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Kaya has been working as an integrative body-oriented psychotherapist, Movement Medicine teacher, facilitator, mentor and lecturer in Croatia and abroad for many years. She is one of the four founders of Center Meleta, center for integrative body-oriented psychotherapy and well-being. After spending years and years in educational institutions, studying philosophy, sociology, comparative literature, integrative development, movement medicine and going on quests in Amazon rainforests, she has decided to use all her knowledge and experience to create a safe space for everyone who is in search of guidance.

Kaya is deeply curious about human beings and passionate about living a fulfilled life and leaving this place at least a little better than she found it. One thing in common to her personal and professional journey is learning and teaching how to deal with whatever life brings to us and finding a medicine in it. Kaya believes this is not hard work, but dedicated work.

Since personal development subjects are missing from school curriculums, which knowledge that you acquired during your studies and journeys would you like to see becoming a part of basic education in schools?

We lack so much from being educated in our school systems. Basic skills about how we feel, what we say yes to, what we say no to, how we deal with different life situations - we only get prepared for these things to the level that is dependent on our parents or our educators free will or expertise. I started a program years ago that was a part of a critical thinking workshop in primary schools and later on in high schools. When you start teaching kids about awareness and connecting with your mind, heart and body, then you can no longer tell them to be still for 45 minutes in a session. So you start allowing kids to move around, to work, to ask for a break and to start expressing themselves. That's how you get a classroom full of kids who are opinionated, passionate, alive and free. This was set as a standard for my class, but when the same kids went to other classes, their teachers found it very difficult to work with them - as they were following their class schedule and rules. Then they need to tell those kids that they are not doing something right (they need to be different, need to sit still, need to think a certain way). Meaning, I will teach them something that they couldn't bring into another class. Then I realized, helping them open up like that, only to put them back in the same system was more harmful for them than healing. So, I decided to pull back with that for a while. I think this is my life service that will happen in time when I'm older.

Do you feel that more and more people seek therapy?

I think in the last five years, especially in the last three, the words embodiment, trauma and healing became very popular. More and more people are looking for some kind of psychotherapy or help which shows the need for our society to be in touch with themselves. On one side, that's brilliant - that people are aiming more towards that. On the other hand, you have individuals proclaiming themselves as practitioners, after just a couple of courses. I think it's very dangerous that these individuals who are not skilled in working with trauma, mess around with different tools like meditation workshops, indigenous rituals or medicinal plants.

How did corona time affect the number of clients?

It was a little bit different in Croatia, because we had a couple of earthquakes here in Zagreb. During those times, I noticed that people were stretched beyond their capacity in every possible way. I was working around the clock, even when I didn’t want to. Now, I have a feeling that people are making decisions whether to look deep inside and do something with themselves or continue living this kind of numb, disinterested lifestyle.

You have a summer retreat in Korčula that starts in 2 days. Do you get people from other countries, as well, or is it mostly locals? What kind of activities and practices do you have planned for that week?

Few people were supposed to come from abroad, but because of COVID many of them decided to back out. So, it will be people from all over Croatia. I’ve had this vision for many years, to have winter and summer retreats. The summer one is called Into the Wild and it’s more about expansion towards life. It’s about pleasure and connection to yourself, each other, nature and the community. Whereas, the winter one is called Into the Mystic and is more about the connection with the self and the spirit. This year we will be exploring masculine and feminine principles within us. It's going to have various events that show different ways of living that are not so common in everyday life - such as vision quest, dancing the whole night in ceremony, drumming and singing at the beach.

Dance is a big part of your therapy approach and your life. How would you explain the pleasure and release it gives you and how does it help you to feel more connected?

It's not always pleasure, sometimes it's dancing through the pain, which is very often what I've done. When you say dancing, people usually have an idea of somebody being really happy and ecstatic. What we practice in movement medicine is to learn how to embody your emotion, to become aware of it and start moving with it. You can find the repetitive movement in a part of your body that will take over the rest of it and that becomes the dance. When you start expressing something that feels uncomfortable and you let it go to completion, you allow it to evolve - one emotion will turn into another, and that is the goal behind it. As kids, when something is unpleasant, we react by contracting our body. Through dance we are starting to open up that contraction, so the energy and emotion can flow freely. It's not always about being happy, but being free in our emotional state rather than suppressing it. This gives us a sense of power because we control the process rather than it is controlling us. And in that process, we learn a lot about ourselves.

You lost your father when you were young. Was this one of the life events that pushed you towards your life path?

I would say that my life journey and the journey of me as a person that I am today started much sooner. I had an extremely challenging childhood with many difficulties. Not only a difficult relationship with my father, but a very difficult relationship with my mother as well and the living conditions we were in. Just the way I was brought up, it wasn't something that I would wish for anybody. It caused me a lot of suffering and I started my first therapy when I was 13 or 14.

I would say that three things really pointed me in this direction. One is the death of my father, which is the first moment that I had faith. Before that, I was a strong rationalist. I was envious of people who have faith in God. I will never forget that moment - it was two days after he passed away. I asked myself How come I'm not afraid for him right now? I used to have a lot of panic attacks and fear of dying, so why wasn’t I afraid of death then? At that moment I had the most graceful, warm, strong flow of energy from the top of my head, all the way through the spine, my heart, my whole body - it was a deep knowledge that he's OK. That was the first moment that I realized - this is what faith feels like.

Losing a loved one is painful and it leaves an emptiness that our mind is never ready for. Did you work a lot with people that are trying to heal from exactly that pain?

In the first two years 90% of my clients were the ones who lost their father. In many traditions they say that death of a father opens you up towards the sky, connects you with the spiritual world and the divine. I went through that process with my grandma’s sister, as she was slowly fading away through seven years and eventually died, with me by her side. Later on I also held the ceremony for her. This was another life event that stirred me onto this path.

You expressed how much you enjoy learning and you have an impressive professional education that proves it. I am assuming you constantly have an appetite for more. Have you developed a curiosity for any other field of study you would like to tackle?

Yes - financial intelligence and business. I think this is a massive playground that most of the spiritual professionals are saying they're not interested in. There is abundance in this world that can be distributed to everybody and I think this is a game that we all need to be a part of. The more that we know and the more choices we have - more freedom we gain. That is one thing that I regret not learning sooner. We need to know the world and the system that we are a part of in order to change it. I'm really curious about being present with integrity, respect and social awareness in that game. I would also like to support others to achieve awareness, and to thrive within it. Unexpected ha?