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The Invitation
Contributed By Minaxi Mathur, Professional, Corporate Sector

Oriah Mountain Dreamer, Indian Elder

It doesn't interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for,
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart's longing.

It doesn't interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool for love,
for your dreams, for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn't interest me what planets are squaring your moon.
I want to know if you have touched the center of your own sorrow,
if you have been opened by life's betrayals
or have become shriveled and closed from fear of future pain!

I want to know if you can sit with pain, mine or your own,
without moving to fade it, fake it, or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with JOY, mine or you own:
if you can dance with wildness and let the ecstasy fill you to
the tips of your fingers and toes without cautioning us to be careful,
be realistic, or to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn't interest me if the story you are telling me is true.
I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself;
if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul.

I want to know if you can be faithful and therefore trustworthy.
I want to know if you can see beauty even when it is not pretty every day,
and if you can source your life from it’s presence.
I want to know if you can live with failure, yours and mine,
and still stand on the edge of a lake and shout
to the silver of the full moon, YES!

It doesn't interest me to know where you live or how much money
you have. I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair, weary and bruised to the bone,
and do what needs to be done for the children.

It doesn't interest me who you are, how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand in the center of the fire with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn't interest me where or with whom you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone with yourself,
And if you truly like the company you keep
In those empty moments.

Aastha Foundation held a two day Programme of experiential learning for students of Mothers International School, New Delhi on 20-22 January 2012. The theme of the program was "Freedom: an opportunity and a responsibility". Students of Std VIII (13 boys and 18 girls) presented skits, produced posters and played games that brought out the issues faced by them. They had an opportunity to produce a cultural Programme which showed them challenges of responsibility. They certainly liked the experience of being on their own, which according to feedback, would improve the cohesiveness of the class.

  • The summer Program at Aastha has changed my perspective. The guidance in the labs, the facilitators and the night sessions are memories of how beautifully Aastha interspersed the soul searching seriousness with laughter and gaiety.

  • A fantastic experience of how a community can completely change one's cynical image of a self-centred world, wholly engrossed in a crazy rat race and restore faith in the innate goodness of mankind. The vision of the Institution is admirable.

  • I experienced the value of not always remaining in activity mode, of taking time out for self, of self assertion, and that of anchoring in self while engaging with roles/ systems.

  • A journey everyone must make sometime. It is a beautiful community of people who are all on a journey to discover themselves, each at a different stage in his/her quest.

  • The Hasidic leader, Rabbi Hanokh, retold an old jest.There was once a man who was very stupid. When he got up in the morning it was so hard for him to find his clothes that at night he almost hesitated to go to bed for thinking of the trouble he would have on waking. One evening he finally made a great effort, took paper and pencil and as he undressed noted down exactly where he put everything he had on. The next morning, very pleased with himself, he took the slip of paper in his hand and read "cap"- there it was , he set it on his head; "pants:- there they lay, he go into them and so it went on until he was fully dressed. " That's all very well but where am I myself?" he asked in great consternation where in the world am I? He looked and looked but it was a vain search; he could not find himself.

    In many ways this is a very apt story. It describes where I was before embarking on this journey of personal discovery.

    The way I interpret this story is

    "Having filled myself completely feeling incomplete
    Having all the wares feeling inadequate
    In gaining a lot losing myself."

    The questions - "Who am I", "Why am I like this", "What do I respond to some situations/ people and context in a certain way", "What really matters to me", "What do I mean to myself", "What do others mean to me" etc haunted me

    And buried deep within all this, unknown to me was my potency.

    The greatest take away in making this investment in 'me' through process work is the creating of an internal compass, to give me a sense of equanimity. A willingness to look inward. The need to express myself through my dreams, conviction and passion. Owning up all parts of myself and taking responsibility for who I am. The realization that nothing reverberates "within" with the "key" to it outside!!

    I often think if this has answered all my questions, given me any more skills, made me a better person? Well this process has brought my way the pains and joys of being a human. Something that I have willingly embraced.

