A note on my three blogs

A note on my blogs

(1) vio; in love with india - this one is the main blog about my Indian adventures, which started in 2005. I don't write much on this blog these days because I prefer to write privately in the confidential blog. But check out the categories and the index to figure out your way. I have kept some older posts not about India but which I still find interesting or relevant in Old words. Also check out my new, fun category Only in India in which I post photos of funny, unique, Indian situations...

(2) vio; sounds of india - this is my blog of sounds, because India wouldn't be as incredible if it was not so vibrant and just so full of incredible sounds!

(3) vio; confidential - this an extension of my main blog in which I post entries I do not want to reveal to the entire webspace for privacy or sensitivity reasons. You must receive an invitation from me and then accept the invitation to be able to read it. You may email me if you are interested in receiving an invitation.


Friday, 21 December 2007


In Pondicherry/Auroville now. Art residency for two weeks. I was happy to meet B'ee & Michael again, though the time on my own was definitely for the best. I feel refreshed and confident and thus more independent.

So we are here for a week, in the beautiful company of theatre artists. The place is beautiful and clean, the food -again- marvellous. There is nature and red earth and lots of neem trees around us in the garden, with papaya trees and orange trees and banana trees and lots of other beautiful things that freshly land in our plates everyday. There was LOTS of rain for the first two days (a cyclone nearby) but it is over now. sunny again but generally cooler than in Kerala, which is nice.

So there is nature and quietness to inspire us, and a theatre and instruments we can use a few hours everyday. I play lots on my violin, I sing a little bit, we have played and sang and improvised together. Though I don't know what we'll come up with; it is a little funny for me with two rather talented professionals. I have a violin and a voice to play with, but I am a virgin, to say the least! But I take it as it comes. I open my heart and see the love grow; for with love there is no effort. We have been asked to give an intimate concert on Christmas Eve but there is no pressure for me. I will perform if I feel ready and I will not if I don't. There is a lot here for me to take the opportunity to use, even if it is only the beautiful floor of our room for my head - and shoulder stands.

Auroville is just nearby, well we almost are in Auroville. I have no idea what will happen next - as usual...

Today I was blessed by a temple elephant. I put a rupee in his nostril and he touched my forehead with his trunk. i don't know what it means but it made me happy.

Oh and it's Christmas - but hardly believable here really.

Friday, 14 December 2007

Amma's ashram (more)

Only eight days here in the ashram but what seems something like a month, considering all that has happen in my head and in my environment.

It is not just the two hugs that I received from Amma. These were rather odd actually, and I didn't feel much that I could perceive. Here it's the whole ashram life that has been incredible. The moods I have been in, from extreme negativity and scepticism and wondering what the hell I'm doing here, many the first three days, to - within minutes - a complete reverse of the situation. The stories and experiences from the people I have met here. And what people, what variety, from all walks of life, such different people, but with each so easy to speak to and open your heart. Because this place is full of love. I only have thirty minutes to spend on the computer because there is a queue, and I feel overwhelmed with all the things I want to say.

I was meant to come here. I see it clearly now. I have learnt a new meditation technique which feels like it came to me. I have met two new friends I feel I have known forever, and I am to travel to Auroville tonight with them. An incredible 74-year-young French man, and his young "brother", also French, within minutes of meeting them they had adopted me.

A day after tomorrow I will meet with B'ee and Michael again to go to the art residency for two week (in Pondicherry) where we are meant (?) to play music together and offer a performance at the end of our stay. It was the only certain plan we had when we came here to India, so I am eager to find out what will happen during these two weeks. A hell of a lot, too, surely. I also wonder how it will be to see B'ee and Michael again, after such time apart from them - I have almost forgotten about them. But I will be positive I am sure, I clearly needed this breath of fresh air and detachment from them. I just don't know how different it will be between us all. After the two weeks, I don't know, but I have a strong will right now to stay in Auroville with my two new french friends. We will see.

Back to Amma's ashram, an incredible place, amazing to see how drawn every individual is to this saint woman. I witness (surprise) myself to be drawn to her too. I have been close to her, I have had jobs to push people close to her in the queue to make the darshan line go smoothly. I hardly know how to describe it, one has to witness and see it: 14 hours of hugging non-stop. And there was the bhajans, devotional chants lead by Amma too. So much energy and beauty, like a concert every other night. This ashram is bathed in music at very many hours of the day. One is very free here too, smokers can go out and smoke even. The food is incredible. So clean and safe, and I didn't take any supplements and my stomach is super clean and happy. Yoga classes, music classes which Life has prevented me to take.

