Sadhanapada 2020 – Meet the Participants | Part 1
As Sadhanapada 2020 continues, we sat down with a few participants to take a deeper look into their lives, what brought them to Sadhanapada and how their journey is progressing. This two-part series shows you the ashram through the eyes of three participants – Neha, Anupama and Dr. Chandrakanth - as they eagerly look forward to what is in store for them in the coming months.
Q: Why walk the spiritual path?
Neha: I was working as a software engineer for almost six years and I realized that I was unable to go where I really wanted, both personally and professionally. So I started reading self-help books and attending courses for self-improvement and personality development. I quit my job, became a make-up artist, then worked in a boutique, then pursued a diploma and went into digital marketing, then went into writing. After all this, still no satisfaction.
I questioned, "I have a beautiful family, a lovely job, and a nice home. Why am I not satisfied?” I read almost a hundred self-help books by authors like Lisa Nichols, Priya Rana Kapoor, Iyanla Vanzant, and Louise Hay. Somehow, they were connecting to spirituality. Then I finally landed on Sadhguru.
Q: Is that what brought you to Sadhanapada?
Neha: Not directly. I just liked how Sadhguru explains things in a very simple way. In Youth and Truth, he was taking the students’ questions and answering them. I heard somewhere that if you can't explain it simply, that means you don’t really understand it. After listening to Sadhguru, it became clear to me, "I want to know more about myself. It's not something out there. It's something about me." So when the finger pointed to me, I wanted to do something about myself. Somehow, all the videos of Sadhguru were pointing to Inner Engineering, so I enrolled in that.
Inner Engineering brought more clarity to me. I was able to act on the things I wanted to and a lot of self-doubt and hesitation to execute things went away. Slowly, I could also see the changes within my body. I could see that, "Yes, it's actually working."
Q: And then you applied for Sadhanapada?
Neha: Oh, no. I wanted to find out more about it first. I saw videos and read the blog but I did not know what exactly it would be. It was not very clear to me content-wise. Social media helped me a lot here. I found many people’s reviews on Quora, so I connected with the people out there. One alumnus told me, "I cannot tell you the content of the program. But yes, it really helped me."
Q: Why do you think the alumus did not share the content of the program?
Neha: I feel like if you disclose the content, the thrill goes away. If you don't know, then curiosity makes the experience richer.
Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to come to Sadhanapada but are holding back because of the different kinds of responsibilities they have?
Neha: I don’t think that responsibilities hold you back. It's just that if the family is supportive, it becomes very easy for you. My spouse was very supportive, so it became that much easier for me. I find that nothing ever holds you back – only you hold yourself back. We always want to blame somebody else for the things we fail to do. If you want to do something but you don’t, there will be a consequence. If you do it, there will be a different consequence. So you have to decide which consequence you want to bear. I was anyway unsatisfied there, so I thought, "Do I want to continue this? No! So I have to take a leap.” The only exception to this is if you have a child. Because here in Sadhanapada, it's such a hectic schedule, you can’t go through this while taking care of a child.
Q: But isn't it natural to have inhibitions and fear before jumping into something unknown?
Neha: There's an excitement too. Even if you go bungee jumping, the thrill and the fear go hand-in-hand. I left my career of six years and decided to start from scratch as an intern. That was also a leap. It was not about my responsibilities and my family responding to it, it was also about, "Am I ready to start it all over again? Am I ready to take a leap wherein I can fall? I may not succeed.” Those were the questions which Sadhguru helped me answer. In Youth and Truth, a lot of students asked something similar, "If I want to do this, my parents don't allow me," and all this. Then Sadhguru said brilliantly, "It's not your parents. Actually, you want to have both and you cannot have both, so you’ve got to decide one thing." I thought, "He's right!" If I'm clear within myself, nothing can stop me – I could see this within myself.
Q: Which part of the Isha Yoga Center are you volunteering in right now?
Neha: I am working in the IT department. The only thing that I never wanted to do was IT! The kind of politics which exist in companies, I didn't like that. I don't see that here, so that somehow motivates me to do this. I'm doing the same work in a different environment, so I'm observing myself, what exactly was a "no" there? Maybe the people around were the most demotivating factor while working in IT, but after coming here, I have realized that you can't choose people to work with, so I have to work on myself. At the end of the day, all fingers point to me.
Q) How long have you been in the ashram?
Anupama: It's been five-six months. I came here for Mahashivratri volunteering, for ten days probably. Someone told me, "Why don’t you apply for Sadhanapada?" I was like, "What is Sadhanapada?" I didn't know anything, but I said, "Okay." I just applied just to see how the interview goes. Once I went back home, I got a confirmation email. Then I thought, "I've not explored the ashram enough. Just ten days, and most of my seva was outdoors. I want to explore the ashram more." Then I came to spend two weeks here and then the lockdown happened. I was like, "Okay, anyway, I'm here. What's the point of going back? I can explore the ashram more."
Q) Didn't you have things to do back home?
Anupama: My exams were supposed to happen in June but it’s all delayed now because of COVID-19.
