Spring blooms and lessons in empathy.

This April I flew to Long Beach, CA for a spiritual weekend with Sadhguru. I had been interested to go to one of his events, especially the one where he teaches you a life changing meditative technique, aptly called ‘Inner Engineering‘; but never quite had the ‘nudge’ to actually book my tickets and go. I am a skeptic after all, and India has a long standing history of pretend gurus who turn out to be sexual predators at their worst and unwise phonies at their best.

Here’s a photo that oddly enough I took in the taxi heading to the SJC airport on a Saturday morning in April (I think I was too sleepy and played dress up and took these photos to wake myself up (yes, I guess I am a bit weird ha ha ;):

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There is something different about Sadhguru. He hardly ever talks about God, and he doesn’t talk about religion at all (although I am quite sure he is Hindu). He takes up environmental initiatives, such as Rally for Rivers,Β a program to clean river pollution in some of the largest rivers of India, or the #beatplasticpollution initiative, which seeks to spread awareness globally about plastic pollution and for all of us to do our part in using one less piece of plastic in our daily lives, and to always recycle. (And, given my own passion for environmental initiatives, if you are reading this, can you vow to stop using one plastic thing that you use regularly – e.g. straws, plastic milk cans, bottled water bottles?)

Sadhguru talks about how peace is a low goal, let us aim for tremendous joy. He is urging young people to ‘change the world’. He’s had his own family, life and wife, and a very full, enlightened one at that. He is very well educated and intelligent. He is also cool in a way that only one other person is cool – Barack Obama. He’s an excellent speaker, has the magical, soothing voice, he’s naturally funny and will even crack slightly inappropriate jokes in the most spiritual of settings, and most of all, there is something genuine and happy about him, that makes you believe he know’s exactly what he is talking about.

Of course, the fact that he is an avid motorcycle enthusiast and has led cross country motorcycle trips across India in his younger days before he became spiritually enlightened, and knows all the parts inside a motorcyle and can fix one in his sleep, just adds to the cool factor πŸ™‚ He is also empathetic to the point of feeling the emotions of the audience and crying with them, laughing and dancing with them.

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Back to my trip and what we did, my cousin who lives in Mexico had booked our tickets as a group; for her, me, and my aunt and uncle to go together. It could be a spiritual experience and a family reunion all rolled into one, we figured.

I got to my gate at San Jose International Airport, waiting for boarding, and looked around. One guy caught my eye. He was pretty, with blue eyes, a nice smile, the cap turned back, and laid back in a way that confirmed he was from SoCal. We get in the plane, and I am in the front row, middle seat, a bit annoyed at myself for not checking in the flight the night before and picking my seat. Then, turns out, Mr. SoCal has the seat next to me ha ha πŸ™‚ Turned out he was a young technician at Tesla, who lived in LA but was visiting the Tesla factory/facility in the bay area. Needless to say, the flight was spent talking about cars, and also discussing the SpaceX rocket launch and high efficiency landing, so unlike traditional NASA rocket landings.

The car ride to the airbnb apartment complex was not long. It was great to see my cousin and my aunt and uncle, who still looked tired from their journey from India just 2 days ago. On Saturday morning, we managed to squeeze in a wonderful brunch (who does not love a yummy avocado toast!) before heading to the Long Beach Convention Center.

The brunch place took a while and so we were actually running to the venue and get through the doors to make it there on time or at least sort of on time.Β It was a slow start. Mostly asanas. I looked around – the hall was packed with over 3000 people, including Indians, African Americans, Caucasians, South Americans, you name it. The diversity was pretty mind boggling and inspiring. And then in the afternoon we finally got to see/meet Sadhguru himself! It was totally unexpected how fast the time went by when he talked; it was like sitting in the local sunnyvale comedy club with a really great comedian, teaching life lessons through his perfectly punch-lined jokes, and replace the drinks in the comedy club with Yoga and a meditative presence πŸ˜‰

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Then, the serious meditation and breathing technique started. We were made to practice it many times, with Sadhguru, with other instructors, while volunteers walked around to help and correct us. It is a 21 minute practice which is to be practiced twice a day for 40 days, the idea I think is if you do anything for 40 days it becomes a habit.

I had always seen pictures and videos of people who meditated with their Guru or just experienced the presence of a Guru and had a life-transforming moment, where they were suddenly trembling with joy or fear or awe, or had tears streaming down their cheeks for no good reason. I always thought such a transformative experience might be quite wonderful however I very much doubted that I would ever have such an experience in my life. Well, 21 minutes into the Shambhavi Kriya (this is the yoga, breathing and meditation technique I was referencing earlier), and when we were finally asked to open our eyes I could already hear my cousin sobbing in front of me (I couldn’t see her since I was sitting behind her), and before I knew it I had tears down my eyes, and my cousin and I just hugged and cried for a while.

After the upheaval, I had an epiphany. A thought emerged – What if you let go of all the negative events that happened in your life ? What if you believe, that your son was given to you as a magnificent gift from God in a similar way that the “Devi-s” in ancient Hindu scriptures were gifted a child from the Gods, and literally would find the baby at the bank of a river, and would take him home with love and joy to raise him? Would you then have any sadness, fear, or regrets? All you would have, is gratitude and joy.

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One voice spoke to me, loud and clear – and it said, simply, – your life begins today. Start here. Right now. With what you got. Know that you definitely, and certainly deserve better. Believe in your future, as a woman, and as a family. As Sadhguru said, why would you assume that your future will be the same as your past? This is the most stupid mistake an intelligent person could make. Anything that never happened in your past, for example, getting promoted to a crazy high position and salary range, or meeting the man of your dreams and settling down with him, could totally happen in the future. And, just because your past has some thorns that you did not sow, does not mean your future will have those thorns too. As Sadhguru often says, un-clutter your mind, and anything you wish shall happen.

Sadhguru then walked on the runway like platform so all of us could get a bit closer and catch a glimpse of him, and many who were much taller than me rushed to join hands with him. While I could not join hands with him I could still feel his presence, and the tears streaming on his face told me that he felt our collective pain and this was in a way a cleanse of all of that collective pain of over 3000 people, that Sadhguru had washed away that day. The empathy on his face and his eyes and joined hands was quite evident, and I felt privileged to be there as part of that group, experiencing all of this.

The next day morning we started at 6 am, did yogasanas in the morning, practices the meditation and chanting some, and then around 3 there was a break for lunch, which was healthy, light and delicious. After lunch, we were joined back by Sadhguru again and learned some more things, and practiced the same 21 minute practice in his presence around 6 pm (there need to be gaps between the time you eat food and the time you do this spiritual practice, hence time is quite important here). Sadhguru had warned us to not eat too much and eat just enough such that we would be hungry again by 6:30 or so and ready to do the practice one last time. This time I did not experience the same sense of emotional upheaval that I felt the previous day, even my cousin was much calmer. Perhaps because we had already shed some of our burden the previous day, we felt lighter and more joyful the next day.

Overall, I came back from this experience quite transformed and am eager to go to Tennesse at some point to visit the ashram/facility and attend a program with Sadhguru there. I am proud to say I have continued the 21 minute practice every morning since then, aside from the day or two here and there that I have missed. You are supposed to do it twice a day, however I have not yet been able to incorporate the evening practice into my busy life, but I am working on it.

It was a bit difficult to share this cathartic and deeply personal experience on this blog, but I hope you enjoyed reading about it. And, I hope your life journey lets you have some of these experiences too.

I will end with my favorite, live, Sadhguru quote from the session in Long Beach – ” If you are not out of your shell, you are just a nut ” πŸ™‚

Mahalo,

Pri.

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