Mount agung in the sunset Life thoughts

The working culture that made me escape

I want to tell you something about the working culture in my home country. Still, to this day i am affected by this culture. I realized it one day while i was laying in my hammock. I suddenly felt guilty and started thinking i should go out and do something. People are going to start thinking i am not doing anything. I had to literally calm myself down and tell myself it does not matter. And how the reality really is: i am doing a lot.

Every single day i practice teaching yoga. Every single day i listen to educational podcasts. Every single day i study yoga philosophy. Every single day i write a lot down my own thoughts about it. Every single day i study sequencing.

Gili trawangan island yoga

And all this i do on a tropical island, laying in my hammock, or on the beach, while enjoying it. And enjoying the life i am having. And because i am enjoying it in a beautiful place, it makes me feel like i am not doing enough. I am just being lazy and having fun.

I have gotten rid of many things that have been planted into me, but this one just sticks. The constant need to feel and be effective. That’s a result of first bosses being bullies (the feeling of never being or doing enough, never getting a thanks or appreciation for what you have done) and the idea that what matters the most in your life is how much you work.

Gili trawangan island yoga

A few examples of this culture:

  • Once i heard a lady say she does not understand why the room for employees to take a break is right next to where the customers are being served. She was shocked that they would actually let people see the employees going in to take a break.
  • A place i worked at provided me food for lunch, but i was not allowed to eat there so customers would not see me. Eating. Doing something totally normal everyone does.
  • At my first job ever the room of the lady boss was right next to where i worked. She had a window to my working spot and she was by the window, all day, looking at me. When she would see me stop to stretch or adjust my position or leave for toilet, she would come to me and say “i have been keeping an eye on you and you do not do your work efficiently enough”.
  • I got fired from a job the day before my salary was supposed to be raised. I sent a letter through a lawyer to demand for the money and the papers that legally belonged to me and i got a call from the ex boss, a grown up woman. She told me i do not deserve anything in life and she is not surprised if i never get another job because she knows people like me and people like me are lazy and inactive.
  • The fact that many employers bully the young people who come to work for the first time in their lives: they don’t know their rights, they are not being treated well, and they start despising the whole idea of working – that is exactly what happened to me when i was under 20 years old. The horror and the anxiety of having to face another bully as a boss made me not want to apply for jobs, and this made me lazy and not worthy in the eyes of the society and in the eyes of other people.
  • When i told someone about this, they said “that’s how it is to be a working adult. No one of us has it easy.” It is when i started wondering for the first time, is this what life is going to be like? Is this what i am going to have to accept?
  • When i was leaving to my first backpacking trip, some people asked me “how can you leave when you don’t know how the economical situation will be when you get back? You should rather grab this job now and hold on to it.”
  • When i got back, many people were only interested in what job i am going to apply now that i am back.
  • I feel that the quality of you as a person depends on how hard you work. People burn out and they are respected as “hard workers”.
  • I feel like the general idea is that if you do enjoy your job and what you do, you are really not working hard enough. Are you really working at all?
  • Once i read from the newspaper that at some day cares the children use a time card to log themselves in and out “to get them used to the working life from early age”.
  • The fact that if you are chatting with your workmates and enjoying working, maybe even laughing, you are not apparently getting your job done properly.
  • Basically the whole idea that the job you have is the most important part of you, and the more you work the more worthy you are.
  • + I will never understand why “stress managing” is a thing – oh, she handles her stress very well. She is a good employee. Hard working. When actually instead of managing the stress, i think we should be aiming to reduce it. Even to get rid of it one and for all.

Gili trawangan island work

… and how the ability to work under pressure is so appreciated

The least favorite thing of mine when looking at advertisements for jobs: when almost every single one of them say “you need to be able to keep a smile and work well under pressure.” It makes me cringe. Big time. Because some people, including myself, just do not work like that. They do not do their best work when being pressured by the task, the people around, the customers or the bosses. They lock up. They lose their ability to act. Even the simplest tasks become hard. Like copying papers. I feel that instead of wanting the employees to work well under pressure, the most important thing an employer can do is to try to reduce it. It’s a big part of their responsibility to make the working environment kind. So that people can flow, their smiles can be real and they can work better, they can do the job and the task better.

