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
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
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...
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.