Another clear thing here is that life is completely unexpected. Everyday I had an idea of what I was going to do during the day and life (Amma!?) made it completely otherwise. Every single day. And when I had decided I wanted to stay away from Amma, she clearly called me nearer her, so that four days in a row I was close to her for around an hour. Or more. For darshan or for doing seva (selfless work or service) in the darshan queue or for just sitting near her and watching other people receiving theirs.

An incredible place. Completely incredible... And the view, and the stretched out Arabian sea and the millions of coco trees... And masses of love floating around above all...

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Amma's ashram

So I have spent 20 hours on bus & train on my own, travelling alone for the first time in India. There were times when I was surprised at myself for not freaking out. But I love the place, I can't help it, as if it was a distant home somehow. I cannot describe. I am so happy.

And this morning I arrived at Amma's ashram, alone in my auto-rikshaw. I had to ask the driver to stop at a funny procession thing, apparently a youth festival, with three decorated elephants with people on it. I was amazed. More elephants. But I didn't want to get distracted and on we went to Amritapuri, home of Amma.

We were driving incredibly close to the coast, the Arabian sea. And there were desolated huts and houses and workers, and dead coco trees, and then I saw the Amma Tsunami Fund signs all across the street and realised that this place, too, had been hit by the tsunami and I could see some of it. And I could experience it. And then my eyes went big with astonishment.

When we arrived at the ashram I was taken by a serious-looking guard up to the international office to register. The office was above the temple, beautiful yet not too shiny or over the top, and lots of people in white were working selflessly. It seems there was joy in there eyes. How bright and open the eyes of the guy at reception was, I must say I freaked out a bit. Then I was taken to my room, or more like a flat, on the 11th (!!!) floor of the tower block. I was gobsmacked at the view up there, on one side the Arabian sea stretching out, on the other the masses and masses of coco trees. And there is a river passing by and a bridge, and it is all incredibly gorgeous. I am awaiting sunsets and sunrises...

I share my room with a Finnish girl, dressed in white too, who has already followed Amma on her travels for six months. Her mother is sharing the room too but she is away for two days. I only have a mattress on the floor as they had to make room for me, because Amma is arriving tomorrow night and there are lots of people here. It is funny how everybody is talking about this woman, completely in awe. Yet, there is a sense of freedom here, you don't have to follow the routine, and although you are advised to take part in selfless work (seva) about two hours a day, we were told that we don't have to do it. I am yet again amazed though: my Finnish flatmate had just taken me to lunch (gorgeous European food which will be wonderful for resting my stomach) that a woman came to her to ask if, as her seva she could help out on care work shifts with a woman with arthritis coming from Germany tonight. "I have worked in a nursing home", I said, and so I have my seva all set up: care work, exactly what I've been doing as my job in the UK. I should have 4-7pm shifts, too, which should consist of helping the woman out during darshan and setting up for bhajan "near Amma" (or did I understand right? We shall see, we shall see...)

Anyway. It's all a little surreal here. Rather overwhelming I must say. There will be yoga classes for me most morning I hope, and on Monday I'll try a harmonium class. I just found a book on violin, too, with bits on Indian music. I am so happy I have made it here on my own. I cannot compare this experience with the Shivananda Ashram which felt so odd and "not quite right somehow". I am so happy I am here, and I am so happy I am here alone to make it completely my own experience. I wonder what will come out of it, but somehow I feel a lot of positivity and potential already. But shush.

Amma is coming tomorrow night. Everyone says it will be crazy. I keep asking my way round to people, there are some very interesting people here indeed, and such an incredible variety; brahmacharis (monks and nuns), families, travellers and passers-by, people who live here but work outside, volunteers, teachers because there's also a college here, lots and lots of people from all over the world, but also lots of Indian people too, which is nice. And there's recycling facilities and maybe I'll find some selfless work in that to see how they recycle plastic bottles into other things. And there's the ayurvedic clinic, ayurvedic astrology, etc. etc.

Overwhelmed is the word, but I am quite comfortable in my discomfort (or should it be disbelief?)...

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

From Kodaikanal to Kollam

We are now in Kodaikanal, some 2000 metres high up in the mountains. It is lovely and cool here, it was even cold when we arrived two nights ago. I have been wearing my jeans and my sweater and scarf, and I have indeed been enjoying it VERY much!!! This is also a good reminder that it is now December, and indeed, winter. So easy to forget most of the time in India...

