Kristiina Helin - “Seeing is seeing itself”
An interview by Renate McNay
Renate: Hello, and welcome to Conscious TV. My name is Renate McNay, and my guest today is Kristiina Helin . Hello Kristiina.
Renate: Nice to have you here.
Kristiina: Thank you.
Renate: Kristiina is from Finland but she lives in Holland. She is a music stage director and a mother. A few months ago, I received an email from Kristiina which touched me very much, and I just wanted to read a few lines of this email. She says, “Thank you for running Conscious TV. I have seen all your programmes – which are about 400, Kristiina - my solitude ended when I saw there were others with the same realisation. Until then I felt there was only me, and Krishnamurti. It felt like a miracle”. Now my heart smiled when I read that because it is something quite innocent (laughing).
Kristiina: It sounds quite bold actually (laughing)
Renate: It was so beautiful. What was your experience that made you think only you and Krishnamurti are realised?
Kristiina: I think I was terribly drawn to his texts, and at that time I could not find his books in Finland. In the 1980’s and 90’s there wasn’t the same spirituality going on as in the 1960’s for example. I was introduced to Krishnamurti’s texts by my first teacher Olavi Tähtelä. I remember I was copying the books, that’s why I probably felt very much alone. I did not know anyone other than Olavi and myself who were reading Krishnamurti. In my ignorance, of course I thought nobody was reading them so I copied them…
Renate: What do you mean you copied them?
Kristiina: Copied the books of Olavi who had the Krishnamurti’s books, so I copied those books so I had A4 Krishnamurti with me.
Renate: It’s quite a process to copy Krishnamurti’s books.
Kristiina: Yes. They were not in antiquarian or anywhere. I could not find them, which tells also they were not ‘in the air’. It was not, the zeitgeist of the time. I also remember with these copies – I was working at that time at the Finnish National Opera as an assistant and having quite a lousy time there- I always ran to the toilet with these copies of mine. They were my saviour. It was relaxation and relief when I went back, and I realised that this is where I belong, this is my core. But of course, it took quite a long time after that…
Renate: You told me that already as a child you had mystical experiences which were quite violent for you and scary.
Renate: But they gave you glimpses of something because you said you started to leave your body, and you had these electric shocks going through you, and when you left your body, you realised that you are not only your body.
Kristiina: Yes, but these came only recently. I realised that my childhood experiences had something to do with an opening. I would be careful to put these two things together. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the opening itself that I’ve had recently, but one thing I realise that I did experience was when I was 18, I was doing au pair work in Madrid in Spain. I had a wonderful family there, so there was a lot of warmth around. So that is probably why I started to release the tension in the body. The experiences themselves were absolutely horrible. They were the most awful experiences that I can imagine, or that I’ve experienced. I really thought that I was dealing with evil. There was this electric shock that went through the body and at that moment I was leaving the body. Psychology has explained this in many ways, having a post- traumatic stress syndrome, non- epileptic seizures and all these- but they have not really gone into the core. What is really happening there? It was the first time, only a year ago that I realised it was an opening.
I was experiencing as if I was leaving my body, I could not put it into the words (understand it with my mind) but my body remembered what happened. The body remembered the cramps and the terror (because I was experiencing it all over again), But there was also something positive there because of which I never realised before… I guess it’s the same thing as in nature when they say that if the conditions are good then the rose will come out. If the conditions are bad, it will withdraw. The green in the leaf withdraws when the conditions are not good. I think I had to withdraw many times when I was a child, so the conditions were not good. They were life threatening conditions, so withdrawal was there. At that time, I only knew that I am safe. That was the place to go to be safe.
Renate: You had a very violent upbringing psychologically and physically, and therefore you had a lot of traumas in your body, so I can imagine that when energy started to move through you it must have felt awful because it was bumping against all these blockages.
Renate: At one point, you became aware you needed to release these traumas and relax the body.