Beach yoga in Gili Trawangan island

I know from my own experience it is possible to work like that. Without being pressured from anywhere, with a kind environment of non-judgment and understanding, with bosses that are nice for you and give thanks. Not only i did enjoy going to work, i did everything i was supposed to do, and i did it well. Change that into a bully-boss who pressures me and breathes on my neck – i lose my ability to work. And it has nothing, really, to do with how good of an employee i am. It has everything to do with self love and respect and deciding i deserve better, i deserve a surrounding that will treat me like a human. And now, at 28 years of age, i know i will never accept bad treatment from people ever again. It does not matter if they are my bosses or anyone else i cross paths with. All of us deserve to make this decision for themselves. To stand up and change for the better.

Drop the self-doubt, make it happen Life thoughts

About overcoming self-doubt

When i thought about teaching an actual yoga class someday, i was immediately filled with self-doubt. Just some of the thoughts swirling in my head:

How the hell can i do this?
What if i freeze in the middle of the class?
What if i forget what to say?
What if i mix up left and right?
What if i forget what a leg is called?
What if my instructions are not clear?
What if everyone hates my class?
What if i am not creative enough?
What if the other experienced people and teachers judge me?

Drop the self-doubt, be here now, be there later

And have you ever had this moment: You have to do a thing. Then you watch someone else do the thing. And comparison starts eating you up: maybe i should do it more like her? Maybe i should also include this and this.. Maybe i should use these words, they seem better than mine. She did it so well, mine is nothing compared to hers. What if others will compare us? They will probably not like mine as much. Maybe i should try to make mine more like hers.

I feel myself wanting to curl up to a little ball and stay there. Forever.

Self-doubt is heavy to carry. It weighs you down. It’s a real, deep feeling that eats you up in tiny little pieces until you are left as a nervous wreck. And it’s up to you to either let it happen or stop it before it really begins. And when you think about it a bit deeper, it’s only lies. It’s all what-ifs. It’s not reality, it is an illusion in your own mind. It’s nothing that has happened already, nothing that’s happening to you right now.

I explored my feelings and came to the conclusion that my self-doubt is caused by the following things:

  • fear of not being perfect (=messing up words, mixing left and right, forgetting something, not being clear enough)
  • fear of judgement (=what if they will hate it? what if they will think i am not good enough?)
  • comparison (=the teacher i had before was so good, i am not as good as they are.)

Drop the self-doubt, find your own way

My advice to myself for overcoming self-doubt

  1. Your breath is your strongest ally. So be there with your breath. Connect with it. Every time you remember, come back to your breath.
  2. Acceptance. Practice fierce, radical acceptance towards the fact that you are feeling this way. Tell yourself it’s okay. You are human being with feelings. There is nothing wrong with that. There is nothing wrong if other people see your nervousness. So accept your feeling instead of fighting it. Acknowledge it but don’t dwell on it. Create space around it. You are a human, you have a feeling, and it’s fine.
  3. Get out of yourself. No one is thinking about you as much as you are. No one is thinking about your performance as much as you are. No one is thinking about your speech and movements as much as you are. Literally no one cares about it as much as you do. No one judges yourself as much as you do. So get out of yourself and realize: it is not about you.
  4. I repeat: it is not about you. It is about the people who come there to practice with you. It is about sharing what you know with them. You are just there, in between the people and the yoga. It has nothing to do with you or how you mixed up left and right and how you forgot the name of a body part.
  5. If someone is judging you – this also has nothing to do with you. Someones judgement does not define you. It does not define your practice, your knowledge, your class. It only has to do with the person who is judging and their inner journey. It is none of your business what they think about you.
  6. No one expects perfectionism. Neither should you. You have seen your favorite teachers make mistakes. They don’t dwell on it, they don’t stop to think “oh man, i messed that up. Damn, what do i do now? I can’t believe i made a mistake”. They carry on without apologies. They are used to it. Because it happens to all of us, literally. So why should you expect perfection from yourself? As you know, expectations create fear. When the fear is there, you can’t focus on the doing. So drop it. Drop the perfectionism and know that whatever happens, it’s ok.
  7. When you compare yourself to another person and how they do a thing, you start drifting away from your authentic self. When you try to follow a script that’s not natural to you, you drift away from your authentic self. And when you drift away, you are trying to play a role: a role of yourself, a role of something else, a role of the perfect teacher you want to be. And when this happens, you start automatically being more insecure, more clumsy, more not-knowing-what-to-do-and-say. So be authentic. Be how you are, right at this moment. Do not try to be who you want to be after two years of practice. Do not try to imitate someone else. Do not lose the authenticity. “Start where you are, with what you have.”
  8. And remember: whatever happens in your first class, second class or on the 150th class, does not define you as a teacher.

