I have been reading Hanna’s blog for a couple of years already, and it has been a great inspiration. It is a beautiful mix of pictures from Helsinki (and elsewhere), style, videos, health, yoga, her jewelry that are made out of recycled materials, and her personal and honest stories of following your passion. I was delighted when she promised to take part of this interview series and answer my questions.
Hanna Ruax is a second generation entrepreneur as a yoga teacher and studio owner in Helsinki, Finland. Originally, she was drawn to yoga because of her own health problems, which eventually lead her to take a leap of faith, and follow her dreams. Hanna believes that you learn by doing, that there are no mistakes. When you realize what you don’t want, and face your irrational fears it teaches you to trust yourself and opens up possibilities for building a life that you want to live. Besides yoga, Hanna makes NANNANDA jewelry out of recycled materials as her creative outlet.
(Top: model on right Hanna on left. Photos courtesy of Hanna Ruax)
What does creativity mean to you, and why is it important to you in being creative?
I think creativity as a word and concept is many times misinterpreted – or the concept of a “creative person”. Many think that “I’m not creative, I just wasn’t born that way”. But for me, how I see creativity, it’s a basic need, an act, state of mind, like any other human need: a need to eat and sleep, to feel loved and safe, be healthy and happy etc. Creativity isn’t any different from these. Everyone is born with creativity, it’s the most natural thing to us, but the experiences we get in life, maybe in early childhood, develop our self esteem and how we express ourselves.
These experiences can have a huge impact on our view about ourselves and creativity. If you’re once told that you can’t draw or sing or whatever, you might start believing in it and tell yourself that you can’t – but it’s not true, you can, anyone can! Everyone has their own style to draw, different kind of voice and with time and practice these skills can develop. Only by doing we can develop our expressions of creativity.
And just because of that, because creativity is a human basic need, we need to use it! Through times people have sculpted, painted, danced, sang – one way or another we need to express ourselves, to open our heart and soul. To share feelings, thoughts and experiences with others through different tools of creativity. When you let creativity to flow, it goes pass by intelligence, your mind. You’re in connection with your deeper Self. I don’t want to talk about God because I’m not religious, but when you connect with your Self, it’s a magical, spiritual experience where you feel that you’re not separate from the world but one with it. You’re floating in the stream of Life and it makes you feel alive, loved and nourished. That’s why “being creative”, doing creative acts and things, is so important for me. It makes life taste better.
I also want to note that the flow of creativity is easier if the things listed above are in a good state – then creativity also blooms easier. If you are worrying about the basic needs of life, then at least my creativity hides from me. It needs its own space and time and if you are constantly worried, head filled with thoughts, it doesn’t have any room to come out. Yoga is a way for me to cope with stress, which I will talk about more later.
Which artist, writer, musician or other talented person has inspired you the most and why?
I’m not a loyal “fan” person, meaning that I’ve never been that interested about big names and titles. I’m actually really bad with names and always forgetting bands, singers and artist’s names! My interests scatter around as well as my inspirations – it could be a song there, a picture here. But for one, I’m a visual person. Curious person who is all the time eyes and senses open, trying to analyze my surroundings and from those experiences I believe also my inspirations spring from. It could be a color combination, a form, a story or a sound that later on finds some another form in my work, whether it be the jewelries or other things I do.
So for me the biggest inspirations are the daily experiences, the people I meet, the intentional or unintentional art works in nature or in the streets by anonymous artists and most of all my friends and family. I’m happy to have so many people around me who are doing what they want, what they love. From loving and inspirational home mom to young clothing designers, from photographers to yoga teachers and life-time entrepreneurs to world-travelers. Those people around me, who take risks, believe in themselves and do what they do, and they do them because they’ve chosen so, because they feel it has some bigger meaning than just money or fame, those are the ones that inspire me the most.
But now going through my mind one name comes up if I need to name one and that’d be Ai Weiwei, a Chinese contemporary artist and a social activist. I heard about him some years ago and soon after had a chance to see his art work Sunflower Seeds in London, Tate Modern. I was impressed by it, by the idea and ideology behind it. But maybe most of all I was fascinated by his honest and quite strong opinions of his home country and his anarchist temperament.
