Personal Experiences

Johanna: It’s never too late for a new beginning

Question: Johanna, you and your husband Walter are at present in the community. How does it feel living in Divinya?

For us it is a present from heaven that we can be here! Living here, that’s a new beginning.

What is so wonderful for me here is that I can participate! I am never bored. I help in the kitchen, I prepare the salads and the vegetables for the cooking. In the afternoons I do sewing, I also help with the ironing of the laundry. It is nice to be useful. I am pleased that I can help with something I know. I have even already helped in the construction! I found it funny, I liked it. I think you can do everything at any age, if you do it carefully. And people laugh a lot! There is a freedom here.


Question: When you were young you and Walter lived and worked for several years in the hospital of Albert Schweitzer in Lambaréné in Central Africa. How does your life in Divinya compare to the life you had there? Are there any similarities in what you learned from Albert Schweitzer and what you are learning now here at Divinya?

The non-religious spirituality here in Divinya, that for me is so fine, so good. This is a similarity I see with Albert Schweitzer. He never asked which church you belonged to. I never knew about the others. But for him Jesus was very important and he followed Jesus without the church, just the love, and the love for the person next to you. He taught me that even if they have Leprosy you treat them exactly the same as the others. You have to love them like the others. He also loved the animals and plants. ‘The reverence for life’ – that was his big sentence. For all life; not to destroy life, but to bring it up to a higher level. This is all very similar here.

Another similarity is that the people in Lambaréné were also very devoted. Devotion came not because of money, but it was love. We didn’t receive any money there. Money is not important for us at all. It is the pleasure to do something useful. And this is also why we feel so at home here, both of us.

Question: What new things are you learning here?

There are so many new things to learn for me here, and that is what makes it so fantastic! It brings you alive! There is still room in my head. I still want to learn! I always had that. Of course now we are older and that makes some things a bit more difficult. For instance, the songs – I need the song book, I cannot remember them anymore by heart. Also the Satsangs – I just can’t get everything anymore. But whatever I understand, even if it’s only one or two sentences, I take notes and that is important to me. I have to think about it a lot; I get it in my mind; and when I go for a walk, I try to transfer it and I ask myself: “How can I do it in practice?”

For example, one thing I want to learn very much is what Guruji says about negative thoughts: “Don’t let them come up. Transform them into a positive way of thinking”. Every time it happens to me, I think of it and I try. That’s the new way of learning I have here. I didn’t have that so much before. Before, when negative thoughts came, they were turning around in my head for days, or at night they came suddenly and then I couldn’t sleep. Now, when negative thoughts, especially related to my childhood, are coming, I think: “Do I have to react?” Guruji says “When people hurt you, don’t give back.” In early years, I reacted easily, I had a lot of fire, I got angry, not outside, but inside. That is also the reason why I left Holland. There was a family reason which had to do with my father. And now Guruji taught me, “Be thankful to your father.” And suddenly, for the first time in my life I can say, “If I hadn’t had this father, I wouldn’t have left Holland, I wouldn’t have gone to South Africa, I wouldn’t have worked as a midwife in Africa, I wouldn’t have met Walter. Thank you, father!” For the first time somebody told me I had to be thankful. If I wouldn’t have left Holland, then I would still be in that small family clan, where you have to work and go to church and things like that. And I liberated myself, and I thought, “I am going to find the God for me and not the God that I was told about.” That was my way.

Everything is perfect. And nowhere I would have the possibility to learn more. To learn also more about myself. I never had time to think about “who is me?” Now more and more I think about it. There are so many beautiful things still to learn! Yesterday for example Guruji shared about a person who left her body, and was in her last breath singing a song. I thought that’s so beautiful! I have lived my life, so I am not afraid to go, but there is still so much I can learn.