More on Leandra...

Personal Influences

Photo: Philip de Voss

My birth family in all their complexity has been a major influence. I was brought up English speaking in an Afrikaans family who moved from the Transvaal to Natal in order to have a more liberated life style. Identity and a yearning to belong was always a theme of mine. I was influenced politically to understand the wrongs of Apartheid from a very early age. I learnt to be critical of the status quo, no matter what it was. It was my father that influenced me the most. He was a paraplegic, spent his whole life with splints on his legs walking on crutches and became a decorated, admired and VIP business man in his own right. His life gave me the courage to walk my life against all the odds. During the last days of his life in 2010, he asked me again and again about my work and encouraged me, saying it was important work. His made me promise to write a book about my teachings. In his moment of death, his presence in my bedroom woke me up – he had come to say goodbye. At the time, I did not understand, even when the hospital phoned a few hours later. It took a while for me to comprehend, his presence, his energy had been with me as he left his body.

My marriage of now some 30 years has influenced me in many ways. I know the difficulties that can arise in a long-term marriage, I know the struggle personally, and I also know that it takes two genuinely compassionate human beings to have the arrangement we now have. After feeling the need to return home in 2002, we live on two different continents, remaining married but leading our own lives and leaving each other the greatest freedom possible to be the individuals that we are...and yet, we love each other and are best of friends. Our bond is strong and my husband supports me in my work all the way.

My daughter and her partner of over 12 years influence me very much. She is a strong woman and a beautiful person in her own right and has taught me so much about the young women of today and how they are able to make excellent personal decisions for their lives if, as parents, we teach and allow them how to do this from an early age. Her partner teaches me how a young modern young man can be loving, supportive and homely, without loosing any of his dignity as a man. During the last year of her high school, he cooked for her almost daily and watching the two of them grow their life together, is a gift to me. After I returned to South Africa in early 2002, they all lived in a happy commune of father and young people under one roof, until our daughter, now 25, and her partner moved to his home town Vienna, Austria to take up work. She continues to be an inspiration in my life. They now have two children, lovely little girls and live in Vienna, a city that I have grown to love.

My nephew whose legal guardian I am and who has lived with me since he was 8 years old, keeps me young. He is now in his second year at university, and keeping up with the life changes that he presents me with is often a challenge. It is this challenge that keeps me young at heart - although by no means "up-to-date" according to him! What I love the most is having been given this opportunity of having a young male to be a part of my life. He balances my experience of bringing up a daughter and has become truely a son. It has been and still is a wonderfully enriching experience.

My initiation into Tantra changed my life totally and brought out (finally) who I was meant to be all along. After returning to South Africa, I met my first Tantra teacher who initiated me into Tantra - Swami Rahasya. While I will always be grateful to him, it was Europe that really paved the way for this work that I do. After my initiation, I returned to Germany for my actual professional training in Tantra. I have experienced a variety of approaches to tantric teaching and work, and have enjoyed wonderful Tantra teachers including Klaus Smedts (Germany) and Ron Solo (Australia), both retired. Each one supported my growth on a personal level as well as specifically teaching me tantric touch and massage - each in their own ways. Ron is particularly close to my heart as he is South African. His initiation took place in Johannesburg at a very early age and within a secret tantric society. He accompanied Jill, his teacher and mentor, all over the globe assisting and working with her. She left her body about 3 years before I called on him and requested a session. The session became a whole week of intense teaching. I was the last person he taught and the reason he gave me for doing so (although he was already retired) was that he wanted to pass on the tradition he had received from Jill, so that I could carry it further in the country of our birth. He and Jill had never worked in South Africa! 

I still visit different schools when I am in Germany, this is then my time to tank-up and further my tantric experience on a personal as well as professional level.

Turning 60 in 2011 has been the last big influence in my life. It is a different energy I now feel in my body, in my life and in my work. It is a mellowing and a tuning down and I am eager to experience where this is taking me. For now all I can say is that it has been a profound experience so far. It feels good, probably a bit like a maturing deep red wine.

Now, at 63,
I am busy planning the years ahead. I have done so little of this in my life. Most of the time, I have lived as things came, followed ideas, yearnings, visions.
I need to hand over much of my work to others...or give it up, in order to follow what I now feel called to do. I need to write. I feel that it is in writing that I can leave a legacy beyond my own years. It is something I want to give to my students and all the clients I have worked with over the last 12 intense years of offering my teaching on a full time basis.
I also yearn for the solitude and inner silence I found immediately after my initiation into Tantra. Along the way, it got lost in years of uninterrupted teaching, which is what I was called to do at the time. Now I am being called to turn inwards again. Something I look forward to.

Updated in June 2015

Professional influences and teachers

Visual & Theatre Arts
I studied Fine Arts before turning to Speech & Drama. (University of Natal, Pietermaritzburg and Durban). My first years in Germany were spent working as a stage and costume designer for opera, ballet and dramatic theatre in a large German state theatre. Thereafter I opened a woman's art gallery during the hub of the Woman's Movement in Germany and began teaching experiential art. For a number of years I worked as a professional visual artist specialising in large scale painting and performance art. I always worked from within, so themes were: being a woman, being white in an African country, but being white, not recognisable as stemming from Africa, being an "Auslaender" (out-lander) in Germany and a "non-black" from an African country - always the issue of "who am I really" running through all my work.

Body Therapy
Lomi Bodywork - I spent three years in a Lomi Bodywork group learning body awareness - something that plays a huge role in my tantric work today.
Hakomi Therapy - I did some trainings and worked with Hakomi therapists facilitating therapeutic groups for a number of years
Breath Therapy - Experienced Breathing - Prof. Ilse Middendorf
Movement Therapy - Various movement therapy methods, expressive dance therapy, therapeutic mask therapy, belly dancing

Psychotherapeutic Training
Fully qualified in Psychoanalytic Art Therapy, Germany (Hanover). The institute where I trained, one of the oldest in Germany, was headed by Elizabeth Wellendorf, one of the founders of Art Therapy in Germany and a very influential figure in the art therapy scene there.

