Author: Isidora Bugarski, EBC

What it’s like to live outside the comfort zone, continuously on the move, live in various countries around the world? Take a peek into this exclusive interview with Marija Weniger for EBC Balkans, who openly shares her rich experience and the secret to a happy life. Marija is a well-known Serbian actress and also the only certified Iyengar yoga instructor in Serbia, a mother of two children.

Life on the Road and Children

For someone who spent 16 years traveling the world, I didn’t consider pregnancy an artificial state, and it was normal for me to give birth in India because I was there every winter. So, since the due date was in February, I gave birth to my first child there. My first son, Tesla, was born at the foothills of the Himalayas, in a city where the Ganges springs and flows, in Rishikesh, a beautiful town. At 40 days old, Tesla was already in Indonesia for two months, then in Malaysia for a month, and in Germany for a few days. After that, we continued our journey to Kosovo, where we stayed for a month, then in Greece for three months, then back to India, Sri Lanka, Nepal, and so on. We travel continuously, so my second child was born while traveling through Germany. I believe it’s natural for a mother to sleep with her child from the beginning. It seemed strange to me when my husband asked where we would put the baby when we didn’t have a crib; we all grew up sleeping in a crib.

At that time, we lived in a mango forest where our first neighbors were monkeys, and one monkey family became tame around us. When I prepared food and peeled various fruits and vegetables, I would throw them outside, and they would come for that food. That’s where I saw that all animals sleep with their babies, so I found it strange how generations of people separated their children in cribs with bars. So, I still sleep with my children, and I think that’s the most natural thing to do at the beginning. It’s also natural to breastfeed children, so I breastfed Tesla for two full years until Sia was born. I took a one-month break; I breastfed Tesla throughout my entire pregnancy, and when

Sia was born, I continued to breastfeed him.

‘If your heart doesn’t skip a beat, then the snake won’t bite you.’

“Here, where we currently are, at the foot of Mount Rtanj. Although I’m from Belgrade, I decided to live in nature because, after 16 years of living in various jungles, mountains, and beaches, city life feels completely artificial and is not my chosen way of life. I feel good waking up with the sun and falling asleep with the sunset. Here, people say, ‘If your heart doesn’t skip a beat, then the snake won’t bite you.’ My son catches little snakes with his hands, and recently he saved one from fire, buried it in the ground, and when he got up the next day, he immediately ran to see if the snake was alive, singing it some strange song we had never heard before. He has some strange whistling he uses when talking to snakes. His heart never skips a beat when he sees animals; he’s completely free. If we’re burdened with fear from wrong teachings, then even animals are afraid of us, so their normal natural reaction is to defend themselves. I believe if humans lived in the woods, all animals would serve humans. Squirrels would bring food to humans, etc. Tesla has a natural connection with plants and animals, with all living beings, while my second child prefers machines, tools, and working like his dad.

Recently, we went to see a flower called Fairy’s Comb, which looks like a fairy flower, we found a secluded place where several such flowers grow, and I suggested to my older son that we call the younger one. He replied, ‘Sia doesn’t like looking at the beauty of nature so much; he prefers to work.’ We should respect the nature of each child; I try to be only a supportive mother in what they are.

They’re used to walking barefoot. It’s essential that even babies who don’t walk aren’t conditioned with shoes and socks because the feet and palms are the body’s largest temperature regulators. Allowing the body’s nature to acclimate to external temperatures without wearing socks helps the thermoregulator function perfectly in the human body. For example, my feet are always icy, and my mother used to put on many socks to keep me warm, while my children, for example, went out barefoot in the snow last winter, and their feet were warm. The body is flawlessly intelligent, and what I teach my children is that the human body has the perfect ability for self-healing depending on how connected we are to our center. I believe there is a source within all of us, and it’s very important that if we are centered within ourselves and connected to that center, then the human organism has incredible self-healing power.

My children have been sick several times, but for a maximum of 6 to 12 hours because the body has that ability, and I witness it through them. For example, my older son fights off a fever by sleeping, and it lasts a maximum of 8 hours. The fever usually doesn’t subside as far as I know because it’s the body’s internal defense mechanism; when the body raises its temperature, it defends itself against larger foreign viruses and bacteria, and when it completes its function, it decreases its own, strengthening the immune system. All information is readily available nowadays, and there’s no need to be led by media brainwashing.

Challenges and benefits without a permanent home

I’m fortunate that my husband and I share the same philosophy of life and walk the same path. My husband is of German descent, and he values structure and discipline, which are essential for children. For example, knowing when to wake up. As traveling people, we found it quite challenging to maintain this because we changed beds and homes infinitely, but we taught our children, which wasn’t easy without a permanent home. Not having a permanent home isn’t easy, but it brings immense freedom, so I could choose if the climate was perhaps unfavorable for the children to wear clothes and shoes, then we would go to the beach and stay there. I’ve always been a student in life,

and I love to learn and have the best teachers. Since I practice Iyengar yoga, it was logical for me to go to the Iyengar family at the institute in Pune, India, and study there. So, I chose my own home based on my interests in life. I realized that during the 16 years, I never stayed in one place for more than 3 months. It requires great flexibility and adaptability. The biggest challenge was finding free time for myself because there’s no nearby family, neighbors, or friends who could look after them. But now they are 5 and 3 years old and relatively independent.

The natural flow

I don’t make many decisions in life. I deeply believe that we decide very little in life and that life actually happens to us. I think we should surrender to fate or life. I’ll be bold enough to say that I don’t concern myself with how others react because as a traveler, I’m used to people reacting differently in different parts of the world. I’m also accustomed to not caring what 300 people in the theater audience think; instead, I care whether I’m living and showing my truth about it. People usually ask me how I can endure it, but for me, it’s not endurance; it’s a lifestyle. It’s a natural way of life for me. I’ve been riding racehorses for a long time, and people wondered how I could be so

brave. But I never defined it as bravery because it was completely normal to me. It was a great love and passion for me, so there was no room for fear.