Kristiina: I don’t think I was aware of it. I was doing it unconsciously, so straight after when I returned to Finland from Spain, I wanted to travel to London and wanted to go into a theatre school. I did not talk to anybody about these seizures I had. I was afraid that I would be diagnosed, that I am sick, or that I am crazy. That was the biggest fear. I never felt sick. I never felt crazy. Actually, on the contrary I felt quite sane. I guess in the theatre school I was thinking, this is the place for me, I can explore myself, to start inquiry. Indeed, it was. I was lucky. At that time, I went to East 15 Acting School in London. At that time, it was a bit controversial. They had invited Jerzy Grotowski’s disciples or pupils to teach us. We were working in the nights, and doing things that were not traditional theatre schools methods, like Stanislavski or whatever. So, we were working a lot with our senses…
Renate: Yes, and you also told me he worked out of the book of Ramana Marharshi
Kristiina: Well I heard two years ago…I found a you-tube clip in where he was talking about this that he read the book of Ramana Marharshi. After that he created a theatre group called Poor Theatre, that was his inquiry. I’m sure that he wanted to inquire into reality through theatre. So, it was very delightful for me when I saw this.
Renate: So what kind of things did you do in the theatre school?
Kristiina: The biggest thing was in certain periods we were working during the nights, and we were also keeping night books, which means inquiring about our dreams, and our sleeping. We had mirror exercises, which do belong to traditional theatre schooling too, but all the exercises were also somehow naked. He wanted to take everything out of the theatre, the lights, the costumes, everything possible, so the theatre itself would be very naked. We would enter through the body work, I would say now an opening, but then I didn’t know what it was. We were just trying to seek. What is it that they mean, and doing exercises after exercises…
Renate: You mean naked, no clothes on(laughing)?
Kristiina: No, I don’t mean that. It could have been that too (laughing). It was naked from all the concepts, trying to be very transparent.
Renate: So, I guess, very spontaneous.
Kristiina: Yes, and I found it for me, it was very much body sculpting. It was like sculpting the body, making movements with the body that resonate to something. I don’t know what. Looking for a role through the body, doing exercises for a long time so you would be quite exhausted. You would find making a movement through the wrist or something, you would find emotion…
Renate: What did he try to achieve with that? I know you said he tried to reach the unknown
Kristiina: Something very authentic, but of course now I realise he wanted to go much deeper. He wanted to realise I think, because he had read the book, but I don’t know if he did.
Renate: In your own experience, do you feel you became more authentic?
Kristiina: I don’t know. I just feel I’m very happy I had that experience
Renate: What did it give you?
Kristiina: Well it gave me the impulse to travel to Japan. I was drawn to the exercises. At that time, I did not know what I was doing. I think we never know. We do things that we do…
Renate: That we’re drawn to.
Kristiina: Yes, and I would like to see that there was some kind of line from there to here, but now I can see that there wasn’t. It’s not vertical. Something that happens, but I do know that I was very much involved with the investigating the senses, when I was young, and of course I would like to say I was investigating them when I was a child, because of my experiences.
Renate: How did you do that? How did you investigate your senses?
Kristiina: You mean when I was a child, or later on when I went to Japan?
Renate: Later on. One of the exercises you did in the theatre school was trying to investigate the sense, you said earlier
Renate: So, why did you do that? What did you try to achieve by doing that?
Kristiina: I don’t know.
Renate: Why were you drawn to it?
Kristiina: I don’t know. Maybe because I thought, here, I’m not going to be labelled mad. Maybe here, in the theatre, I’m going to be able to do everything, explore everything possible, and it’s allowed.
Renate: I understand.
Kristiina: Also, I did not go into any so called spiritual things. I was a very realistic young woman. I wanted to be a scientist, to have my own laboratory and really research what is my body, the mind. What are the inter reactions? That’s what the theatre does. But the first impulse for that, I don’t know.
Renate: So, it’s not so much that you wanted to become an actor, it was something much deeper that drew you there.
Kristiina: That’s a good question. I had such an ego then that I probably wanted to be the most famous actress in Hollywood then (laughing). It’s very nicely put like that, but I did have that too. I wanted to be recognised, but I was lucky with the teachers because they took us straight to the core of beingness, and what is important. And what is sound. Sound became very important to me.
Renate: And you heard about Butoh Dance, and you became very drawn to it, and went to Japan, and studying it.
Renate: I’d like to hear everything about that. I’m really fascinated by that. So, you travelled to Japan to study Butoh Dance. Maybe you can tell us what Butoh Dance is.