    Has this resulted in any thing - for the organizations that I have worked for, for the family that I am a member of, for the people who are special to me? The sure return on investment is my willingness to bring in all of my self in any context. My willingness to relate to people as they are and then paint a canvas of togetherness. Acknowledging to myself that I can be in-adequate and yet complete. Giving myself the freedom to 'just be' and taking responsibility of any consequences of this life stance.

    Well there is no the end to this journey, there can only be a many beginning's. There can only be a solemn commitment to invest in one self. The belief that life offers many opportunities to us... we can either let them pass by or let them be the manure to our growth.

    " If you understand, things are just as they are; if you do not understand, things are just as they are." - Zen proverb

  • The Aastha institute, as part of its summer programme held a 'camp' conducting self-enrichment courses for people of various age groups. I was fortunate, and I emphasise the word fortunate, to have heard about and taken part in it.

    Being 16 years of age I was cast into the youth group of the camp. This wasn't the commonly perceived kind of camp - it was more about discovering yourself and adapting oneself to fit in with the tough realities of the world. During our sessions, we would discuss issues relevant to us hard pressed teenagers. Our facilitators would guide us through various activities bringing out our true feelings that we had not been able to comprehend by ourselves. We got to understand our true passions and turn offs through a variety of surprisingly fun, yet deeply provoking things to do.

    The community sessions (where we would have combined sessions with the other groups present) were equally stimulating. Once again, through easy and enjoyable games the faculty members would reach down to the deepest meanings of our seemingly unconscious decisions.

    But more than just for the purposes of discovering oneself, I greatly enjoyed the camp because it was a meeting point for similar aged people. Experiences were shared, jokes were laughed upon and friends were made for life. A lot was achieved in those five days. I had made myself a set of friends that had touched my life forever.

    All this in a very peaceful and quite resort, serving reasonably good food!! It sure made for a great five days. For once the holidays were spent doing some constructive work.

    To anybody contemplating a trip to any future Aaastha programmes, take it from me - it's worth it!

  • A week in a lifetime is too short a time as such. But what if this seemingly insignificant span makes you question the very fundamental beliefs around which one has built & led his life? What if these difficult questions bring out paradoxically simple answers? What if new questions emerge & what if you don't find immediate answers (given that we live in the era of 4G; everything is expected to be downloaded in a jiffy)? What if one finds ways of finding answers instead of the readymade answers themselves? A journey for the rest of the life starts. And the starting point is Aastha. Behavior Science (my interest in this subject) diverted a Production Engineer in me to HR & its so called Management. My one week experience of Aastha last month, not only proved my choice of career was right but also made me realize the long distance I'm yet to travel, & far off places I am yet to go.

    I am sharing with the reader here what it has meant to me to be a homemaker, a musician & more and my experience with process work in the last 5 years. That I can proudly introduce myself this way thanks to process work and Aastha.

    I surprised myself that day, maybe over 3 years now, when I heard myself saying to somebody " I am a home maker ". Coming from a woman who was mother of two at 25 years, it wasn't easy. My statement, for the first time had clarity and the mind conveyed conviction as I heard it. I was acknowledging to myself for the first time, that I was content with my choice and that there was absolutely no reason to feel any lesser than most women my age, who were on to serious career paths!

    Looking back, I wonder how come what the outside world thought of me, had become so much more important than what I wanted for myself. What was the need to prove to others, the worth of my choice? The shift for me after coming into process work has been this- Acceptance of myself for what I am and being able to take responsibility for my own action choices..this has offered a big release from many knots. Rather than look at my responsibilities as a mother/ wife from just a duty perspective, today I realise the importance & significance of me as an anchor for the home. I kept looking for acknowledgements & appreciation from outside, because I, for long couldn't give it to myself.

