An urge to make this life more worthwhile started 4 years back with my first Vipassana meditation experience. Since then it has been growing stronger but I didn’t and couldn’t do anything  different from regular day to day work. Professional work  has been good but could not give me enough satisfaction and I was always looking to do something more, thinking that its with lot of difficulty we get this life and I have to make the best out of it.

In December 2011, I met my mentor in California whom I had never met before but had been talking to for last 4-5 years on phone and emails regarding personal development and  the  online venture I  started 5 years back and  he introduced me to  this wonderful  non-profit organization Service Space  and told me a lot about it and its members.  I had never been keen on being part of any non-profit organization. They used to scare me away but for some reason, Service Space truly inspired me for all the selfless work they do  and the simple principals they believe in. The thing that motivated me the most  about them was doing only small things instead of trying to change or save the world. I started talking to them and got the idea of starting weekly meditation group at my place . I was so touched by these people who started the concept of Wednesday meditation 15 years back and are still doing it every single Wednesday  with around 50 people in each session. A typical format of this Wednesday weekly meditation is something like this . These Wednesday sessions are all over the world now - . There might be one in your area if you are interested.

I live in Outer Banks, North Carolina and at the time I started , I didn’t know anyone who would be interested in weekly meditation so I went to the yoga studio near my place and asked the owner about people’s interest  in meditation and  if I could use her studio to hold these sessions because of their location. Since they were busy on Wednesday evenings and we had to serve food after the meditation so it didn’t work out. I talked to another yoga studio which was coincidentally already doing Wednesday meditation in the studio but  no discussion session or food.  The guy there told me that they get around 6-7 people so he doubts that many people would be willing to come to my home which is kinda 6-7 minutes off the main road but I can still try.

I kept on going to and from with the whole thing all by myself  for couple of months. Then Service space people whom I had never met  helped me to figure out  the logistics, inspired me to start it and told me  ” You can think of us as a bunch of cheerleaders on the sideline chanting “Shweta Shweta YEAH!” with our arms raised in the air!  “. It changed my perspective on lot of things after getting involved with Service Space Community. I got to learn a lot from them and it reminded me of the quote – “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”.

Finally 4-5 people showed great interest and we decided to start the sessions  from July 18, 2012. I created this website- http://www.obxwednesdays.com for information. Just by word of mouth we had 12 people for our first meditation session including my family members i.e husband, mother-in-law, father-in-law and brother-in-law. When things have to work, everything starts falling in place. My family showed great support. None of them had meditated before but they helped me do a rehearsal session on the Sunday before to increase my confidence. They are always there in each and every session. Since July 18, 2012 we have been doing these sessions  first and third Wednesday of every month. Every time we have 20-25 people coming to our place. I just love to cook so it gives me immense joy cooking for these people.  We usually serve 6-7 items. I have learned sooo many new dishes so I can serve different food items.There is not even a single Indian in our group other than my family members but they all love the Indian dishes we serve.  I have tried so many food items like papdi chaat, pav bhaji, bhel puri, Idli snack, triffle pudding, rum cake, Tres leches cake,  Tiramasu, different pastas, soups, salads etc etc. There have been certain Wednesdays when I wasn’t  feeling well but there was something about these sessions that it would give me energy to prepare food and manage other logistics for these 20-25 people.

There are always challenges like people not rsvping till the last day, people rsvping but not coming, finalizing the food menu, too much leftover food, deciding and leading the weekly discussion etc etc but still its been such a joyous journey holding these sessions. I have met such wonderful people as a result of this. There is so much love, learning and inspiring moments during our  circle of sharing.  Its so amazing to see how everyone has a gift and has something to offer.There are so many people who had never meditated before but are so good at it now. We eat in silence for first 15 minutes which gives everyone a chance to eat mindfully and really appreciate the food. The gratitude people express and  the energy they bring is beyond words. The happiness and peace people have when they leave our home keeps me going. As a result of this, I have been involved in lot of other volunteer work in our area and got my company involved in lot of community work. Though it might look like that I am giving here but I am the one who has been receiving the most. We have celebrate birthdays, Christmas, new year in this group like a family. I feel so grateful for being given this chance to serve. Its  a small step towards the destination but I am so glad to have found the path I was looking for. Though there were lot of hurdles initially but when you really want something with good intentions, all the invisible and visible forces help to make it come true. It might take time but it does happen.

I will write more about couple of initiatives we took in this group like experimenting with Smile cards ,  celebrating Christmas with gratitude journals, doing a 21 day challenge which has been going great.