Kristiina: I will probably be the first to define Butoh (laughing). Butoh is not a dance, not a philosophy, not a religion. That’s the beautiful thing about it, it seems to be everything, at the same time. Hijikata Tatsumi created Butoh. He referred to his near- death experience. He tried to find expression for his own near-death experience. He had one when he was a child about to drown. All the exercises he created were referring to that experience. That was also my willingness to be in that area.
Renate: I want to read something I copied down from an article you sent me about Butoh. It says: “It belongs to both life and death. It plays with time and perception. It represents man’s struggle to overcome the distance between himself and the material world. The body enters a state of perfect balance. It is an exercise in non-duality.” Somebody goes on to say: “When I dance, my hands are not my hands, my face not my face, my feet not my feet. My body is part of the environment. The space inside me, and the space around me are one and the same. When the space around me is changed, my body is changed as well. The Butoh dancer puts eyes on each part of his body, and under the floor, and behind”.
Kristiina: Beautifully put, although I cannot say if I find it exactly that way, since I never became a Butoh dancer. I was only there studying and working in the fields and in the farm. I found I was too European to dance Butoh dance. It was for Japanese looking people but there was one exercise that was something I took with me. I also remember when we were there, I was studying with Min Tanaka on his body- weather farm. We had different lecturers there, different Butoh dancers. One evening somebody said that what happens here is you will have an experience, but you will probably not know it till after 40 years of living, or so. I remember thinking, what can it be? What is this experience? What is happening here? It really took 20,30 years for me to understand what was happening there.
Renate: Ok. So, tell us a little of what you did there. So. you entered the body weather farm in Kitakoma-gun.
Renate: So how was your daily schedule? You had to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning.
Kristiina: Yes, it was very early. The whole idea was that we work there. So, we worked in the mornings and in the evenings, and in between we were doing the exercises and dancing, and that went on 24/7. It was all the time investigating your body and your senses. So, it might have been in the morning we were stretching, and later doing some quite heavy body exercises, and then we went to do the Bisoku work, which was very appealing to me, and that was very, very slow movement, as slow as possible. I remember a day when I was blindfolded for the whole day. The farm could be quite complicated but we got used to it. Every day we would try to shut down one sense, so that the other senses would become more alert. We were un-programming the body’s automatic movements. So, when you went to brush your teeth, or wash your hair, you tried to do it differently from the usual. All the automatic movements for eating, you would try to explore. So, it was continuous exploring. It did not stop with 2 hours exercising and then something else, it was really all the time. Also, we explored time and space with exercises like, we would imagine a little window in front of our face, or the body, and then with your hands you would have to make all the movements you remembered from when you work up, for as long as you could remember. So, you would try to remember, how did I brush my teeth, then I made my bed. Then you’d take the window over here (hands to the side). Then you’d change it to hear (arms above head) and try to do it. After a little while you understood, that there’s not very much memory. I can’t remember. I’m doing a lot of things during the day, automatically. In total automatic pilot, and that’s how I am. Should I look into that? What is happening with all these concepts, all the memory. You think it’s telling you a lot, but it’s actually telling you hardly anything. Just a thought coming and going. It was a remarkable time.
Renate: You were also telling me that you were dancing to the movement to the, movement of the wind or the movement in the rice fields…
Kristiina: Yes, that was especially with the Bisoku movement. Those were the ones were, I felt the object disappeared. So, if there was a tree, or grass, and I was there doing Bisoku for a while. Half an hour, 2 hours, sometimes 3 hours, at some point the mind started to give up, and I became the tree. They were powerful moments of course, so you can never forget them, but they were only openings for that time, then they disappeared.
Renate: Butoh dance. I watched a couple of clips on you-tube, it can be actually quite scary. They make their faces completely white, and they move and dance in the most different forms. I got the feeling that they dance to something which comes deep, deep out of the unconscious.
Kristiina: Yes. I’m not a specialist in Butoh dance.
Renate: Yes, but you did some.
Kristiina: There’s dark Butoh, and white Butoh. The dark Butoh never appealed to me so much, but it’s beautiful. Hijikata wanted to… he created this dark Butoh. Kazuo Ono created another kind of Butoh, which is not so scary I think. It might look scary but for me it’s beautiful.