I have been a little disrupted in the stomach lately, but the wonderful essential oil pills from my dear health food store back in France have been working wonders, so I am alright now... Still, I was very pleased this morning to enjoy a brownie, an egg sandwich, and a ginger cake for breakfast. Pure bliss, that and the no-sugar, no-milk, BLACK coffee that tasted like the one I make at home... I clearly needed that.

I will be taking the road alone for about a week from today. My orientation skills are too poor to catch up with the boys', that with being in India and all, I have been a little (read: very) passive here. It puts pressure on our relationships, and it has been a little difficult to handle. It is a pattern I always recognise in me but the extreme context has magnified it. I could see it so clearly, but it was hard to rise up while I was 'down in the pit'. It could go on no longer, and it burst out yesterday, and so I have decided that I have to go alone for a bit. To regain some self confidence. And to have a little bit of fresh air; it was difficult but I feel hugely lighter today from making the decision already. Being in India doesn't help of course; I was going to travel India ANYWAY with or without the boys, but it was all too easy to me reposer sur mes lauriers whilst I was with them. It is not easy everyday. There is a lot of insecurity I have to deal with, too, lots of issues that come up every day. That is all the meditation. Today I feel good and I am very grateful for the difficulty.

This morning I have been mostly alone and it has proven fruitful already. I am comfortable in India (well, most of the time anyway) - obviously I also LOVE the place very dearly, there is no question. So I will take the road alone; bus and train are booked. Tomorrow morning I will arrive in Kollam, and then I will spend a few days at Amma's ashram. Amma will be there from 10th December. I have to do this, I have to visit this place. There should be more yoga classes, and music classes too. And Amma and perhaps a very magical hug. And a whole new environment to explore on my own, an environment I am very curious about indeed....

It is amazing how much you can unblock in just a few hours or a night when you accept and let go. I already feel so much more spacious, positive and light than yesterday. And when this happens, life is quick to confirm it to you, too...

Monday, 3 December 2007

Today i saw an elephant and my face lit up like a child

Today we arrived at Madurai. The train journey was wonderful. The landscape, that earth so orange married with the intense green of the trees amd leaves; the colourful delapidated yet beautiful houses, the rice fields with lots of goats, and the colourful workers, passing by. And the Indian men who sat with us in the compartment, they were so friendly and they talked to us so much about themselves and their cultures making sure we understood it better.

I am slowly getting used to my environment, my new habits healthwise, there is more trust too that I will be OK, less paranoia about stomach bugs and malaria, and so with it comes more energy to focus and the positive, to enjoy the people, and how I love those people, and the bright smiles of the children - the children, when I see them and they ask me for my name, I remember why I so much want to work with and help them, I hope in Calcutta...

There is so much to make my smile and eyes bright here. And today, in Madurai, when we arrived at the hotel, the hotel-man told Michael that we should wait here and in half an hour an elephant would come to be fed. When Michael told me this I quickly forgot about it because I didn't quite believe it. And then I saw this massive beast come towards us, and I felt my eyes suddenly growing very big, and my mouth dropping, with a huge smile on it. The man was guiding the elephant towards us, and they fed him with lots of Indian food like humans eat, chapati or those coconut bread things and I forget the name of these things now, but they are delicious. And when the elephant came to drink, the man put the whole steel pot in his massive mouth and I had to pinch my eyes for fear that it was going to swallow it, but no. And we saw his huge tongue and tusks, and eyes, and wrinkles, and how precisely he could move his trunk to take the small pieces on the floor like it would take it with two fingers. It was so bloody close to us! I was like a little child, looking at it so carefully all the time, that I actually surprised myself -- I knew, in theory, that I loved elephants, but I was witnessing my own behaviour and wow, I do absolutely love elephants! :D

India is always full of surprises. We never know how the day will unfold, where we will end up, how, what we will do, who we will meet, what lesson we will learn. It unfolds in front of our eyes and we have no choice but to live the meditation, to live the present here and now, to be completely drawn into the adventure, moment after moment...

And here I am a happy smiling child.

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Tenkasi, off the tourist tracks

Already a week with no internet. Time flies.

