SW Stories - Gisele Azad

SW Stories - Gisele Azad

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

I'm Gisele, 31 years old. Originally, I'm from Iran, but when I was four, my mother, younger brother, and I fled to the Netherlands. That experience has occupied my mind for most of my life. It's one of the reasons I'm deeply interested in themes like identity, diversity, and inclusion. Over the years, I've engaged with these subjects in various ways. I enjoy addressing them in a creative and somewhat light-hearted manner because I don't really see myself as an activist. 

As a young girl, it was crucial for me to have space for self-expression and self-discovery. I wish to pass this on to newcomers and actually, to everyone. I believe everyone benefits from having a safe space, both internally and in a literal physical environment, where you can be yourself and express freely. This led me to drastically change my life, moving to a forest house in Drenthe. 

I longed for more freedom. I literally dreamt of a piece of land where no one could see me and where I could move freely. There were moments, for example, when I was in a club with friends, where I felt everyone could move and dance freely except for me. I often felt trapped in my body. Now, in my forest house, I try to free myself by running through the woods. I don't do it to become good at it, but to experience the sheer sense of freedom. Sometimes, I stop to skip, spin, or make other spontaneous movements. It helps me break away from the self-imposed restrictions of always having to be serious and proper.

Do you consider yourself spiritual?

To be honest, I always had some resistance towards spirituality. But that changed when I saw a psychologist. During one session, she advised me to go to the park. At that time, I was living in the city. She said, "Go into the park and ask someone to show you the way home, as if you're lost." She explained, "You're so inward-focused that you no longer see the world around you. You can't even put on a smile as you walk. Simply engaging someone and kindly asking for directions will help you feel more open." After that conversation, a whole new world opened up for me. Spirituality doesn't have to be complicated. For me, it's about being open to everyone but also sensing when I've reached my limit. I had lost that balance for a long time.

When you say you became more engaged with it, did you start reading certain books or engage in particular practices?

During the first few months after moving out of the city, I noticed I was reading a lot more about nature. For instance, I went through a book on the birds of Europe. I wanted to understand what I was seeing. When I moved there, I felt a bit out of place. I noticed things I never observed in the city. This was partly because there's more to see, but also because I was more receptive. One of the first things I delved into was the female cycle. I noticed my mind and body started to move in tandem with the seasons. Living amidst nature, you really feel and notice these shifts.

What insights did this bring?

I discovered I could structure my life according to nature's rhythm. For instance, I knew today would be a good day since I'm at a specific point in my cycle where both my mind and body are fully prepared. Now, I try to tailor my schedule, including work plans, around this. There are days when I consciously choose not to set appointments or lay out work plans. Adopting this approach has been a game-changer.

How did you come to this realization?

I learned this from the book "Period Power." It's essentially a guide that explains that your body also functions according to seasons. It contains helpful charts indicating what may or may not assist you depending on where you are in your cycle. Instead of viewing my menstruation negatively, I've come to appreciate it as a time to introspect more.

Do you have any daily rituals or activities?

Yes, what I distinctly notice is how your body aligns with the day's rhythm. When I see the sun setting, I take it as a sign not to have bright lights on and to rely more on candlelight. From that point, I start my 'winding down' routine until bedtime. At sunrise, I try to get up and head outside immediately. It's a crucial part of my routine: I slip into my boots or clogs and step out.

Do you notice the days getting shorter with the earlier sunset? How do you deal with this?

Indeed, I do. It feels like my day ends more quickly, especially now that darkness falls earlier. But it provides me with an opportunity to introspect more, which I had less time for in summer. I view moving with the seasons as a beautiful and valuable thing. Of course, it's not always feasible, like when I have a tight deadline. But I'm so attuned to it that I try to avoid such situations. I believe everyone can benefit from this, including in my work. I strive to plan well and not overburden myself.

Have there been other events in your life that had a significant impact, or moments of insight that made you see things differently?

For a long time, I lived out of fear, as if I was constantly in survival mode. That changed when I met my boyfriend. He grew up in Friesland and is the most level-headed person you can imagine. There were times when he literally had to hold me and reassure me that nothing serious was happening. The realization that I was always on alert, as if something terrible could happen at any moment, was truly shocking.

Did he help you realize this?

Yes, he understood me. He would say, "If something happens, it happens. But for now, everything is okay." That was the moment I realized that I needed to accept that things are just fine now. If they aren't okay later, we'll deal with it then. For now, everything is fine.

Why did you choose the Retro'14 with clear quartz? Can you tell us a bit about that?

Clear quartz represents purification and healing. Those are exactly the themes I'm currently deeply engaged with. It's not that my life in the city was impure, but there are certain things from my past and routines from a few years ago that I no longer resonate with. I feel I'm in a transitional phase. I'm ready to leave certain things behind and look at life with a new energy. And, of course, healing is a part of that.

Are there any other insights or experiences you'd like to share?

Yes, in response to your question about rituals, I'd like to add that sometimes we think we need to make major changes to address issues. But over the years, I've learned that small steps can also make a big difference. Simple routines, like how you end your day, can mean a lot. For instance, by making your environment softer and warmer as it gets darker, it can do so much for your mind and feelings. Drastic changes can bring a lot, but they aren't always necessary.