The big Taboo of Sex – still making People feel guilty around the World! – 26 Sep 16

I yesterday mentioned that the topic sex is still a big taboo in India. Even within a marriage, the two partners often don’t talk at all about sex. They do it, as it is a biological urge and their duty as well to reproduce. They also enjoy it – who wouldn’t? But they don’t talk about it. Even in the west however, I have talked with a lot of people who feel incredibly shy and even guilty when it comes to talking about sex!

I have given counselling sessions to a lot of people over the course of the years and obviously, there have often been issues which had their origin in suppression of sexuality. This suppression is not only merely physical but happens first of all in the minds of people! The basic idea that sex is something morally condemnable is the problem.

This is where you can see centuries of religious influence and funny moral instructions working still in today’s modern times! I cannot count how many times I have told people not to feel guilty about having had sex! Only the levels of when they started feeling it were different. There were some who felt guilty about having a lot of one-night-stands and being sexually active with people they didn’t know. Others felt guilty about enjoying sexual fantasies which are ‘out of the norm’ – whatever they thought the norm was. Then there were those who felt guilty about having sex with a partner because they were taught only to have sex after marriage. And there were even those who felt strangely guilty about having sex with their spouses. Yes, because they enjoyed it but were told that sex is not supposed to be enjoyed.

You can see and pick which one is your level – but in my eyes sex is never something you should feel guilty about as long as you don’t hurt anybody. I am completely against cheating on your or another person’s partner but as long as you are just enjoying sex, be it with your partner or another person who wants to become intimate with you, I believe there is nothing wrong. In the consequence, any feelings of guilt are misplaced and wrong!

Enjoy your love life, enjoy having sex, enjoy being physically close to someone and think back on those experiences with joy – not with guilt! Don’t spoil your memories with this ugly feeling that doesn’t bring you anything! Love life and with it all its physical aspects as well!

Experience of Life brought our Ashram Boys back – 2 Sep 16

Today I would like to write about a bunch of boys, three to be exact, who have been in our lives and hearts for a long time – and two of them have recently come back to our Ashram as well! Anybody who has been here in the past six or seven years knows whom I am talking about: Pawan, Mohit and Jaysingh!

I wrote to you about Jaysingh nearly two years ago. In that time, we were a bit shaken about his decision to leave the Ashram but accepted it as what it was: the wish of a 16-year-old to explore the world. Following his example, even if a bit less drastically, our second boy, Mohit, did the same about half a year later, announcing that he would now rather stay with his family in their village and go to school there.

Pawan remained with us and had his own adventures, changing schools here and finding his place again as the oldest of the ‘Ashram boys’. Life went on, we kept ourselves busy and opened Ammaji’s Ayurvedic Restaurant.

About three months into operations, my father told me of a phone call he had received: Jaysingh was asking whether he could come by to visit. Of course, we replied! It would be nice to see him after so long and catch up on what he had been doing! He arrived and we found out that he had really had a taste of the ‘real world’ out there in the meantime: he had travelled to his various brothers and cousins living across the country and had worked in a few places to earn his money: as a daily labourer carrying sand and bricks for example and also in a saree factory.

It was this experience that made him ask me one thing: ‘Could I come and work here?’ He had seen how things really are in factories in India! Long working hours and cruel working conditions. His employer and supervisors didn’t scare away from hitting their employees for their mistakes. The machines were dangerous – if you didn’t take care, you could get your fingers cut off. Older workers complained about breathing problems, bad coughing and the like, all caused by the chemicals used for dying the sarees. With the long working hours, Jaysingh was always tired – once he had fallen asleep while working at the machine, ruining 80 sarees by this! Of course his employer was angry and hit him. Another time, a fire erupted and he as well as his coworkers had to climb up to a window to jump out from there and save themselves!

Briefly said, he has made his experiences and decided that he would rather come here and ask whether we would take him back, offering him work. He had been sending money home and would like to keep that up, too! Of course, for one of our boys we definitely have a place and he can even learn something as well! As a helper in the kitchen he will soon have gained some knowledge and experience which can go a long way for his life!