Half a year later I was traveling on a train from Helsinki through Russia and Mongolia to China and wanted to see some of his work in Beijing as that was his homeland and he happened to have a studio there. But while we were there I read from foreign newspapers that he had been captured by the Chinese police and kept in a secret place for unknown time. Nobody knew about him and his whereabouts. We went to see his place but it was closed and only later I heard that he’d been brutally assaulted by the police and given false accusations. I admire his courage to say out loud that I love my home country but I don’t stand behind the politics. To show the middle finger to the wrong doers and never be sorry about it. Fighting against the power nonviolently, through art.
What are your creative outlets and talents that you nourish on a regular basis?
Being a visual person, it’s important for me to have an aesthetic, beautiful home. Don’t get me wrong, it’s usually in a state of small chaos, not a deco magazine cover home, but in disorder you can have some kind of order too. Old furniture combined with some new design pieces, lots of colors, fresh flowers. Bit of this and that, not too thought and planned. For me home is not a plain, static surrounding but a joyful, living thing as everything else. Home is my safe nest where I get to recharge my batteries.
Dressing up is also a way to express my interests, inspirations and mood at the moment. I was way too stressed about being trendy and looking good some years back when I was working in fashion. I was reading a lot of women magazines but just found myself feeling worse over time – I didn’t have this, I wanted that. I stopped reading the magazines and found much more inspiration from within, from everywhere else. Crazy color or pattern inspirations give me the chuckles and nourish my aesthetic eye. But my eye, maybe not others.
It is very important to cut yourself from others criticism if it concerns your personality, personal style, interests and work. If that something makes you happy, it’s enough! Nothing is more awkward than seeing someone who’s just copying a style but not even enjoying wearing the clothes that he/she has on. I’d wanna tell them that you can be yourself, be authentic in everything you do or wear! Many consider dressing up superficial but I believe that through the ages people have used dressing up and decorating to express themselves. So it really depends of the motives – do I want to show people that I have a lot of money when wearing these brands or do I show my femininity, inner Goddess, in this decorative dress and jewelry?
Tell me a short story about a piece of music, painting, book, or some other artistic creation that has touched you very deeply?
When I was going through a big crisis and change in my life some years back, my mom gave me a book “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” by Richard Bach. It gave me inner strength to believe in the choices I had made and the path I had taken. It’s a beautiful, timeless and spiritual story about a seagull learning about life and flying and essentially about love and the potential we all have in us. It’s a book I can read every couple of years and always find some inspiration from the story. It has a beautiful message and would recommend everyone doubting themselves or wanting a change in their life to read it. “You have the freedom to be yourself, your true self, here and now, and nothing can stand in your way.”
Where do you get your inspiration, and how do you tap into your creative flow?
Regular practice of yoga, either asana, and/or meditation practice is probably one of the most important tools to tap into my creative flow. Also daily walks, preferably somewhere in nature, close to the sea, are essential. As I already said before that I get most of my inspirations by just observing my surroundings, the constant strain of senses needs also balance. Quieting down and concentrating on being, breathing and observing the phenomenons happening within. This is where the inspiration in the end comes from and happens, within us. Not from outside but somewhere in us, through us.
When I’m working with my NANNANDA recycled jewelry I feel like I dive into this ocean of presence where I don’t think, analyze or try to solve the problems with logic. It’s some kind of meditative state where I let the energy flow and work through me. And then my hands just do the rest of the work! I like to think that the pieces, that I use to make the jewelry, talk to each other and find their match and I’m just channeling some kind of energy and life to them.
Also to balance the solitude, working alone, I’ve noticed that I need a team or a group of people to throw around ideas and brainstorm. In best cases I’m a real idea bank who has so many ideas that I don’t have enough time to use them all by myself but if somebody finds my suggestions useful I’m happy to share them. And also that I can polish my raw ideas to better working solutions with others help!
One thing is also important to realize that not all ideas are meant to happen, at least by you – you know when you are faced with the the right one when it just charms you so that you have to make it happen, to give life to the idea!
What has been the most important tool/action that has helped you to overcome self-defeating thoughts, and/or feelings that you are not good enough?
