How long would it take to obtain clarity of thought? Would it be days, weeks, months, years or even lifetimes? Even if we obtained such clarity, what would it mean? Would it change our lives? How would this happen? Would we achieve all our dreams? What if life was already good? Could this be an opportunity to fine tune my understanding of HH SwamiGuru’s teachings?
It is with these thoughts that, on 3 July 2019, together with 29 others, I signed up for the 7-week self-improvement programme. We were also asked to keep a journal to record all our thoughts, ideas and feelings of what happened during these seven weeks. Most important of all, we had to meditate twice a day for at least 15 minutes each session. The programme consisted of the following:
In week 1, we fasted for 8 to 12 hours a day. While we could drink water, we couldn’t not eat anything during this time. When we did have a meal, it had to be vegetarian (no egg). The aim of this fast was to rid our body of all toxins.
Week 2 was a detox of body and mind. We were able to eat, but only fresh fruit. For drinks, we had to restrict ourselves to fruit juices or milk-based ones. These were said to energise our body. For the mind, we were not allowed to read the papers, watch television or listen to the radio. We could fill our mind with only positive thoughts. The only kind of music we could listen to were ones that glorified the Divine.
In week 3, we could go back to having a normal diet. However, many of us chose to remain vegetarian until the end of the programme. This week, our task was to identify and write down our gifts and talents.
In week 4, now that we had a clean slate, we began to listen to everything that was happening around us. At the end of the day, we needed to write our corresponding actions and thought processes. Questions we would ask ourselves focused on whether our reactions to what happened were negative or positive.
In week 5, we had to practice being grateful. Every day, we chose 5 things we were grateful for and elaborated on them. For example, we did not write, “I am grateful to my parents.” Instead, we wrote, “I am grateful that my parents saved up enough money to buy this house. Because of that, I had a safe and happy home to grow up in.”
Doing what needed to be done without expecting anything in return was our task in Week 6. Every day, we had to make it a point to serve others for at least one hour. The tasks could be anything – help our spouse with the chores or read a book to someone who couldn’t. We were not allowed to accept any remuneration or gratitude. Instead, we needed to express our gratitude for the opportunity to serve.
The last week was a time for reflection. We needed to reflect on all that has happened to our Self. How would we connect with our Self? How would this Self connect with others? Would we be willing to live our lives in joy and happiness after this programme was over? We also had to go back to what we’d done in week 4 and ask ourselves if we could have done things differently. The promise was that if we properly followed the programme, we would feel empowered.
At the end of these seven weeks, we met up to share all our stories.
My story was about what happened to me in the 3rd week of this programme. Someone else in my office was offered a vacant position even though everyone else thought I was more suited for it. In some ways, it was a promotion of sorts. I decided then that there was no point fighting it and let the whole matter go. In no time at all, our bonus payments were announced and I found it ironic that the payment I received was one of the highest, higher even, than the person who had filled the previously vacant position.
Another profound story was that of a participant who had suffered a breakdown in a relationship with a sibling. It had affected her so much that she felt terribly weak physically. Other areas on her life were equally negatively impacted. However, she took the entire programme seriously and, in particular, the task in week 6. Once a week, she went to the Buddhist temple and offered to serve food to those to visited the temple. She found that her heart began to heal. People started to smile at her and everything else in her life started to fall into place.
HH SwamiGuru explained what happened to her in the following terms: “Usually, when you do something, you expect appreciation or gratitude. When she served these people, the appreciation she sought was from the Divine. It was appreciation through selfless service.”
In addition, HH SwamiGuru also explained that compassion wasn’t something that people should have to demand from you. Everything in your life will be alright because you’ll understand that you’ll be protected. Once you commit yourself to be mindful, it changes your perspective. Your world becomes better and you will enable your world for goodness.
When you undergo this programme, he said, you will experience the benefits yourself. “You will become your own testimony and no longer doubt yourself. Your belief is from your experience and it is powerful.”
The problem for most of us is that we’re stuck in our routines. For example, when we started the fast, we were looking more at the results of the end of the fasting period rather than becoming a new us. By doing this, we had unconsciously created a trauma and “were more worried about the process of the trauma rather than success we could achieve.”
Those participants who hadn’t completed the seven weeks, were effectively not committed to the success that change could bring. We wanted to change our external factors to give us something we wanted. We wanted our environment to change; we didn’t want to change.
For example, our routine was to have a cup of coffee in the morning. If we did not have this, we believed that everything would go wrong and blamed it on the environment. We blamed things going wrong on our external world (not having coffee) rather than ourselves. In HH SwamiGuru’s words, “You needed that trauma. That trauma empowers you.”
This meant that everything we did routinely would have hurdles. We were enabling these hurdles and had become good at managing them in our lives. In time, these hurdles would start hurting us and create problems in our lives.
Finally, as parting words of advice, HH SwamiGuru said, “The world is your truthful mirror. It’s about what you’re reflecting and what you’re projecting.”
Perhaps, the foremost lesson I learnt from this 7-week programme was that we have to live life to the fullest. Fill it with happiness and gratitude for all else will be taken care of.
The article was written by Darshini Padmanathan.