Ibiza interview: Ilona Pantel-Ayal, Buddha House

Photography by Eli Zuta

After watching Barbet Schroeder’s iconic Ibiza film More in 1972, Ilona Pantel-Ayaal had only one island on her mind. Ibiza was calling the 16-year old German schoolgirl, so in the late ’70s she enrolled in studies in Barcelona and once holiday time arrived, she hopped on the first boat to the white isle… and has called it home ever since. Today, she is a trained psychologist and doctoral approved fasting guide, running a variety of retreats within her own beautifully created haven of Buddha House here in Ibiza.What was it like, arriving in Ibiza in 1979?
When that old ferry docked in Ibiza harbour, I knew I was home, it was amazing. People came here to drop out of society – I came to look for something else, I wanted to be away from the pressure of the materialistic world. The houses had no electricity, no running water, you could leave your house open and come home to find friends sitting on your porch drinking cups of tea, there were no telephones, the roads were small and even the cars were small. The locals all wanted to move into the city, and they probably wondered what us wacky ‘peluts’ (Spanish for long haired hippies) were thinking!

So you’ve seen a lot of change – how do you feel about it?
Obviously it’s still wonderful. 30 years later, the planet is three times as full of people and they have to live somewhere! Things move and I’m happy. You have to be flexible and can’t cry about what it was like then. I was there for that time; I went through the party stages with drums out in nature, which developed slowly into trance. I’ve met thousands of people from all different places on the planet – I could go anywhere right now and meet somebody, connected to this island. It’s a very cosmopolitan place. I always come back here, even when I’ve lived in other places for a few years, I always return.

Tell us a bit about your background and studies?
I got bored with traditional psychology – I have a master’s degree, but I found it very limiting. I was doing workshops in America to try and find something else to study, I did hypnotherapy and past life regressions, which are fantastic, whether you believe it or not doesn’t matter, it’s an amazing way to look at things in a different way. Then I had my son and gained so much weight you wouldn’t believe it! I found a book in Germany about fasting, written by a psychologist and a doctor, and they had a great method (some parts of which I still use to this day). Basically I stumbled across fasting for the wrong reason, I didn’t want to cleanse myself, just lose weight, but I did it for a week and I could see the benefits and feel another energy there and I realised I could use the experience combined with knowledge I have as a therapist to help people.

Why do you think Ibiza attracts the wellness community?
It’s a very strong island. Here you can dig really deep and transform the roots of things. There’s a lot of light, but also a lot of dark. It’s intense either way. It’s also a pirate island, we live and let live but have to be careful as it has a special, wild energy that can be very positive and very negative. I’ve always been a helper, a catalyst to facilitate a change in people and when I did my training and came to Ibiza, people were laughing at me, thinking they were totally enlightened but now, there are so many therapists and the commercialization of healing is almost nonsense. I love helping people achieve something they really want to do. The feeling is invigorating.

Is it easy to lead a balanced life here?
It needs a lot of consciousness. You need to be aware. When you make the decision that you really want something, then things will just happen in your life that lead you to your intention being fulfilled. It can be complicated at times but I think it’s possible.

This interview was published on September 22, 2010