Recently, God blessed me with the opportunity of participating in the Discover Yourself Train-the-Trainers workshop, which was held in Bangalore in from 21-30 December 2019. Among the many things that I liked about the workshop were that it aimed at being transformative, rather than merely informative; it entailed a lot of sharing, rather than being a monologue; that even though it discussed many ‘serious’ issues, there was much fun and joy and laughter; and that there was much personal bonding between the participants, many of who were perhaps meeting each other for the very first time!
I gained a lot of insights through this workshop, for which I express my thanks to Sadath Sahib and the workshop participants. Here are some of my learnings/reflections:
- One must have a clear idea of the purpose of human life, of why God created us and sent us to spend this brief time on Earth. This understanding is absolutely necessary in order to lead a truly meaningful/purposeful life and to spend each moment in the best possible manner.
- Manifesting the attributes of God in our being and through our actions and dealings is a very helpful way to understand what a truly meaningful life is about. For instance, God is forgiving, and so we must be forgiving. God is loving, and so we must be loving. God is generous, so we must be generous.
- Life in this world is temporary. After we drop the physical body, we continue to live. The consciousness of the reality of life after physical death is essential in order to lead a truly meaningful life, including in setting our priorities, handling challenges and saving ourselves from getting consumed by the world.
- The past is past and cannot be undone. While we may not be able to forget the past, we should not let ourselves be imprisoned by it. In order to get over bitter memories of the past we need to forgive those who have (or who we think have) wronged us, at the same time as we must request those whom we have wronged for forgiveness.
- It is said that everything that happens, happens ultimately for our own good. If we have had some bitter experiences in the past, one way to overcome the pain is to reflect on these experiences and try to discern what good we have actually gained from them, which we may not have been aware of before. In this way, we can come to see these experiences as blessings, rather than as a curse. We can come to realize that they were vital for our own inner/spiritual growth.
- Our past can be seen as a valuable learning resource. We can creatively relate to the past by drawing lessons from it. We can learn from our past mistakes so that we do not make them again. In this way, relating positively to what we thought were the negative experiences of the past can help us grow.
- We make our own future by the way we relate to the past and handle the present. So, live in the present and do not fret about the future. Live moment-by-moment, day-by day and plan your future.
- Being the sort of person we truly are is more important than doing. Our doing should emerge from and reflect our being. What is important is not so much what we do or know or believe, but, rather, who we are as a person.
- We need to accept reality just as it is. This also means that we need to accept people as they are (even though we may not approve of everything about them).
- We need to focus on transforming our own selves, instead of hankering after trying to change others. If we are truly transformed people, it will automatically touch other people’s lives.
- We are created as pure beings, but curtains come to be placed over this as we grow older. Spiritual growth simply means lifting these curtains so that our real, pure self once again emerges and we become just as we were when we were born. We need to become like little children in this way, children who are still rooted in their true being.
- Repel evil with good. Love is the only effective antidote to hate.
- Love is the most important value, and the highest form of love is love for God. A life lived in the best possible way is a life that is infused with the love of God.
- We should love God for God’s sake alone, not for fear of hell or greed for heaven or other such motives.
- God wants us to be loving and joyful. Hence, true religiosity/spirituality makes us loving and joyful. If a certain understanding of religion drives people to become glum, grim, gloomy, depressed, fearful, self-righteous, judgmental, hateful, aggressive, cruel, egocentric, spiteful, vengeful, etc., it is definitely not authentic religion. It is, in fact, the very opposite of true religion.
- Prayer should be an expression of the love of God. If one is infused with love for God, prayer will not be regarded as a burden.
- Worship of God is not simply the performance of certain ritual actions or muttering certain words mechanically. Every action of ours can become worship of God if infused with the love of God and done for God’s sake and as service to God. In this way, all our ‘mundane’ actions can also become acts of worship.
- True religiosity/spirituality is grounded in ethics. It is one’s ethical life that counts, not the mere performance of rituals.
- A values-based approach to religion can help us appreciate the common points of various Divinely-inspired religious paths, including a shared ethical core. These paths might differ in terms of external form, ritual and dogma, but there is a great deal in common in terms of their ethics.
- Given this, a values-based approach to religion can help us work for promoting understanding, goodwill and harmony between people who follow, or claim to follow, different religious traditions, which is a great necessity today.
- Submit to the Divine Will. ‘Thy will be done, not mine’. Khuda-rukhi zindagi, not khud-rukhi zindagi.
- God-oriented life, not self-oriented life.
- If done with the right intention, service to God’s creatures (including non-human species, such as plants and animals, as well as the natural environment) can be service to God.
- By engaging in the service of others, we can expand our circle of concern beyond ourselves and our families. As a result of this, we may find that we are no longer so affected by challenges that earlier may have consumed a lot of our energy and caused us much pain (such as, for instance, challenges within the family unit). The more concerned we are about larger issues affecting the rest of creation, the less concerned we will be about our own ‘problems’.
- One good way to get our attention off our own selves and our ‘problems’ is to serve others. That way, our ‘problems’ may come to be seen as less severe. In serving others with the right intention, we receive blessings, which can help reduce the severity of our own ‘problems’.
- Relate with every other person as a fellow human being, above and beyond all labels invented by society.
- Spending time with God-conscious souls is a real blessing and is vital for one’s spiritual growth.
- Spiritual companionship is a precious treasure.
- Try to spend at least some hours a day in silence.
- Each word we utter is the consumption of valuable energy, so why waste energy on useless chatter?
- Set apart some time every day (maybe 20-30 minutes) to listen to the inner voice and write down in a notebook what you think this voice is telling you.