Years after my first visit to the Himalayas, I found myself in a beautiful Victorian building, the home of a friend who was supposed to join me on my first journey through the picturesque peaks. Drinking tea on a late spring afternoon, listening to the birds, mixed with the sounds coming from the street, rickshaws beeping, dogs shouting, people talking; my friend was sat relaxed in his chair, listening to my stories, when suddenly, his eyes lit up as he said to me: "It is incredible what you have just been telling me! Most people would pay to get an experience like that, but you somehow just managed to fall into all this spiritual drama, like Alice into the rabbit hole, without even trying! You have to write a story – a story about the extremities you have just been through!"
Once upon a time
I laughed and began my story: Once upon a time... I used to work in luxury hotels, surrounded by beautiful snowy mountains, serving holidaymakers. Always looking perfect and happy, available at the drop of a hat, and never complaining about anything. Working daily like a robot, just to earn some money so one day I could make my own dream come true. I surrendered to the instructions given on how to behave and what to do and to the high costs of living in a luxury winter resort.
Shortly before the winter season ended, my flight took off into a completely different world – India. Hot, dirty, and loud. The main purpose of my visit was to finally meet my Guru. Years ago, I was given a book, told that the Guru knew everything about me and that I shall meet her when the time is right. For 7 years, this book was resting on my shelf, until one day I met a meditation teacher, who told me to read this exact book. She did not know that a boy had already given me this book and that he had been persistently trying to contact me.
I was accompanied by two large Indian families and the boy. Our journey 3-hour train journey started at 3am. It was the day of Holi festival – the festival of colours and the victory of light over the darkness, foretelling the spring. The train was so crowded I questioned whether we would fit on. The husband started running forward to make space for his wife and children, pulling me by my hand and squeezing me on to the carriage in the process. Later I was told that even though we left plenty of time to purchase our tickets, we didn’t have time to get them, so we had a free ride! The closer we were on the train, the more emotional everyone became. It felt weird observing how happy others were for me, expressing it through their actions and words. Observing the madness, I realised I was the only one who did not have any expectations.
Mataji (the Guru) was waiting on her balcony but did not come and greet us. I was supposed to meet another Guru – Babaji first. No one ever told me about him, so I was not sure what to expect. He was standing in front of a huge bowl, preparing a special dish for us all. As I gave him my gift, he smiled and asked: "How much?" Still shocked by the train ride and change of environment, I could not understand what he was trying to say and found his questions inappropriate for a spiritual master – questioning the material value of my gift.
I tried to act professional, smiled, looked up towards the sky and gestured as if it came from there. He looked at me: "Ahh, from God...OK." He hugged me and it seemed as if I was ready to meet Mataji – the Guru, who according to all I had been told in the past had sent for me. She hugged me and it felt quite familiar.
Everyone gathered together and I sat down next to the Gurus, making me feel like a very important person. I was served first, whilst all eyes were on me to see if I liked the food or not. Only after my approval did they start eating too. In just 48 hours I switched from being a servant to others to being a queen that everyone served. The change of roles seemed confusing, especially after years of practising being humble and obedient.
It was time for a Holy ceremony. I sat on the floor and observed the congregation, who had come together to celebrate as a family. Children created necklaces and eye-glasses out of grass and flowers, offering them to Mataji and Babaji as a gift. The gurus were sat in front of the congregation and eventually they signalled that the colour fight could begin. Everyone was cheerful, happy, and playful and I did not mind that out of everyone, I got the most colours thrown at me! I totally lost myself in the moment and enjoyed the game so much.
Exhausted and hungry we all sat down on the floor in a long line, holding out our plates, made from leaves in front of us. Babaji himself checked that we all received some food and of course he paid special attention to me, noticing the food was too spicy for me. I could hear him talking in Bengali, that I did not like the food, yet it was not true, I was just not used to so many spices. Although I ate it all, he decided to cook me separate meals over the following days, all of which were incredibly delicious.
That evening the boy accompanied me to Babaji's room. Over the years, I could not stop wondering what my life purpose was, so I simply asked: "Babaji, I am confused, maybe you can help me – can you tell me what my purpose in life is? Why did I finally get invited to come and see you?”
There was silence, then the boy started translating my question, Babaji looked at me, took some time to think how to express himself and then answered: "It is not my duty to tell you what you have to do. This life is your choice. However, if one day you decide to stop looking for scientific answers and instructions and surrender to the divine, then I will be more than happy to guide your soul."
His answer threw me not only into greater confusion but I also started to feel very disappointed with this so-called "Guru" sat in front of me. I slowly answered: "Babaji, if you do not know anything about me, how come this boy told me that Mataji knows everything about me and that I was predestined to meet her?"
He smiled and shook his head slowly. "No one ever said she knew you. She only once had a dream about a little girl from a foreign land. Unfortunately, since she had this dream she could not detach from it. However, no one ever claimed you were this girl. Only time will tell whether you are the one or not."
