unfolding into JOY

transformational coaching with Eva Ruland

Australia Visit – An Empowering Adventure 

In January of 2009, I received an invitation to talk at OASES, a grad school for transformational learning in Melbourne, Australia. WOW! Three months later, I was asked to choose a date. November seemed just right: spring in Australia. The date was set for November 7, 2009 and I bought a ticket.

I spent most of November in Australia, thanks, in good part, to the boundless hospitality of my Melbourne friend Eleni. The cornerstones of my time down under were my talk on the "Transformative Power of Imaginary Journeys" and my "Envision Workshop" 4 days later, as well as a second talk at "The Grove Wholistic Centre for Spirituality," a women's learning center.

Professionally, my experience was an overwhelming success. My ideas were received with excited appreciation. The high-point was when one of the workshop participants who had spent 6 months at Schumacher College was so thrilled with the experience of the "Envision Workshop" that she suggested I should offer envisioning classes at Schumacher College in Britain. Maybe I will!

Personally, my trip was a wonderful adventure. It gave me the opportunity to deepen my friendship with my host and her son. It also offered me a chance to go off by myself again, something that used to be a life style in the many years before I got married. I almost had lost touch with how it feels to just follow my whim. It felt fantastic!

"And how about Australia itself?" you might ask. I only scratched the surface of what this big country has to offer. With a land mass comparable to that of the U.S. Australia has only about 20 million people, most of them gathered in the cities on the east coast. This makes for immense stretches of land inhabited only by wildlife and some aboriginal natives. Focusing on Melbourne and Sydney on this trip, I did not get to see any of this vastness firsthand. The majestic outback will have to wait for another trip.


When I travel I like to stay in an area and experience life in my destination, as opposed to rushing from sight to sight. This, as I learned just days ago, is a growing trend called "slow travel movement." It makes sense to me. I stayed in Melbourne for over 2 weeks. Instead of running after new sights day in and day out I allowed myself to stay where I was and skip the thought of when I had to go back. I allowed myself to be. My agenda became to check out a yoga studio, explore the extended neighborhood by bicycle, and to shop for and cook healthy meals for myself and the family I stayed with. I found Melbourne's northern districts to be charming in an honest way. There is little glamour, yet they have a utilitarian charm; most districts consist of small lots with single family houses and one main street along which businesses are lined. After having lived in California for 15 years I was surprised to see lots that seemed to have been empty for a long time, as well as occupied buildings with cracks, crumbling paint and other imperfections in areas that otherwise appeared to be vital middle-class neighborhoods with grocery stores, bakeries, neighborhood cafés, bicycle sale and repair shops, a local movie theatre, a video store, a couple of boutiques, hairdresser shops, one or two pubs and a pharmacy. On my way home from an evening yoga class I would see people of all ages out on the street, strolling or going out for an after-dinner ice cream. Entire families from young children to old people would be walking out in small groups, or grandparents with their grandchildren, or pairs of friends, with a leisure that I had not seen in a long time; it reminded me of Europe where there is still a strong walking culture.

The most dominant feature of smaller Melbourne houses are facade decorations of pressed-iron garlands from the 1880s when Melbourne was a booming, mostly British Victorian town. Today, the city is a cosmopolitan melting pot with strong immigrant groups from Ireland, Italy, Greece and Turkey, as well as from all corners of the Indian Ocean. Architecture in the city has become much more diverse, just like elsewhere on the planet. What stood out was a surprising array of public art: modern, colorful, playful, fun.

Environmental Consciousness

Another surprise was the high degree of environmental consciousness visibly in action. I think in the three weeks of my visit I came across only one toilet (public or private) that did not have a dual-flush system to save water. In the gardens of most family dwellings I could spot water tanks that collect rainwater, used for watering the gardens, flushing the toilets and filling the washing machines. In walking distance from my friend's house is a greenbelt that leads all the way to downtown Melbourne. A part of this greenbelt is an environmental park called CERES that promotes permaculture, organic gardening, recycling, environmental building techniques; educates classes of school children; offers organic food at a big outdoor community café, bicycle repair, art projects and more. In June 2009, CERES won the award for 'Best Community Based Environment Project' in the United Nations World Environment Day Awards for Australia. The award was given to CERES for its role as a real life example of a multi-dimensional sustainable society, incorporating environmental, social, cultural, educational, and arts initiatives.