Beatles ashram in Rishikesh India

With these things in mind, i will start preparing myself. By practicing compassion towards myself, practicing acceptance towards all the feelings that are rising up. And by keeping it super simple for now.

Morning beach yoga, vasisthasana Life thoughts

This is the life now.

I wake up to the sound of rustling leaves and the wind shaking the bedroom windows. It’s 5 am and for a little while i dwell on the feeling: imagining i am in Finland, it’s cold and dark outside, i have to get up and go outside to the freezing rain. This image is a way for me to remember to count all the blessings life is offering me right now. So that when i open my eyes, i tap right in to the reality. This is the image that made me the most anxious when i used to be at home. But now, I get out of bed, walk into the front door and open it to the warm tropical morning. The wind greets my face as i let the loudly meowing cat in.

Mount Agung in Bali

The reality and the blessings. I can pack my bag and my yoga mat at 6 am in the morning. I will bicycle to the beach that is less than five minutes away. See the sun rising from behind the Rinjani volcano in Lombok. Do my morning yoga practice as the sun rises. Then buy a cheap meal of rice and vegetables from a local woman. I can read and study while laying in my hammock, i can lay on the beach next to the ridiculously turquoise sea, i can breathe in the ocean air. I can call this my home now.

Dancing on the beach

For a long time i had a huge “india hangover”. It was really hard to come back to a world that was so quiet and so organized. To walk the streets where no one was honking. No crowds, no cows, no noise. And strangely, i missed it. I missed the chaos and i missed all the feelings i had while i was there. The ridiculously drugging feeling of bravery, the thrilling feeling of being on my own in such a place. And being back in familiar, peaceful Bali was a big shock. Coming to the Gili Trawangan island, that had been quieted by the earthquakes, made me feel strangely lonely. I was surrounded by new people, who were to slowly become the people i would interact with every day from now on. Suddenly i was here, settling down for a while.

abandoned temple in bali

Every morning, every day and every evening i would repeat myself the words someone said to me while in India. “Promise me you will try to find stability in your life.” And i keep repeating them, still. And slowly, little by little, i have been finding glimpses of a ridiculous joy. I danced around my house and told myself, this is my new home. Here is my new kitchen. This is my room, my bed, my hot water shower. This is my garden and i am going to give it my love. This is my new cat, these are the kittens and i can watch them grow. This is my porch and these people are my neighbors. And this is my life.

Biking towards the sunrise

A comforting feeling of stability is slowly coming for me. I have set up a routine of practicing and reading. Studying yoga texts and planning classes. Because sooner or later, on this island, i am going to teach yoga for real. And it makes me both excited and scared. Mostly excited. For the first time in my life i feel like i know what i am doing and i know what i want to do. I have goals that i know i will keep reaching for.

Gili Trawangan beach

The thought of accidentally moving to Indonesia even though i was supposed to go back home in May feels so funny. A few days ago i closed my Finnish sim card. Soon i am trying to register an Indonesian one. I gave up on the phone number i have had since i was eight years old. That’s twenty years. The life as i knew it has already changed so much in the last nine months i have spent away from Finland – i am ready to let go of it all. Even my old dear phone number.

City of Varanasi, India Travel

A beautiful chaos called Varanasi

I have fallen in love with the holy city of Varanasi. It’s chaotic little labyrinth streets and the crazy crowds and the strange people. Everywhere i look, there is something to see. Every corner i find is full of color, every time i go out i don’t know what i will see and experience. It’s a place where people come to die because dying in Varanasi brings salvation. It’s a city with estimated 23000 temples. It’s a place where philosophers, poets, writers and musicians lived.