 

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If I have to pick one thing that had most significant influence on my life so far, it would be my first experience at Vipassana in April 2008. Soon after that I got married and couldn’t keep up with the daily meditation practice but the whole experience surely left a long lasting impact on me. It changed what I wanted out of life.

Finally I had a chance to go there again in October 2012 and the experience was as beautiful as  the last time. I truly wish that everyone can feel this bliss at the least once. The bliss doesn’t last forever if you don’t practice but at the least you know what our natural being  feels like. You can read more about Vipassana meditation here. Here are couple of my observations and things I learned:

When you really want something,  all the visible and invisible force conspire to make it happen:  I really really really wanted to go this time but  I wasn’t feeling well  for last two months before I went for Vipassana. I wasn’t even sure If I will be able to go but I did register 1.5 months in advance.  With the family and work life, it wasn’t easy taking a complete break for 10 full days with no access to the rest of the world.  It  wasn’t easy to convince my family to go there all by myself. I didn’t want to fly so was looking for a center  which was at a driving distance. Finally I found a center which was  like 5 hours drive from my place. All of a sudden I started feeling great when it was time for me to go. When I went there, I found out that it  was the last session at that center since they were closing  that center and starting a new center which would open after like a year. It made my belief stronger that when you really want something, all the visible and invisible forces come to your help.

Either you control your mind or your mind will control you: Their schedule is definitely not easy to follow. You get up at 4 AM and  meditate for 10 hours a day. I volunteered to wake up everyone in the morning by ringing a bell outside their doors so I used to get up at 3:45 AM everyday and go around everyone’s door to wake them up for 4:30 AM meditation session. My mind kept on telling me -”You are not feeling well so take it easy”. I fell for my mind the first day and skipped the afternoon meditation and slept instead. I thought about it. I realized that it wasn’t really tiredness that made me skip  the session and sleep instead but it was my mind that was making Continue reading

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Yesterday I was looking for something on youtube and I came across the following video. Please do watch it. Its in hindi (Indian language).

It brought back all my memories of Vipassana meditation. We used to hear this song “Tera mangal ho (May you be happy and blessed)” everyday there. If you ask me about the most beautiful moments of life then hands down it would be my Vipassana experience. I can smile anytime thinking about my Vipassana experience. I wish all of us can experience it atleast ONCE. There was surely some mystical energy. That place truly inspires you to wish “Happiness” for everyone around you and that is what the above song is all about. At the end of every meditation session at Vipassana, we used to practice – Metta bhavna (loving kindness meditation) where we used to send kindness and blessings to others which I guess does more good to you than others. Vipassana has been one of the most significant events of my life. Never before Vipassana, I would pray to God to become a better person. In last four years, I have not changed immensely but I feel Vipassana made me little more conscious and probably little better as a person:) I feel extremely grateful that I had a chance to experience this beautiful 10 day journey. If you decide to go there, remember that you should be truly willing to receive what Vipassana has to offer.

Tera Mangal, mera mangal, sabka mangal ho ( May you, me and everyone around be happy and blessed with goodness)

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Why me????


“Arthur Ashe, the legendary Wimbledon player was dying of AIDS which he got due to infected blood he received during a heart surgery in 1983.

He received letters from his fans from the world over, one of which conveyed: “Why does GOD have to select you for such a bad disease?”

To this Arthur replied:“The world over, 50 million children start playing tennis, 5 million learn to play tennis, 500,000 learn professional tennis, 50,000 come to the circuit, 5000 reach the grand slam, 50 reach Wimbledon, 4 to semi final, 2 to the finals. When I was holding a cup I never asked GOD ‘Why me?’. And today in pain I should not be asking GOD ‘Why me?’”

Such a beautiful attitude. Arthur Ashe is so right. When we NEVER ask God in  good times “Why me” then we don’t have the right to ask him in tough times. When someone gets a good job or a house or a car or a lottery, have you ever seen him saying ” Oh God why me?? instead its like ” Its me and why not” :)

Everything happens for a reason and lets just trust that he knows better than we can ever know.

“Happiness keeps you Sweet,
Trials keep you Strong,
Sorrow keeps you Human,
Failure keeps you humble and Success keeps you glowing, but only Faith & Attitude Keeps you going..