I loved Sydney! The light seems brighter in Sydney than elsewhere. Even fits of dark clouds covering the sun cannot take away from the brightness of this city. I spent only 4 days there, and I did not go many places, but what I saw I loved: the Botanic Gardens are magical! They were my thorough fare to the opera building where I saw a magnificent ballet program, Concord, performed by the Australian Ballet; to Circular Quay from where boats go like buses to the many nooks and arms of the Sydney bay; to CBD, the central business district.

But the Botanic Gardens are a destination in and of itself. Apart from being a show case of tropical and Australian flora they also showcase Australian history and culture. Large and attractive wave-shaped metal displays educate about the discovery of the continent by Europeans and its following usurpation, focusing on the fate of the aboriginal people. I learned that until the 1960s aboriginal people were not considered citizens and did not have the right to vote. And last not least, the gardens are a wonderful place to go and hang out. On a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon I strolled through the park and became witness to its many recreational uses. Families bring their children out to play; various groups gather for picnics; artists sit and paint; theatre groups come to rehearse and perform; the beach across the park was a huge open air techno music disco; the Botanic Gardens café had a jazz band grooving away. It was a feast for the senses: the shades of green, the scents and the sounds changed around each bend. This Sunday stroll, together with my discovery of the flying foxes, big vegetarian bats that hang in trees like strange huge fruit during the day and take off to fly at sunset, filling the sky as if in a Hitchcock movie, are my fondest memories from the Botanic Gardens.

Sydney seems to be a party town. On a visit to CBD in the early evening I came across large numbers of somewhat stiffly dressed men and women enjoying drinks and conversation while music played from the speaker boxes of the corner bar over the entire plaza. They had seemingly just left their offices and were taking the time to socialize before starting their evening.

Sydney has many hills and I stayed on one of them. Potts Point is a well-mannered, well-to-do neighborhood that reminded me of New York's Westside. There were an abundance of florists, nicely designed restaurants, boutiques, hair saloons, and day spas within walking distance from my apartment. And if I walked just a little further, I entered Kings Cross with its cheap tourist traps, its topless bars, and a number of amenities for backpackers. The trains at Kings Cross station go all over town. On one of my strolls I came across a place on a side street that was packed with people. It was a church, the Wayside Chapel, that provides services to the homeless. They offer bathrooms and showers, cheap meals [real cheap: if I remember right a full meal cost $1:50] and clothes. They even had a bus tour trip to the Blue Mountains on their schedule, next to art activities. I was impressed. This place is a model for effective community work helping those in need without allowing formalities to get in the way.


Melbourne and Sydney have many galleries as well as respectable art museums. The National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) in Melbourne hosts national and international art. I primarily spent time at the Ian Potter Centre which houses national art, including an extensive collection of aboriginal art. Traditional aboriginal paintings usually depict arial views of the land and tell stories from the lore of the people who have lived on this land for milennia. The colors are the colors of the earth and the shapes are simple: dots, circles, circular segments, waves and boomerang shapes. Walking through the contemporary part of the collection it struck me to what degree modern aboriginal paintings look like fabric patterns, or rather, how fabric design has been influenced by contemporary aboriginal art. I remember one huge canvas in particular, with black and hot pink shapes on white. I can easily imagine it printed on silk and cut into blouses, scarves, dresses, and used as linings for jackets and coats.

The contemporary Australian art scene in general is vital and rich. I was particularly drawn to art that reflects the struggle between nature and culture. A prominent example of this is the sculpture "concrete forest" by Chinese-born Ah Xian for which he was given the 2009 Clemenger Contemporary Art Award. The sculpture consists of 36 life-size busts, all with eyes closed, and with a cement skin textured with different leaves. This sculpture has a magnetic presence; to me it is a meditative piece that suggests the urban forest, our isolation, and the deep imprint that nature has on our soul. I was left melancholic and awed at the same time.

Nature elements occur in painting as well. The panels of Sarah Leslie and the paintings of my friend Eleni Rivers feature leaves and insects, and seed pods and other botanical themes respectively. They intrigue me with a sensation of depth, achieved through stylized layering in Sarah Leslie's panels and rich textures in Eleni's work. Other note-worthy work I came across was an installation by Aneta Bozic and Cristy Gilbert made mostly from twigs, branches, feathers and other objects from nature; and a series of paintings called The Known World by SIMON BARNEY that I stumbled across in Sydney's Artspace. All paintings of this series feature forest scenes, mostly tropical, strangely brought into a new light through the use of silver backgrounds. In unison with the simple brown and green tones the silver backdrop lends the work a modernistic flavor that is in juxtaposition with the perennial nature of the foliage. As a result, the scenes seem to become more exposed and the quiet motifs seems to exude a damp vibration.