I used to be quite a shy kid, a real goody-goody trying to please others by being overly nice to the point where I started to get teased by other kids. I believe it all goes down to feeling like I’m never enough, I can’t be really loved and there’s always something wrong with me, something that makes people in the end not like me and reject me. So I was trying to hide my insecurities and the feeling of not being loved by being nice, cute and good at school and hobbies. Trying to gain love by acts of unselfishness but not realizing that I was growing to be a self-denying, easy target for narcissistic people, sacrificing myself over others.
I found yoga when I had drained myself with studying full time and working sometimes at two places at the same time. My health was in a horrible state and I looked for help from yoga. After two years of practicing it, I realized that some kind of inner process had also started while my health was getting better and better – when my body got stronger and balanced, also my mind or something in me was doing the same. Getting stronger and balanced. I started to observe my thoughts, how was I talking to myself and found myself being quite negative. If I was being nice to others, why on earth was I so cruel, demanding and hard on myself! Yoga gave me self-respect and esteem that has completely changed my life.
When I faced with bulling again at twenty-something-years I said for the fist time “No. This is not right, this is not how I let myself be treated. I deserve better!”. I left a unhealthy, unhappy marriage, and took personally and professionally a whole different path in my life. Bit by bit I did things I had been scared of, silly small things but big for me, and realized that all my fears had been self-created, false! I really took this challenge for me: if I was offered something that I was scared of for no apparent reason, I would do it. Say yes to the right things but most importantly also learn to say no.
Say yes to life and no to others expectations of you, to the pressure of society and mainly to the pressure we ourselves have created!
Also reading spiritual and self-growth books have helped me to survive the limbo that I was in couple years back when my “eyes opened”. The limbo is not yet over but my attitude towards it and life, towards myself, is completely different. I don’t see myself as the victim of life and others, thinking “Why me!” or “Life is so unfair!”, but that I can change my life if I ought so.
But it is important to realize that not necessarily by changing the factors outside but changing our way of thinking. Not letting our Ego suppress us but to live with it in harmony, to let it boost us in good amounts, not push us down. Because it’s the Ego we let talk good and bad about us: “I’m soooo dumb, why am I so dumb!” or “Oh I’m so much better than she” and maybe “I’ll never be as good as he is” etc. If I get these thoughts, I let them come but then tell myself that I am me and I’m good enough. Not better or worse than others, but good as I am. I do my thing, I do it my way, I live my life. Not others, MY LIFE!
How do you create inner balance in your life, and make sure to listen to your intuition?
With basic things in life, which seem sometimes forgotten: enough of sleep, healthy and nourishing food, physical exercise like yoga, cycling, jogging or walking, meditation, reading, cuddling and playing with my dog, enough of time alone and with friends and family. I love also going Sundays to my boyfriends parents where I can relax, go to sauna and swim, have a glass of wine. I need to get away from home and the city every now and then. I start to feel suffocated and distance from myself if I stay in the city for too long time.
The best cure is earthing or grounding at our summer cottage by a lake, walking without shoes. The contact with nature is super important for me. It’s like going back home – this is where I’m from, this is where I am. Nature is not something separate from us, we are part of it. We are Nature. This is the source of my intuition, source of my inspiration. By listening you can hear but if you’ve created around you a world of noise, distraction and temptations, how can you be here and now?
My intuition has saved me from a car accident to being alive here and now, where I am, and just proved to be right so many times that nowadays I can’t anymore take risk of not believing it. For me intuition is a gut feeling that tries to message me usually of a great chance or danger, a voice or a feeling that guides me in my life always wanting the best for me.
What is your non-negotiable daily self-care action?
Breakfast and yoga. For many years I didn’t eat breakfast either at all or just a crappy quick one before going to work or school. Later I’ve realized that I feel so much better throughout the day if I’ve had a proper breakfast. It usually consists of a glass of smoothie, porridge with berries, raisins and coconut flakes, eggs and maybe a piece of rye bread with avocado and tomato and a glass of green tea. Nowadays I take the time to make the breakfast and eat it slowly, enjoying. It gives a good start for the day.
My yoga routine is still finding its way but I try to do either asana practice and/or meditation on a daily basis. Also reading literature and chanting mantras promote my well-being. It could be anything from 15 minutes to 2 hours – what matters is the quality not quantity. And regularity!
What brings joy into your life, and what do you appreciate today?
