March 2016, India. I found myself in a huge meditation hall, filled with pictures of a Guru on the walls. A Guru, whom I saw for the first time two months earlier on youtube. I had no idea what would happen within the next 21 days. No idea what to expect. A cult? A religion? Yoga? Truths about life? Healing? Or just manipulation?

What happened was: After a few days it felt like my brain started to rewire. Thought currents which were there before suddenly couldn’t connect anymore. As smoker we probably know how the mind works every day: I want a cigarette now. – But I had already two earlier today. – Actually, I wanted to stop smoking. – But Sunday, after going out on Saturday, I quit smoking. – I don’t want to feel stuck. – I am a free person and can do what I want! – I am smoking now. – Was that cigarette really necessary? Yes, I am talking about the thoughts that we daily repeat: What should I wear today? – I look fat in those clothes. – The colors are definitely too bright. – Jesus, what are the others going to think about that? I am talking about those thought currents. It was as if one thought would start, but the next one couldn‘t connect anymore. Those chains started breaking day by day.

Coming home after those 21 days was quite an experience. There was no thought of wanting a cigarette. No yearning for a glass of wine. I wanted to quit smoking for years. Fighting every week for it and against myself. The smell, the taste, this toxic substance on my lips, entering my mouth and lungs. All of it was suddenly gone. I felt free. I always considered doing what I want, smoking, was freedom. But I had to realise that real freedom was being free from those thought currents.

I was curious about the first time going out and not drinking alcohol. How would it be? What would my friends say? Friday night, I found myself in a night club in Vienna. On the dancefloor. I felt insecure. I realized how alcohol had made me feel self-confident. How on earth was that flirting-thing working? I thought that not a single word would come out of my mouth as an attractive man approached me. Even on the dancefloor, my body was like frozen. I was watching myself while all this happened. And right there, on the dancefloor, the DJ played one of my all-time favorite songs. I felt deep sympathy for myself. Oh, so that is the feeling when you really get to know yourself, I thought. I started accepting myself. I started to let go and my body starting moving. With every step on the dancefloor more self-doubt was released. It became pure joy, inhaling life in its essence and beauty.

I realised that I didn‘t have to give up going out and dancing until early morning just because I wasn‘t drinking anymore. I am still going to music festivals. I am still dancing till early morning and having fun conversations with my friends. I do not miss anything. I gained much more. Everytime I explore new insecurities about myself. I became more honest and aware with myself. I love the feeling of falling when I am dancing and going out. I am not judging anybody who is drinking alcohol or smoking. I am sharing my experience. I love how pure and clean my body feels. I love that my Yoga practise is not suffering by being drunk the night before. I love the space in my mind which is now filled with beautiful and life-encouraging thought currents. I am deeply grateful for this „Sankalpa“ (Sanskrit: strong commitment, words you give to yourself), which I gave to myself while I was sitting in that meditation hall in India. Out of self love and self respect.