On a day trip to the wine country northeast of Melbourne, Eleni and I visited Yering Station, Victoria's first vineyard (established in 1838) and their sculpture garden. I was surprised to find a show of 30 sculptures, as different in style, concept and material as can be, ranging from metal to stone to wood to bric-a-brac mechanical. The Yarra Valley Arts Council awards a prize for the best sculpture and invites audience participation in the nomination. We filled out our slips that simultaneously entered us in a raffle for a weekend stay at the vinery, including wine and spa treatment. The cleverness of combining the art exhibit with marketing made me think of our highly trafficked wine country north of San Francisco. The Yarra Valley seems to aspire a more touristic future.

Flora and Fauna

On the way to Yering Station we drove through lush pleasant hilly landscapes. It was hard to imagine that only a few miles away the fire of last February raged. We stopped at a nursery for native plants that shows the plants in creations of varied habitat settings: from a fern forest to a tropical setting to a bush area (think prairie) and a pond environment. We could not resist and acquired an unusual green kangaroo plant that ended up gracing my friend's porch in a tall matt-black ceramic pot.

I was satisfied with the variety of land I saw: the lush hills of the wine country; the British gardens with roses; the mediterranean gardens with lavender, grapevines, and figs; the native gardens that feature eucalyptus and grasses; plus the plateau south and east of Sydney that I saw from the plane. But I had not yet seen much of the native wildlife. This changed when I was invited to Philip Island, 1.5 hours south of Melbourne. It is the home of famous nature parks with koalas and penguins. I had never thought that these two would naturally occur in the same place. I was surprised about the penguins. However, Philip Island is not far from Antarctica, with just Tasmania in between. At some point, arctic penguins must have made it over to the Melbourne Bay and evolved into what are called fairy penguins—strange little birds not much bigger than seagulls, with tall legs compared to other penguins. Speaking of which, the seagulls down under are surprisingly small. Last and not least, I had the wish to see a kangaroo. This wish dild not come true—I only saw signs that warned of kangaroo crossings. But in lieu of kangaroos I encountered several wallabies close-up, thanks to the help of my experienced wallaby tracking friend and gracious Philip Island host Allan. Sitting in the grass they looked not bigger than a hare and staring at me with their front paws perched they reminded me strangely of chocolate easter bunnies. But when they began to hop they revealed a large and strong lower body that made them almost twice as big as they had first appeared. I was so awed by this little encounter that I forgot how cold it was.

And there is one other animal that made an impression on me. It is a bird that lived in the tree in front of my bedroom. This bird, about the size of a blue bird, had the most unusual song: it croaked like a frog. My host was annoyed by this bird at times but in me the croaking always elicited a smile. It is amazing what nature comes up with! And it is wonderful to experience a boundless creativity.

The Transformative Power of Imaginary Journeys

Journeying is an age-old tool for gaining insight, healing, and transformation of consciousness. Originally only used by shamans, today journeying is accessible to many via guided imagery, with impressive results. Through guided imagery we can accelerate insights, encourage visions, transform deep-seated beliefs and induce healing, all at a tremendous speed. Dr. Ruland will talk about guided visualization and share some examples for the successful application of guided journeys from her practice. As a special bonus she will lead us through a simple guided journey.

November 7 | 9am | OASES @ Augustine Centre
Click here to download the flyer for this event.

Envision Your Future Workshop

This workshop offers you the amazing experience of looking into your own future. We will enter different future scenarios to provide you with the opportunity to explore possibilities. We will use guided imagery and group sharing, and brief coaching sets to make this afternoon an unforgettable, visionary, and transformative experience. This workshop is FUN and it will open your eyes wide.

• tap into your inner wisdom
• discover new possibilities
• expand your perspective
• find direction for your life

November 11 | 7-10pm | Augustine Centre, 2 Minona Street, Hawthorn, Melbourne

Click here to download the flyer for the Envision Your Future workshop in Melbourne.







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Eva has been my coach for one and a half years. She has helped (and continues to help) me to become clear and see what I really want and need in my life. With Eva as my coach I have manifested more than I ever expected.
Chris C., Pennsylvania












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