“What is the purpose of life?”
This seemed too intellectual, too theoretical a question to ask myself for the first 33 years of my life. So, I went about doing the best I could- gathering the best ‘education’, ‘work experience’ and ‘skills’ that were possible. And life had been good to me! Not only had I quickly reached great heights in my professional life, I had also had the courage to get off the corporate conveyor belt and switch to the development sector. Yet, after 9-odd years of the switch, I was not fulfilled. This was deeply disturbing as I didn’t know what other options were left for me to explore – by now I had been an engineer, management consultant, COO and Trustee of a social enterprise and even experienced Yoga, spirituality, taken sabbaticals, travelled, and dipped my hands in a million things!
This was my context, as I entered the Mission Impossible Leaders Program. Having been through many top-class leadership and personal development programs and workshops, I was hesitant about adding any more skills to my palette for a while, and discussed my reservations with Manisha before applying for it. What really appealed to me about her vision of the program was the focus on looking inside, finding our own selves, our own dreams before deciding on how to manifest them in the external world.
Given my previous exposure to a lot of information and training, the workshop did not provide me new insights or knowledge. And that was exactly what made it so powerful. The single-minded focus throughout was on sensing, understanding, experiencing and THEN living our “selves”.
The tone was set from the get go – one of the exercises on Day 1 involved sharing very private details about myself with the cohort (strangers to me at that time) – “mistakes” I’ve made in life, my fallacies, my regrets, my shades of grey, things I would not want anyone else to know. At first, the exercise seemed contrived. I could think of a hundred reasons to skip it or to not do it earnestly – “How is this linked to my personal development? Why do I need to share with others, things that I’ve now resolved and “risen over”?” I guess we all had similar chatter in our heads, as we all played safe initially. Strangely, as I shared, I felt relieved of a load that I’d been carrying within for years. It became easier to share deeper, play tougher. There was no external pressure – this exercise was what we made of it – as only we knew what we carried within. I realised that my life will be what I make of it, how much I choose to go beyond my comfort zone. That releasing the pressure of judgement from others is truly liberating (after all, we’re all humans!), and allows me to accept myself for who I am – with all my strengths and weaknesses. And once I’m able to face (and love) myself, I will be able to carve out a future from a space of wholeness.
Another exercise around “enrollment” got us to make unreasonable requests from others – but to make these from a space of zero expectations, in fact with the hope of rejection. Instead of putting any form of indirect / emotional pressure that we normally put subconsciously (e.g. if we have to borrow money, we explain why we are in need of it), the challenge was to make the request by connecting simply as one human being to another. This too, was so unlike my training and experience – “If I had to make an unreasonable request, I must share all the reasons for it! Why make a request if I’m hoping for a rejection?” By this time I knew that I was going to be proven wrong as I went back to my room that night, to test out this idea in the real world, after having practiced with my cohort. Prior to the program, I had been trying (unsuccessfully) to get my brother to make very minor changes to his lifestyle, to attend more to his declining health. That night, releasing all expectations, I simply asked him if he was okay giving me 30 minutes every day, no questions asked. That’s all I asked him. No explanation. Almost certain of hearing a no. And in the same effortless flow that I asked him, he responded with just three words that left me astounded – “Sure. Why not?”. The more I repeated this activity – with family members, co-workers, strangers – the more struck I was by the sheer beauty of it. Bhagwad Gita refers to “Karma Yog” as working towards our goal without any attachment towards the fruits of our action. This was Karma Yog in the real world!