Ganga Aarti, City of Varanasi, India
Ganga Aarti by the river – magical

I sit inside shops filled with handmade notebooks and watch the shopkeepers pray and sing mantras.
I sit by the ganga, watching people wash their clothes, pray and dip in.
I watch men dressed in orange carry ganga water to temples in big crowds, i hear them sing on the streets.
I get escorted by excited twelve-year-old schoolboys.
I get followed by men who whisper to me time after time: “madam, please buy some fresh weed. Madam, i have opium. Madam! Opium! Ketamine! Marijuana??” and get saved by shopkeepers who say: “do not disturb this madam, this madam is very shanti.”
I sit on the rooftops at night and watch people on the other rooftops – they dance, chat, put up their clothes to dry, eat and wave at me.
I sit near temples and spy inside, watch people lighting candles and listen to them chanting.
I sit in cafes drinking sweet black coffee and watch the spectrum of different people walk by.
I see old people in wheelchairs on their way to wait for their death.
I see people carrying bodies in the streets, covered in orange and flowers.
I visited an ashram and had tea and cookies with a big guru dressed in a bright yellow robe.
I have taken yoga classes that make me smile like crazy afterwards while i walk back to my hostel.

City of Varanasi, India

I love the chaos. I love how everywhere i look, there is something. So many colors, so many little details. So much intensity in one place. This is a place that’s very hard to put to words. When i sit down somewhere and observe, i try to write it down, but i can’t. To describe the colors, the people, the buildings, the crowds.

City of Varanasi, India

For me personally, traveling is very tiring. I mean the kind of traveling where you stay couple of nights at one place, see it, the sights and all, and then move on. I like to stay for longer. I don’t like to pack and carry my backpack. I am a really bad backpacker. A lazy one. But i love the way i travel – that’s why also i decided to stay and enjoy Varanasi until it’s time to go back to Delhi. I tried and tried to make a plan for myself to see at least one more place in India. But what can i do? Varanasi got me with it’s intense energy, amazing yoga classes and endless life that keeps on going everywhere.

City of Varanasi, India

City of Varanasi, INdia City of Varanasi, INdia City of Varanasi, INdia City of Varanasi, INdia City of Varanasi, INdia City of Varanasi, INdia

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh Travel

200 hours yoga teacher training: the experience III

19th of July

“I stopped counting days gone and started counting days left. No no no nono. I want to stay. I want to submerge myself into this world of yoga and being and learning. And never stop. Never, never. I can’t believe it has already been two and a half weeks. Now the teaching practices start, now i need the confidence and the bravery. I feel like i live in a world of blessings coming towards me, one after another. Surrender. Everything will come. I let myself into the surrender. To get the 100% out of everything and to make the 100% out of everything.

Where do the hours go because i don’t know? Every morning i wake up and see, it’s a new beautiful day. Every morning i have my morning tea outside with Irene, wave to the local lady on the rooftop across the street. And every morning i pour salt water into my nostril and out of the other nostril. I practice breathing in different ways, i sing, i practice rough Vinyasa flow. I eat big breakfast of oatmeal, lay down for 30 minutes and then study anatomy and philosophy. I eat a big lunch of rice and veggies, nap and try to study for 2,5 hours. Then i learn about asanas and body alignment, i do 1,5 hours of intense Ashtanga. Then i look out the upstairs window for 30 minutes. The people downstairs, the people across the road, children playing, cows on the field. And then i learn a new meditation technique or a new mantra he makes us sing one by one again. Then i have a big dinner of veggies and chapati, have tea outside with Irene again. And relax, sleep, and do it all over again.”

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

27th of July

“I just cannot wrap my head around how fast this July has been. It’s just… Gone. Suddenly it’s gone. What a strange thing time is. I feel like going out to the world will be scary and strange. Like a baby bird flying out of it’s nest for the first time.

“This is it for the month” said the philosophy teacher and i was ready to cry then and there. Every single day he used to say “this is it for the day.” Suddenly, it’s gone. Suddenly, it’s ceremony day. Suddenly i am a certified yoga teacher. Fastest month of my life.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

And wow how many hard things i faced. Speaking truthfully to people, showing my weaknesses. This experience shaped me in so many ways. I did so many scary things. Sang in front of the class. Faced my hidden emotions. Meditated to painful memories. Let go of the grip of the past and the illusion of the future. Taught a yoga class. Used my voice. Found my voice. And my voice was heard, it is calm and it is steady. I am not shaking anymore, i am not scared anymore. My heart is blown wide open. It was all so hard. None of it was easy, really. But i did it. Yesterday i danced in the kitchen not caring about anyone who was watching. This is how i want to live my life. I am ready to dance and sing and play like no one is watching.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

My journey has now begun. I am excited, nervous and in love. With life and the world. The new me that’s coming out from behind the clouds. Never ever in my life have i learned this much. Never.

I look outside from my open door, look at the people chatting, the girls i got to know from all over the world, the indian boys who turned out to be so sweet and funny. And i feel so so much love for this little yoga family. So much good energies, so much love.