    If I can give unto myself from within, my expectation from the environment becomes that much lesser. Same has been true for music too. In my evolution as a musician, a lot of self-doubt has gone in. Can I ? Am I good enough ? Am I capable? All these were born out of a fear of being evaluated. A pearl of wisdom, offered to me in one of the sessions, which has made a lot of sense to me.. * when expression is oriented toward making an impression, it would end up losing its charm *..When I sing, am I expressing myself through music, or am I trying to impress the listener? Lately I have realised that I derive so much more joy in music when I cut out the impression creating aspect while singing. Any form of art be it a painting, or dance or music is an expression of one's inner feelings, individual talent apart. In that is there a need for an assessment or comparison between two individuals? It is a reality that it anyway exists from the point of view of a listener, but if I, as an artiste, place emphasis on the same, rather than express myself freely, I would end up restricting free flowing evocative music. This ofcourse is no generalization to what artistes ought to be, but what has helped me enjoy music so much more.

    The most valuable takes for me, from process work:

    • Learning to follow my heart, build faith in life and trust my intuitions.
    • I dont have to be only a response to my environment, in fact I could very well be the stimulus if I desire to be.
    • Life is as large and meaningful as I make it out to be.

    It was a space where different people from different places ,living different lives came together, talked, shared and in that found resonance with another.

    Delicately placed on threshold of valuing what I am, what I have and engaging with self, others as well as life. Balance is the take away for me! Commitment to continue to work strengthened.

    "If people can be educated to see their own natures, it may be hoped that they will also learn to understand and to love their fellow men better. A little less hypocrisy and a little more tolerance towards oneself can only have good results in respect for our neighbor; for we are all too prone to transfer to our fellows the injustice and violence we inflict upon our own natures. " - Carl Jung (1875-1961, Swiss Psychiatrist)

    I have been amazed many times with my reactions, responses, behaviour patterns after the event. I am not sure why I act the way I do and what drives me. In my relationships, there are times when I am unclear on how I should behave, what should my priorities be, what are the should and should nots of ideal relationships, what is expected of the roles I play. Yes, everyday is lived with energy being spent on various activities, but somewhere these questions nag my mind and there is confusion - this takes away sense of direction, saps energy and some days there is fatigue.

    My experience of Aastha made me see myself as just another human being - yes, I may have my frailities, my insecurities; there will be demands on me, but I can just "BE MYSELF". I need not "TRY and BE". Yes, I have been brought up to accommodate to social norms and etiquette, but this does not mean I compromise myself. This is not about how you react to what is happening around you or to you, but how you look at yourself and how much you understand yourself. What this did to me finally was that I feel I am able to empathise with myself and therefore empathise with others more; love myself and love others more. The key learning was that human emotions are real, nothing to be ashamed of or scared about, and everything is an experience, a journey. What is true today is not necessarily true tommorrow not because the world around has changed, but because I have changed. Essentially I learned a way of looking at myself with acceptance and thereby work with myself so that I am comfortable in my skin.

    What I liked about the learning process was that there were no lectures or presentations; I lived 5 days in the glory of expressions of various peoples experiences, journeys, emotions; the faculty's insights during this process and their gentle proding for each person to move from one step in the journey to another, facilitates this learning. The warmth and sheer acceptance of a human being and being seen without who or what he/she is, is a novel experience which can be addictive.

    This program is not at all easy. In fact, it is quite difficult. If you are used to a world of appropriate behaviour, it can be very difficult to accept an environment where people just be and do what they feel like, especially all the "HUGGING" that happens. A big challenge was to accept the lack of structure in the process - I was used to training programs with formats defined, content defined, etc. But here you are never sure what is going to happen next and you cannot be "PREPARED". It was quite difficult to hear and share emotions and experiences with "STRANGERS" - it seemed odd. I was not totally comfortable even on the last day (shows I have work to do), but I saw that the effectiveness of the program is because of its lack of format and participants bring in the content. To be able to talk to each other not because we relate to each other on a physical plane, but because we relate on an emotion plane takes away the strangeness. But it was difficult to share without fear of judgement, being looked at as silly or fear of where sharing is going to take you next, what it is going to leave me with.....

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