For children, the traveling way of life is entirely natural because they don’t know any other. For example, last year when we stayed in one country for a month, after seven days, they were asking when we would go somewhere new and to a new house. Some people find it hard to adapt to change, but for us, change is constant. When we look at nature, it’s constantly moving, and constantly changing. Nothing is static, and nothing is permanent, so it’s natural.

Me and mine…we are all one

Many parents have told me that children need to know what is theirs. I never told my children about “mine” or “yours” before they turned three. If we were somewhere and a child got a toy, when we were leaving, I would tell the child to leave the toy, and they never objected or said it was theirs. On the other hand, we had a problem when, for example, in Belgrade, in the park, my child would approach another child with a bike and want to ride it as if it were theirs. In such cases, I would go to the mother and talk to her about it, allowing my child the freedom to ride the other child’s bike.

By the age of three, they naturally develop an ego, they get the idea that they are separate from the mother, and they want to have something that is theirs, and the “mine” and “yours” phase begins. Essentially, I don’t know what “mine” is in life. My body could be mine, but even that is not entirely mine. I could say my breath is mine, but then if it’s mine, why can’t I control it? So, I don’t know what is ours in life. Many people spend their lives acquiring possessions, houses, and apartments. Let’s

take the word “apartment” in English; when we look at the meaning of that word, it originates from “apart,” meaning we have created some small separations from each other. We must understand that we are all one and that the same soul is within all of us, and each of us has our uniqueness, and there is no other person like you in all of eternity, in all times. How divine is that? And on the other hand, when I have someone “bad” close to me, for example, we have a neighbor who my son asks why she’s so mean, and I tell him, I don’t know son, we’ll have to see where within us there is meanness and correct it within ourselves if it exists, and that lady will automatically correct herself; if not, that’s her thing.

Food

Children are strong and resourceful. For example, during our travels, since we often changed various places and countries, from my experience, learning, and belief that natural food is what grows on trees and plants that grow from the earth. What grows in the sun and what is watered with water, what is not packaged and has not undergone any industrialization. I would focus on that as children grow natural food and how to make the right combination of food that is eaten. What time food is taken, what quantity, and what focus is needed when eating something. It is foolish to eat mechanically in front of screens, and it is much more natural to eat food with gratitude to Mother Earth, God the Creator, oneself. It is good to have gratitude and stop a minute before starting a meal and thank before the food is put into the body. It’s good to have warm food, live food. It’s good to know which foods go together, for example, whether watermelon is eaten with other fruits or alone, and why it’s not done because it ferments other food in the body that rots. It’s important to know

about the digestive organs themselves, about human teeth, about animals and their natural food, why some animals are carnivorous and herbivorous, where strength comes from, what proteins are, why a bull and elephant and monkey, which are huge and have immense strength, eat only plants… that’s another aspect that I would try to teach children and what is important for life.

In education, it’s crucial not to stifle children’s curiosity and, by example, allow them to be involved in all our activities, patiently teaching them how things are done. My children participate equally in all activities available. The camp I’m preparing will be beneficial for parents who will get a little break from their children, and my main focus is for any children who come to leave with new skills and open-minded perspectives on life, with the knowledge that they can create the same for themselves at home because the city is a non-natural environment, whereas here they can learn a variety of things.

Body

The most perfect methodology for exercising one’s own body is the Iyengar methodology. B.K.S. Iyengar is the man who brought yoga to the West in the 1950s and 60s. He was a yoga instructor to the Belgian queen. He evolved the methodology of yoga in a pragmatic way, explaining the physical state of a person and how by positioning the body in certain postures, we can maintain optimal health for many years regardless of the current state of the body. For example, we now have workers who work on our home, and on the second day, they didn’t use their break every two hours

to drink beer but to position their bodies to relieve the pain in the lower parts of their bodies and backs. Interestingly, workers in Serbia, who generally have resistance and aversion to words like yoga, chakras, etc., when explained how to relax their musculoskeletal system and how to position themselves correctly so that these muscles can serve the organs and bones and promote proper blood circulation and health, and address any existing problems, fully embrace it.

When I discovered Iyengar yoga, I asked older teachers why it wasn’t introduced into the basic education of all children worldwide. It’s elementary knowledge about how a person should sit, and stand, what our musculature is, and what our body is about; there are no abstract stories, everything is very precise. Yoga is an experiential science that, through a few minutes of correct instructions, explains why the shoulder needs to rotate, why the sternum needs to lift upwards, why the shoulders need to open up, what the capacity of the lungs is then, the openness of the diaphragm, what the state of the organs in the abdomen is—it becomes clear through a simple set of exercises.

The funny ancient wisdom of washing the dishes and judging

I used to wash dishes in the snow for a long time, and now I wash dishes in spring water. My grandmother taught me this way, because when I was young, I didn’t like washing dishes. Then my grandmother said, ‘Listen, dear, the main thing and principle in life is not to judge, and preparation for eternal life would be to wash your own dishes.’

So I wrote that with a marker and put it on the fridge, repeating it until it became one of my favorite activities. And as I rinse the water off the dishes, I think that if I judged someone today, it’s worth washing that judgment away today. Life is full of duality and contradiction, and I would say that happiness is an overrated thing, while joy is the fundamental state of being for humans. One should be curious, have structure in life, surrender to the will of God or life force, and believe in one’s own self-healing ability within the power of the flawlessly crafted human organism.

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