Since last time we have been spending four days in the Shivananda Ashram in Neyyar Dam near Trivandrum. It was good but too many occidental people there taking a training course, and some aspects are a little westernised - sort of, to keep it super-brief! When we left we were glad to see local people again. Still, we couldn't really complain; amazing food, a lake with super warm water to bathe in, breathtaking landscape, yoga classes twice a day, chanting and meditation, talks, a meditation walk at 6 in the morning etc. oh and we took part in a puja, too. It was good to put our bags down for some time and look after our bodies - especially necks and backs.

Now we are in the mountains; it is lovely and cooler, slowly on our way to Chennai and Pondicherry. We have left the touristic tracks - the last two towns, Thenmala and Tenkasi are not in our guide books, which is nice! One of the staff at the ashram commented that it was nice to see travellers as opposed to tourists! It is lovely and rural, and people seem even more happy and surprised to see our white faces. Always happy to help for sure. Now we are in Tamil Nadu, and so the language has changed yet again. The script looks more round and squared, and it sounds a little different. But everywhere we go we make sure we know how to say thank you.

Healthwise everything is still fine, though B'ee and I have had a weakening cold in the last couple days - I am recovering already though - I am still surprised at how well we do, but we feel more relaxed and used to how to take care of ourselves now. Yesterday we found amazing ginger wine which has helped my cold a lot, and there's this amazing fruit, the amla (gooseberry) which is used in lots of tonics (my favourite is chyawanprash - a gooy paste a bit like molasses with lots of herbs and vitamins and yum) - it helps for our health, too!!

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Beautiful India

Already 11 days have passed and I have not yet managed to write a single entry on here. Eailing my friends is also virtually impossible, not just because of the crappyness of computers but also because it is very unpleasant to spend time on a screen when so much beauty awaits outside.

We have been in Mumbai, in Assolna (Goa), in Kochin, on a tiny island called 'Crow's Island' away from cars and noise, and now we are in Trivandrum - capital of Kerala.

We have met artists who were happy to have us and took very good care of us. Cooked for us marvellous food (which we enjoy eating with our hands!), housed us. We have seen and heard so much, Malayalam the language of Kerala is so intricately round and hard to pronounce, a lot tougher than Hindi. We have spent some very quiet and slow time, with no cars, amongst villagers who were so happy to see us and smile to us. We have also spent time with a sculptor on that crow's island full of coco trees, and ended up at an art opening last night in Trivandrum... We have heard countless creatures buzzing cackling, crows, cats, frogs, and other unnamed critters. We have taken small wooden boats and paddled amongst the floating lotuses. All this is magical, surreal, yet weirdly so natural, and it just is.

And the three of us, we get used to one another's company - getting to know one another, sometimes alone sometimes together, sometimes silent sometimes bursting out laughing. Sometimes teaching French, at other times learning music theory, learning from one another's ways of being, sharing books and oils and ideas and lots of other things. The violin is slowly starting to take part of it, too.

Oh and it is so difficult to write; it all sounds awkward and incompetent, but it doesn't matter really.

Hopefully from tomorrow we will spend a week doing yoga in an ashram somewhere not too far in the hills.

And at all times, of course, India is total meditation.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Learning difficulties & meditation

I have now read the autobiographies of three people with autism/Asperger Syndrome: Luke Jackson, Jeanette Purkis, and Donna Williams. I devoured all books but perhaps the last author most touched and fascinated me.

Tomorrow I'm taking my "key client", with Down's Syndrome, to the Buddhist centre. He is interested in taking a meditation class to help him with his anxiety and sleep, and a meditation teacher from the centre is willing to give classes just for him. We shall see how it goes. Focusing on one's breath is very simple and doesn't require any intellectual capacity, yet, the teacher will have to see how to pierce his "deficient" mind, to get through to his heart. She'll have to see how to best explain the practice so that it gets to him, somehow. I am very excited about this.

People with learning difficulties are amazing. Their mind within may be deficient, but the mind/heart structure, without, is the same as everybody else's. The structure mind/heart is universal, I believe. Hence, I believe, they can meditate. Everyone can meditate. They need not understand the content of their minds and their thoughts and their suffering if they can let it go, by transcending that mind/heart structure.

It's the same with autistic people. They may have incredibly painful emotions they cannot deal with. Physical contact may be horrendously painful to them. Their senses may be hyper sensitive so that environmental stimuli are painful/near to impossible to them to deal with. But all three autistic people I've read have mentioned meditation and/or eastern disciplines having helped them. I am convinced of the benefits of meditation for any autistic person. Their behaviours may appear ever so bizarre to us, by accepting that they are, that their hand flapping or rocking or any "strange" behaviour are sensical to them, by paying attention and with patience, I am convinced that it is, even if it might take years and years, possible to get through to their world.