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Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture

Please do watch the above video. It will take only 6 minutes and 10 seconds and may be couple more seconds/minutes for buffering :) It was awarded the most popular short film at a Berlin Film festival. A normal attitude of anyone in the above situation would be to angry with God and situation for being not able to get food but its so inspiring to see the attitude of this man. Its so truly said:

“Be it any situation, Life is what you make of it”

Next time any of us is sad/angry at the dinner table because the food is not delicious enough or our business deal didn’t go through or we had a fight with someone then lets not forget to watch the above video. All of us get so trapped in this rat race that we completely forget to cherish the small little things we have been blessed with.If we really think about it, in almost every difficult situation, we have two choices: Be angry that why it happened or be grateful that it could have been worse. Recently someone in our family had a brain stroke. When I talked to his daughter, I was so amazed to see her attitude. All she had in her heart was gratitude that her dad was saved and it could have been worse. Gratitude can transform common Continue reading

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Couple of days back I had this dream where I saw that I meet God and he asks me “What is the one thing you would like to ask for”. I knew in my dream that it surely wasn’t a million dollar as I have always heard in stories. I told God in my dream that I need some time to think about it. All I remember after that is that I woke up and I don’t know what I asked for if  at all I asked for :) However this serious question bothered me the whole day “Jokes apart, what would I ask for if I am given one wish”.
After a lot of thinking I knew what would that thing be. Are you curious to know? Think about yours before you read about mine :)

Here were couple of options all of us might think -  Loads of Money, fame, career, getting married, getting the love of your life,   good life partner,  having children, big house, car, luxuries, food to eat, successful business , admission in a good school/college,  good education for  your kids , good children, good parents, nice boss,  good job, pain free life,  debt free life, obstacle free life, happiness for your children, freedom from a disease like cancer, disease free life, poverty free life,  healthy body, comfortable old age, wish to ask for wish again :) etc
.

I thought that none of the above will ever give me happiness and satisfaction for long. I wanted to ask God for one thing and i.e “Fill me with Love and wisdom”. Sounds so philosophical. Right? But do think about it.

I  have experienced  those magical moments 2-3 times in my life where everything was so beautiful . Nothing had changed around me in those moments. My problems were same as before but the only difference  was that my heart was filled with love. One of those moments was my last day at “10  days Vipassana meditation“. I felt that it would be foolish to ask God for other stuff as that wont last long.  Whenever we are in a difficult situation, we  pray for situation to change but it might not be right to ask God to change the situation we are in because that might be the best situation for our growth.

Some flowers grow best in the Sun while others do well in Shade.Remember, we are put where we grow the best and accordingly we get people and situations to grow with”.

If we have love and wisdom, we wont resist any situation instead see the blessing in it and with our wisdom do the right thing in that situation whether its loss of job, deal, house or a loved one.

When our heart is filled with love, nothing seems like a problem. Things are just happening and  with our wisdom, we just know how to  react to it. When our heart is filled with love, we can see  God’s love in every small thing on this earth. It is love and wisdom that  empowered simple people to do really big things whether it was Mother Teressa or Mahatma Gandhi.

“Problems have nothing to do with situations, but with one’s reaction to them.What’s happening is merely what’s happening. How you feel about it is another matter.”

It also made me realize why “Gayatri Mantra” is considered the most powerful mantra in Hindu philosophy. This Mantra doesn’t ask for any material riches, freedom from pain or poverty but ONLY ONE THING and i.e wisdom. This is my favorite mantra and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND  chanting/listening to it couple of times every day. I can tell you from experience, its indeed very powerful and magical. However when you do it, do it with faith and contemplate on its meaning.

I am eagerly waiting for God to come in my dream again and I wont take long this time :) Please don’t complaint that instead of one thing I asked for two things “Love and wisdom”. I guess God will be this much liberal with me.

 

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Continuation of  When Faith and Love WIN and Logic FAILS (Part I)

Sarah Linsdey Gupta passed away in the arms of her loving husband and family on Nov 6, 2011 at 6:40 PM (more information). I am sure that lot of us  were expecting things to turn around and expecting a miracle to happen. I truly feel that not just one but lot of miracles happen.

