Born in 1960 as Hedwig Geens I lived with my parents and three brothers in a small village in the Flemish part of Belgium. As a child I dreamt of becoming a stuntman or a private detective and would endeavour to practise these skills whenever the opportunity arose. The qualities required for both these professions would, in their own way, prove beneficial in my spiritual journey later on!
A few members of my family had artistic talents but one of my elder brothers in particular was especially gifted. As a student in Leuven he used his artistic talents to design political posters as he believed in a better society with greater equality by changing the political and social structures. I was to choose a radically different path, one that focused on transforming the individual (starting with myself) in the hope that ultimately this would bring peace and happiness for all.
By the time I was fourteen I had joined the renowned Aum Yoga Anga Niketan yoga academy in Mechelen and had started practising yoga and meditation on a daily basis. At the age of sixteen I travelled to Scotland to visit Kagyu Samye Ling, the first Tibetan Buddhist Centre to have been established in the West. In the library I discovered the book In Search of the Miraculous: Fragments of an Unknown Teaching by P. D. Ouspensky, an exposition of the ideas and esoteric principles of G. I. Gurdjieff. The book left me with a profound longing to further explore Gurdjieff's teachings but it would take many years before this wish would become fulfilled through my meeting with Shantam Dheeraj.
In November 1978 I set foot on Indian soil for the first time and travelled to the Yoga Niketan Ashram in Rishikesh. Overlooking the Ganges I intensified my yoga practice and particularly enjoyed the pranayama classes led by a sweet little Indian teacher who we called Swamiji. However the Ashram did not meet my high expectations. At one point the resident yogis suddenly became furious when some monkeys tried to steal their food and they chased them back into the forest in a rage. I could understand them wanting to protect their provisions but was shaken by the sheer anger present. It seemed it took more than a few yoga classes to establish inner peace and compassion and I decided to discover if India had more to offer. After covering 5.000 miles by bus, boat and train I ended up in Pune at the Ashram of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (later known as Osho).
I was as much intrigued by, as I was critical about, the unconventional teachings and methods of Bhagwan. After several months of participating in unorthodox classes and courses, I experienced some mysterious encounters with Bhagwan on the astral and energetic plane. These events melted my last doubts: guru and disciple had found each other. On May 26th 1979 I was initiated and given the name Anand Socrates (Blissful Socrates). Bhagwan told me: Socrates represents enquiring, not belief, exploration not superstition, Socrates represents adventure, adventure into the unknown, even at the risk of life. Socrates represents the spirit of truth at whatever the cost because nothing can be more valuable than truth.
He directed me to join some highly disciplined meditation retreats where zazen, vipassana and innovative koan work were practised. The hard work was rewarded with a satori experience which lingered on for quite a while. Some time later I became an ashram guard, eventually guarding Bhagwan's residence itself. In reality this predominantly meant doing nothing (I did not even have any attractive female disciples passing by to distract me!), but I had to stay alert all the time... excellent prerequisites for practising meditation!
In 1981 Bhagwan relocated with a select few disciples to the United States and I returned reluctantly to Belgium. I decided to make good use of my time by studying, but my stay in India had already turned me into a misfit in society. I found refuge at the St. Luke's Institute of Fine Arts in Brussels, known for its liberal attitude. Four years later I became a lecturer at the St. Luke's Academy.
From my inner perspective it seemed impossible for me to integrate into normal society, I felt torn apart. Soon enough once again, the East was calling. By that time Bhagwan had returned to Pune after the collapse of the Oregon commune and by 1987 I had rejoined the ashram. I was in a slightly dejected state experiencing confusion and feeling a sense of disappointment with life. It was not until I discovered Tibetan Pulsing Yoga that my condition would slowly begin to change.
The alchemical process of Tibetan Pulsing Yoga was developed and taught by Shantam Dheeraj. Unique and revolutionary in nature it unified and expanded upon many aspects of teachings and methods I had been attracted to since my youth, such as the yogic aspects of Tibetan Buddhism and the fourth way proposed by G. I. Gurdjieff. If my guru was already widely regarded as controversial, Dheeraj was just plain outrageous! I had been raised in a conservative environment, dominated by Catholicism and ruled by morality. It seems I was attracted to spiritual hell raisers in order to be shocked out of my old conditioning. I spent many years at the ashram's department for Tibetan Pulsing participating or assisting in the numerous intense courses as well as being the department's artist.
It was during these years that the core transformational process of my body-mind constitution took place.
In 1990 Bhagwan and in 1998 my main teacher Dheeraj passed away. I felt grateful to have been given so much time with both of them during which so much inner work had taken place. The sense of me felt like a sphere continually expanding and encompassing increasingly more aspects of life, also anthitetical ones, allowing previous judgments to transform into inner peace and empathy.
It was time to return to society, to integrate and share what I had learned. Even though I never stopped painting at any point, now I dedicated almost all of my time to sharing the many insights and discoveries through art works, which I called 'visions of the inner eye'.
In 2002 I went on a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash and Tsaparang as a participant of a trekking and meditation tour in the Tibetan Himalayas organised by Roman Müller. The many impressions became the inspiration for a whole new series of paintings which were exhibited at the Freiburg University in Germany during the visit of the Dalai Lama in 2007.
By 2008 I was feeling more and more spiritually distressed as my meditation did not seem to have deepened for many years. I experienced the consciousness to be perpetually confined to the body-mind, separated from the divine. Moreover there was little motivation to paint.
During autumn 2008 Swami Rajneesh, also a disciple of Bhagwan and by this time a spiritual teacher himself, came to visit me in Freiburg to see my art. Following a spontaneous meditation session amongst a small intimate circle of friends and without having any previous knowledge of my state, he advised me to undertake a darkness retreat. In January 2009 I went into retreat. After thirteen days, even though an unceasing state of heightened awareness had established itself both day and night, I felt my endeavours were futile. However I decided to remain in retreat for one more day in order to complete a cycle of 2 x 7 days, whilst at the same time relaxing my efforts.
On January 20th, the fourteenth day in complete darkness, the spell of incessant identification with my body-mind was broken. The covering of the crown chakra crumbled like a car window being shattered and I was blessed with overwhelming Grace. Now almost the opposite was true and just a fragile connection to my body and mind was maintained. During the following days I remained in a delicate state but slowly the love and care of my long-time companion Martina helped me to become grounded and more settled within. We married that same year and decided to move away from the city. We found a new home in the small village of Saig in the Black Forest. On a clear day we relish the panoramic view reaching to the Alps reminding us of our travels in the Indian, Nepalese and Tibetan Himalayas. Down the street there is a seminar centre run by our long time yoga teacher Olivia and her husband Karl-Heinz. Many more who found refuge in this mountain village have become dear friends. Longing to express and share the many wondrous gifts and insights on my path, I now enjoy painting in the beautifully renovated art studio overlooking the lush garden which is passionately cared for by my wife.