At the end of the day, it seems to me that autistic people are like everyone of us: they want to be happy and loved. They may appear "opaque" because we don't have the sensitivity, at first, to understand. If we look at them with our own eyes, of course they are bizarre and nonsensical. But if we realise that in their own world they make sense, if we stop judging and start learning, they start making sense. But then, it's the same with anybody. It's just that most "anybodies" are closer to us on the "normality" continuum. But again, the form may be different, the structure is the same for anybody. The "form" of autistic people are just extremely different to ours, so they take more time, challenge, learning, adaptation for us to get to. But it's the same mechanism that we need using as with anybody: it just takes more time, we have to keep at it.

I feel meditation helps me understand autistic people, because I am sometimes so engrossed into my activity in the present moment that i can forget everything and everyone around me.

I feel meditation and yoga help me understand autistic people, because their repetitive humming or singing or sound-making reminds me of the repetition of mantras; how it may soothe them and help them calm down the same way.

I feel meditation and yoga help me understand autistic people, just how autism has so much to do with their senses, and in yoga - and ayurveda - so much is said on the senses and the appropriate use of the senses, too.

I feel meditation helps me understand autistic people, because it has made me a very detached person, and so I may appear that I don't care about people when I actually love them unconditionally.

I feel meditation helps me understand autistic people, because the more I grow, the slower my life becomes and the more sensitive my senses become. The outside, materialistic world is more and more difficult for me to make sense of and find interest into - noise, violence, aggressive messages and stimili everywhere - so that I have to withdraw from my senses, look through things and not at things, to deal with it. Thus I can understand autistic people for having such difficulty dealing with the outside world.

I feel meditation helps me understand autistic people, because the more I grow, the more I become atuned to my inner self, the louder my inner world becomes compared to the outer world.

I have always looked at individuality more than normality. I think "normal" people have the capacity to adapt to society so that they can easily become alienated, conditioned by it, to cope. They are lucky in a way, but tragically so in another. As I see it, I believe autistic people's inner self is so acute, or perhaps their "self awareness" is so acute or strong - even though they can't understand or express it in intellectual terms, that they would not survive by conditioning themselves to society's norm. It's more or less the same for any people with learning difficulties, and old people with dementia. and I think I feel the same in some ways, because I have always priviledged my own senses or intuition to society's norms and judgement. I have never wanted to conform because my heart is so loud and clear to me. I always look at things for myself before adopting "what society would accept or do".

People with autism fascinate me. When I read their stories, they almost make more sense than "normal" people to me. After all, it so seems to me that people with autism, and any learning difficulties, they may not realise it intellectually, but they just, with honesty, live a lot more in the here and now. And this makes them very real...

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

A retrospective

When I was at school I had a difficult time trying to find what my main subject was, because I was pretty good at everything without having any major "high" subject. Of course there was foreign languages, but I had always been told that it was unimportant, so in my head it was like I couldn't accept it as a "proper" subject, and it didn't count. I quite liked natural sciences, from animal biology to plants and geology, but it was only when we started learning about human biology that I found fascination: I was learning what was inside my own body, how it was functioning. I was always pretty useless at history, because I couldn't remember any historical facts that I had nothing to do with personally. But I did love the rare bits on people's ways of life, because that meant we were talking about individual human beings in a practical way that I could relate to. And later there was philosophy, and psychology, where it was all about understanding individual human beings meaning I could learn about myself... More and more I realised that all I loved was when subjects converged towards learning about human beings, learning about myself.

Yes. My biggest fascination ever has always been human beings. I could never understand people who don't like such subjects as "human knowledge", because by integrating what you learn in those sort of subjects into your life, your being, you grow so much. You become a better person. You understand yourself better. You live better, and therefore you can be happier. And of course this is also why I have always loved music, because it physically touches me, it helps me release emotions, it is a universal form of language. And then I started reading books on anything that had to do with human life, drugs, depression, psychology, near-death experiences etc. And, more recently there has been Ayurveda, Yoga, and Meditation...

