«Return to Blog List My Soul-Friend & Teacher Ioanna Salajan

Ioanna at her home in Alaró, Mallorca, Spain 2009   Photo © Luisa Kolkerenlarge

Ioanna at her home in Alaró, Mallorca (Spain) during our final visit together in March 2009. Photo by Luisa Kolker

In early 2009, I received an inner prompting to travel to the island of Mallorca in Spain to spend ten days with my friend and teacher Ioanna. I sensed that time was of the essence. We hadn’t seen each other in person for twenty years. During that visit the depth and sweetness of our connection blossomed into a profound healing for us both. I was also able to give back to Ioanna, in the form of some deep inner work together, a little bit of what I’d received from her so many years earlier. It was a gift from the universe, that visit.

Two years later, Ioanna died in her sleep on February 25, 2011 at a hospital in Palma de Mallorca, Spain. I’d emailed her to arrange one of our Skype calls a few weeks earlier and she emailed me back just a few words, saying she was very ill, couldn’t speak and to please “enjoy your youth.”  My heart hurt at the abruptness of the message, but more so at the finality of the message. I wrote what follows when I received the message that she had died.

[Note: This article originally appeared in my blog (currently under renovation) in 2013.]

Ioanna Salajan
Ioanna was the greatest gift I’ve ever received. I met her when I attended one of her week-long retreats while I was living in Ibiza in my late twenties. She saw me. What I thought was freakish and neurotic in myself (e.g., my second-sight, emotional hypersensitivity and having visitations from spirits), she saw as my not-yet-developed gifts of healing. She invited me to become apprenticed to her, so that she could transmit her knowledge to me. “In exchange for what?” I asked her. I barely had enough money to keep myself fed at that time. “In exchange for you teaching me how to drive a car,” she replied. Ioanna was in her mid-forties and had developed a phobia about driving. We were perfect for each other. If there was one thing I knew I could do, it was how to drive a car and I was confident I could make these driving lessons into an adventure. The first assignment I gave her was to sleep with her car keys (her then-partner’s car keys) under her pillow and to talk to the spirit of the car keys about the friendship she wished to enjoy with them. We were off to a good start.

Her first assignment for me: to spend an evening, in the dark of the moon, out amongst the pine trees and rosemary in a wild part of the island, by myself and without a flashlight. My phobia was about darkness, being alone in the wildness of nature, feeling exposed to the elements (all reflections of my fear of my inner self). Ioanna had my number.

Ioanna taught me, mentored me, guided me toward becoming who I am today. She was a mother to my soul in a way that I’d longed for, and in a way that hadn’t worked so easily with my own mother. I don’t say that with bitterness toward my own mother, but sometimes it takes someone far from home to embrace us with a non-obligatory and spiritual kind of love.

She always had a new book for me to read—Dion Fortune, Joan Grant, Alice Bailey, Rudolf Steiner, Edward Bach, Roberto Assagioli, astrology, Tibetan and Zen Buddhism—and then we had in-depth discussions afterward. She fed me new ideas, challenging me (annoying me!) about my pretenses, my “persona.” She wasn’t a soft, fluffy teacher. She pushed me to be real and to break through my ego-boundaries to have a glimpse of  the vastness of my true nature.

During the five years of my apprenticeship with her, we painted together, we meditated, we drew people’s chakra-systems together, we explored non-ordinary reality constantly. We walked together among the ancient, terraced hills and meadows in Ibiza, calling gently for the fairies and nature spirits hiding among the olive and carob trees. We rang the twinkling little fairy bells she’d bought for us in Holland to beckon the magical ones to speak with us.

One time, Ioanna’s ex-husband Richard was visiting from the U.S.  Watching Ioanna and me interact in our intensely creative, sometimes breathless repartee, he told us he was going to do our astrological synastry chart (combining Ioanna’s and my charts together). A day or two later, when he presented us with the chart—our grand squares and trines highlighted in bright colors — he announced dramatically: “Damn. The two of you could either plan a murder or start a new religion.” Well, Ioanna and I already knew that!

When I went through a period of despair and depression from childhood issues after my son Daniel’s difficult birth, she distanced herself a bit from me. I remember feeling let down that she planned a trip to Holland the week of my due-date. I now understand that she’d spent so much time—traumatic time—in hospitals (she’d been diagnosed with ovarian cancer and miraculously went into remission just before I first met her), and with her own bouts of depression, that to watch me suffering in similar ways was simply too much.

Still, after Daniel was born, we continued our explorations. When I moved back to the U.S. to be with my father after he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, Ioanna came to visit us in Maryland. She and I taught several workshops together, which some of my clients remember fondly to this day. Life was graduating me from my apprenticeship with her.

I have a thousand memories of those blessed and magical years. Why is it that we can be living in the middle of a fairy tale, in the midst of a miracle, and not fully realize it? Even today, there are moments when I recognize that a particular inflection in my voice is just like hers, or a facial expression, a turn of phrase—just like hers.