News travel fast, even in India and that’s how soon after Jaysingh joined us here, we got another boy returning to his second home: Mohit, too, rejoined us here. Both boys now learn how to make pizza, pasta and more! And what is great, too, is that they agreed to do some private schooling by the side, too – to finish their high school!

It is great to have them back – and they are happy, too!

When India’s Health System finds a quicker Solution with less Qualms – 28 Aug 16

The other day Ramona asked me to have a look at her back where something was itching her. I had a look and it was a circular area where there were rashes and it was red. The story that followed with its cultural aspects is what I would like to write about today.

Obviously, we don’t go to a doctor right away for some rashes. We know that the body reacts in this way onto something – an influence from outside or inside. So we applied some Ayurvedic ointment and Ramona tried not to scratch the area when it itched.

When it was not better after three days however, she decided to see a dermatologist for it. In India, the nice thing in comparison to doctors I have seen in Europe is that you can easily get an appointment on the same day. In fact, you don’t need an appointment – you can just go there and see the doctor! That’s what Ramona did.

It was a very quick visit: he took a look at the spot on her back, asked her a few questions and then started writing down the medicine she should take, explaining simultaneously “This tablet for seven days, after breakfast, this one for five days in morning and evening and this tube to be applied twice a day.” Ramona asked what exactly he thought it was and he replied “It is an allergic reaction”. Okay, Ramona answered – but to what that would be? The doctor’s answer was that it could be a lot of things – and especially in this humid weather, it could happen easily.

So this is the point where we once more see so clearly the difference in between India and the west: in Germany, Ramona told, the next step would most probably have been an allergy test, checking as to what it has been that she reacted. This would go to the laboratory or take a bigger amount of time. You would wait, maybe take medication in the meantime and finally you would find out: I am allergic to this material, food or ingredient.

In the end, the whole matter would have been so big, you would never again touch that material or ingredient because it is a big thing – you are allergic to it!

As it is now, Ramona is still allergic to something. However, it is not such a big matter in her mind. It will take two or three days and it will stop itching and then be over. I know and agree that allopathic medicine is generally not gentle to the body and causes harm inside. We are definitely not ones to easily pop pills and use them to make everything fine when the body needs rest of attention. However in this regard, I also feel it is unnecessary to create a huge trauma out of these few pimples when they could just be resolved easily.

If it happens more often, we will look further into it. As long as it doesn’t, it is alright to just use allopathy sometimes as well!

When the Birth of a Child is not a Reason for Joy: the seventh Daughter – 18 Aug 16

Yesterday we got the news that a few of our school girls have got another small sister. Obviously, with 250 children, there are all the time new siblings being born. Normally when you talk about a new life coming to this earth, you feel happy and celebrate. In this case however, we cannot really feel happy with this family – the parents himself are not. The reason is the same but different: it is their seventh daughter!

Oh, we have known this family for so many years and see their development with sorrow: the father is a mason who has already worked on our Ashram building, school building and restaurant building. His eldest daughter was among the first children at our school – and the next three daughters started in the years after that as well. In 2013 I introduced this family to you in my blog. In that time, they had five daughters already and we knew exactly why: they kept on trying to have a son!

The father is hard-working and has managed to save some money to build his home – but obviously it is quite a task feeding six children – and now another belly wants to be filled! We will be here to support the girls with their primary education – but there are other expenses that have to be covered as well!

We actually confronted the father with our concern and were surprised: he started crying and told us that he himself as well as his parents had already told his wife after the second daughter that two children were enough. He complained that everyone suspected him to be the one wanting a boy at all costs – but that in fact it was his wife!

She had even gone as far as to threaten him: if he didn’t make her pregnant again, she would get help by someone else! For her, the reason for not being full of joy about this birth is clear: it is ‘only’ another girl! Another girl to feed, who will have to be married and finally will leave home. No son who will carry on the family name, who will stay at home and earn money for the parents when they are old or whose wife would care for them!

It is unfortunately still like this here in India and this mentality is something which will still take a long time to remove from people’s minds! Girl and boy are not equal here. Parents may love their daughters but daughters and sons are never equal in their eyes. They say it clearly in front of the girls, too: we wanted a son!