What is the most important thing in a human being's life, if it hasn't to do with relationships with other beings? All our lives revolves about dealing with other human beings. That's all there is. Money isn't so important when you know how to deal with other people, when you know how to pierce into their hearts. Socialising is relationships. Any interests we have we share it with other beings. When we are in a shop with deal with other humans. When we do politics, it may not sound like it's about individuals because we deal with the collective, but collective isn't but the sum of several individuals. And when we are not in the company of other beings, we are in the company of ourselves. We have to communicate at all times. This is also why I never found any interest in any dead languages like Latin, because I could never go abroad to Latinland to interact with any Latin people! And perhaps I have never had a pet because pets are not human beings...

Ever since I was a kid I wanted to help other human beings. I remember that time when I was 7, when I did the washing-up while my mum was shopping so that she would have a pleasant surprise when she got home. I always wanted to have a kind of social job, but I was so unconfident, I guess because I lived in a very conventional environment, where proper jobs make money and hierarchy between people is rigid, and business men wear suits and seem so perfect on the outside. But then I studied business for five years, and I remember, when I got into that school, I felt like a very tiny 17-year old girl, scared of exchange rates and weird subjects like finance and marketing, that seem so important to everybody but never meant anything to me. One day in my 4th year, I had a group project in finance where I had to explain to the teacher what a bond was. I knew, practically, how to calculate exchange rates and to do whatever it was we had to do in finance exercises, but when it came to articulate what a bond was or meant, I had a complete blank. I couldn't articulate it because it meant nothing in my world. I burst into tears and said to the teacher I liked psychology more than finance because finance was artificial whilst psychology was real. The teacher liked me because I often used to ask questions in class, genuinely doing my best to try and understand the subject. So this, as well as the work by the other students from my group, saved me, and I miraculously passed the exercise. I guess with my honesty and human-ness, through his opaque suit and tie I had pierced his heart.

I will always be grateful to have completed these strenuous five years in business. Of course I was abroad for half that time, which helped me cope. But I learnt so much about myself and the outside conventional world (more than about business itself) that the hardship was always worth it. I was learning, and I already knew that as long as I learn I will be happy, so overall, I was OK really. Because I had to interact with human beings I couldn't identify with at all, and somehow, because we had things to talk to through the common subjects that we learnt, and because by definition I loved them since they were human beings, it taught me how to go back to the very nature of ourselves which we share. We all share humanness and by being honest, kind, and respectful - and patient - with time, people could appreciate me. It always took me time because at first glance I had nothing to share with these people, but with time I could reach their heart. And the best thing business taught me was to rise above all that business-orientated thing. I had always wondered whether I should follow my own heart and be myself at the expense of "not belonging", or whether I should try and belong by adopting the conventional, business-oriented, materialistic way of life. I loved the saying "mind the gap" in the London tube because I was always in a gap. But by going through business, by seeing what these people in suit and tie do, I could realise that my fears had been unfounded: I had been scared of some kind of meaningless emptiness. It was obvious that it was my individuality that mattered the most to me, it was my experience, my emotions and my heart that I had to give importance to. My health and my growth. I was no longer impressed by seemingly important people because I had realised that their sense of power was unfounded, empty, and unreal. They looked all-perfect from the outside, successful, rich, powerful. But inside they had a heart they didn't know how to listen to. They didn't cry not because they didn't have anything to cry over, but because they had forgotten how we cry. They had worries and insecurities underneath their shiny carapaces. I preferred to focus on the inside.

So these five years of what seemed torture at first where an immense opportunity for growth, and indeed, the tiny 17-year old came out as a completely different, grown, and miraculously confident 22-year old young woman. I was living in England at the time, so because I was away from rigid societal France and I had a lot to learn from being abroad, whatever happened I was going to be happy because I was going to learn about another culture and speak English. After I left business I worked as a secretary for five years, because obviously I wasn't going to work towards money-driven businesses; I couldn't do it psychologically, couldn't even face the thought of it. I'll always remember my dad saying he hadn't paid for my five years of business school for me to become a secretary, but all I could say was that I'd rather be a happy secretary than a depressed business woman. I am so, so glad I didn't buy into that world.