I learned how to teach a workshop from Ioanna, not so much the specific content, but how to hold space in a gentle, conscious, and contained way, so that the Great Mystery may be present.

To be with Ioanna was to be handed a menu of magical and mystical possibilities. She was intimately familiar with so many other dimensions and with so many universes. She painted them, she wrote about them. She communed with them. All this was going on in that diminutive and often frail body.

We laughed hard together—the kind of laughter that has you saying “Oh, my God; Oh, my God!” while you’re gasping for the next breath, laughter so riotous that tears came to your eyes and you have to catch your breath. One time Ioanna said something to me that sent us both into gales of hysterical laughter, because, at the time, it was so true. “You and I,” she said, “are the only people I know who live in a perpetual state of embarrassment!”  It’s true, we were both tough and self-assured on the outside, vulnerable and young on the inside.

In a fortuitous synchronicity, my son Daniel and his life-partner Mara were in Madrid during one of Ioanna’s last visits to the Spanish mainland in 2008. The three of them enjoyed an instant rapport and mutual love and respect. Daniel was deeply affected by the news of her death: “I had so much more to learn from her,” he said.

Ioanna, my ancient friend, my soul-mother, my cosmic friend and sister, you were a blessed spark of magic and wisdom on this planet. You touched me with your holy magic and your divine mind. You were wired into the cosmos. You had a direct phone line to Source. You forever altered the path of my destiny on his planet.  

I hope to see you again someday. There are many more universes to explore together. 

I imagine a time, somewhere beyond time, where all of us who knew you and loved you will gather and sit together with you once again, the sound of your meditation bells guiding us to go deeper, deeper, and deeper into inner space.

I love you. I thank you. Peace. My beloved friend.

28 Responses to My Soul-Friend & Teacher Ioanna Salajan

  1. Carl says:

    Lovely tribute Luisa. How wonderful that you found each other in this reality and knew it!!
    You’re amazing!!

    I absolutely adore this line in your tribute to Ionanna: “To be with Ioanna was to be handed a menu of magical and mystical possibilities.”

    I want such a “menu.” Thank you so much!


    • Luisa Kolker says:

      Thank you, Carl! Hopefully, I will be able to share more and more of that magical menu with my friends and my spiritual community as time goes by. Blessings to you.

  2. Leanne Poteet says:

    Such a beautiful memorial, Luisa! You are fortunate to have had such a teacher, and those of us who are your students, are fortunate too.

  3. Marianne Choquet says:

    Thank you, Luisa, for this beautiful tribute. I miss her deeply, and feel very fortunate to have been close to her, as well. She helped me be more me. Her teaching, her spirit, her laughter, carry on.

    • Luisa Kolker says:

      “She helped me be more me.” So well said, Marianne. You and Kirana and her Sitges, España soul-family were so important to her. I really hope to meet you in person one day. Thanks so much for posting on here.

  4. Brigitte says:

    So soul touching, and heartfelt….Loving the photos too….

  5. Maralyn Farber says:

    Thank you, dear Luisa. So moving and magical. I will always be grateful for the work that you and your teacher did for / on Gary. I believe that this healing extended his life.

    • Luisa Kolker says:

      You were one of just a small group of people here in the U.S. who got to meet her and experience her gifts in person, Maralyn. And I’m so glad that Gary, also, was one of those people. How wonderful to share the memory of her and those times with you.

  6. Sita says:

    Lovely Luisa, it touched my heart deeply, to read and feel your loving words about our mutual teacher and friend Ioanna. You brought her back by sharing your memories. How blessed we were to have learned and loved through her! Thank you, Luisa.

    • Luisa Kolker says:

      We really are blessed, Sita. I’m glad that you could feel Ioanna in my words. Ioanna was such a spirited woman—her gifts and magic will never die. Love to you.

  7. Wolf Martinez says:

    Dear, Sweet Luisa, I am moved in so so many ways by your tender words, giving me an opportunity to glimpse such a profound part of your journey, and therefore you. I am moved to deeper places of Love and Gratitude for you, your teacher Ioanna, and for mine too. I am inspired.
    I certainly feel her Spirit, and a desire to know her more, as there feels to be something familiar about her, as if we had met. But I know we hadn’t, this time around. I would greatly enjoy sitting with you and hearing more of this story, if you wouldn’t mind sharing with me.
    I am moved by the weaving of your words, so magically transporting to exotic landscapes, within, and without. Nudging me on to continued exploration and adventure. This I Love.
    Yes, I am moved Luisa, yet again, to tears. Tears of Joy, of Love, of Longing, of sadness, yes, and of Fulfillment. Heartfelt deep tears for you, for Ioanna, and for Us! My Gratitude extends to You, over and over again!
    Thank You Luisa. You are so Loved.