I feel for these girls, I feel for these families who increase their poverty only by this wish for a male child. Your daughter is precious and lovely – don’t think she is worth less and don’t make her feel she should be anything else than she is!

Going back to India after a short Tour of Germany – 18 May 16

So today is the day: we are going to fly back to India! Oh wow, what a quick round through Germany, how many things did we do and how many friends did we meet!

After leaving Lüneburg, we went to Erkelenz for a stop over night. Another place where I have been so many times already over the course of the year! Our dear friends Sonja and Peter were happy to see us and we enjoyed catching up with them a lot! Apra had fun with the cats – and even Eva came from Coesfeld to see us!

Then an evening with Pizza and ice cream in Wiesbaden, another visit to our friend Pavan and finally now we are packed and ready to go. As always, we have lots of luggage and Thomas and Iris will bring us to the airport to help us with the things.

It was short, it was very intense and it was really nice, too. As expected, especially watching Apra and her experiences was amazing and rewarding. She has, even in these short two weeks, learnt so much new! Her German has gained incredibly much vocabulary and Germany has once more made an impression on her!

I am, however, looking forward to coming back to India now. The restaurant is waiting for us. I will write you tomorrow again – from Vrindavan!

Our Yoga and Ayurveda Retreats now also for low Budget Travellers! – 3 May 16

With our restaurant in full swing, we have not only worked with all the things surrounding Ammaji’s, but we have also realized that this changes our current business with Yoga and Ayurveda Retreats at the Ashram! Not only because we can now offer our delicious food at Ammaji’s Ayurvedic Restaurant! No, because we can help people realize their dream of travelling to India – even if they are on a low budget!

Yes, obviously the start of our restaurant made us think about how we would like to keep it with our retreats. It was clear from the beginning that guests could eat at the restaurant and enjoy meals there. After all, we eat there as well – and would love to share that experience with new friends, too. At the same time however we thought of those who sometimes ask whether they could reduce the cost of being with us by excluding meals. While we had, until now, always said no, as we were all eating at our home and together, we thought it would now not be a problem to offer this possibility!

That’s how you can now book all our retreats either with or without all meals. Similarly, one can now decide to only stay with us and enjoy the atmosphere at the Ashram – and enjoy separate meals at Ammaji’s whenever one feels like it. Every in-house guest will receive a discount of 10% at our restaurant, too!

We felt really good with this decision and put these changes onto our website. Just a day later, we thought of another kind of inquiry we always use to get: there are a lot of young people travelling on a low budget who would love to join yoga classes or take a retreat with regular Ayurveda massages but could not afford it. We always had the offer for volunteers to work at the computer but now there is a whole new dimension of possible help: we could use a helping hand at the restaurant at all times!

That’s how we now offer a complete new possibility for young volunteers to come and stay: if you are travelling on a low budget, would like to do Yoga and Ayurveda and have thought of offering your work to reduce your cost, you can now take part in one of our retreats, work at the restaurant for six hours and pay only half of the price!

We are already getting the first inquiries for this special offer and I think it will be a great way to exchange help for each other! We are already looking forward to having new helpers here!

When the warm Lunch at School is the best part of the Day – Our School Children – 18 Mar 16

Today I would like to introduce you to Dhruv, a boy of our school who started learning with us in July. In that time we were at first unsure whether he is not too small for our school – but soon noticed that he is only shy at first and is quite clever picking up new information!

Dhruv was with his five years among the smallest children of our newly admitted students. His father being a hairdresser in a poor area of Vrindavan, his parents had heard of our school from the neighbours and their children. Dhruv’s family owns a small house in the second row from the main road. The entrance is a door leading into a rather narrow walkway that then opens into a courtyard. It has three rooms, one of which is used for sleeping and living, one as a kitchen and one for storage.

This means that Dhruv’s parents share that one living room with their three children as well as Dhruv’s grandmother. They have three beds, one of which is just a metal frame with cloth stretched in between. When we ask Dhruv who sleeps where, he tells that his father usually sleeps on the floor – so that the women and kids sleep on the beds. Dhruv is the oldest of three, with two younger sisters.

