Birgit Köhl

After finishing my Grammar School studies at the age of nineteen, I moved out of my parents’ house and lfet Villingen, a small town in the Black Forest, to study in Freiburg. After a short time I stopped and went to France for a work experience of seven months in a catholic community, working with mentally handicapped adults. 

After that I started my formation as a speech therapist in Freiburg, where I heard Indian classical music for the first time in my life. It touched me deeply and I knew from this moment on that I wanted to go to India. I felt a deep longing for something else.

At that time, you could find an astonishing number of disciples of different Indian spiritual masters in Freiburg. Together with my friend we went to different places to sing Bhajans, to listen to talks about different masters, to attend Aratis and meditations.

We got to know a German couple who were disciples of Ananda Mai Ma. They had met her in India and lived with her for quite sometime as her disciples. Back in Germany they started living in a farmhouse in the Black Forest like a Brahmin family. There my friend and I got introduced to a mantra meditation, took pat in Aratis, and felt the atmosphere of India. Together we also went on long hitchhiking tours. On one of these occasions we came to a community of Tibetan Buddhism in the middle of France. All these experiences made my wish for a spiritual path become stronger.

Soon after, I met Thomas in a workshop about Sri Aurobindo and Mahatma Gandhi. Through the connection with him I came into touch with Sri Aurobindo and the Mother and in 1986 I flew for the first time to India, where I visited four different ashrams in seven weeks. the first one was the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry, including a trip to Auroville. In the following years I returned to Pondicherry and Auroville again and again. during one stay I met Martin Littlewood in the Centre Guest House. Later, in 1996, I took unpaid leave and went to Auroville for a six month volunteer service, which was a very rich and interesting experience. The longest and most touching part was my work at LEC, where I taught English to a class of mainly village girls around the age of fourteen to seventeen.

After I had made the contact with Martin, Thomas and I attended first an international AVI meeting, then we got into touch with AVI Germany. Our first common activity was to organize regional AVI Germany meetings in the Sourth, complementary to the annual AVI Germany meeting, which went on for a number of years. Slowly we also become more involved in other activities of our association. Since 2007 I have been actively involved in the organizational work of the “welt-wärts” project of AVI Germany, a Government-funded project to send young volunteers abroad, in our case to village-related Auroville projects with developmental impact.

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