Part 1 of a remarkable life story from The Netherlands
This life began in January 1947, in Bilthoven, a village near Utrecht in The Netherlands. I was the second daughter of a hard-working couple; I guess they expected me to be a boy as their firstborn was a girl. Nevertheless, I inherited a certain toughness, a passion to climb and be adventurous; to be a tomboy helped me quite often in life.
I was surrounded by animals – we had dogs, a cat, chickens and a mean cockerel that even attacked me one day. We also had doves, rabbits and a huge garden. I was a kid made for the outdoors. Probably because housekeeping was a strict law unto itself, my mum had her hands full with cleaning the house, and keeping us kids spotless. We had a flower shop in our house and my dad worked for Queen Juliana in the garden of Soestdijk Palace, so there was hardly any time for the kids. I cannot say that I had problems with that; I liked to be alone.
Even when I was still very young, I was thinking about God.When I looked at the stars from my window in a dark night, I felt my home was there. That impression stayed with me while I was educated at home and at school with Calvinistic principles, obeisance and humility towards people older and wiser than a little girl. I asked my dad once what life in heaven would be like. He said, “Something like always singing your heart out towards God.” It seemed very boring to me and I said, “I will not do that, playing on my harp and singing before the throne for eternity!” I was bold then and still am…
Going to school was such joy for me. I felt happy with all the things I learned about, the gloomy energy of too much God and too little normality disappeared from my child’s mind and I was an inquisitive pupil, a character line that also shaped my life… I had four sisters, and of course there was some nagging but also hilarious moments with so many people always present in the house. I appeared to be a clown and took it upon me to lift the depressing layer that was always tangible at home.
As I said, my dad was a gardener at Soestdijk Palace where four princesses lived and we were a kind of shadow of those girls. It brought romance and glamour to the atmosphere at home and we wore the white socks and the beautiful hair bows like the princesses did. They were actually the princesses’ socks and bows because my father received them from the staff at the Palace. So it was quite something as a little girl to step into the socks of a little princess. My mother ironed the bows on the stove, I remember.
In secondary school, a Dutch type of High School, I happened to have a great yet difficult teacher in Biology, who really taught me to think and immerse myself in any subject of investigation, for example the gathering of all types of leaves in my surroundings. I truly enjoyed learning and growing by developing new thoughts. For 16 hours a week I had language lessons in Dutch, French, German and English.
I came in contact with the basic concept of the origin of species by Darwin – thirteen years old and thinking along the lines of the Darwin principles! I enjoyed it, but could not share my ideas with my parents as they were very bible oriented. So at a very young age I learned to stand by me in the development of my thoughts that set me free of the rather depressing ideas about being alive and human. I had friends and girlfriends and took part in many parties; I had an incredible youth and enjoyed great social feelings towards others.
I married very young – he was my first real lover. We didn’t match very well but started off on a life of our own – we often travelled through France and expanded our wings, and our firstborn son arrived fairly soon. However, we suffered a terrible shock when this little baby could not cope with life and left us after 5 days. It was a trial, although I felt very certain that he would always be with me.
A few years later I gave birth to my second son and experienced the tremendous change that motherhood brings physically and psychologically. It made me grow in self-trust and after having another son and daughter, I felt so blessed with them all. But the strains, lack of rest and loss of my first born fired back and I had a breakdown, which after some time appeared to be a breakthrough to my inner core and a totally new life in the spirit. I had a hell of a time but I found a home in anthroposophy, where – with the help of therapy given by a capable psychiatrist – I climbed out of the dark.
Because of so many changes my marriage was not the bond we were supposed to have, but there was a kind of light on the horizon to try and bring our energies into areas that were more constructive. After years we arrived at a state of being able to look back with understanding and contentment. Because my husband often had to be away for business, or played music in bands, I was alone with my kids most of the time. I remember really caring and feeling responsible for our family, full of worth and joy with my children.