Yes, so never in my life have i experienced anything like this before. I am not ready to let go. But i know i have to, soon. Two nights left and i am going to be all here, taking it all in, as much as i can, as deep as i can. My heart is bursting. Of gratitude, joy, love, happiness, all the good pure feelings in the world. No matter how hard i try i can’t put this feeling into words.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

Basically i just cannot believe the course is over and i can’t believe i did it. Best decision of my life. The most beautiful, growing experience. To come here. I was so scared, i will never forget how scared i was. How i cried and screamed “i can’t go, i can’t go, don’t make me do this”. But i did anyway. And i am so, so proud of myself.

Here i am… Staring at the mountains from the big glass windows. A little black cat sleeping under a table outside. I am fully in myself. So fully here. Not waiting for anything, not needing anything. Things will come, on their own, when it is time. No use in waiting or expecting. Be here now, be there later. This is how i am now. Here. Oh the feeling of bliss and joy. The lightness. Lightness of being here, in myself, in my moment, not waiting or needing anything. Like i am being freed of something.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

Why did i keep waiting for something, all the time? Why did i always forget to enjoy myself? Always waiting for something or someone or some different time. It was so wrong. As if i was not enough for myself so i kept waiting for something else. And when i got what i was waiting for, i was joyful for a while, but damn what a fleeing feeling. The next moment i was waiting again.

So now, this one… Being so fully in myself. Full of myself. Wow. I am enough. I am not needing anything or anyone. Everything is here, everything. I think this might be the first time in my life that i am feeling like this. Full acceptance, full knowing that everything will come when it is time, i do not need anything. Everything is here. I am letting everything be. This is what happiness is like.”

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh Travel

200 hours yoga teacher training: the experience II

6th of July

“Twenty minutes in meditation last night. I hear the soft sound of the teachers voice and see where my mind is going. I tap in and observe. Outside to the streets, in Rishikesh, cows, cars, motorbikes, honking, dust, dogs, teachers voice, breathe, remember to breathe, candles, dogs, everything feels like a movement, it feels like i am flying, this is amazing, so amazing. Remember to breathe, women in sarees, teachers voice, focus on the breath, singing, i will have to sing, oh shit, he will make me sing, but why worry, why worry…

And then he said this thing: if you don’t laugh at the same joke for seven times, why do you keep worrying about the same thing for a hundred times? Yes, it makes no sense, no sense at all. So i had a bad day yesterday, but i chose to keep smiling and i chose to not worry. That’s all we have. The choice. I can be paralyzed by my fear and my worry or i can simply choose to drop it. And now i choose to drop it. I accept myself as being nervous and being scared, i don’t need to hide it. I can show my weaknesses to people. I can be open. I don’t have to hide it. Because it’s ok to feel like this. It’s being human. I don’t need people to see me as this strong, tough person. I want them to see me as i am so i can be fully myself. A human being who feels. Scared and nervous from time to time, but accepting it, overcoming it.”

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

7th of July

“Today is the day of Kunjal. Throwing up. A cleanse for the stomach. So i drank warm salt water, glass after glass after glass. And more. Some people, they drank, they threw up and they left. But i was there after one hour, trying to throw up the water and get it all out. I was left with a sore throat and sore muscles. The teacher touched my shoulder and told me good job Essi, every single time i threw up a bit. Honestly one of the most strange experiences in my life.

Now i am tired but strangely happy. And very thirsty. Weak on the knees and the effort of trying to throw up. My body just shut down and resisted it until it couldn’t anymore. Anyway, now i am strangely light, as if i can breathe easier. Cleansing like this. So so many things i have never done before. And more keep on coming. Every day feels like a new exciting beginning of something else.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

And it feels so strange i was supposed to be in Finland by now. That i left in December and i am still away. “Don’t worry”, said my intuition when i was stressing over a summer job. You don’t need to worry, the inner voice said. And i stopped worrying. And all this happened. India happened. I am here now, having life changing experiences. Emotions are trying to take over me and control me, there is just too much emotion in me, i want to scream them out. But i try to focus. Tap in on the moment, again and again, every time i open my door and step outside. I try to focus and breathe, and sing and chant… Oh, all the emotions. The bliss. The joy.”