Soon afterwards I met Nathan, and another year later I moved to Edinburgh. I was happy for a time. There was the music, the scene, the DJing, some kind of growth. I was to stay with him for almost five years. Today when I look back I wonder how the hell I could be with him. I have nothing against him though. In a way, I will always love him. I will certainly always be grateful for the experience we shared. But today when I meet him, I feel like I know him very well from somewhere. Kind of some mysterious common place we shared - I can hardly remember how I was his girlfriend. There was obviously Finsternis, the club we did together. It was a great experience. And I wasn't unhappy - we never argued. But I wasn't going to realise how much I had numbed myself into a routine, until I met G who switched on a bright light in my mind, and allowed me to uncovered the veil. The "scene" had brought me down into some kind of unconsciousness, and a lot of negativity. I was no longer myself. I hadn't realised how much I had to numb such a big, important part of myself to live like I did in that routine. Three weeks after I had switched on the light I was off starting a new life, and from the day I lived in my new flat my own way of life took over again. I was back to being me again. I was glad I learnt how much one can numb oneself in a relationship, for it is exactly what I don't want to have or become. Personal growth is most important and it is not important whether I will carry on on my path on my own or with someone. The company is not essential...

Of course I wasn't going to become a secretary for all my life. I went back to studying, Developmental Linguistics. It was very interesting and I was happy I could be using my brain again. I have learnt very important things indeed, which I shall be using in my life. More about learning about myself. Why I love languages so much. Bits and bobs about how my brain is wired. I guess I know now why it is I am "good at languages", and I have gained insight that helps me in my work with vulnerable people today. But I didn't just learn about linguistics. I was to learn about why I disagree with, or more accurately why I can't identify (completely anyway) with western science and the western way of life. We will never know everything, however much we carry on with our research. So I didn't complete the Masters and off I went to India, August 2005. I wasn't going to learn from a dissertation anyway - India would offer me more learning, more relevant to my own path than a dissertation on linguistics.

Because Yoga and Meditation have changed my life completely. Or rather, they have boosted it with an immense sense of meaning and direction. I'd had always felt that I was functioning in an opposite way to other people's in general. I'd never done my work at the last minute. I worked as best I could because it was the most complete way to deal with stress (if you do your best there's no worries because you've done your best so you have nothing to reproach yourself - this way if you're not good at it it means it's not the right thing for you so all you have to do is change...). I'd always been "too" honest cos lying had always been so painful. I had never had any interest in getting a boyfriend for the sake of it or sex for the sake of sex - in a way I had always had a very high "pleasure allowance threshold"; I hadn't wanted to indulge in pleasuring my senses - that with food, greed, materialism, etc. If I had been feeling crap there was no way I was going to fake being happy or forget my worries by going out and drinking. And I'd never liked to talk for the sake of talking; it had always had to be meaningful. And there had always been non-violence, that with the way I naturally stopped eating meat, gradually, not really knowing why, after I'd left my parents' shelter and habits. In general, I had always been looking at the long-term rather than the short-term benefits and consequences. Also, since my teenage years, with the death of my mother and other members of family, and later that of my brother, I had loved my family and friends in a detached way that no longer made me suffer; that was always something I never quite felt understood about amongst other people but it made so much sense to me - death was part of life and it could be a sad but very beautiful thing. The day I started reading on Buddhism and yogic philosophy I was like "Bingo!". So that was why! The Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path of right view, right intention, right speech and right action, right livelihood, mindfulness, effort and concentration: without knowing I had tried to follow them all my life. Pratyahara (withdrawal of the senses) and Brahmacharya, I had practised them all my life. Meditation, I had practised it regularly without knowing it, through music and dancing, through observing and feeling my emotions and sensations when I'd felt down. And my wanting to help people, my not wanting to be involved in dirty money by working towards profit that was it: I had always dedicated my life to Dharma - now I had found its name. And I had always lived in the Here and the Now, and assumed that was what other people had been doing, too, because it felt so natural and sensical to me. But from the day I realised that, I could do it all a lot more consciously. I could transform my life into a meditation. And I started travelling as fast as in a rocket.

And then I gave up the clerical job. I "threw myself to the lions"; doing that which I had always wanted to do but had been so scared to do and had wondered if I was strong enough to do: working with other human beings, working with my heart. But what my colleague Annie told me, "better be scared to death than bored to death" resonated in my head. I went to the nursing home. The conditions were horrible, and I had nothing to say to my colleagues, but my old people they needed me still. So I didn't give up after the first oh-so-difficult month. I carried on because I had nowhere else to go anyway. I heard weird groans, cleaned black excrement off old, floppy buttocks. Focusing on my breath, I cleaned vomit off the floor, I ran round the nursing home having to change and assist as many people as was humanly possible. I hardly had time for their emotions. But if I had a minute I tried to listen. May was talking non-sense annoying everyone, but after a while I was fascinated by her empty, free of diaxis, non-sensical yet so beautifully phrased, English speech. Those old, ugly, sometimes hairy faces became cute, loveable faces. With the love and the attention the judgement had become irrelevant. And there was Mr Wong, with whom communication was so subtle, through touch, through smiles and looks - Mr Wong he will always be in my heart, and I still think of him today, for he would be one human being in my life who'd teach me most how to uncover my heart. I helped him die, I cried so much over his dead body, looking after and changing and making it look presentable, but through the pain I saw so much beauty and joy - because helping someone die truly was one of the most powerful, amazing moments I would have the opportunity to experience in my life.