Renate: It’s beautiful but very unusual.
Kristiina: I think it’s more of the sounds. They try to take you out of your dream, wake you up I guess.
Renate: Ok, so let’s stay with Bisoku. I just want to announce that after the interview, Kristiina will show us…
Kristiina: Scary movements (laughing)
Renate: One of the exercises and you can join in. It’s said that in ??, unseen movement is the most interesting movement
Renate: How can you incorporate that into life?
Kristiina: What do you mean?
Renate: Well if the unseen movement is the most interesting…
Kristiina: It’s stillness.
Renate: So, movement coming out of stillness.
Kristiina: Let’s say that these flowers here (pointing to vase on table) are constantly moving. We don’t see it, but if you come here tomorrow, you will see that there has been movement.
Renate: I see them moving. I put them out here at 9 o’clock this morning, and they were completely closed. A few hours later they’ve opened beautifully.
Kristiina: Yes. We don’t pay very much attention to the movement, and if we had other kinds of lenses we would see that everything moves. But with the body you can be those flowers with your body. You enter into the movement of the flowers. It’s so simple. You will move as slow as possible, and your mind cannot follow. It gives orders to move because that’s what you’ve decided, to move, but it cannot follow. So, there are interesting things happening there. I would not like to put them into words, you have to experience them. That’s why I think unseen movement is the most interesting movement. I don’t want to categorise movement into more interesting, less interesting, but what I’m trying to say is that very slow movement can contain extreme speed. It’s like when you think you’re totally still, you can still experience huge speed.
Renate: Which is not under my control.
Kristiina: Yes, the mind cannot follow. Then you see that your body is doing things without your mind. There is a contradiction between giving orders, and thinking I am deciding what is happening, and then at some point I am witnessing awareness. So, I am seeing that the body happens without my demands my control. And of course, it’s very funny, because at some point, if you do a bigger movement in slow motion it’s wonderful when you realise you should take a step, but your missing your other leg, so to realise that I’ve got to give an order to my other leg to start moving. How am I going to solve this situation now, because I still have to continue so, what is going to happen? How fast can I somehow get it along? It’s very nice to explore these situations. Also, when you are in a little group and you are bouncing into each other very very slow.
Renate: I remember I did this one. We had this exercise to do within this spiritual school, I was at with Ian 20 years ago, and we had to do a work period. The task was to do it very slowly. It was not about finishing the work but doing something very slowly. I was sitting on the floor outside and was picking up needles from a pine tree and putting them from one little heap to another little heap very slowly. Then I started to become one with what I was doing, then I heard a voice inside me. This voice said “hey, cone out here. I don’t want to leave this beautiful world. Look how beautiful everything is”. It was strange how it sounded, it was such a vicious voice.
Kristiina: That sounds scary.
Renate: Yes, it was scary laughing), and immediately of course I snapped out.
Kristiina: I do recognise that mind can make all kinds of tricks, and you can have all kinds of experiences, and you can believe in them. That’s a tricky thing. That shows how persistent you have to be with yourself, to always leave the truth behind, and always come back to the fact that you don’t know. The mystery remains. I think that is the most important difficulty. When you find something beautiful, like when I found Butoh and Bisoku movement, I really felt that I have come home, but then I had to move on.
Renate: So, you moved on and found your teacher, your first spiritual teacher, and you started seriously inquiring into who you are.
Kristiina: I was twenty eight, until then it was much more Japan, the theatre school, and more psychological work, trying to understand myself, then when I met Olavi Tähtelä, I started a different type of inquiry, and at that time also I met for the first time a doctor, called Markku Siivola who is probably the only man in Finland with whom I’ve been able to share these thoughts. They may be many people in Finland, but it’s not really talked about, and it’s difficult to find people who would be open to themselves to investigate these non- dual questions and inquiry. So, I was 28 when I met Olavi, and then came a period of mother hood, and marriage, and all this.
Renate: You started to inquire also because you wanted to really understand your experiences. You said to me you went from the body to the head. So, you needed to understand.
Kristiina: Yes, but I don’t know what brought me to him. I don’t know how I ended up meeting him. All that…it happened. Now I’m looking back I can say I wanted to know more about myself, and I wanted to know about what happened in Japan. I wanted to know what happened to me with these seizures I had and what’s going on.