Maa Kunjapuri temple, rishikesh Travel

200 hours yoga teacher training: the experience

First of all, i have to say traveling to India, to Rishikesh, to take my yoga teacher training was completely spontaneous: this one day i was having salad with a friend and got a text about a training in India that’s affordable and good. Could i do it? I remember thinking this over and over again, while sending out my application, and while paying the deposit, i was still thinking “could i do it?” as if it hadn’t been decided yet. And two and a half months later, i was there. Sitting in the office, filling up forms and papers, seeing the first glimpse of people who would be my classmates for the next month.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

I remember so well looking at the welcome papers. I read them over and over again as if i couldn’t believe i was there. This is what the schedule was like for me:

  • 05:15 Wake up
  • 05:30 – 06:00 Morning tea
  • 06:00 – 06:30 Pranayama (yogic breathing) and shatkarma (yogic cleansing practices)
  • 06:30 – 08:30 Vinyasa Flow Yoga
  • 08:30 – 09:30 Breakfast
  • 09:30 – 10:30 Anatomy and Physiology
  • 11:00 – 12:30 Yoga Philosophy
  • 12:30 – 13:00 Lunch
  • 13:15 – 15:00 Rest / self-study
  • 15:00 – 16:00 Body Alignment
  • 16:00 – 17:30 Ashtanga Vinyasa yoga Asana
  • 18:00 –  19:00 Meditation / Mantra Chanting
  • 19:15 –  20:15 Dinner time
  • 20:15 Self Study – Rest time.

It felt so good to have a serious routine for a while, because for seven months my life has been nothing but a routine. I felt sucked into it. To the world of learning and yoga. I feel like i can’t simply put it to words so i will write parts of my journal here to share, one post every day for a couple of days – enjoy!

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

Pieces from my journal

2nd of July

“The butterflies in my stomach are calm after so many days and so many tears and so much thinking i can’t do it, i can’t do it. But i am here, laying on my soft thick blanket, casually peeking out my window to see who is outside. For one month i will be here, for one whole month this will be my home. There is 30 people in my course, half of them boys from India and a few from Nepal, half western girls and one guy. First day of studying is halfway, we are doing neti cleansing every single morning, then pranayama, vinyasa flow, anatomy, philosophy… And i am so excited, every single thing excites me, all the new things i am going to learn. So much feelings.”

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

4th of July

“Today i am a bit tired for the first time. Cats kept meowing loudly outside. I kind of wanted to relax and close my eyes and fall to the deep sleep again. But i sat up. Started breathing. Remembering the words of the meditation teacher: “promise me you will do this first thing in the morning. Promise me.” So i did. And breathed. Observed. And breathed. So many thoughts in my mind, Bohemian Rhapsody giving a soundtrack to them. Fat dogs. Cow poop. Should i wear a hoodie? Will the boys be looking at my butt? I wonder if the salt for cleansing is made from tap water because i swallowed it. So many thoughts. And i observed all of them. And the upper back pain, the sighs of frustration i let out, the light creeping in between the curtains, sounds of the kitchen boys making tea, the urge to crawl under my blanket again.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

And then i opened my eyes and adjusted myself to the dim 5.30 am light, slowly slowly started drinking my water, rose up and went outside to get my morning tea. Drank my tea, did the neti cleanse, did the pranayama, did the vinyasa flow. Chanted. Aligned myself, used all of my muscles, looked up to the sky, down to the earth, straight forwards to the hills with mist. Ate my breakfast mindfully. Did not nap, Changed into comfy clothes, came upstairs to the yoga hall to think. And wait. Next up is anatomy. Skeleton. Indian boys are slowly coming in. Back is hurting again but i have a strange joy that is bubbling out of me. Yesterday i had a strange joy also, i smiled and giggled and i chanted a mantra in sanskrit while everyone listened. Joy is bursting out every way it’s possible. So much good, deep feelings.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

And this morning class of philosophy was the most beautiful, i wanted to stay and dwell on it, i wanted him to keep on talking for hours and hours. The way he described life, modern life, how we have lost ourselves – now and just now i know what “finding yourself” means. How it doesn’t mean you find your personality, or what you like and what you don’t, what you act like or how you communicate. It’s not you. Finding yourself means going back home, to the you that is the witnessing presence of all this. And he said, you are ready to return home. To you. You think you chose to come to Rishikesh, but the reality is that Rishikesh chose you. Because you are ready.