After my first short trip to India I worked with all sorts of vulnerable people through the agency. Again difficult conditions but for different reasons. I was to meet so many new people all the time with no warnings that I was forced to live the moment. And I started working with children with learning difficulties, and that way learned some more about the human condition, and through working under difficult conditions I became impressively accepting and flexible. And then I found the Action Group job with people with learning difficulties.

I had two phobias when I was a kid. One was going upside-down. In sports at school I was so clumsy that my sports teacher called me "the artist" when I was 11. I could never roll down backwards, I was too scared. I could never do a hand stand against the wall because my body was so disturbed by the change of gravity that I was completely frightened to fall and break my neck. And then there was yoga. And the first couple of years I was panicking when the teacher would stay "next, headstand", or even shoulder stand. But yoga is a miracle. We can all change. Through observing our thoughts and feelings and phobia. It is so slow, so kind, so non-violent, so non-judgemental. And the most beautiful thing is that all you have to do is try and do your best. Do the first bit, don't give up completely. Five years later I did the headstand. For a few months I have been doing it off the wall; it makes me feel so good. If you react strongly to something, it means it affects you and it is something your heart wants. I was desperately wanting to do this. Today headstand, and now handstand are ones of my favourite postures.

I had tackled one phobia. I knew I could tackled the second, biggest one. I started consciously tackling my phobia of singing about two years ago. Nobody could see it, because it was mainly inside my head. Its manifestation came out when I started going to choir, last September has provided me with a context that disallowed me to hear my voice, but gradually that has shifted. The spiritual singing workshops are one of the most amazing things I've done with myself. And the yoga of singing have helped me. When you look at something from the inside, as a spiritual process, it is a lot less scary than when you do it in an outward way in which you want to impress. Now I sing like I do yoga, for my personal growth, so the performance no longer matters - it is only for me. I focus a lot more. I don't just sing, I focus on my energies, on the flow of air coming down from my throat through my palate. It's an inward experience. That way I just look at me. Today I have sung on my own, in front of a few people.

I don't really know how I came about to write all this. I wanted to write about how autism has come to fascinate me these last few weeks, but I ended up with a story of my life, just a day before I turn 30.

I haven't yet mentioned the violin. I guess it will be a beautiful end to the story, because do we not say that the most beautiful thing comes at the end? Thank you G for telling me that day, two and a bit years ago "just go and buy it then". I would never have guessed. I supposed that idea too, had been growing inside my head, but I wasn't too aware of it. It was always kind of vague. But there had always been that love for music. Being involved in running the club with Nathan, DJing. Organising gigs. And slowly realising that I was growing more and more out of cold, artificial electronic music and really, the goth scene had led me onto folk and "earthly", spiritual music. And how I had grown tired of the artificiality of computer and keyboard sounds, but how fresh it felt to see lots of real, wooden "organic" instruments, and how admiring I had become of proficient, multi-instrumentalist musicians. The day I left Nathan I stopped the DJing, but it was obvious: my love for music I was to express it through learning how to play a real instrument. I had never been a piano person, this I had known all my life. But I had always known, too, that I had a talented ear, as as a child I had always been able to reproduce a melody just by ear. Note-sounds had been associated with note-names in my mind. I had been sad to think this talent had gradually left me. But it was obvious the day I saw the red violin, hanging off the wall of Steve's beautiful, all-wood-flat. He had express such strong faith in me I kind of wondered how and why at the time. But it also felt like total madness. But just a year later I knew it was the most beautiful mad thing I had ever bought... and another year on I am playing duets with Steve in his beautiful, wooden flat full of instruments. And learning to play the violin, it is a meditation. And training my body to do what it has to do to play it, it is yoga.

... and it all seems to converge towards one big global whole...