Dhruv’s father is a hairdresser, renting a shop two houses further and paying the rent for it from his income. As there are several more men of the same profession just next door, the income can vary greatly – and often, the result is that they have not more than the essentials for dinner. ‘We eat bread, lentils and pray that it gets better’, Dhruv’s grandmother tells. Of course, vegetables and fruit would be important for the kids, too, but that is something that is reserved for times when business runs well.

That’s how it is not only important for the family that we provide Dhruv quality education for no money at all. No, he also gets a warm lunch at our school every day, making sure that at least one of three kids has had something warm and nourishing in the stomach!

Dhruv is just about to start his exams for the end of the year and is obviously excited due to that. We are happy that we have several years ahead of us supporting this boy and his family!

If you feel like helping us with this effort, you can sponsor a child or the food for a day. We already thank you for your support!

Looking healthy, being overweight and Size Zero – Differences in Beauty Ideals in India – 10 Mar 16

Ramona and I talked further about the question of beauty ideals in India, especially for women, as well as the attitude that people have towards these ideals and their body.

On one hand, the idea of how thin a beautiful woman is, is definitely different here in India than in the west. In India, the models we usually get to see on posters as well as the actresses we get to see in movies usually weigh some more kilos than the ones in the west. Size zero was and is not as popular here as there. I believe that this has something to do with the fact that we actually have people dying of hunger. The general Indian will associate an extremely thin body with poverty, not with beauty.

In the same way, having a few kilos more than the average is considered as good in India. That’s how, when we once visited friends whom we had not seen for a while, the lady told Ramona ‘You look healthy!’ with a smile. What she meant was that Ramona had gained weight since she had last seen her – and it was a compliment made sincerely! I explained that to Ramona later, as in that moment, she had just been slightly confused for having been complimented on looking to be of good health. She had to laugh and now always tells our non-Indian friends that she’s not really keen of looking ‘healthy’!

So that is the difference in how women see a figure in India. On the other hand however, they do talk about it in very similar ways as out of India, too! There you have women discussing their weight and ideas on how to lose weight fast, shows on TV where the female characters try to go on diet and finally lots of products and charlatanry trying to sell pills that make you slim in a very limited amount of days.

You can see and hear both in India – but while those who are happy in being big get bigger and bigger, those who wish to be slim and fit know only one way to achieve it: go on a diet and be hungry for most of your day. Obviously, that is not the right and best solution but it is the sad truth that there are little to no fitness offers for women in India! It obviously depends on where you are, as you can easily find a gym for women in Delhi or Mumbai – but once you are out of the mega cities, it gets difficult! Colleges and universities offer sports but for adults, working women, housewives and those who simply don’t attend these schools, there is nothing! No place where they could learn exercises, no place where they could meet and work out in a group!

There is even no awareness about exercises during pregnancy or after birth. That’s another reason for women to look pregnant although they are not – after five children and with no exercise for your belly muscles, your belly won’t look flat anymore! No complaining or dieting will help here, you would need to exercise!

Of course, yoga is one option which you can easily do at home with little equipment and space. You can use help like our online yoga posture directory.

In the end however, in order to help people in India to be fit and healthy instead of oversize or undersize, India would need to first of all create awareness and the possibility for women to work out. It might change the image that people have of themselves – and maybe improve it one day!

Don’t get cheated when choosing a Taxi at the Airport in Delhi! – 29 Feb 16

About two weeks ago, one of our guests made an experience which was not something I would wish on any other visitor of India. Unfortunately, it happens – even though I have to say not only in India but pretty much every other big and touristic town around the world: our friend was cheated by a taxi driver at the airport.

In fact, that is in general nothing new. There have been warnings of scams like that in travel guides for years. The books would tell every reader to take a pre-paid taxi at the airport where the rates are clearly stated and fixed and where you don’t hand the money to the driver but pay at the airport. In this way, you can be sure that the driver drops you where you wanted to go.

That was necessary because there were many cases of fraudulent taxi drivers who would take passengers, then drive them around in circles in Delhi and ask them for more money as it was ‘so far’.

