When I look back, I realize that the events this year have surprised me. When the year began, I thought it would be like any other year in my life. At that point I was not able to see that this year would bring about a unique change in my life. I had not anticipated that I would be sitting in CIRD in the afternoon on a week-day when the world goes rushing around attending to their madding activities. More importantly I could never have thought that doing this would give me happiness and satisfaction.

This July I went along with my sister to attend the Retreat at the Ashram (in Kerala), and it is after my return that I had decided to spend more time at CIRD-Delhi. I have been partly successful in doing so. Earlier I used to come to CIRD only on special functions like the Vishnu-sahasranama Yajna or Padapooja, when the atmosphere here would be more festive. Now, staying here for a longer period I have experienced the other side of the Ashram life. 

On a regular day, life here is quite busy. Work takes up the whole day and time seems to fly. Surprisingly, everyone at the Ashram works harder, and perhaps even longer, than those in any office that I have worked in. But they seem to be happier doing so; such is the magic of this life. While the body gets tired, the mind is always upbeat and relaxed. This makes me wonder – should this not be the way that we work anywhere, every day? 

Then why does it not happen? To my mind the secret is being in the presence of the Guru. When you are in such an atmosphere, you can never feel insufficient. You don’t feel stressed because you don’t have any expectations. And when these constricting feelings are removed, work becomes easier and better, even excellent. If only the best professionals would learn this from our Poojya Swamiji!

Coming back to my stay at CIRD – the other aspect that influenced me was to see others do the smallest or the biggest task with great poise and grace. At this point I would like to say, Swamiji always wants things to be done in an excellent way and in order to do so some disciplines and rules have been put in place, which can be rather intimidating for newcomers as they were for me. Initially I would wonder “why do we need to do this in this way only”, or “why are things so strict”. Now I realize that all this is really a simple way to attain what we aim at – to instill in our mind an attitude and attunement, which will enable us to discipline and integrate our personality through whatever we are engaged in. 

Everything we take up can be done in two ways: doing it in a manner that will expand our mind and vision, or doing it with a selfish aim or as a burden. In the Ashram I have learnt that the former is the only way which fulfills us and makes everything we do enriching. Since I have started looking at all the rules and disciplines with this attitude, it has become so easy and it does not intimidate me any more. Now I know that there is always a right and enriching way to do things. The only question is whether I want to learn it well, or I want to stick to my old, workable but not so rewarding, way of doing work.

There are some aspects of my stay that haven’t been so easy for me – like, waking up really early in the morning, or accepting certain kinds of work assigned to me in doing which my mind creates hurdles. Let me give you a brief background to this. I work in an advertising agency and am expected to do my specific job well. Here at the Ashram you can be doing anything at any time depending on what is required. The Ashram redefines the term ‘multi-tasking’ – tasks of various kinds some of which you have never done before or never wanted to do. Once again a great exercise in opening up the knots in my mind! 

Let me tell you a story. One day, Namrata ji came to me and said, “You know, one good way to spend more time near Swamiji, Nutan Swamiji and Ma would be to work in their residence area.” I was very excited and reported for duty like an enthusiastic intern the next day. I was told that I would have to dust the rooms and iron the clothes! In the history of my stay in the Ashram, these are the two things that scared me most. The sight of Poojya Swamiji’s table and the prospect of dusting it seemed harder than anything that I have done before. Because it’s not just another table, it is Swamiji’s table. 

However, I must confess that dusting and ironing have now become my favorite tasks in the Ashram. And thanks to these two chores – I have now developed a photographic memory helping me put back the things exactly in their place as I found them, and also a microscopic attention so that no dust particle can escape the wrath of my duster. 

I don’t think words can express how much I have enjoyed ironing clothes (again something I did for the first time in my life). Every time I ironed away the creases and the wrinkles from the clothes, I thought that it was quite like what Swamiji does with our mind and heart. I got so much joy in ironing that at points I used to talk to the clothes and look at them to see if they were ironed properly. Nutan Swamiji has re-christened me “Iron Woman”, and I wear the title with pride. 

Doing these two chores have really been a joyful and elevating experience. I never thought that such “trivial tasks” could be the source of so much delight.

I would like to end by saying that at the Ashram if you allow yourself to be free, natural and open, you can feel your mind and heart expand every moment, making every living second of your life the finest. Who won’t want this feeling! I pray that I can continue to do so every day, everywhere and with everyone.

With deep gratitude to Swamiji, Nutan Swamiji and Ma for letting me stay with them and for all their love and blessing.

Jai Guru!