Part 1 of 3
The dream had me flying over Paris: Nôtre Dame cathedral, the Seine River, Île de la Cité, its buildings, and parks. Afterward, I was a statue of the virgin inside the church; made of ceramic and unable to move, from where I stood I could see the entire layout of hundreds of seats on the floor of the church. Then, a phone rang. Somehow the phone was answered. It was God calling.
He said Everything will be all right.
After that, I could see my feet appearing between the folds of the white skirt I was wearing. My feet were made of gold. I was made of gold. And I was melting. A river of gold covered the floor, flowing all the way to the exit of the church.
Juan was by my side.
He had been my boyfriend for two years. He was trying to make a living as a musician but didn’t like to work much; he was lost. So was I, returning from spending three months in India and two weeks in Paris. Each thing that I had considered important before the trip was suddenly changing its meaning—home, work, relationships, my country, even my identity…
India broke my mind into a thousand pieces. It revealed the infinite space that can be found when the concepts that define you for a long time disappear. I could clearly see ideas and models learned during my formative years—delivered by the society in which I lived, by the education I had, by the medium in which I moved—as notions I had accepted without questioning, a mistake that confined my infinite soul into mental, emotional and spiritual spaces that now seemed mediocre.
India was about the connection to deeper layers of my Self.
Having waited two years to have a place to study at the school of my yoga guru, I had plenty of time to imagine how things would be once there. But imagination moves in spaces generated by a mixture of places and emotions known beforehand. What I actually experienced there was different, marking the start of the most incredible episode of my life until then—an episode I couldn’t have anticipated.
Buddhists say that having the opportunity to meet a guru in our lives is a symbol of good karma. Back then, I hadn’t thought much about the real meaning of karma, but to meet BKS Iyengar—guru of the method of yoga I had practiced for ten years—was a unique gift. As was seeing the surrounding madness.
On my first morning in the city of Pune, completely jetlagged after traveling for three days, I walked towards the yoga school to complete the paperwork to start my course.
Outside the door, I left my shoes with those of the other students who were taking the morning class and stepped into a corridor that ended in an open hall. My classmates at home in Chile had told me that my guru would be in China at this time. But when I looked up, I could see him sitting behind a table by himself, waiting for the class to finish.
I didn’t know what to do.
I walked forward and stopped at the entrance of the hall, putting my palms together in front of my chest and bowing my head in a sign of respect. Guruji smiled warmly.
What am I supposed to do? Should I walk closer and talk to him?
The yoga room above us was full of people from all over the world. Everyone wanted a piece of Guruji and his family. So did I.
The class ended and the pupils came downstairs. The moment they saw Guruji sitting at that table, they ran and knelt in front of him, touching his feet with one hand and their hearts with the other.
Oh, so that’s the way to show respect!
During the three months that I stayed there, seeing everyone bow down in front of Guruji’s feet never failed to impress me. Looking at it from the outside, however, I questioned whether this was a gesture of sincere respect or merely done because it was an inherited tradition. Even though I was truthfully grateful for Guruji’s life’s work and his constant inspiration, I had many prejudices about prostrating myself.
Can an action for which I don’t understand the true meaning be an honest one?
A few days before leaving India, at the end of a class, I knelt before Guruji. It was the first time I experienced how important it is to match our emotions with concrete actions.
Prostrate at his feet, I saw the layer within us that identifies entirely with our actions and everything that exists in the outside world. This layer behaves like a child that, whenever possible, restricts the expansion of our consciousness into unknown places. Even though it didn’t seem to mean much to him, for me to kneel in front of my guru’s feet allowed me to experience how there are actions that can educate our egos.
An ego I thought did not exist.
Inhabiting those places of reflection, I traveled to Paris to meet my friend Rachel, who was studying there for a Masters in Aesthetics, and also my mother, for what would be our first trip to Europe together.
If India showed me the adaptation of old traditions to modernity, Paris helped me discover attachment to the ruins of a glorious past, in a city that, despite its multiculturalism, seemed fearful of losing its identity.
I regret that culture shock and the inner turmoil brought from India narrowed my ability to enjoy that part of the trip. With my mother acting with unimagined and inspiring freedom, I would have liked it if her enthusiasm were contagious… Yes, we walked, we ate, we talked, and we danced, but my spirit was somewhere else. In a place that was hard to share.
Despite his good intentions, Juan couldn’t understand my state either. Once I was back in Chile, from the moment we met at the airport, we both knew it. He had waited for me for four months, a huge amount of time when young, being there whenever I needed him.
He would have done anything I asked him to do… So, I asked him for some time alone.
Life wasn’t the same: the joy I once felt living in the monster city that is Santiago wasn’t there anymore. The routine I used to love—to wake up, do my yoga practice, prepare my classes, eat breakfast, ride my bike to the yoga school, teach, spend time with Juan, friends, and family… none of it was the same.
I didn’t feel anxious, but I was becoming an observer of my life’s structure, perceiving subtleties I’d never seen before.
I wanted to have fun. Despite the love I felt for Juan, I let him go.
I needed freedom.
Around that time, I was taking an intensive two-week yoga course with Javier Montse, a Spanish yoga instructor who Guruji had charged with guiding the Chilean teacher-training process. I spent my afternoons surrounded by my classmates, most of them women I greatly admired. One afternoon, after breaking up with Juan, my friend Rosanna saw me sad and decided that the best thing to do was for us to go out salsa dancing.
Ro and Eloise, another classmate, picked me up that night and, together, we went to the Maestra Vida, a very touristy place in downtown Santiago.
While we were sitting, resting for a while, someone touched my shoulder and asked in English
Hi, could you please tell me what time it is?
 “-Ji” is a Punjabi/Hindi suffix used as a term of respect and honor.
© 2018 Alejandra Campos. All rights reserved.