I grew up in Switzerland, in a little village by a lake and with beautiful mountains in the background – snow-covered mountains.
I am the first child of two young artist parents. We live in this little Swiss village. We’re newcomers to this village where everybody else, or so it seems, has lived for hundreds of years. In rural Europe, villagers often do not trust people from the nearby villages because they are seen as “other” than them, so you can imagine how they welcome true “outsiders”.
The nature around this village is incredibly beautiful and it is a very safe environment on one level but it is also alienating on another level because we kind of don’t belong here. My grandfather, great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather weren’t born there…
Because of this feeling of alienation, I developed a strong connection to nature…. From a very young age, I began to communicate with nature and earth spirits. This eventually led me to have to fight for what I felt and forced me to have to stand straight in the face of a very Catholic culture; all my teachers were nuns. I had to kind of find my way through that. In an attempt to fit in I started to go to church. To the great dismay of the nuns, I was the only one in the family who went to church. My mom always said that the forest was her church. Slowly I began to be very drawn to the mysticism of it. The bones of a holy person were on display in a coffin-like glass box in the church and I would sit there and tune in into the spirit of that holy person.
My favorite church service took place outside the church building. We would go on these long walks towards the mountains to pray early in the morning, at 5 o’clock in the morning. There were different stations on the walk where there were statues of Mary or Jesus on the cross out in nature and we would pray to each of them on the way. Then we went to the river and prayed there too. The Catholic Church had lots of pagan aspects to it in my village, it was quite shamanic.
At that time, mass was sang in Latin and I didn’t understand a word of what they were saying. I thought they knew about God and could tell me things about God, and the fact they spoke in this language I didn’t understand added an aura of mystery to it and I created my own world within it. I thought they were saying secrets about God and all I had to do was break their code. Then, when I was about nine or 10, they changed the mass from Latin to German so that people could understand. It was one of my biggest disappointments. I finally understood what they were saying and my treasured secrets about God turned into German sentences that didn’t make that much sense to me. Soon after that I stopped going to mass.
When I was a young woman, I decided to go to London to study acting. I had been studying psychology at the University of Zurich. But after a while, I started to feel that I was not going to find out about the deeper psyche of us humans in the psychology program. At that time most of the focus was on how to determine illnesses of the mind not its potential.
I thought that if I became an actor – if I became a method actor – I could literally explore the nature of mind. My thought was that if I went really deeply into other people’s beings through playing their character, then I would understand what we were all about. That was the initial reason I wanted to be an actress, just to study the brain, study how we humans function, but then I got caught in this whole acting codec or whatever you want to call it. Slowly but surely I began to identify with the acting world and I began to believe that I acting was my destiny. I did not care about the brain anymore I just wanted to be a good actor, not only good but great. The problem was that I never thought I was good enough so instead of an exciting exploration it became a painful journey.
Seven Years with Osho
After my acting studies in London I was hired by a German theater. One of my main partners on stage was a woman who followed a guru named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, now known as Osho. I had seen other followers of that guru in London. They seemed a lot happier than I was but I never approached them. Even though I was secretly envying them I made myself think that they were poor people who were being duped by a guru. My German acting partner had lost her mala (necklace made of prayer beads and a picture of Bhagwan). Her biggest wish was to go to India and ask Bhagwan for a new mala, but she did not have enough money to go there. At Christmas I went back to Zurich to visit my father. We met at my favorite Italian restaurant and at the end of eating our delicious ravioli he gave me two big gold nuggets. “Here, this is your Christmas present.” he said. I remember looking at the gold and hearing it say to me loud and clear: “I am not for you I am for your friend in Germany.” I went home and wrapped the gold in tissue paper, put it in an envelope and sent it to my friend with an anonymous note: “have a good trip to India” Three days later she called me all I excited. She told me about the wondrous envelope she had received in the mail and that when she went to book the ticket to India it turned out that she had enough money for two tickets and she went ahead and bought a ticket for me also. I almost fainted. Two weeks later I arrived in Poona at Bhagwan’s ashram, very reluctantly to say the least. I meant to go there for three weeks but stayed almost two years. I ended up joining his theatre troupe – an international theatre troupe.
We would travel through India and perform Shakespeare. My acting dream come true! Performing in huge theaters with an international group in a foreign country. It was all very exciting.
Life was magical! We would arrive at a theatre in the morning and then I would go backstage and clean up the dirtiest toilet I had ever seen in my life because it was too dirty for any of us to use. I would clean the dirtiest toilet and then put on my costume and act in front of hundreds of people and then go and meet Indira Gandhi after the show and then attend an ambassadorial rooftop party. It was paradoxical, from cleaning the dirtiest toilet to meeting Indira Gandhi and the ambassador all in one day!
Then Bhagwan left India and moved to the United States. The lucky ones were able to follow him. I was one of them. We worked hard to build the city of our dreams in the hills of Oregon. But as the years went by I grew less and less enthusiastic. One day I looked back at my seven years with Bhagwan, remembered how I had joined his people to become enlightened and I realized, “Wow I’m not getting enlightened here. I went to India to get enlightened and I haven’t come any closer.” At least it seemed to me like that so I decided to leave the ashram…