  • Sarah’s Meeting with her singing group : Sarah was always passionate about two things i.e teaching and singing. She was part of her college’s  cappella’s group(singing group) called “accidentals”. While the members of the accidentals are  all over the US. They all decided to come together to Sarah’s home and sing  with her for sometime. Sarah was not sure whether she will make it to meet them on Oct 24, 2011 but she did.  Here is the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=niG3qYvlLJA) prepared by accidentals after they met Sarah where Sarah sings solo while her college a cappella group sings back up. Listen to her voice, its beautiful.
  • Sarah’s birthday Celebration:It was Sarah’s 31st birthday on October 27, 2011. She was very excited about her birthday. She was making a to-do list herself for her “SURPRISE” birthday party. She wanted the whole world to come for her birthday though she was not sure if she will make it to her birthday. She ended up having a very special birthday. Lot of people including our cousins from California, New York, Maryland, her school teacher and friends came to celebrate her birthday. Around 60-70 students wrote beautiful messages for her describing what they learned from Sarah. Lot of her students sent video messages for her birthday. One of her friends used to wear a special pendant in his neck which was like a blessing from his mom. He always thought that it was like a “protection sheath” for him. He gave that necklace and pendant to Sarah as her birthday present for her protection. How often do we get to see this much love?
  • Sarah’s Doctor’s Undying Will to fight:  I mentioned about the homeopathy doctor from Mumbai(India) in my last post. He surely is one of most wonderful people I know. Without any monetary benefits, she visited Sarah twice before her birthday. We were emailing him everyday 10-15 times and he was closely monitoring Sarah and prescribing medicines accordingly. He always said ” I will fight for Sarah till the last breath”. He had been in  the US for last 15 days and was supposed to leave the country on Nov 7th, 2011. Sarah’s health was getting worse everyday. 4 days before she passed away she started having blood in her vomit and stool so Sumit requested Mumbai doctor on Nov 4, 2011 if he can see Sarah before he leaves US on Nov 7, 2011. He said he is very busy but Continue reading
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As I mentioned in my last post – my sister-in-law Sarah was diagnosed with adrenal cancer in April 2010. Each successive scan showed the cancer was spreading and tumors were getting bigger.  For the first time since we started doing scans after her surgery, we got a promising scan in May 2011 that showed some stabilization in her tumors. This was the only good news we had received in over a year.

Sumit and Sarah Indian WeddingThen, however, her condition  kept on getting worse. At this point nothing seemed to be working, and the chemo therapy started to take toll on her body.  And her latest scan results again showed continued growth with wide spread tumors, failure of basic bodily functions and frequent overnight trips to the hospital.

By October  2011 the few doctors that had not given up hope also gave up and the doctors at UNC and Duke sent her home to hospice care. At this point we stopped all 28 of her medicines other than the pain killers.  Later that week, she realized that she could not walk or move around on her own. This for family and friends was the beginning of the end of hope!

Even with words of sympathy from family at this point Sumit and Sarah had not given up hope. They have accepted that God might take her but believe with all their heart that miracles do happen!! They both are at peace with whatever will happen. Meanwhile as a long shot, we had been in Continue reading

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When you are discouraged,thinking all is lost

Count your many blessings,name them one by one

And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.” — Johnson Oatman

My father told me the following story and asked me to always remember it esp during tough times

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Once upon a time, an angel and his follower went to a small town.  It was  late night and raining so they asked someone in the town for shelter. That person gave them shelter but  was rude and put them in his basement which was leaking and it was very cold there. Angel repaired the basement, thanked the man for providing shelter and left in the morning.

Another day, angel and his follower went to some other town and it started raining again. They again asked someone for shelter. This time, the host was a poor man and had a very small house. He offered his only room to the angel and his follower and he himself slept outside the room. Next morning angle’s follower saw that the poor man’s cow who was Continue reading

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I can’t believe that I am writing after a year now. Procrastination has become my second nature :) . Also it  was  busy and lot of things happened in last one year. My brother-in-law’s wife, Sarah who is 30 years old got diagnosed with Adrenal cancer (stage IV) last year. Life changed for all of us in one year. Most of the things changed for good. I read so many books on cancer, healthy diet, mind, body and lifestyle. It felt like there is a different world out there. It has been a good learning experience. I would love to share with you all what all I learned in  this past one year. A lot of my following blog posts might be on the same topic.

Its been amazing to see  Sumit and Sarah’s attitude in life. I have heard of many such people in books and movies but have NEVER seen such positive people in my life. It has been no less than a roller coaster ride for both of them. Sarah had five scans after her first surgery (where her tumor was completely removed) . Every time we hoped that tumor would have shrunk but each scan showed a huge growth in her tumor. Despite of all this, I NEVER saw Sumit losing hope. He used to be the one giving hope to others. Till this day, they both are like – FIGHT ON !

The other day I was reading this book on cancer with an article “Being passive vs being peaceful”. It says God wants Continue reading

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