Q) What were you studying?
Anupama: Cost Accounting.
Q) Do you enjoy your studies?
Anupama: During my college life, I was very, very lethargic. My academic life went very well during my school times, but my twelfth board exams were pretty stressful for me. I just wanted to take a break for a year. But my parents insisted, "No, you can't go for a break. You have to go to college directly." That has taken a toll on me in every way. I was mentally and physically so exhausted. I love to study, I want to make a career, but I needed a break somewhere. The kind of seva I'm doing, little jobs in the ashram like gardening and kitchen work, this is what was needed for me. I'm doing the same things I was doing at home, cutting vegetables, washing plates and serving food, but this is more intense. It's amazing to be involved in every aspect of the ashram. Ashram knows how to handle life; it just knows.
Q: Have you faced any challenges?
Anupama: Initially, when someone said something which offended me, I used to think, "Oh, maybe it's my fault. I did something wrong." But then I realized that it’s not about fault. I can’t control other people but it's up to me to manage my emotions. I had a hard time dealing with these things back home. Nobody ever taught me this. Sometimes I wonder what twenty years of education has even taught me? Nothing!
Q: How did you convince your parents when you decided to come for Sadhanapada? Many parents would be worried to send their daughter so far away.
Anupama: To such parents, I would say, “Come with your kids, stay here in the ashram for a week or two and explore the ashram if you're really that concerned.” Even my parents had concerns - my mother, not my father. He was super chill with me being here. But my mom had so many objections, even though she’s never been to the ashram herself. If someone is open to listening, you try to convince them at first; if they are still not satisfied, better to be a bit of a rebel. Otherwise, you can't get anything done.
Q: Are you a bit of a rebel then?
Anupama: I used to be very obedient towards my parents but then I understood the stupidity of it. I felt like there is security in it, but there is no growth. They wanted me to play it safe, especially because I’m a girl. They would say, "This is safe. This is safe." I said, "It is safe, but I'm not growing. I want to take charge of my own life."
Q: What was your experience of attending Sadhguru Darshans, seeing him up close every day for almost two months?
Anupama: I have huge respect and reverence for Sadhguru, but at the same time, whenever he passed by, I was never excited. I just do namaskaram and that's it. He's my guru and I'm very grateful for what he has offered. But I want to experience that phenomena rather than getting excited about being with him. I mean, Sadhguru has invested his life in this, right? If I at least get a drop of it, I'm happy.
Q: How is ashram food?
Anupama: Wow, amazing food. At home I used to eat just once a day, because the kind of food we eat at home is so negative pranic. It sucks my energy.
Q: What kind of food did you eat at home?
Anupama: Food at home is very spicy and colorful, it looks beautiful and tasty too, but it doesn't give you energy. I used to somehow eat breakfast, always skip lunch and many times skip dinner too. It affected my health a lot; I was very much anemic. That's why I was mentally and physically very lethargic. And at home they use onion and garlic, which I hate the most. I'm very happy about ashram food. I could never have imagined such healthy food and so much variety. I feel so energetic and alive!
Q: What are your plans going forward?
Anupama: I'm still exploring. I don't know what's going to happen in the next year. There is a lot of Sadhanapada left. Let me see. But what hasn’t happened to me in the past twenty-three years, ashram has been doing for me in the past few months.
Doctor Chandrakanth (M.B.B.S)
Q: How did you land up in Sadhanapada?
Dr. Chandrakanth: I finished my MBBS and was studying for Post Graduation while also working in Bangalore. I felt like I didn't know where my life was going. It was very confusing. I had done Inner Engineering and wanted to spend more time on myself. So I came to Isha Yoga Center. Last year, I had spent two months here and it was wonderful. When I came this time, the lockdown happened. So I thought, “Let me make use of this,” and I applied for Sadhanapada! I knew this is very much necessary for me.
Q: Why come to an ashram?
Dr. Chandrakanth: The first time when I came here, I changed a few things when I went back home, like eating only two times a day. I also tried to change certain foods, avoiding certain foods, negative pranic foods. I can't compare the ashram to any other place. I used to travel a lot, loved being in nature. Ashram is also a kind of similar experience. For spiritual growth, I felt like I'm fortunate to be around here at this time, where we have a live guru to guide us. So I thought this is the time to utilize it, to invest in going inwards and to look at life from a different perspective.
Q: What are you expecting to get from this investment?
Dr. Chandrakanth: The last time when I came and stayed for two months, I was expecting to be more joyful in life, able to take decisions properly in life and go through life without emotional turbulence. Those things are necessary, but now I'm not just limited to them. It's not like an expectation within me, it's a longing to experience more life, more and more, as much as possible.
Q: How has your Sadhanapada journey been so far?
Dr. Chandrakanth: Definitely, I am more joyful and pleasant inside. There are many things I don’t understand or that don’t fit into my logic. These are the things I came to terms with when I stayed in the Ashram earlier. I definitely had many questions - is something really happening? Is there really such thing as enlightenment? These questions came up many times, but I could clearly see that something is changing within me. Something is definitely working.