    • Luisa Kolker says:

      Dear Wolf,
      Thank you so much for reading, feeling and sharing in the great gift that was Ioanna. Sometimes it is difficult for me to believe that I’ve been so deeply blessed in this life as to have had a friend and teacher such as she.
      And you, my soul friend, are another precious blessing in my life.
      Deep love & respect,

  8. Gerard says:

    Today (25-10-2013)I read on your blog that Ioanna died two years ago. I expected this more or less and I know that she was at an age that people die but there’s a feeling of pity that there is no possibility to ever see her again. Although it’s about 30 years ago I last saw her, the memory of her lessons has not faded. Thank you Louisa for ceating this space on the internet where people can share their memory of this special woman.

    • Luisa Kolker says:

      Hi Gerard,

      I miss her, too. And as for you, the memory of Ioanna and her teachings has not faded for me. What she shared with us and who she is and always will be is timeless.

      Thank you for sharing here!

  9. jan darshan lotichius says:

    A lovely tribute in which I recognize the vibration that helped and healed me and brought my spirituality down to a practical level with perfect timing in my life, now many year ago. Her help continues to help me. Thank you Ioana, and than you Luisa for posting this. Joy, Darshan

  10. Luisa Kolker says:

    Thanks for your comment, Darshan. Ioanna helped so many of us to anchor our spirituality into the “here and now.” We’re so lucky.
    All the best,

  11. Maralyn Farber says:

    Magnificent. You two were so intertwined, like sisters. I will always be grateful for that one workshop that Gary and I attended in Columbia, MD, and for the deep energetic work on Gary that Ioanna and you did. The magic is: I can still remember that workshop (Ioanna’s gentle voice) as if it happened yesterday. I was young and frightened about Gary’s terminal diagnosis, but felt safe with you and your teacher. Ioanna is a gem!!!, and she will always be with us!!!!!

    • Luisa says:

      Hi Maralyn,

      I remember that workshop so well! And somewhere, I have two photos to share with you. One is of you meditating outdoors by a tree at the retreat center, and the other is of Gary doing tai chi inside the big converted barn there.

      Those were special times, indeed.

      Thanks so much for your comments.


  12. Denny says:

    A wonderful story of love and friendship. It is a blessing when people like this come into our lives and we are able to interact and share ourselves with them, and to come to a self awareness of who we are and where we need to go. Help need only be asked for and it is always freely given.

    • Luisa Kolker says:

      Hi Denny,
      Thanks for reading about Ioanna. There are miracles, large and small, that are happening in our lives all the time. Ioanna was one of the big ones in my life!

  13. Luisa, your descriptions are vivid and full of texture; i’m particularly fond of the description of your initial challenges to each other – car keys under the pillow, a night in the wild alone.
    Thanks for letting me know that such relationships exist – A luminous tale of friendship!

    • Luisa Kolker says:

      Hi Audrey– For some reason it took me six months to see your comment here! Thank you for sharing your reflections and for feeling the luminosity of my friendship with Ioanna. Love and best wishes to you.

  14. Dear Luisa,
    I have read your beautiful tribute to your teacher in the past, and today after reading it again I am moved to simply say thank you. Thank you for sharing the sweet and subtle details of your relationship with Ioanna. I feel envious of such a sacred connection in a human relationship, but as we have discussed before I know the teacher is truly and always available right here and now in each sacred moment.
    I am deeply grateful and blessed for the way in which you boldly share your being and your path so generously with all. I’m certain that you cannot know how far all the ripples travel, but travel they do, and they are a healing gift to us out here walking the faith-walk of life.
    In love and gratitude,

    • Luisa Kolker says:

      Hello James,
      Thank you so much for your reflections on what I’ve shared about Ioanna. I am so grateful that you’ve read my words and that you’ve had a glimmer now of Ioanna’s essence. You two would have loved each other. In fact, I believe her impish, knowing smile and her mystical blue eyes are twinkling in your direction at this very moment.
      Much love,

  15. Temujin Ladson says:

    Omg! I had no idea she had passed!! At 8 or 9 years old my father handed to my brother’s and I, two short books called “Zen comics”. At first, being a comic lover, I just looked at the drawings and found the reading just a little bit over my understandings. Fast track a decade later, I picked up her books again and it all hit me!! The lessons, the wisdom in such few words! even understandings i had yet to learn. It started the path of light which I follow to this day, 25 years after I picked up her books the first time. I had never even thought to look her up, maybe even contact her, a feeling of true regret as I type this only learning of her passin from Luisa’s beautiful commentary. Ohh how it pains me to know she is not in this realm of existence but I take solace in that she is not experiencing pains as she had while here. I write only to show that we all can and do effect others even when we have no direct line to them. Our energies are all interconnected. She is a beacon I will always have connection to. She gave me life when I was ready to give it all up. Her words taught me things even my own parents couldn’t. As Luisa said, sometimes it takes someone from afar to give ones unbounding yet sheltered love a safe space to develop. I love you Ioanna Salajan!! to the stars and back!! My your spirit be illuminated in all things.

    • Luisa Kolker says:

      Hello Temujin,

      Thank you so much for your comment. It pains me, too, and so many of us, that Ioanna is not here with us in the physical world. She was a rare treasure. Luckily, as you point out she is and always will be a beacon of inspiration and deep knowing.

      Blessings to you, Temuljin.