Yoga teacher training in India Rishikesh

The only way i can describe how i feel: beautiful. I feel simply beautiful. I am understanding everything better hour after hour. And it’s only day three. I feel like this, bliss, joy, love. I promise to myself, to keep up with everything and anything i will learn. To keep returning home, day after day. I might lose myself, i might go wrong ways, but i will always, always keep on returning.”

Street art in Rishikesh India Life thoughts

Week six in India

Every time i set off to go somewhere on my own, i have this certain feeling. Of fear, anxiety, aliveness and excitement mixing together and making me feel like i have never been in the moment as much before this. It feels like every breath i take is the most important breath of my life. Things feel surreal. That is exactly how i felt when i left Thailand towards India, and that’s exactly how it felt when i boarded the night train last night and my dear friends left me there, alone. Alone in India.

So full of adrenaline. Excitement. Secure feelings of safety and confidence. I sat there, alone, accompanied by seven indian men who didn’t know exactly where to look and how to deal with the fact that i was there.

A night train in India

From my journal today:

“Rishikesh is to me like a dream, details are slowly fading away from my memory, like a dream i had couple of nights ago, or a movie i saw last weekend. I still feel it and i remember it, but it doesn’t seem real anymore. And now, and now… Open heart. Trusting my gut feelings. Trusting myself. Being brave, being courageous. Having faith. Because i am alone in India.

Two weeks, me and India, open plans. I will greet myself with love. With caring. With smiles, with forgiveness. I will read, study, yoga, wander, sit by the river, breathe everything in, the colorful chaos that is India. I have a feeling, a wonderful, secure feeling, that not only everything will go well, but i will have an amazing time.

A butterfly in a himalayan temple

I am ready to take in all the rest India has to teach me. I can’t even believe how strong the calling is. To go on my own. If i had the choice to go with someone, i would still go on my own. The calling is stronger than the fear that lurks in the background. And that’s how i know i am doing something very right.

And here i am… Sitting with the men. They shared their snacks with me, helped me make my bed and offered me a turn to charge my phone. I am in a country where it’s recommended i travel only during the day. ‘Don’t take the night train or the night bus’, i read this line so many times. Yet.. Here i am. Feeling safe. Chatting casually with the men. I am in a country where instead of everyone saying “enjoy your trip” they said “please be careful and stay safe”. When i first landed, the pilot said “good luck” instead of “enjoy your stay”.

A monkey alone in india at maa kunjapuri temple

And this is exactly what i needed. To be alone in India. To be as brave as i am right now. Not to let the world make me scared of something. I needed to come here and see for myself. And the people.. They look at me because they are curious. They are interested. They don’t look at me because they want to hurt me. They are people. Just… People. For every bad one there is a hundred with a good heart. And that’s what i sincerely believe. I know the feeling in my guts if someone is not to be trusted. That’s what i am listening to.

I needed to prove myself i can have an open heart like this. To believe that this man who is sitting next to me does not want to harm me. I can trust my intuition, i can trust the world, the universe. I can travel in a night train alone in India, in a compartment full of men, and still feel safe and secure and good.

A wall text in Beatles ashram, rishikesh

These are the things that change me. I need to dig so so so deep into myself to find the trust, the courage, the strength, the confidence. In moments like these, i have no choice. It is the only option. To look into myself, find everything that’s already inside me. And when i know i found it once, it will be forever with me.

I did it. I did it. Here i am, waiting for the train to move the last kilometers towards the holy city of Varanasi. What’s there, i don’t know – taking it easy, studying, letting go and accepting the fact that all the people i met in Rishikesh are gone now and i am alone. Alone in India. Greeting myself with love. And new beginnings.”

Local people in Rishikesh, India Travel

Hello India

Oh, all the feelings. I am just smiling to myself and giggling like a little girl. I guess it’s the stress coming out of me, as random bursts of giggles. The stress of so many nights thinking “i can’t go to India, i can’t do it, i can’t, i can’t, i can’t.” But i did. I went to India by myself. I survived a midnight in Delhi where the driver got lost on small streets and i hid inside my hoodie at the back of the car when at least ten guys wanted to peek inside. And i survived when he drove on the highway against the traffic to get quicker to my hotel.

Local women by Ganges river in Rishikesh India

I survived the next morning when it was just me and a bunch of Indian businessmen having breakfast. I survived another crazy taxi ride. And that’s when i told my mind: shut up. Shut up. How often are you in India? Look outside and enjoy the ride. I looked out and i saw. Little boys selling fruits and flowers. A man washing his armpits in a pond. Women in their colorful scarves sitting by the road. A rickshaw with a bumper sticker: stop violence against women.

