Six months have passed since the time I have taken a break from my job to do seva full time with the Art of Living Foundation. There is a lot of curiosity amongst my friends, ex-colleagues, neighbours, my local Art of Living Sangha, relatives and as well as Meena’s friends too about the sabbatical and how things are going with me.
When I had resigned from my previous job a lot of my ex-colleagues had expressed that they too want to take a sabbatical and do something for the society, but couldn’t because of <you_can_insert_any_excuse_or_reason_here> Most of my conversations with ex-collegaues and friends are around the sabbatical. So I thought maybe I should have a post talking about my experience out here and it coincides well with the midway check point.
I can understand the curiosity. It is but natural. I personally do not know anyone within my circle of colleagues and friends who have taken a sabbatical to pursue their dreams and so I can imagine the curiosity and the questions that follow. Probably if I was in their shoes I too would have been asking the same questions.
I will not be able to cover everything that I wanted to write in one post and will divide things up and write maybe a short series of posts relating to the sabbatical and my experiences.
Reflection: This post also coincides with the year end. For the last 15 years or so, I have ritualistically taken time out to reflect on how the past year went by and what would be my plans for the upcoming year and to reflect on where my life is heading. Not to forget buying a new diary every year, if I didn’t get one as a gift 🙂 This past year, I have started destroying some of my old diaries – and when I look back at the goals that I had set then, they look so meaningless today; the challenges that I thought would have been unsurmountable, look kiddish. Life as we all know, doesn’t work out of a script. However much one plans, there is always, always going to be a twist. That’s why someone rightly said “career planning is an oxymoron”.
Now all through these years the typical year end questions I would end up asking would be – If I was doing well at work? What technologies/tools have I learnt that would help my career progress? Where is my career headed to? Would I move up the ladder? What did I learn and what mistakes did I commit? What skills would I need to add? Have I handled my team well? Did I let them down? Where do I improve? and so on and so forth. Most of them related to job, work, skills and career. Life pretty much revolved round work and no wonder that the questions too were from the same space.
Last evening as I sat thinking about how the past 12 months have passed, my attention was on the past 6 months. At this point in life, these 6 months matter a lot, much more than the preceding 6 months and I have been thinking as to what questions should I be asking of me today in order to review the last 6 months! So questions relating to job/career do not apply and suddenly I am left with a big void in the place where I used to have a hundred questions that I have regularly thought about and answered in the past years. The Career Guides, the “What color is your parachute?” and reams of books and articles on career guidance etc. suddenly don’t appear to have questions that could be relevant.
This time I am spending now, was a dream, a pursuit that I and Meena had planned for well over 2 years. Not a knee jerk reaction. Meena and I have been fortunate to have experienced the Grace and the wisdom of Guruji and it did touch us deep inside somewhere and have transformed our lives forever. All I wanted to do was to take some time out to spread the light of knowledge and wisdom and bring as many people as possible to this beautiful path!
I recall Guruji saying “Go free and spread light. The world needs you. You are here for a purpose; each one of you is on a big mission to bring the age old traditional knowledge, wisdom and light to the world” and as recently as in the Teachers meeting in September, he reiterated “Go home….spread the joy and peace” and that’s all I wanted to do.
When I had met Guruji before starting off on the sabatical, all he said was “Haan, come!”
So, that is a big difference from a normal 9-6 job, no KPA, no KRAs, growth is measured not in terms of how much you have contributed, but in terms of how much have you grown as an individual? How much responsibility have you taken? Given this, all the traditional management metrics go straight out of the window. The 90-day metrics plan doesn’t work either! So have been thinking and thinking whether I should be doing this exercise at all or not and how do I measure myself? Against what yardstick? Yes, I can measure the number of courses I have taught, number of people reached, etc. but then these are meaningless measures. If I ask myself a wrong question, it is only but natural to get a wrong answer.
And then it stuck to me, the questions that I ought to be asking myself are:
a) If I have touched peoples lives and have made a difference in their lives?
b) Have I grown on this spiritual path?
Touching peoples lives: For me, these 6 months have been a truly enriching and rewarding experience in more ways than I could have imagined and I am so very thankful of being able to do this.
I definitely think that I have contributed my bit towards making a difference in others lives – teaching and assisting several courses, taking introductory talks, working on Bihar Flood Relief etc. The feedback from the courses is instantaneous and thats what I love about teaching. You can see the results for yourself. You know it instantly when you connect with the audience and when you have lost them. But the Art of Living courses are so very different. Apart from the teaching, there is something else at work – Grace! One of my first course participant was having a tough time with depression and panic attack episodes. It was with great difficulty that she was even able to come to the class…she had to be dependent on someone dropping her to the class…and she had panic attacks twice in the class as well…..towards the end of the course she seem to be much more relaxed and the stresses seemed to have dropped away ….and a few months down the line I hear that she is perfectly fine and back at job! I have several such instances…..just today morning one of the course participant was sharing his trauma of having lost both his parents in a short span of time earlier this year and how much relief he felt after doing the Sudershan Kriya….I listen to many such incredible experiences with hardly an expression, except a smile, on my face, but deep inside, I am dancing with joy, I know that they have been touched by Grace and all I am, is but, just an instrument for the Grace to flow.
I have just started on this path and have had the privilege of bringing this knowledge to maybe a few hundred – and that is not even a drop in the ocean – there are millions and millions out there who need this knowledge and probably have not even heard about it.
I look at Guruji for inspiration- for being such a wonderful teacher and setting an example for the rest of us by walking the talk. He works tirelessly for 18 hours and more a day, no sundays, no holidays and no breaks. He travels like no one else does. Just look at his travel schedule, he was in Paris the other day addressing the Rabbis and Imams, from there onto Jordan and then 3 days in Iraq. All to spread the human values, peace and taking the message of “One World Family” to nook and corners of the world and then I look at the above question – Have I made a difference? – and the answer comes back with a resouding NO! How can I even think that I have made a difference? So much more remains to be done. So many more people to touch and so many more miles to traverse!
This is a life long journey for me. The sabbatical just an excuse to do it full time till the time I could afford to do it. Three birthdays back, I had told Guruji, that “let my life be His message” and today I am privileged and delighted to be living it!
Up next: About Growing on this path and then all other FAQs relating to sabbatical!