Influences in Psychotherapy
I had the privilege of participating in seminars and workshops of both these teachers, on their visits to in Germany and Austria. James F. Masterson opened my art therapy training institute in Hamburg with a supervision seminar for myself and colleagues. Both have inspired me deeply in my psychotherapeutic work. I feel deeply indebted to them. It is their influence that to this day guides me when I work with individuals in sessions and retreats.

  • Prof. Dr. James F. Masterson M.D - Institute for Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, New York.
    His field is the psychotherapy of and research on the Personality Disorders of our day. He taught me how to deal with the most difficult cases and one of the most important things I learnt from him was: If my client/patient goes into defence mode, I had to realise that I had made a mistake. Instead of just seeing the pathology of the client/patient in play, I learnt to realise that I had moved forward to fast and that I needed to follow the client as opposed to running ahead of them. He also taught me to be clear in differentiating between what was me and what was the other.
  •  Prof. Dr. Daniel N. Stern M.D - Professor of Psychology, University of Geneva; Professor of psychiatry, Cornell University, New York.
    Whereas Masterson researched adolescents and adults, Stern researches children and babies, and revolutionised how psychotherapy perceives the relationship between baby and mother, child development and learning processes. His research showed that we are born creative, with an inborn multi-modular, sensual learning capacity which we loose as we grow up. This means that as babies, what we learn with one sense, we automatically know with another sense. Art Therapy taps into this original learning capacity, and is one reason why it functions so well. Hearing him lecture and reading his books, also helped me as a mother. His research showed me why I had not felt like I was supposed to feel and that there was nothing wrong with me!

Psychotherapy Trainings and Experience
Feminist Psychotherapy, Psychoanalytical Psychotherapy, Drama Therapy, Psychodrama, Family Therapy, Gestalt

Psychotherapeutic Bodywork Trainings and Experience
Movement Therapy, Hakomi Therapy, Dance Therapy, Therapeutic Mask Theatre (which became one of my favourite modules of working.)

Influences in Art Therapy
Bettina Egger, Jolanda Jokobi, Kasper Kiepenheuer, Gaetano Benedetti, Elizabeth Wellendorf , Ingrid Riedel
Their work , all under the banner of Art Therapy, is as diverse as life itself: Freudian, Jungian, holistic, spiritual, analytic, psychodynamic, experiential...each one with their own slant. Much as Tantra is today, each one added their input to this wonderful form of psychotherapy.

Influences in Psychoanalytical Psychotherapy
Freud, Jung, Fritz Riemann, Ilsabe von Veebahn, Wolf-Detlef Rost, Victor Frankl
All these authors were a big part of my psychoanalytic training. Freud's writings, if you actually read them, are beautifully written. He was magnificent in his day and most of modern psychotherapy is based on his findings, new understandings growing out of what he originally discovered.

Personal Spiritual Teachers

  • Art Reade - Mexican/Apache spiritual teacher and Life Coach in whose trainings I participated in Germany in the late eighties. In a room of 200 people, I felt as if I were the only one present. He taught my husband and I how to embrace each other in a new, more accepting way and he taught me a huge lesson: keep your agreements - always. If you want to change an agreement, no matter what it is, you have to speak to the person you have the agreement with and come to a new agreement together. This way there is no lying and it leaves out a lot of the hurt that takes place in relationships of all kinds.

Spiritual Influences

  • Jesus - the teacher of unconditional Love and my all time favourite. His example, taken in it's true context, is what we should all strive to be: non-judgemental and loving to the core.
  • Buddha - the teacher of silence - silence of the mind, silence in being, silence in the now.
    The two of these put together, unconditional (non-judgemental) love which starts with yourself and extends to all of life, and silencing the mind as well as the silence of being in the moment completely...and you have something really huge, really great.
  • Mary Baker Eddy - founder of the Christian Science church and in my opinion the first real spiritual Christian teaching that was available in modern times. I grew up in this church and had an ardent practice of the teachings well into my young adulthood. This formed the basis for my spirituality today. Much of what she taught is today "standard" spiritual understanding and practice in the west, then it was new. I learnt from my earliest Sunday school days, that God is Life, Love, Soul, Spirit, Principal, Mind and Intelligence - all these names were synonyms for God. My understanding to this day is that God, the Divine is all these things and that we are not separate from this at any time or in any place in our lives.
  • Khalil Gibran - I read his work as a student in my late teens. He inspired me so much and his writings are exceptionally beautiful. 
  • Osho - I had never been particularly interested in his teachings but after my tantric initiation, he simply came into my mind and my heart in the form of an extremely clear picture, smiling at me and when, after weeks, it didn't go away, I followed the calling and took Sannyas with him. Thus my name Ma Anand Leandra - The Lion Woman, Mother of Bliss. It was a coming together of many things already learnt, although I had not studied his teachings, I had learnt it all. And he was simply there.
  • Louise. F. Hay - at a time in my life where I was despondent, her writings and affirmations played a huge role to keep me going.
  • Swami Rama - I love his writings. He is so family orientated, so caring, understanding - to me one of the best spiritual teachers.
  • The Hindu Goddess Durga - oh I love the story of Durga. It is a story for men and women alike, about the core of what women are: power, strength, understanding and highly intelligent and creative. She is also very, very cleaver in the way she goes about things. She is an inspiration for the life of any woman - and man!

    (Updated in March 2012)

    * All photos taken by Phillip de Voss in March 2012