrovnik’s aqueduct, in 1438, with two public fountains. The water jets gush out of the mouth of the sixteen detailed mascarons. These fantastical portrait sculptures were intended to spiritually cleanse the water, like the renewing of our thoughts, dropping negativity to allow clean positivity to flow.
The 102-foot high bell tower, built in 1444, is one of the symbols of the free city state of Ragusa (today’s Dubrovnik). Between the 14th century and 1808, Dubrovnik ruled itself as a free state, although it was a vassal from 1382 to 1804 of the Ottoman Empire and paid an annual tribute to its sultan.
At a time when power, control, fear, war, and revenge ran the world, Dubrovnik lost it’s freedom for almost 200 years. Dubrovnik endured through Napolean’s control, then take over by the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Hadsburgs, World War II Nazi-puppet Independent State of Croatia, and, under communism, Dubrovnik became part of the Socialist Republic of Croatia and Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Do you feel like a victim in an unfair world? We may ask, why did this happen to me? Karma is the destiny that you earn through your actions and behavior; it’s basically, the rule of cause and effect. Positive actions bring positive effects. Negative actions bring negative effects. This truth brings self-responsibility. I ask myself, am I still holding onto negative thoughts? Was I ignorant to the complexity of a situation, meaning, was I not living consciously through awareness? Yes, external situations happen around us, but we primarily have the power to have positive thoughts and actions to maintain our own happiness.
Despite demilitarization of the old town in early 1970s in an attempt to prevent it from ever becoming a casualty of war, following Croatia's independence in 1991, Dubrovnik was attacked by JNA (Yugoslavia's Yugoslav People's Army) with a siege of Dubrovnik that lasted for seven months. The heaviest artillery attack was on December 6 with 19 people killed and 60 wounded. The number of casualties in the conflict, according to Croatian Red Cross, was 114 killed civilians.
Foreign newspapers were criticized for placing heavier attention on the damage suffered by the old town than on human casualties. Nonetheless, the artillery attacks on Dubrovnik damaged 56% of its buildings to some degree and sustained 650 hits by artillery rounds. Following the end of the war, damage caused by the shelling of the Old Town was repaired. Adhering to UNESCO guidelines, repairs were performed in the original style. Most of the reconstruction work has been done between 1995 and 1999.
Do you feel stuck? The importance of an event does not have to manifest in huge pain or angry reaction. First see if there is anything that you can do to change a situation, like rebuilding the roofs and walls. When our mind is unhappy or disappointed, it’s a gameover when negative emotions kick in. It is impossible to fulfill all of our desires in life, but it’s important to recognize your desires for what they are, just desires. Sometimes we mourn what something represents.
How can we find freedom? Negative thoughts do not need to cause my mind to be disturbed. Letting go of a disturbing thought, or aversion does not lesson its importance in value, but only it’s potential to harm you. Nothing is worth losing my inner peace.
What does it mean to forgive? Forgiveness doesn't make us a doormat. It is about letting go of the pain and bringing your mind to control, back to its natural state of positivity, calm, and love. We are all the same at the core. Our enemies are people that are being controlled by delusion. Let us understand, that is why he or she is acting this way towards me; this behavior is contrary to his/her true nature. Let us desire for everyone to experience freedom from difficulties. I don't want suffering, neither do you. You are important too.
The roofs of Dubrovnik are in the Mediterranean style—red tiles, curved, stylish. Old roofs are easy to identify—they’re somewhat discolored and vintage-looking. The new roofs are fresh, bright red tiles, evenly placed, strong and secure. From the rooftops it is easy to see how many roofs were destroyed by the shelling from the hills and then replaced, almost all of them. Each and every destroyed roof has been replaced, the walls holding the roofs up have been repaired, and the city of Dubrovnik is back in business.
Twenty-four years have passed since the near-destruction of Dubrovnik, and the city is rebuilt. The streets are clear. The houses are full. The tourists have returned, in tremendous numbers.
The people of Dubrovnik are set free again, letting their light shine, while optimistic about their future and prosperity.
I am taking control of rebuilding my happiness. I choose to live in the moment and be aware. I have the power to notice when my mind becomes disturbed, to breathe deeply and release negative emotions and thoughts. I choose to replace them with positive affirmations. I am letting go of my past relationship baggage so that I can experience freedom and build a strong love that is based on positivity, understanding, vulnerability, and truth.
This blog was also influenced by a meditation workshop, that I attended, by Kadampa Meditation Center, Freedom through Forgiveness.
Hannah seeks to find relationships between nature, cultures, yoga, and art through her writing.
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Lessons from Abroad