Renate: It’s the beauty. I would say the same thing with my journey. I didn’t know why I was doing certain things. I just followed an intuition. I just followed something. But looking back now, I see like a red thread going through my life, through my journey with life, and I couldn’t have done it differently. It had to be that way. And that way followed into something else, and into something else. It was like it was all worked out for me, I just had to follow.
Kristiina: I had a different perspective to that, because in my case when I fell into consciousness if that is a way to put it, all these lines fell away. All the, then this happened and that happened, all disappeared. I think that in everyone, it must be like that. Everything is happening so that you come to the point where you turn. Karl Jung said that “you should have turned by the time you are forty. If you’ve not done it by then, it’s going to be very difficult”. I don’t know why. I was very much in a hurry with this. I was really hot (laughing). I was… there are children who are diagnosed really active, terribly active all the time…
Renate: You had the urge to wake up.
Kristiina: I think everybody who is watching this…
Renate: The spiritual drive…
Kristiina: Yes. It can really be quite awful especially for our loved ones. The people that are around us. It some points it was really speedy. I think in everyone, the closer and closer you come, the urge becomes greater and greater, and bigger and bigger.
Renate: Where did you want it to go with this urge? What was your aim? What did you want to find? Was it peace? Was it enlightenment? Was it yourself?
Kristiina: I wanted to know what Krishnamurti talked about. I’d already followed Rupert Spira for as long as…
Renate: And you discovered conscious tv and watched one interview after another (laughing). You found Rupert.
Kristiina: Absolutely, and found him there. Then I started to follow. It nearly became an entertainment. I could not stop. It was something that I had to see. That was the only place I felt this is where I want to be. This is what I want to know. Then I have to turn that stone also. I have to see what is in here. Why is this happening like that? Why is it so restless, and what is it you want to know?
Renate: Before that happened, I think you went through a period when you stopped everything. You stopped all action. You only took care of your daughter.
Renate: You removed yourself. You went into a depression.
Kristiina: Yes. I never experienced depression in the way we usually think of it. My mother was very depressed, so I was always thinking, I’m not going to be like my mum. When I came back from Venice I had some work to do. At that time, we had moved to Holland, I realised I’m done. I don’t have an option. I’m going to take down my action to zero. I was just sitting. I was not meditating, just sitting day after day, week after week, month after month. I went to see what depression could be. I had a feeling that underneath everyone there is a depression. In action, we keep the depression away. I had to look at my depression. From that stillness, it started to open. From there I started to come back to myself, turn back and understand that it’s ok. The fear started to release itself. Action is often the original reason for fear. When you take the action down, you are confronted with your own fears, and that might come out as depression. I don’t say that this is a way at all. It doesn’t have to happen to other people like that, but for me it was necessary. Happily, we had moved to the dunes, by the sea. I was contemplating there in nature a lot. Then came the urge to go and see Rupert.
Renate: Then something beautiful happened there.
Renate: So, tell us about that.
Kristiina: Why I went to see Rupert in Amsterdam was that firstly his English was so wonderful. He was really able to speak clear English and slow enough so someone from Finland could follow. The more I listened to him, the more things fell into place. When I went to see him, I was still very anxious, and afraid that I would lose myself to some authority. I think this is the case with a lot of people. There is a fear that you will become a follower or a believer…
Renate: Or a disciple, whatever.
Kristiina: Anything. It was still in me, am I really sane, is this sane? I got a mirror from him. He’s a very sane healthy person. So, it was a very strong mirror for me and encouragement, that it’s ok, you’re not crazy, if you’re digging into your seeing. If you’re questioning your seeing, it’s ok.
Renate: He gave you the question to contemplate “where in your brain have you seen? Is that right?
Kristiina: One night he said, “what happens to the space when you close your eyes”? At first, I was a bit angry that he had given such a simple task, because I was waiting for something profound. I went home and thought, ok this is what I got, so this is something I’m going to find out. At home and I was opening and closing my eyes for the whole night. I went to sleep. I remember I was very restless. My brain tried to seek for some kind of answer, or this is a puzzle I have to solve. First thing in the morning I opened my eyes, and saw that the space is there again. I went to shower and in front of the mirror I applied cream to my body. I happened to look in the mirror but could not see myself. I could see my body of course, in the usual way but I did not recognise that, that was me. That was a scary moment. I thought now I’m becoming crazy, now I’m losing it. I’m flipping. If I’m not there what am I going to do?