My blood started to boil! How could I be so naive! I let a stranger convince me to believe his romanticised imagination that had nothing to do with reality! He was so convinced that what he imagined was true, that he started to create this reality, no matter what the consequences were for others! I felt as if I was amidst one of the craziest dramas anyone had ever seen – yet it was happening for real. I wished to leave straight away, however, I was not allowed to go as they thought I was too emotional to handle the outside World.
Manipulation or true love?
I felt deceived and so stupid! Everyone could see it, just not me; a white skinned, blonde haired, blue eyed girl as a perfect match to an old dream, making Mataji a great Guru that everyone wants to follow.
I left the room to speak to the boy. How dare he tell me these lies! Yet he did not react, all he said was that he would do the same thing again. He had no idea what consequences his ungrounded dreaming had on other people! No matter how angry I tried to be with him, there was nothing other than the feeling of pure love in my heart. I could not understand what was happening!
I retired back to my room, cried, and refused to leave my room for dinner. Consequently, everyone had to eat a meal that evening, which had been prepared without spices just for me! The next day I requested to have a conversation with Mataji but she refused to talk to me. Then, as I started packing my bags to leave, she entered my room.
There was silence and I could feel she was not happy with my behaviour. Then she broke the silence: "My dear, I did have a dream a long time ago, however, at this stage, I am unable to say whether it was you or someone else. It would take me a couple of days to find this out."
She looked at my bags ready to leave: "Can you not feel it?"
This question made me feel even more stupid and angry. How could I feel anything?! I did not even know what to think about the drama unfolding in front of my own eyes.
I just peacefully said: "I am sorry, I am confused. I love you, you are all so sweet, however, there are many people in this world I love and I feel the same towards them."
"Please stay, it will be hard to find another place to sleep close by and it is OK with us. We are happy if you stay here."
I took a minute to ponder this and then answered: "Under one condition. That you stop treating me like a princess. I also would like to help and not just sit around being served food 3 times a day. It is a terrible feeling to see everyone else working hard, whilst I am just sitting around." She agreed. I stayed and hoped for the best.
A couple of minutes later my room was filled with a bunch of children who wanted to play and they didn’t have to ask me twice. I taught them all my favourite games, however, whilst we were in the middle of one game, Babaji called out with a disappointing look on his face.
He looked at me with stern eyes and spoke with an even sterner voice: "Do you realise, that you have been refusing food that I have personally prepared for you today, whilst choosing rice and yoghurt instead?" I did not know how to answer, besides there were 30 people staring at me. I did not have a choice but to smile and say: "Yes, I am truly like a little child sometimes, don't you agree?"
His face changed instantly as he smiled: "You want to come and sit on my lap for a cuddle?" Suddenly all my emotions of anger and disappointment disappeared. It was as if I had finally learnt the rules of the game we were all playing.
It was the last evening before most of the families had to leave and return to their homes. We all sat down together, next to Babaji and Mataji, drinking tea. It was as if time stopped and I had gone back to a time when old yogis sat together with their disciples, sharing stories and thoughts, just like we were doing this afternoon. Just as I had finished with my thoughts, Babaji turned to me saying: "I have a name for you. I will call you Dutti. It means naughty as a child." I smiled. It was so natural and simple, without any mystery behind it – this is how I got my first spiritual name.
The holy cow and the show
After everyone left, I and Mataji went to visit one of the villagers, who invited us for another cup of tea. Just before we were about to leave, we had to go and see their cows, a symbol of the divine mother. I moved closer to stroke the cow and at the same time found myself standing with both feet deep in cow poo, whilst trying not to get my long, white skirt dirty. At this same moment, a group of people joined me. I stood there like a lost puppy, not knowing how to get out of the situation without causing a scene. Then my phone rang and Mataji asked me to return to the car. Whilst I was on the phone the other people had found a hose to help me wash my shoes but suddenly someone grabbed me by my hand and pulled me into the car with my shoes still covered in cow poo. I tried to apologise for the mess but instead, we all burst into a long and loud laughter.
Everything is a gift from God
Mataji took me to the market. I felt uncomfortable with her buying me gifts and instead I wished she could help me to love more. She answered with a smile on her face: "One day you will understand. For now, all I can say is that God is in everything; our possessions are a gift from God too – so enjoy it." After observing her for a couple of days I started to understand. Whatever gift she received, she shared it with people around her – the same as she did with the chocolate I bought for her. Hardly ever, she took something for herself.
She finally chose a bangle for me and as she put it on my wrist in the evening, Babaji smiled and said: “You have to love everyone equally. Focus your mind on God at all times, no matter what you do and it will happen."
Even a simple task cannot be as easy as it seems
Finally, I was given a task! Watering the flowers with another helper at the Ashram. Mataji had found her alone and motherless at the age of 5, wondering the streets and begging for survival. Mataji had taken her home, looked after her and adopted her.
