The word Guru doesn’t exactly mean “just” a teacher as it is often translated. It comes from the Sanskrit: गुरु, where gu means darkness and ru means dispeller. Guru is the one who removes darkness of ignorance and lights up wisdom. A guru is the one who is knowledgeable, wise and authentic and guides others through his wisdom. In this regard India has been my greatest Guru so far.
India is also being referred to as the Mother. Ancient Indian proverb says: “mata, pita, guru, daivam.” This saying describes our life journey. In another words, for a baby first comes the mother, than the father, who introduces the child to the outside world, then the guru and at last the divine. In this sense, for me India has been all of the above.
At the wake of tomorrow’s speech at a women’s conference in Cochin, south India, titled “Crossing Intercultural Limitations in the Empowerment of Women” I feel it is time to draw the balance of my past 8 years life in India.
It has not always been easy for me, Meera, a white woman, who grew up in a European metro city. Even though I loved everything about India and its’ people prior to moving here, it becomes different once you start living here and you know that there is no other place to return to. This is it. This is your home, there is nowhere and nobody to run back to.
It also depends, where you live. We never wanted to live in a city due to pollution and lack of greenery, so we moved to a deserted beach 60 km north of Cochin. At first everything was new and exciting: beach, fresh fruits and veggies, maids to clean your house and cook your food.
Later on as the years passed and my daughter was born, life became harder for me and I realised the reality: beach is always there, therefore no more interesting. Maids will take leave without prior notice at occasions such as temple festivals, funerals and marriages (trust me, there are many of those in India). You have to speak the language of the maids (the local language Malayalam is not enough, you should recognise their way of thinking). Privacy is an unknown phenomenon to most Indians – they may enter into your bedroom at anytime without knocking. If you are a young, white woman, you will get many marriage proposals and stares. (Difficult to even pick your nose, without somebody publishing an article about it in the local newspaper the next day). When somebody says, that he will do it, it mean he might do it, he might not do it or he might do it later. Time plays no role. Society, family and parents stand above individual needs. (Very difficult for a European!) Indians never say NO, they prefer to make up an answer. As a white woman, don’t smile at Indian men, whom you do not know, especially when they are smiling at you. (A challenge for someone who wears a wide grin most of the time). If an Indian says something is impossible, if you don’t give up, they will make it after a few attempts. Sometimes people don’t look at you when they speak. (After sometime you might be surprised, that they still haven’t moved on.) Re-establishing your phone connection may take up to 3 weeks. When seeing a doctor, you are expected to carry all previous prescriptions. (Even after 8 years I still tend to forget). There is no prescribed monitoring of your child’s health after birth. If a man talks to your husband, he won’t talk or look at you, you might as well carry on walking. Indians travel, work and live in groups and communities; if you are alone, they find it suspicious. Child is god. Mother is god. Elderly people have high respect.
Within the spam of 8 years that I have been living in India, I repeated the Czech proverb more than thousand times: “The things that don’t kill you, make you stronger.” I have sensed a deep truth and wisdom in it. Even though, many times I felt dead, abandoned, pushed on to my knees, I managed to get up again and fight. My female intuition and womanhood were my weapons. And what does my life look like now and which are the lessons India – my guru had taught me? 1. I made part of our house strictly private and have to use locks sometimes 🙂 2. I don’t sympathise with the staff but try to help if possible. 3. I play the “dead beetle” sometimes as we say in Czech ( pretending like you didn’t hear or understand anything and let the time find a solution). 4. If everything gets too much, I don’t hesitate to jump into the car and drive 45 minutes to the nearest town, go to the poshest mall, eat a sandwich, drink a coffee, and look at nice clothes. 5. I don’t suppress my anger. If I have to yell at somebody, I do and then I apologise. Still I am trying to find a long term solution for this one. 6. I don’t try to please our guests. I introduce our rules and those who are not able to follow, have to leave. At the same time I remain open and kind. 7. I concentrate on the essentials that are necessary for my own mental and physical health, then my daughter’s and husband’s, then everything else. I am not ready to compromise on this. 8. I try to live and work according to my lunar cycle respecting the dynamic, expressive, creative and retrospective periods. 9. If one thing doesn’t work, the next one or another one will. 10. Failure doesn’t mean the end, but another beginning. 11. Trying means purely the action of attempt, not the result in the form of success or failure. 12. No means no. Yes means yes. (This is my favourite. Very simple indeed. Why should you get disappointed when you hear or have to say no? Why should you get excited when you hear or say yes? 13. Anything can change at any point of time. 14. “Adjust, adopt, accommodate, bear insult, bear injury – highest yoga.” (my favourite saying of Swami Sivananda) 15. I don’t regard our guests immediately as friends. 16. I wait for the right situation to pass a message. 17. I learned that toilet paper is not essential and is even unhygienic. 18. I know how much waste I produce. 19. I learned that water and electricity should not be taken for granted. (Water doesn’t come from a tap. Milk comes from a cow and a cow gives milk only for 1 year after giving birth to a calf. By not switching off a light or a fan, I am exploiting nature.) 20. Food is not a commodity. It is holy. It should not be thrown away or wasted. Eat and consume only as much as you really need. (Except the occasional sandwich and coffee 😉
And today? Now? All of the above has made my mind calmer and my life happier. By the grace of something or somebody I survived and grew stronger. Now a new life era starts for me, in which I want to concentrate on women’s health regardless of nationality, creed or race. Every woman is different and yet the inner needs are one and the same. Therefore in the next months you can see more yoga for women workshops and retreats on my schedule.
Germany (Potsdam, Speyer and Bad Meinberg):
Czech Republic (Prague):
UK (Atherstone, near Birmingham):
India (Arsha Yoga, Kerala):