I discovered the field of archaeology which set my heart afire with enthusiasm. I joined a group of people who were all on the same search for happiness. We lived as a group really interested in archaeology and happened to find an urn of the Beaker Folks in a burial mound at Lage Vuursche, from about 1,700 BC which was unbroken and contained cremation remains. I remember the tremendous joy of finding this, just the same when I found in Germany on the Lueneburger Heide a flint artefact of the Ahrensburg culture, from approx. 13,000 years B.C.!
In my free time I studied languages, religions, the arts, art history, archaeology, anthroposophy, education, and painting. I started to paint as a daily habit; on my easel in the dining room there was always a painting in statu nascendi. I used watercolours to express my insights or to present a certain message, mostly deriving from events in the world and my answer towards that. I just painted for the sheer joy of it. I received a few lessons in watercolours by two professionals, mainly in the light of an anthroposophic approach to the world; both were experienced in watercolours and modelling. So I am a self-taught artist. I did have the qualities needed for such a disciplined building up of skills. My natural attitude towards Spirit helped me to develop a certain balance in taking in and reaching out to others. It became clear that I wanted to grow in my search for new insights and new feelings that would not only help me but others too.
When I read the works of Rudolph Steiner I felt recognized for the experiences I had had that were strange for the normal way of life-thought. I stayed for 7 years in the anthroposophic mindset and really enjoyed the resurrection of the ‘mystica’ in me. I lived with the seasons in my family, celebrated each season with meditations, singing and doing readings together, sometimes with a whole class of kids. My children were educated at the Rudolph Steiner School. I enjoyed those years; there was a living contact with the arts and a continuous learning and expanding in the spiritual world.
After 17 years my marriage ended in divorce even though we had prepared in therapy groups to divorce as friends. But the reality is hard when you step out and it was a tough time for all of us. My eldest son wanted to stay with his dad and the youngest kids would be with me.
I happened to have a well-to-do friend who helped me find a place to stay. She had a beautiful 200 year-old villa on the outskirts of Baarn. There we could stay for a while and only had to pay for electricity. My youngest kids had the time of their life there, with a huge garden and tall trees to climb. The house itself looked like a kind of Harry Potter house with high ceilings, and each evening we had to close the shutters of the tall windows, 16 in all! It became a kind of ritual before the kids went to sleep.
There were creepy sounds and doors that were quite solid would all of a sudden flare open and we heard footsteps on the staircases. There was a huge garret where the servants of the former house owners had slept in very small rooms. There was old stored clothing, strange sounds and the feeling that ghosts lived there. In those 200 years probably a lot of nasty things had happened. One evening I was already in bed when the door of my room suddenly opened: my hair stood upright and I prayed loudly to The Holy Father… The kitchen was 5 x 6 meters and had stone floors along with the halls and corridors. The kids skated through the house and as the kitchen was warm, we had the rabbits staying there, which usually had to be in their rabbit-hutch outside in the cold.
We lived there for about 6 weeks when I read a book by Amrito (Jan Foudraine). It moved me so much that I wrote a letter to him about my life and situation and in one day I changed all my clothes into red ones. I continued meditating as I had done before but with a totally new feeling. I met the first sannyasins who told me more about Osho. It was a jump towards a more universal feeling of belonging to the Whole. Soon I moved into a relationship with Alok Gayaka. We lived together on and off for six years.
My ex-husband and my eldest son agreed to be rejoined with my two youngest kids. They lived together with their dad in a safe house that breathed warmth and spirit. Although my heart was bleeding, I had to trust this was the best way. I was told that I was egoistic, but an unhappy marriage is not okay for children to be caught in. I was in transition towards another sense of being and loving; on the wall of my bedroom I had a large photo of Osho in his Rolls and a huge queue of sannyasins in Oregon.
I felt already part of these people. In the years to come I came in contact with Gopika, Sonal, Deva Ghita and Baseera (Chetan), Urdhya, Amrito, Chaitanya, Nandano, Madav, Premdas, Kiran, Prem Els, Avigan, Deva Hannah, Rashmi, Prant, Prak, Abhivandan, Ghata, Johannes, Margriet, Nandan, Sarjano, Frank and many others. I greatly enjoyed the international merits of Osho’s teachings.
Text by Archan, edited by Bhagawati