luisa kolker shamanic healer

A Visit to Amsterdam: The Sweetness of Spiritual Lineage, Continuity & Community

A few weeks ago, I enjoyed a trip back to Amsterdam. I had been there once in the 1980s with my beloved friend and teacher Ioanna Salajan, with whom I was formally apprenticing at the time. She was teaching one of her hugely popular workshops on psychic development at de Kosmos Centre and she’d asked me to come along as her helper.

This time, the trip was a gift from my brother Adam. He had to be in Amsterdam for business and, knowing vaguely that I had some connection with the city, and wanting for us to have one-on-one time together for the first time in years, he gifted me with a frequent flier ticket.

I had three days on my own, just before and after Adam arrived. He encouraged me to do that. And in that time, I met with four wonderful women–Sita, Gusta, Ellen and Neeltje–all of whom, like me, had been students and close friends of Ioanna for decades. We’d all heard about each other through the years, scattered as we were between Spain, Holland, the United States, etc., but, except for a ten-minute brush-by with Sita, we’d never met. Just the prospect of seeing these women was, in itself, cause for joyful anticipation. After all, we had all had the great, good fortune to know Ioanna. But what I hadn’t clearly recognized was that after nearly two years, Ioanna’s death would finally be a palpable reality for me.

Ioanna Salajan at her house in Alaró, Mallorca, March 2009.  Photo by Luisa Kolker

Ioanna Salajan at her house in Alaró, Mallorca, March 2009.
Photo by Luisa Kolker

Ioanna died two years ago, on the 26th of February on the island of Mallorca, in Spain. I had witnessed from a geographical distance (I was in the U.S.) the slow and difficult process of her physical deterioration over the previous three years. I also bore witness to (via Skype, email and, eventually, a ten day visit with her in Spain) her emotional unwinding from her connection to this world. When I got the word that she had died in the clinic in Mallorca, I felt for weeks a restlessness and numbness throughout my being: “My teacher is gone. My friend is gone. I’m not ready to be without Ioanna in this world. My teacher is gone. My friend is gone…” These were the words that accompanied the dull ache of  loss, but also a sense of relief that Ioanna was no longer battling a tired, illness-besieged body.

Ioanna was extraordinarily gifted. She was diminutive in size and could be quite impish (“Oh, you have faery and elf blood, like me!” she said to me not long after we’d first met.) Her intellect and sheer intensity of presence commanded respect, perhaps a little intimidation and always curiosity: she knew things about the non-physical realms and she knew them intimately. The way that some people can talk about human psychology or history (and she could talk about both with authority), Ioanna could talk about (and paint) the landscapes and denizens of other solar systems; she knew the subtle healing properties of flowers and about the evolution of the human energy field, and all of that was just for starters. She had experienced these places and realities deep in her being. Not only that, but in my 4 1/2 year apprenticeship with her, she taught me how to harness my shamanic gifts so that I, too, could experience those worlds in a conscious way and articulate those experiences to others in a way that was healing and relevant to the challenges of living in this world.

So, when I met with the four women in Amsterdam earlier this month, there was no need to explain about the miracle in our lives that had been Ioanna. Instead, we felt an instant kinship, selected as we were by by destiny and by Ioanna twenty-five or forty-five years ago because something in all our hearts was related. And as I met, one by one, with Sita, Gusta, Ellen and Neeltje, I felt a visceral sensation of of certainty  that Ioanna wasn’t here anymore; I wasn’t going to be debriefing with her about these visits and there would be no more dreaming of someday, once again, teaching together.

And, yet, Ioanna was with us. Each one of these women, at different moments, said to me: “I see her in you–the way you hold yourself, the way you talk, your facial expressions, the way you think.” Sitting at Neeltje’s cozy dining room table in her flat, the chair next to me was empty. I declared that that was Ioanna’s chair. I felt her crackling, piercing intelligence and her quick, mischievous laughter right there with us. My goodness: how strongly I missed her and felt her all in the same moment.

Though Amsterdam was bitterly cold while I was there, my brother and I had a wonderful time together. Here, too, I experienced a convergence of feelings and relationship that spanned decades. He and I were the first two kids in a family of four siblings. Until I was six and he was four years old, it was just us. Our connection got diluted and even strained at moments over the years, and yet he was my first best friend. As we wandered and explored through the cobbled streets of Old Amsterdam, something precious that I’d forgotten came back to life: my friendship with my brother.

Whether with a spiritual teacher, with a sibling or with an old friend, there is always the possibility of continuity. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, a piece of our soul-community, our lineage, finds us and invites us home. Like a stitch that got dropped in a lovingly, and imperfectly hand-knit sweater, the stitch and its connection to the sweetness and structure of the larger pattern, reappears. Continuity of love and relationship: this is a great gift and mystery of our lives.


Bicycles in the Leidseplein, Amsterdam 2013  Photo by Luisa Kolker

Bicycles in the Leidseplein, Amsterdam 2013
Photo by Luisa Kolker


Luisa & Adam Amsterdam 2013

Luisa & Adam
Amsterdam 2013


Houseboats on canal Amsterdam 2013  Photo by Luisa Kolker

Houseboats on canal
Amsterdam 2013
Photo by Luisa Kolker


Adam & Luisa Amsterdam 2013

Adam & Luisa
Amsterdam 2013














To read more about my work, shamanic adventures and my apprenticeship with Ioanna, please stay tuned…

And please feel free to share your thoughts and reflections about my posts in the comment box below.
In Love & Transformation,


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9 Responses to “A Visit to Amsterdam: The Sweetness of Spiritual Lineage, Continuity & Community”

  1. Carl says:


    Lovely post and a wonderful tribute to an incredible woman. “Always the possibility of continuity.” I love that. Thanks for sharing Sweet friend.


  2. Linda Durham says:

    Lovely, indeed. It would be wonderful to know you. I send you wishes for endless peace,

  3. Brigitte says:

    Beautiful heartfelt post. I met Sita and participated in a Back Flowers workshop with her.
    In fact what brought me in contact with (then) Tony and Ioanna was a Bach flowers workshop at the Kosmos, unsure about the dates but I lived in Holland between 1978 and 1989 and it must have been between 1979 and 1981….
    Looking at the photos, so many remembrances and one can feel your deep love for Ioanna and what you experienced and experience still and learned.
    Looking forward to more posts about your experiences.

    • Luisa Kolker says:

      Oh, Brigitte–Thanks so much for your comment! What magical times those were. And they are alive still in our memories and in how we walk in the world. Yes, I will share more. Welcome!

  4. Sita says:

    Just wonderful to read your warm-felt experiences. It was a privilege to meet you, to talk about our relationship with Ioanna, to remember. Indeed, continuity of love and relationship is a great gift and mystery.
    I feel so grateful to have met so many beautiful people through Ioanna.
    Thank you!

    • Luisa Kolker says:

      Dear Sita! I can still see—and feel—us sitting together in that little corner table at de Roos, sipping tea and sharing, remembering, laughing… And next time: we will dance! Love, Luisa

  5. Abel says:

    Dear Luisa

    Thank you for your beautifull talk on Ioanna Saljan.

    Just like you, i do miss my friend and teacher Ioanna.

    I am connected everytime I visit her friend Edith Katz, who happens to live near my house in Amsterdam.

    Thank you


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