Not too long ago, a visitor who had only come by for a meal told us how she was cheated: She had arrived in the middle of the night and provided an address for a hotel in Jaipur to a taxi driver outside the airport. The driver drove her through dark backstreets to a travel agent who explained that it was impossible for them to take her from the normal road! There allegedly were strikes and the road had been blocked – so she would have to pay the equivalent of 300 Euro to go there! That’s more than three times as much as it should cost, if not more! She got in anyway, as she had no idea that it was a fraud – but she already regretted having paid so much!

So either you have an idea of how much your trip should cost, you get a safe pre-paid taxi or you ask your hotel to pick you up! That’s what we offer as well: we will pick you up at the airport.

In our recent case however, the cheaters were quick. It was actually me waiting at the airport, as I had had business in Delhi and then went to pick up our next guest. Just that she didn’t come and two hours later, I drove home anyway. We reached at the Ashram at about the same time and we got to know the following: before our guest could find me, she was approached by a man who had maybe heard her asking others for our car to Vrindavan. He told her that ‘the Ashram’ car had broken down on the way and he had been sent instead to pick her up!

So this man drove her around Delhi for hours, then stopped at an ATM machine for her to get money out, as he insisted that she had to pay him, and only then drove her to Vrindavan, put her in a rickshaw there and then had her brought to our Ashram.

You can imagine how relieved our new friend was when she finally reached the Ashram. She had not thought of calling us to confirm the man’s story before she got into his car.

My reason for writing this blog post is not to make you afraid of coming to India. There are always good and bad people everywhere around the world. I want to make you aware however that these things can happen and to stay safe. Organize a pick-up or get a pre-paid taxi. Keep a phone number ready and don’t hesitate to ask others for a phone if you are in any doubt.

Can a positive Attitude save you from Food Poisoning? – 1 Nov 15

After yesterday’s delicious recipe, I would like to add another blog entry about food. Indian food, to say it more precisely. No, wait, food in India will be the better description. Food in general as well as the question whether you should eat it or not – due to health reasons.

These questions came from a conversation some of our guests had in the past week. One guest told that she would never eat outside on the road, thinking of the dusty situation of the streets and the quality and hygiene that these stalls can definitely not provide. Another guest argued that it was all a question of the mind, of the head. That you wouldn’t have any problem eating that food if you just had the right, positive attitude!

Oh well, you know, I am always in favour of a positive attitude. Without that, a lot of things don’t only seem worse than they are but really also get worse. I definitely believe that being positive helps you to stay in better health. If you are very negative, you are also easily afraid. By that, your system is in a constant state of stress. It takes up energy to keep it this way – which means that this same energy cannot go into strengthening your immune system. It will not be able to handle an attack as efficiently as it would normally do – and you get ill more easily. Additionally, due to your negative attitude, everything will appear much more horrible to you!

That is a very quick and compressed description of my general idea of positivity and health. There are however a few very big factors that are more important than your attitude: bacteria, germs, harmful chemicals and the like!

You cannot, just because of your positive attitude, eat poison and survive! I know some very positive people who still had to fight with bad diseases, not only food-related but in general! Again, a positive attitude will not keep you away from health problems!

Now if you are travelling in India and you ask me for my or our advice, I would say don’t eat out on the road. I don’t eat there myself because I take care of what I put into my belly and body. A lot of people who have been to our Ashram were very fine as long they ate here – but once they were travelling outside and decided to eat wherever they could find something, they fell ill.

Indian people can eat there because their bodies are used to this bacteria. They have been eating that from the beginning of their lives. This doesn’t mean that this bacteria is better for them – but you, coming from a western country with a stomach that has never seen such mean bacteria can fall ill!

A positive attitude is definitely the right thing to have. At the same time, please take care where you eat and what you eat. Go into restaurants instead of eating outside on the road. Don’t drink juices out on the road either, even if the fruit was whole and complete in front of your eyes – you don’t know with which water they were washed and what kind of bacteria is in the juicer which is being used there!

I don’t want to make anybody afraid but this is something you can read in every single guide book as well. Take care of your body please – even while staying positive!