Being in the world, but not of it!

This is a story that I tell usually at the end of the “Art of Living” programs that I facilitate and it lucidly illustrates the spiritual path.

One day, the king Akbar, asks his witty and clever minister, Birbal, to bring him someone who was “Here and not There”.

Not obeying the order would mean death.

Birbal thought deeply and brings a thief to the King and says “This thief lives here in this world and steals trying to grow his wealth Here. He has no concern for the other world. So he is fit to be one who qualifies for the one who is “Here and not There”.

Akbar, not to be outdone, then orders him to bring someone who is “There and not Here”.

Birbal, ponders and a while later brings an ascetic and tells Akbar: “Here is a person who is concerned only about the world beyond and has nothing to do with the world here. He qualifies for one who is “There and not Here”.

Impressed, Akbar now tells him to bring him someone who is “Neither Here nor There”. Birbal brings a beggar and tells the King that the beggar is neither Here nor There, because he is not participating in the world in any sense and has no concern for anything related to spiritual matters either.

Akbar, then asks Birbal if there is anyone in the world who is both Here and There?

Birbal, brings a simple household couple and says “The man and woman work in the world and tend to their family, but do everything in the world with God in their thoughts. Because they do the work of the world and allow their spiritual practices to carry them through both the good and the bad times, they are a man and woman who are both Here and There.”

Source: The Path of the Everyday Here by Lorna Catford.


Reshaping Corporate World through Spirituality.

As someone who facilitates the Art of Living Foundation’s Corporate programs, I am delighted to see this article in FT which talks about Why West’s largest companies are embracing Yoga, Meditation, Mindfulness and Eastern Spirituality. The article talks about employees in organizations such as General Mills, Target, Google, Aetna etc. using programs based on meditation etc. to transform the culture of their organization. I read the article and read it over and over again to find the experience of people exactly similar to what I have experienced over a decade of my practices.

Key benefits that the article highlights include:

  • Leadership: If you are fully present on the job, you will be more effective as a leader.
  • Better Decision Making
  • Improved Relationships.
  • Creates a Great Place to Work
  • Happy, Healthy, Engaged workforce
  • More emotionally resilient
  • Stability in Mind
  • Decreased Stress Levels
  • Increased Creativity, Compassion and Connection.
  • Reduces Healthcare costs etc.

Yesterday at my workplace, we had Utkarsh Rai, author of “101 Myths and Realities at Workplace” talking about his upcoming book and one of the points that he made was, that in today’s time, people have lost the ability to reflect and I thought that was a such a true statement, we are being compelled to search for answers quickly without deep reflection and I think that practices such as Yoga and Meditation help you gain that perspective.

It is a pity that most corporates in India still have a blinkered eye vision towards the practices of Yoga and Meditation and have rarely realized the impact such programs can have on their employees and consequently their organizations. But things are changing slowly and surely and articles such as these go a long way in making a difference.

Closer home, I stumbled upon a research paper that talks about the impact of Art of Living’s corporate program on the employees who underwent the program, the author writes:

The results reveal that their health, behaviour and relationship with the colleagues were improved after attending the programme. The study results suggest that such programme should be extended to other employees as well.The paper concludes that spiritual training programmes plays a vital role and it is useful in two dimensions namely individual and organization, as both are complimentary to each other.

Those who are interested in bringing the practices of Yoga and Meditation to their workforces can reach out to me at rajwaghray (a) gmail (d0t) com

And, on a lighter note, as far as I am concerned, I will make sure that I eat a bowl of Haagen-Dazs Ice Cream every time I encounter it. As one of my fellow Yoga teacher says, what is the point of doing yoga, if you can’t eat Ice-Cream (well he said Chocolate).

Finding Fulfillment at work

Srikumar Rao in a conversation in today’s DNA, (hat tip, Nimmy):

What is the secret to finding fulfillment at work?

The workplace has deteriorated with increasing competition. Due to globalization, executives stay up odd hours dealing with clients and colleagues in different timezones. Now if you are only in the job for money, you are bound to feel miserable.

More significantly, if you are looking for fulfillment, you won’t find it in the job. It comes from inside you. After you have recognized it inside, you actually derive meaning from the job. If you won’t discover a deeper purpose in life, you will suffer burnout.

He states exactly the same that Guruji says, see my post here, that is true satisfaction comes only from Sadhana and Seva.

and then touching on motivation versus inspiration, he says, people always ask,

“Does the boss care for me as a person?”

Very close to what we teach in the APEX program….currently facilitating the same for a group of mid management folks at a construction company in Bangalore and am loving it. We are having a blast!!

Facilitating the APEX Program

In the ashram currently, facilitating the APEX program to 35 leaders of a leading Telecom Infrastructure company from all over India – Jammu to Madurai and Ahmedabad to Guwahati and all over in-between. Inviting them to commence a leadership journey based on the principles of love and inspiration.

And I am enjoying every bit of it.

