when I first stumbled upon The Shantiphant Project I was mezmerized. there is this young woman from Germany who makes beautiful film portraits of yoginis in a very sensitive and eased way. everything that Laura Hirch, the bubbly soul behind the online film project, creates talks to me so I knew I need to talk to her. and here is her story.

hi Laura, after you've shared so many stories of inspiring women it's time for yours. please tell us about The Shantiphant Project. 
The Shantiphant Project is an inspiring online film project that portraits yoginis who have – mostly through yoga – experienced a transformation in their life and are now transforming their community. I have captured their beauty and courage in short portraits so the spectator will hopefully become motivated and inspired to also start fulfilling the own dreams. I only feature women because I think that it is still important to empower women to live the life they aspire for their own self and to walk new paths, if necessary. these films are not only about yoga. it's really about believing in yourself, be willing to step up and change something for the better. it shall also serve as an inspiration to let go of fears and mental boundaries that keep oneself from living ones’ dreams.

I love the name of the project. what is the meaning behind Shaniphant? 
I love animals in general but elephants have sort of always fascinated me. I love their shape, their kind eyes, their grace but also their radiant power. I like the traits of being gentle and calm and fierce and assertive at the same time. they have a strong sense of justice, a stunning memory, high level of intelligence and a strong social sense. I cherish these traits in humans also. ganesha, the elephant god in the hindu-tradition, is said to be the remover of obstacles. I found that very suiting for the stories I am telling through the short portraits. shanti means 'peace' in sanskrit. I consider elephants as extremely peaceful living beings and thus want to emphasize that a Shantiphant is someone who serves humanity in a peaceful yet determined way.

what does The Shantiphant Project means to you?
for me it is a proof that I can have trust in myself. that if I want to realize a dream, I can realize it. it may mean hard work and showing courage from time to time but also a bag full of goosebumps, happiness and surprises. I really believe in a vital life force that pushes us in the right direction but I somehow have to test it from time to time and experiencing that I can actually establish something out of nothing is a thrilling experience. and I learned a lot through the project in terms of how to make a film so I have always considered it and everybody involved as my private little film school. I am still so grateful for every new filming experience every different phant (person being portrait) had to offer. filming (and almost falling out of) a rickshaw in India, countless sets in nature to filming in a circus, on the water, festivals etc. has taught me how to react in different situations and to be openminded. I can be a little unpleasant with myself when technical stuff doesn’t work out the way I intended it to be or I fuck up the sound for the 1000th time but then again I am proud of what I taught myself and find it weird sometimes that at the end a film comes out that makes sense in a way.

like smile at your sister The Shantiphant Project origins in the idea of sharing stories of women who inspire by following their heart and inner voice. it's not always easy to hear the inner voice. what do you think is a good way to rediscover it and especially to believe in it? 
the truth is: it is always there. and in a sense, you unconsciously may feel it. when you make a decision and you are not a hundred percent behind it, you may feel a NO internally. When you feel energy and excitement arising, then it’s probably a YES. but can you accept that and be true to your self? we tend not to listen and search on the outside for signs when really it was clear all the time. we should start looking within us for an answer instead of relying on others opinions. I think it’s crucial to reflect every decision you make. I sit for 15 minutes each day and listen within me. what is going on in there (and believe me: sometimes a whole circus). if I don’t feel anything than I will sit a bit longer and eventually I will receive a hint. but also long walks in nature are amazing to figure out what I want. but really, can you accept that sometimes you can’t push answers and yourself? be gentle and dear with you, we don’t have to function perfectly for we are human.

do you remember the moment when yoga got you for the first time?
before I discovered yoga for myself I was already deeply interested in spirituality, astrology, naturopathics, holistic and esoteric stuff. my mom was doing a yoga course at the volkshochschule and always tried to persuade me to join. at that time I was too lazy. somehow I ended up in San Francisco in a gym with the intention of shedding a few I-am-new-to-the-USA-and-have-to-taste-every-fatty-sugarbomb—pounds and almost stumbled into a course which was led by an elf-like yogini with a rainbow-tattoo on her neck. she played ‚Gabriel‘ from the band Lamb for shavansana and I remember having had the feeling of flying out of class and through the bustling streets. I was hooked right away. you have to feel it to love it, I guess.

you are a jill of all trades. you write for yoga magazines and blogs, you make films, you're a yoga teacher and you run that one great website we are talking about. with all this creative things going on – what does ground you?
I tend to get very lost in my bubblyness and to do-lists and yoga is always a way to get grounded. but really, sometimes all I wanna do is sit still, close my eyes and feel what is going on inside me. feel the prana (life-force) rushing through me, feeling the air around me and connecting to my little me. so I try to do that every day.

I read about your turning point in life that you had in the domenican republic. how did your life change since then? 
I traveled to the DR for an article about the connection of yoga and surfing (which I think are the perfect couple by the way). at the beginning I wasn’t so eager to go there, having had the imagination in my mind that it would be rather an all-inclusive-bunker-place. I was so wrong! from the first moment on I fell in love with the tropical air, the scent of the humid earth. and of course with the people and their mentality which is so different and so soothing. I learned a new way of thinking, enjoying life, letting go and taking everything a bit easier. when I came home to Germany I knew right away I had to change my life and style so I sold everything I had, gave up my apartment and went back to the DR after 8 (very long) months. I don’t regret it. apart from that I remember always wanting to live somewhere ‚where bananas come from‘ ;)

by going through this what advice would you give your younger self? 
exactly what I have to tell my older self constantly: don’t stress so much. everything will come to the right time and everything happens for a reason.

do you have a personal mantra? 
Om Sri Balasai Ram, a mantra I got from my guru Sri Balasai Baba who I visit every year. it connects me instantly.

in really really short shantiphant is about fulfilling ones own dreams. is there any dream you would like to share with us? 
I have many dreams and I have a bucket list on my phone that is being updated constantly but a big dream is coming true right now: I will study documentary film in Los Angeles and I still can’t believe it will start in a few weeks. another one would be to be able to continue shooting films that are about spirituality, healing, social justice and transformation – but on a larger scale. I’ll keep working and visualizing towards it ;)

the SHANTIPHANT project // SAMANTHA from Laura Hirch on Vimeo.

Samantha is one of many Shantiphants. to get to know more empowering stories head over to The Shantiphant Project 

Laura, thank you for boosting ones sense of basic trust ♡

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