Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pooja Tolani, Teacher Art of Living

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Graduate in Sociology, Diploma in Marketing and Advertising

I was born in 1979 in Shillong, a small town tucked away in the hills of the state of Meghalaya, India. I completed my schooling from Jamnabai Narsee School in Mumbai and then moved on to the prestigious St. Xaviers College for my graduation in Sociology. In order to chase my dreams of a high career in Advertising I obtained my diploma in Marketing and Advertising from SNDT College, Mumbai. For over 10 years now I've been a full time Art of Living instructor. I now along with my husband Bhavesh who is also a full time Art of Living teacher, travel to various different parts of the world.

The beauty that the Art of Living added to my life

I met Sri Sri Ravi Shankar( Guruji) soon after I had completed my first Art of Living course in the Summer of 1999. Attending this course had not been a personal choice but more as a result of emotional blackmail from my mother. And yet if there is one thing I am thankful to my mother for forcing upon me, it is the Art of Living Course and more so for dragging me to meet a “Guru” as she had said. I remember at that time I had a skill of doing exactly the opposite of what my mother wanted. And yet this was one occasion when I felt all my skill was falling short. I couldn’t wiggle my way out of meeting Guruji and now when I think back I remember that there was something in me, like a little voice telling me how I just had to go. Whether it was curiosity or my calling I don’t know. But I went, having no idea what to expect or no notion of how my life was never going to be the same! The one thing that Guruji told me upon meeting me was, “become a teacher and make people’s lives blossom”. The experience was so intense that I immediately went to Bangalore ashram of the Art of Living to do an advanced meditation course and soon the Teacher’s Training Course. By 2001, I was a full time Art of Living teacher, a best friend to my mother, the most loving sister and over all a better human being.

Challenges encountered in helping youth in North East India

An uncertain transition from the young and careless campus of St. Xavier’s College to the challenging terrains of the North East India, isn’t the best career step a 20-year old would take. But I rejoiced in it and found the purpose of my life. That was the kind of inspiration I had gained from Guruji’s unconditional love and selfless service to the world. I acquired a habit of venturing into challenging places of the North East of India to teach people the precious art of living. Be it dealing with misguided youth in Nagaland or helping drug dependants in Meghalaya or training specially challenged kids in Arunachal Pradesh, I thrived amidst adversities. I enjoyed every moment of being in these places, not because I was adventurous but it was in these challenging places and moments that I was fortunate enough to be able to experience the love, protection, and grace of my master for me. It was in times like these that I had opportunity to let miracles happen. It was in times like these that I was able to let go of all worries completely and let a higher power handle things for me. It was in times like these that I realized that come what may Guruji will never let go of me and would let no harm come even close to me at any cost. He gave me the strength and freedom to go out there, make mistakes, learn from them, be of use to others, serve and enrich my life. I went there with the idea of serving people but soon realized that it was Guruji’s service to me.

One Wold Family and Grace of the Guru

The idea or understanding of a ‘One World Family’, would have never even have occurred to me had it not been for Guruji. Week after week, year after year I see Guruji going out of his way to make this a living reality not just for me but millions of others all over the world. He has given me family where ever I have gone. Before I even feel the need for something he makes it available. I still remember on a cold evening in Nagaland, when the family that was hosting me and my colleague, suddenly found out that they had relatives coming to stay with them. Due to lack of space, we were asked to vacate their home. In any other part of India, this might not have been such a problem. But in Nagaland, for two very young girls, to be standing on the road after 5.00pm, it was considered very unusual and inconceivable. By this time of the day it gets dark, markets shut down, people return to their homes, as it is considered unsafe to be out on the streets, due to terrorist activities and violence in the area. We stood on the street with our luggage not knowing where to sleep that night. Before we even began to worry about this a stranger comes and stops his car in front of us saying, “Aren’t you the Art of Living teachers? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s teacher?” We though a little baffled, said yes. Excitedly, he said, “ Your Guru changed my son’s life! Please let me repay him by inviting you my home. Stay as long as you wish”. With a smile on our face and gratitude in our hearts, we drove home with him knowing that yet again we were taken care of. We later found out that this person’s son had quit his addictions and negative company only after he had met Guruji and been inspired by him.

The Language of Love and Service

It is a known fact that Guruji’s work is bringing about a huge change globally and that is why he has even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But im sure I speak for millions across this planet when I say that the difference he makes in every individual’s life is of utmost importance to him. In spite of there being millions of devotees each one feels like they are so meticulously taken care of. Each one of us have hundreds of such experiences to share. From the North Eastern states of India to Europe and Canada, where ever I have travelled, I have learnt how universal his knowledge and the language of love is. He has and continues to inspire millions of volunteers to bring a smile on people’s face. And he does this not by command but by example. How can I not want to go out and serve when I see my master in knee deep water, wading through the floods of Bihar to bring solace to the flood stricken families? How can I not want to care when I see my master walking into the ruins of the Tsunami to bring relief to the victims? How can I not forgive and love when I see my master embracing inmates in a Prison giving them the deepest experience of acceptance and love that brings tears to even the eyes of the hardest criminal? If I have been able to bring about even an iota of positivity in this world, it is only because I have learnt form the best in the field, H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Sri Sri's vision of Stress Free, Violence Free Society

Today as I write this and have a chance to reflect on my life, there isn’t a thing that I would want to change. Yes I was ambitious and wanted a successful advertising career, a hefty pay cheque, but day after day, people come with so much innocence and gratefulness for the way the Art of Living, something that I am privileged to be a part of, has changed their lives. I can’t aspire for a better pay cheque than that, can I? I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that I am one of the most fortunate people in the world for loving every moment of what I do, for being a part of Guruji’s vision of creating a ‘Stress Free, Violence Free Society’ and for having a master like His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who is my teacher, my mentor, my guide, my inspiration, and the cause of everything that makes me smile. All I can say to Him is - thank you.

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