Ever since I was a little child, I’ve always wanted to go there. I have this childhood memory, which has over the years become so vague, that it almost feels like it belongs to someone else. My paternal grandmother, Maria, had been to India a long time before I or even my father was born. I remember seeing pictures of her standing next to an elephant. She had a passion for elephants – big and small, intricate and plain, ceramic, wooden, glass and metal – there were dozens of different elephant statues everywhere in her apartment. The apartment, where I, as a small child, was not allowed to touch anything. Just look and imagine. And that imagination was my first step on my 32 years old journey to India.
So now that I am, yes, 32 years old and a Yoga teacher, India was obviously the place to be. To learn, explore, pilgrim, discover. What was I looking for? What did I want to find? I wasn’t particularly sure. As I set off from London Heathrow, exactly one year after I started my Yoga Teacher career (Coincidence? I don’t think so!), I had no idea why I was going there or what I was hoping to learn, but I somehow was certain, that I will find it as soon as I get there. It’s a bit like when you can’t remember what you wanted to get from the kitchen and you go back there in hope that the room itself will remind you of what you’ve forgotten.
It took us just over 24 hours, two delayed flights, five cups of coffee and heaps of laughter to get there. As soon as we landed, I felt that India is the most bizarre and yet fascinating place I’ve ever been to. I was completely overwhelmed and astonished by the contrasts of this truly breath-taking place. It seemed as if it was created by two opposing forces, still competing with each other in terms of which of them will make up your first impression of India.
I remember sitting outside the Ashram at the end of the first day and everything felt very blurry, but at the very same time perfectly clear. It was like little mosaic pieces that fit together to form a great picture: the monkeys, the cows, the pigs, the dogs, the chipmunks, the handsome young men, the lovely women in their colourful outfits, people practising yoga everywhere you look (we arrived in Rishikesh during the International Yoga festival), people sitting in meditation along the banks of the Ganges, while other people do their washing just a couple of meters down, the smell of spices, the chai, the beating of drums, the sound of someone’s OM, mixed with honking of cars and the distant sound of evening prayer being poured into the endless night sky, penetrated by lights at the tops of the Himalayas… I was sitting by the river and just observing and absorbing all these sounds, smells, colours, sights, tactile sensations and suddenly I felt very alive. As if I was looking the Universe right in the eyes.
At that moment I knew what I had been hoping to find by coming here. I had been hoping to find me. The “me” that’s the so-called Real Self. The Real Self that had always been and always will be there. For that split second, the Universe in the eyes of which I was looking, and me were in tune. In such perfect synchronicity, that I knew that there was nothing else to search for. For whoever was looking for answers has always been the one to be found.