Renate: Where are you (laughing)?
Kristiina: I looked down (not to the mirror but myself) and I was not there, and it was ok. That was the first time. When I went to see him again, I was full of it, I just wanted to share it so desperately. The following day I also had a profound fundamental opening, that I could share with him. So there was really life before that, and life after that.
Renate: What does it mean for you that you were not there in your body?
Kristiina: It was not me as I used to see myself as Kristiina, my personality and my face in the mirror.
Renate: Who were you in that moment?
Kristiina: There was no who.
Renate: Or what?
Kristiina: That’s a mystery, it still is. The thing that I have realised and the only question I can answer with words is that I can see that the seeing is happening in me, which means that everything that I am looking at, happens in me. That means the world that I am seeing, or hearing, or touching, they are all happening in me. So, there is nothing outside me. That has come only from wondering about seeing, nothing else. Not really much work done really. That simple. There is nothing mystical in it for me. For me, it’s more science. Science of reality, or science of seeing. It’s not religious for sure.
Renate: It’s just the nature of reality
Kristiina: It’s just that, and it’s so possible for everyone…this sounds such a cliché, but it’s just so possible. It did not need Japan, all the theatre schooling, it doesn’t need anything. It just needs this one moment of focusing to this seeing, at least that’s how I feel about it. I gave the focus to the thing that was important. It was exactly as Rupert was saying, think about what you’re seeing, and is there a distance in seeing? Then you go to your eye and behind it, you cannot find anything.
Renate: I remember when I skyped with you and asked you, who is seeing me (pointing to herself)? You said seeing is seeing itself.
Renate: There is nobody there who is seeing or doing the looking, it’s just seeing.
Kristiina: Yes, and that’s how far I have come. I don’t know anything about enlightenment… maybe there is still something to come I don’t know, but this for me has been so mind-boggling, that I don’t expect anything else. Now when I go to Conscious TV, or to listen to people, they are all talking about this. They are all talking about exactly this same thing. What I was lacking before Rupert, is that I did not have an experience of it. I did understand it so well but I was not tasting it. I did not get the hardcore flesh experience which I can now always return to…
Renate: Yes, but when you say everybody can experience it, is true, but don’t you think it’s still grace when it happens?
Kristiina: I don’t know what it is, I really don’t know
Renate: You see it in more in a scientific way
Kristiina: If grace means this incredibly sensitive loving element, then yes, but I cannot name this thing. Because grace gives this slightly religious feeling because it has been there for so long, also love. It’s the same thing, it’s impossible to name. It would be so cruel to give a name to it. I guess it’s like somebody was saying when you taste something delicious, to name exactly how it tastes is nearly impossible. It is an experience, you experience it. And what was very surprising for me, with this experience, I did not become a better person. I was very much confounded by that in the beginning. Everything that is happening, all the perceptions, the feelings, the thoughts, they are all happening all the time, but this personality is not there. So, there is no… this Kristiina personality is doing all kinds of things, and I don’t want any more to become better or anything like that. And that is a huge relief, it’s really a relaxation.
Renate: What about your fears, your traumas? Everything that is your history, your story, is it free to do what it wants to do, or...
Kristiina: Yes, it’s free, but I have not experienced those fears any more. It is totally free. The bigger fears that could come nowadays, it’s much more like I can think of myself thinking of my own daughter, her safety and all those sorts of things. It happens, just now I’m thinking about her school vigorously, which school, how, and what, and calculating and analysing
Renate: That’s for our next interview Kristiina were we explore awakening and being a mother
Kristiina: And a little bit of father too, as nowadays, they can be single parents
Renate: We have to finish now Krsitiina. It was lovely talking to you. I’ve page after page I didn’t manage.
Kristiina: It went fast
Renate: Kristiina will show us now one of the exercises from Bisoku. You can join in. Thanks for watching Conscious TV and I hope we’ll see you again soon. Thank you Kristiina.
Kristiina: Thank you very much
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