Meanwhile 650 people from all over the world are doing the Guru Pooja phase 2 program, so you can imagine the ambiance….the melodious chants of Guru Pooja in the air floating so very softly into “Buddha” – where I am conducting the Apex workshop.

Cross posted on my other blog: LoveandLeadership


Back from a wonderful course at Mundra, 60 kms from Bhuj, in Kutch District of Gujarat. Never in my wildest dreams could have I imagined that I would be travelling to remote corners of the country to teach the Art of Living Corporate Program. I continue to be amazed by the rich talent pool that our country has. The folks in small cities/towns also come to the course with a sense of openness, to learn, to imbibe and to take in as much as they can within a short span of time. One can feel the sense of ambition permeating all around.

The company (I don’t disclose the name of the Organizations, so please do not ask 🙂 ) which is in the stage of inception, opted for the Apex Program in order to build a sense of belongingness and bonding within the Organization. They are a start up with high energy, enthusiastic workforce that came in from different parts of India. The participants were a mix of Senior Leadership including their Managing Director, HR Head, Finance Controller, Plant Operations Head etc , mid management and also fresh new joinees. In fact the Organization had also flown in folks who were yet to join the organization, but were serving their notice period in previous organizations. Needless to say we all had a blast! The HR Head after the program came by and told me and Sunil (my co-faculty on the program): “We decided to have this program to cultivate a sense of team spirit within the organization, today I tell you we achieved much more than that in a relatively short span of time and I am certain that we will achieve the goals what we had set to do”. As a Art of Living trainer, we are used to getting fulsome praise and it doesn’t really surprise us anymore, but nevertheless the acknowledgement was so genuine and it came right from the heart and it really made us humble. This opportunity to reach out and touch people lives is a gift of grace!

After a year of teaching corporate courses, making several mistakes, at times coming out elated from sessions and at times absolutely dejected, learning from every situation, improvising myself, experimenting in my Part 1 programs, I am now really, really enjoying teaching the program. I go and sit to teach with a sense of ease and comfort that had so far eluded me . I think I have become more natural and also far more centered. And in two words – “it shows”. Earlier if someone had a bad body language in the class, it used to effect me and I used to direct all my energy at that individual. Now I come from a different space altogether and have learnt how to draw the person into the same space. Not for a second, am I claiming that I have become an expert, but my journey towards excellence has began and I am enjoying every bit of it.

And then last evening it was back to the Ashram to be in the presence of Guruji. For couple of days, maybe it was the outside food, the quality of my mediation was poor, last evening as I sat in the presence of Guruji, I closed my eyes only to open them at the same time that Guruji did. What a deep meditation! The Q&A was superb as well. Two answers that I really liked:

Q. Can we aspire for something higher like enlightenment at the age of twenty one?

Sri Sri: Definitely. You should aspire for enlightenment and enlightenment is unconditional happiness, unconditional love and a life in which you are in the driver’s seat. You must aspire for enlightenment. Right from when you recognize to aspire anything in life. Go to the highest first and all the good things will come along, you don’t have to make an effort for it.

When I say you don’t have to make an effort, I mean you don’t have to sit and worry about it. When you aspire for the highest, your action will be spontaneous and in the spontaneity you will see things have started falling into place.

Q. How do we gear up for enlightenment?

Sri Sri: Wanting it, itself is half done. The rest is a little discipline and you should know that you will get it. It will be given to you. That’s why you have the path, the guru. You will just get it. Shama jali hai tere liye, tujhko kuch nahi karna hai (The candle is lit for you, you don’t have to do anything). You don’t have to do anything just be hollow and empty from inside.

So come, let’s aspire for the highest and see where it takes us 🙂

The Sudarshan Kriya

Back today morning after conducting the Apex program for a small but a very sincere group of folks at Chennai and logged into my Google reader to catch up with the world and the first post I came across was this beautiful description of the Sudarshan Kriya given by Vikram Bhaiyya.

The Sudarshan Kriya itself is like a beautiful poem; its rhythms seem familiar yet esoteric, the experience sometimes excruciating but always enlightening, a feeling of being totally spent yet craving more. Its like listening to a wondrous dhrupad recital — the tones sometimes pinning you with their raw physicality, sometimes lulling you into meditation, sounding faintly familiar yet just out of reach, and always that sense of a higher power, a presence that seems to hover protectively close by.

And ah, how powerful our own breath is! It energises our body, calms our mind, soothes our emotions, and offers insights into our true nature. Is it too subtle? Do we sound too simplistic when we teach it? Perhaps. But one’s own experience always bears testimony to the efficacy of this premise.

Most humbling is the trust that people place in you as a teacher, going through every process and technique with unflagging enthusiasm, apparently sure that this is going to work. And most fulfilling is the glow, the peace on every face on the last day; they know that its impossible to describe what they have experienced, or what has touched their lives.

The course is also an introduction to meditation (“the best gift you can give yourself”) and to the experience of encountering a living, enlightened being, a true Master. That itself is worth the price of admission.

Actually, no, it’s priceless!