And then came the day when I found my purpose. I wish to not divulge more details about it, because it’s not information to be known, but an experience to be had. But one of the many realisations I have when I look back at that day, is that my purpose had been clear to me, deep inside, all along. Only, it had been covered by layers of conditioning, self-doubt, and giving too much importance to external situations and people. Peeling off all these layers was not an easy process. It invoked a range of emotions – sadness, anger, guilt, shame, fear. The process that Manisha and Sunil took us through in those 9 gruelling hours, the acknowledgement that my cohort gave me as I moved towards it, the tears that streamed down my face as I stumbled and picked myself up again each time – all brought me closer to finding it. And as I got closer to it, not only did it become clearer to me, but it also shone through to everyone around. The exact moment when I nailed it, we all got it. We all just knew it – the world was getting transformed, one person, one purpose at a time.
We started early morning, and worked late at night, to finish the challenging real-world assignments – but I loved every minute of it! In facing my darkest parts and shadows, I started finding safety, freedom and love for myself. In my tears, I started finding joy. In tracing back my entire life story, I started piecing together the jigsaw pieces of the puzzle of my life. A lot of churning was going on, but deep inside, there was a sense of coming home – home to myself. Having people around me who were going through a similar journey really helped too, as we were all in it together, helping ourselves and each other out. In all this, my mentors’ complementary energies played a big role in creating the container, the space that could hold the vast range of emerging emotions and paradoxes. And from this space of wholeness, the emergence of my purpose was a natural outcome – recognisable not just by me, but everyone around me.
I realised my deep belief that the potential to be the best we can be, is not external to us, but lies within us. And that my vision is for all fellow human beings to be in harmony and to reach their highest potential. I believe that by connecting with our inner self (or “Being”), we can re-discover our wholeness and can achieve internal harmony – with our body, our vital energies, our thoughts & emotions. This internal harmony will naturally reflect our relationships – with food, with people, with work, with success, and with the rhythms of nature.
Once we are in a state of harmony, most “modern” ailments (such as diabetes, hypertension, hormonal imbalances, arthritis, asthma, even cancer) will get reversed and unlock the body’s potential. My Mission Impossible Project aligned to this purpose is to create a strong, practical curriculum grounded in our ancient sciences of Yog and Ayurved, which can reverse ailments of the body, and move my fellow human beings from illness to wellness, from wellness to well-being, from well-being to being their true self, and ultimately becoming truly free to access the greatness inside.
Instead of trying to change my actions (my “doing”), I’m now striving to be connected with myself (my “being”). That shifts my “doing” in non-linear, disruptive, pathbreaking ways and gives me much more conviction and clarity of thought. Suddenly, I’m able to think “big” but without the usual trappings that come with scale – compromising quality, culture, values. I am moving away from “OR” to “AND”. That means I’m able to hold both together – the power of stillness and action, my personal and professional priorities, sadness and joy, scale and quality. A deeper relationship with myself has fostered depth in my relationships with my family members also – all of them are supporting my Mission Impossible project as co-owners! From helplessly reacting to external situations/people and driven by subconscious patterns, I’m moving to responding more consciously.
And as I’m shifting, so is the organisation I run with my husband – Swasth Foundation. Swasth has done a lot of “doing” in the last 8 years – providing high quality, affordable healthcare services by servicing 600,000+ patient visits through its one-stop-shop network of 25+ primary healthcare centres in Mumbai & Ahmedabad. But as we have been dwelling on Swasth’s being, we’ve realised that to truly meet our purpose of “Health For All”, we need to move the needle “from healthcare to health”. This has led to us launching Swasth Yog Institute – a wellness vertical within Swasth. We have now piloted a disease reversal program with 3 batches, covering 85+ participants. Using simple Yogic & Ayurvedic techniques, we have achieved a 60% reduction in symptoms through a 40-hour workshop intervention over a period of 6-weeks. This is only the beginning of a tough, but beautiful and fulfilling journey.
From being outcome-driven, I and Swasth are now purpose-driven. And when the purpose is in the driver’s seat, held by our Being, outcomes are bound to follow.
If you feel the call to know create real impact powerfully, then know more here.
We have a 4 day workshop in Delhi from the 9th – 12th of September 2017 and in the UK from 20th – 23rd of October 2017 which kickstarts the one year program.