I started watering the plants in the way I knew best, yet the girl came and told me how to do it properly, so I continued as I was told. Although this task started out as very boring, it soon turned into a big drama! As I started pulling out the weeds, I stepped into a huge pile of red ants and these can have a very nasty bite, so I was sent to the other side of the garden to get out of harms way, until Babaji came to tell me that I should now be using the hosepipe in a different way. Once again, we had to change our place!
Just as we started working again, Mataji returned and forbade me to continue working, as there were wooden sticks in the ground that were also hazardous. So, I stopped and was given a new task. I had to accompany Mataji for a walk through the rice fields. I could not stop laughing over the whole drama around watering the plants!
Sharing wisdom through stories
During the night, there was a huge frog on the pathway. This reminded me of my favourite fairy-tale – The Frog-King that I knew off by heart when I was a child. I shared my story with Babaji and Mataji. Then it was Babaji’s turn to share a story with us:
Once there was a boy, named Peter. He lived with his sister and they were very poor, they hardly had anything to eat. Peter decided to make a change to this, so he went to the King and asked him to give him a horse and some money. In exchange, he promised that he would set up a business that would profit the entire kingdom and especially the King. Peter sold the horse and used the money to buy food for him and his sister. Peter never returned so the King went to visit him.
Just before the King's visit, Peter cooked some food and hid it away. When the king entered, Peter pretended to make some food by stirring an empty vessel on the floor. He told the King that he was using a very special mantra, which can make food out of nothing. A couple of minutes later, the food he had hidden, emerged in his hands. The King wanted to know the mantra, for which, of course, he had to pay lots of money! The rule being, if he shared the mantra with anyone, it would lose its meaning.
The King organised a huge festival, invited many people and used the mantra to prepare food for them all. No matter how hard he tried, no food appeared. He went to Peter and complained. Peter explained he did not use the mantra correctly and was ready with a new trick to turn the Kings focus away from his disappointment. He told him, that he was ready to sacrifice his sister to make it all good again. The King stabbed Peter's sister, blood came out of her stomach and she pretended she was dead, yet it was all a set-up and shortly after Peter revived his sister using a mantra. Peter gave this new mantra to the King and told him that if it does not work, he cannot be blamed for it.
The King returned to the castle and killed his minister. Using the magic mantra afterwards, he tried to revive him, yet it did not work. Ragging with anger, he sent for Peter to be jailed. Peter was put into a coffin and left there for a week without water. Locked in the coffin, Peter started repeating: "I am going to heaven. I am going to heaven." A businessman passed by and heard his words and asked if he could join in. Peter told him not to tell anyone about this, otherwise, everyone would want to join them. The businessman opened the coffin for him and they swapped places. One week later the coffin was thrown into the river.
Peter once again appeared in front of the King, who was so shocked, he decided to try it out himself using the magic mantra which had once again saved Peter. The coffin with the King inside was thrown into the middle of the sea but whilst repeating the mantra, the King finally died. Peter became king!
Although he had many stories to tell, he chose this one, as he was trying to tell us that not everything that works for one person works for another. It was such a cosy night. It felt like we were a little family, sharing, caring, and feeling love and joy together. Slowly, I started to feel like coming home.
Out into the village
The next day we went to visit a small village where Mataji's mother lived. Everyone adored me, I was once again given gifts from everyone, people had tears in their eyes as we were leaving and everyone asked me to stay or come back and visit soon. There was an overdose of unconditional love coming towards me, no matter what I said or did. I could not understand how it was possible to be showered with so much love from strangers when I was still not able to love myself. Thinking about this almost made me cry.
As we returned home, I could hear Babaji shouting at some visitors as if he was trying to teach them a lesson. I walked up to him and started tickling him, whilst at the same time telling him that shouting harms the liver. He turned to me and the anger disappeared. He was as calm as always and I could not understand how this peaceful person had managed to be so angry just a second ago. Then I remembered some of the old stories he had told, explaining that masters shout out of love, to help people learn their lesson, as they would not get the message if it was delivered in a normal tone.
Before we joined the others for dinner, Babaji turned to me: "Stay here and I will make a real Indian out of you." Later I was told that this meant he will make a worldly person out of me, being able to love everyone equally without judgement.
The purpose of life and yoga
The last evening before my departure I stayed alone with Babaji and Mataji. They told me that in order to find God we need to learn to stand still for a while, create our own space and invite God in. That night I realised that authentic yoga was not all about showing off postures and discussing the intensity of the practice. It is all about the simplicity of the life we lead, the love we spread and the moments we share. It is about who we are and how we express this in a way that benefits others.
As I was waving goodbye the next morning I could not believe this experience had happened to me. It was one of the most eccentric, mad, un-real and yet true experiences all at the same time. The words of Mataji echoed in my ears: "The purpose of life is to be joyful and happy rather than surrender to negativity." I closed my eyes and drifted into a long deep sleep, ready to find my own balance between the extremes I had been living during the past months.