A man selling corn on the cob in india

After the most interesting security check in Delhi and a really scenic flight to the north, i found two girls from the airport who shared a taxi with me. Through the most beautiful curvy roads with nature like i have never seen before and through local villages with their people and dogs and dust and cows.

Ganga Aarti, a fire ceremony by the Ganges river in Rishikesh india
Ganga Aarti, a fire ceremony by the Ganges river

And now i am here. Sitting on my thick colorful blanket, purple curtains giving magical light to the room. A ceiling fan humming quietly and the smells of dinner preparation coming from the kitchen. Yesterday was a day full of magical ceremonies, with fire and burning herbs and listening to endless chanting. And lots of selfies with locals.

Indian boys with an offering for the ganges

The surroundings are very intense. Every time i step outside on the streets, it’s endless honking (some people even drive with their other hand on the horn, non stop. Really.) People, cows, dogs, mud, cars, motorbikes, something to fill your every sense all around. I love it but i am thankful the place i am staying in is up on a hill, away from the traffic.

A local man making a bindi on a girl
So much trash about white girls going to India and wearing a bindi – but when a local asks to put a mark on your forehead, why would you refuse?

This is my home now, until the 29th. I am here with 29 others – half from India or Nepal and half western girls. Now, it’s day two and i already have the craziest amount of feelings. The most amazing feeling of being in the right place. A feeling that was worth all the fear and the stress and the desperate tears before leaving Thailand. I feel calm. And belonging. And giggly.

Local public bus in Thailand from Takua pa to Kuraburi General

Goodbye Thailand

Goodbye everything i know to be familiar. My first time in Thailand was in 2013. I remember a shop lady teaching me how to pronounce thank you. I remember breathtakingly cute and cheap earrings in Chinatown, Bangkok. I remember taking a night train down to the south and waking up to sweet coffee. I remember the first deep breath of ocean air and the first time i was on a longtail boat. The first time seeing a pineapple grow on the ground. Or a banana tree. Or a coconut falling down.

It’s so funny how we lose our sense of wonder. And get used to things so quickly. Or get distracted and focused on other stuff so we just don’t notice things the same way anymore. I have been in Thailand about eight months of my life if i count it all together. So, already, when i wake up on a Wednesday morning to see a coconut palm and a green jungle river from my window, it feels so normal it’s almost scary.

A man and his boat in Kuraburi Thailand
A man and his boat on Kuraburi river yesterday morning

Helen from Journal With Purpose told how she and her partner spent a weekend acting to be tourists in their own hometown. I love the idea. To mindfully open your senses to the familiar and suddenly you can see so much more. All the little things you haven’t noticed before and all the big things you thought to be so normal, familiar, even boring by now. So i told myself this: when i wake up to find myself bored of yet another place, i will open up my eyes and look at it with a childlike wonder. With a mind of a tourist who has just arrived.

Tomorrow i will be gone

Anyway… With Thailand, i do not need to do this right now. I have a relationship with Thailand that feels easy, safe, comfortable, familiar, homely and sometimes even a little bit annoying. So when i think about flying out tomorrow, it feels like leaving home all over again. Because i am leaving the surroundings i am so comfortable with, the culture i’ve became familiar with, the language in which i can order myself vegan food anywhere i go, the people i have gotten to know, the knowledge of how much a kilo of mangosteens should cost. I’m leaving behind the knowledge of public transport, the knowledge of cultural etiquette, the prices, even my boyfriend. Everything.

Public bus from Takua pa to Kuraburi, Thailand
Trying to write in the public bus on the way to Kuraburi

And right now it’s setting my soul on fire. Everything feels so alive. I am sitting in my comfortable hotel bed, surrounded by white sheets, and i feel like i hear everything. The local men sitting outside having breakfast soup. The motorbikes going by. Birds singing on the rooftop across the street. Thai music from a local eatery nearby. I feel like i see everything. I feel like.. I feel everything.

It kind of feels like waking up from a deep sleep. Being born again. Starting fresh. This is the beginning of something entirely new. And i am not terrified anymore. I am welcoming whatever comes from the unknown. Allowing the unfamiliarity to come. Allowing it to change to something familiar one day. A routine, a safe space awaits me in Rishikesh. I am ready to go.