Yoga and having couple horrible years of constant migraines have opened my whole perception of life and as lame it is to say, nowadays the little things make me happy: birds singing their heart out, walks with my silly dog Onni (=happiness), my boyfriend dancing a happy dance when there’s good food around. Just the other day I was smelling just-cut-grass in the air and it made me smile – to notice the small things and appreciate them, it makes you feel alive.
When you’ve suffered and broken into pieces and survived that – or actually died and were born again, nothing can get you down anymore and you learn to appreciate the small things in life. Waking up without a migraine is like a blessing. A kind word or a smile from a stranger, a call from a friend, sun in the sky, snow in the air. Like said, it’s the small things in life that matter.
I teach hatha yoga and one of the best feelings is when my students looks so blissful, calm and present after a session. Or when they’ve had some kind of revelation of body or thoughts – it’s a moment when you just thank Life for letting you do work that makes you and others happy. Nothing is better than sharing the good feeling you get from yoga with others. The body-mind connection in yoga is something completely different than in other physical exercise. I would recommend yoga to anyone! Just find the right teacher, style and place to suite your need. Yoga is for everyone.
How would you encourage other people on their journey to creativity and self-acceptance? How would you advise them to move forward?
First of all, don’t be afraid! If you want to do dance, sing, paint, draw, surf, snowboard, whatever your heart desires start first with small steps. At least I’m a master of aiming high and wanting to master things from the start. This makes the challenges just seem too big and that’s when I get doubts. It helps to think that okay, what could be the first step.
I got the urge to make jewelry after a recycled material workshop which I attended with some friends. After the workshop I was left with a feeling of hunger, wanting to do and create more! But I didn’t know how! I didn’t have any materials or knowledge. After a couple of days I went through my old jewelries I didn’t use anymore and put them in pieces. I let them rest a while and let my imagination wonder and then one day just started to build them a-new. I bought books about crafting and searched through internet. And the next thing I had booked a place in a silver jewelry work shop where I made my first silver ring (of which the teacher said would be IMPOSSIBLE for me to make as my first work). And from there on I just continued doing jewelries for myself because it fulfilled my need to create something.
Now after two years I’ve been selling my jewelry for a half a year and the interest towards them has surprised me totally. A small seed grew to a bigger flower.
No one is born a master, you just have to start somewhere. Unfold the challenge to small pieces and start from the easiest part. When you have the feeling that you’re doing something you love, it makes you do more for it and then the rest is history!
Second, don’t be too hard on yourself! Among yoga practice, what has helped me is self-reflection, to ask myself questions like “Why do I criticize myself this much?”, “Why is it so important to be better than others”, “Why I think I’m stupid/boring/uninteresting/not creative/can’t do this or that”, “Why I want people to like me” etc. And then just continue questioning like a small child, why why why, until you get to the bottom of the issue.
Usually it’s the small child inside us who is scared, hurt, insecure and afraid of being left alone, not loved and wanted. And this is why we, or at least I tried to show people how good and loved I can be: “I can do this, see! Do you love me now? Do you see how lovable I can be?” A small child just hoping to get attention, affection and appreciation.
If you have the habit to talk negatively to yourself you can change it today by saying something good. There must be something you like about yourself so start from that! It could be something like “I do good food, I am a good cook” or “I am good at concentrating and remembering things” and just something like “I like my nose, it fits well in my face. And actually my eyes are quite beautiful too. Nobody else has same kind of eyes as I. These are my eyes and my nose and I like them!”. As silly as it might sound, with these affirmations you start to pay more attention to the things you can do, you like doing, things you like about yourself and over time start seeing them more and more.
Only by accepting yourself as you are here and now, can you grow. Accepting isn’t a passive act or thought of “I am what I am and will be like this forever”. Everything changes, nothing is permanent so you as well can change. Accepting but aiming for better, happier, lovable life because you and I, everyone deserves it! If you want to be more lovable towards yourself, have better self-acceptance, you just got to work for it!
Self-help books can help, as the name already suggests but if you don’t apply the theories into practice, and not only with your mind but really believing in your words, to the power of love, changes won’t happen. So set your mind to it, believe in it and take actions for it. A great yoga guru Patthabi Jois already said that “do your practice and all is coming”.
Thoughts, ideas, comments? Share on my Facebook page or tweet me @MerjaWillock.