Friday, October 12, 2018

Banker to a healer: Seven reasons why I gave up my corporate career and became a healer

I am often asked if I ever miss the corporate life. I spent almost a decade in the banking, financial services and technology industry. It had been mostly a good experience. I had my highs - helping win deals, exceeding targets, appreciated by clients, superiors and peers. Frequent trips to the Caribbean on work was a special bonus. I fondly remember the time when my colleagues and I worked on our presentation at a beach resort :-)





But over the years I asked myself "Is this what I really want to do?" or "Am I doing this because as an MBA, I should be pursuing a corporate career?" These questions helped me ponder over my career choice, my beliefs, and my value system. I questioned myself if I had the courage to live the life of my dreams.

Here are seven reasons why I gave up my corporate life and became a spiritual healer.


Flexibility and support: 

Decision making involves many parameters including the practicality of your choice. In my case, the timing was right - a growing family, and the desire to spend time with kids, propelled me to make a career shift. Having a private practice allows me to watch my twin boys play chess and tennis. It also gives me the flexibility to spend time with my parents, extended family and friends. Thankfully, a very supportive spouse and family, and friends who encouraged me to pursue this path, were, and continue to be a source of strength and confidence.

Medication to Meditation: 

Along with a successful career, came tensed shoulders and neck muscles - classic symptom of "holding on to the burden", as if the existence of an organization was dependent on me. This was far from the truth, but at that moment, when you are frantically pursuing deadlines, and trying to win a deal, we tend to forget, that we are only a cog in the wheel. Acid reflux (deep rooted in that is frustration), literally and figuratively caused heart burn. Meditation helped to transform "Dis-ease" to "Complete-ease". Heart burn vanished and the bottle of Tylenol is rarely used. 


Mind FULL to Mindful: 

When the mind is full with thoughts, clarity gets reduced. It is difficult to focus and give your 100% to a task. Multitasking was celebrated at the workplace, but as an MIT neuroscientist, Professor Earl Miller states,  it ...."ruins productivity, causes mistakes, and impedes creative thought."
On the contrary, spirituality taught me to be mindful.  I embraced the benefits of my mindfulness practice, especially improved cognition and increased calmness. But one of the greatest gifts it brought me was simplicity. 

                      Additional reading: Read my primer on mindfulness

Defining success: 

Over the years I wondered what my definition of success was. Was it a job title, bank balance, power, or authority? Or were these societal norms for success? Or perhaps the parameters by which we gauged success of alumni at B school? Introspection led me to believe that these were not my definition of success. I wanted freedom - to live my life as per my own definition of success.





Fulfilling career: 

When I realized my goals were absolute happiness, inner stability, and service, I also understood that success does not cultivate happiness; it is the other way round. I found the courage to follow my dreams and create my future.
"The best way to predict the future is to create it." - Abraham Lincoln 

The chance to do good:  

The joy of bringing a transformation in someone's life is deeply fulfilling. Helping others brings contentment to me. The more I give to others, the more I get myself. The testimonials I have received from my clients, irrespective of the modality of healing - Reiki, meditation, chakra balancing, or past life regression therapy, fills me up with a joy that no promotion, or bonus ever gave me.

Positive vibes all around: 

Spiritual knowledge taught me that my thought process creates an energy field. This field or aura surrounds me always. My vibes and my aura are my first source of communication with others. It is not what I say to them, but the vibes/energy  that they receive from me is more important. Spirituality helped me cleanse my thoughts and energy field. When I changed, my world changed. As per my clients, the vibes at my home testify to that. And that is despite having teenagers at home!!! I did not anticipate it but I am delighted that spirituality also gives me parental bragging rights :-)

I am glad that I chose to be a spiritual healer. Clearly, it is both, my work, and my vocation. When I look back at my life, it now seems that this was my calling all along because I felt most alive and content when I was helping others.  The journey has been extremely rewarding so far. And I am glad this magical adventure continues....
Image courtesy: https://pixabay.com/en/man-person-face-black-mandela-156732/



Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Hanuman Chalisa summer camp - Part 2

It is such a pleasure to present this video, created by Anvita and Ashwath, students of iReikiNow. It encapsulates their perspective of iReikiNow's Hanuman Chalisa summer camp that they attended in July 2018. Enjoy!





Friday, August 31, 2018

Hanuman Chalisa summer camp - Part 1


A student's perspective:


By the time I was 4, I could recite the Hanuman Chalisa from memory. I had been listening to it since I was born. I am almost 13 now. Given that, I thought that I knew the Hanuman Chalisa. It’s a poem/prayer about Hanuman, a character in the Ramayana, which is my favorite Indian epic. So I came to the camp feeling pretty confident. After all, the theme of iReikiNow's summer camp this year was Hanuman Chalisa.



That's me - with Nidhi aunty

iReikiNow's flyer 

Then I saw the handout. It looked like just a simple stack of papers, but I was very surprised! Every “doha” and “chaupai”was accompanied by at least one long paragraph of tiny words. Some even had three paragraphs! I started reading it, and even before we started learning, I quickly figured out there was a lot to digest. Incidentally, I learned that a “doha” is a couplet, a verse with two long rhythmic segments and a “chaupai” is a quatrain, a verse with four short rhythmic segments. The Hanuman Chalisa has three “dohas” and forty “chaupais”.

We started off the camp with an introduction. Each child introduced themselves. We even had one student who joined us through Skype, as she lives in Detroit. 


Boys with Nidhi aunty



Girls in the camp with Nidhi aunty



Our class mate who joined through Skype


Then we began discussing the Hanuman Chalisa and our objective of learning it. We were also explained the daily schedule. We then began reading off the handout. After reading it, Nidhi Aunty explained to us the relevance and the contextual significance of the verse. In addition, Nidhi aunty told us stories about Hanuman, such as why do we often find him colored in deep orange or how and when he became "Panchmukhi". These background stories helped us appreciate the Chalisa better. She also went to each student, heard them recite it, and helped correct their pronunciation. We spent at least 15 minutes on each verse, which goes to show you there is so much to this poem that it would take forever to decipher the full meaning. Then we took a break for snacks and Ping-Pong, which was fun, especially because we had been working the entire morning. After the break, we did breathing exercises or “pranayama”, which was really soothing and calming. Then we got back to learning.

That's me - leading the breathing exercises. Notice Nidhi aunty in the background helping a student.

The next 3 days were all similar to each other. We started the day off with a quiz where we earned points. Then we kept learning the Chalisa. Next, we took a break where we had delicious food, did breathing exercises and then kept going. By the end of Thursday, we had finished the prayer.

            I learned so much at this camp that it’s hard to believe it was only a week long! One of the biggest things I gained from this camp is a deep understanding of praying. While praying, you need to have lots of faith and pure intentions, two things that are extremely important. That is how I prayed and chanted the Hanuman Chalisa before this camp. But a deeper understanding of the prayer makes it so much more meaningful. 
When you chant the Hanuman Chalisa with faith, pure intentions, AND an understanding of the words, your prayer becomes more significant. I got an opportunity to learn so much in this camp, but this was the most beneficial and invaluable lesson. After attending this camp, the experience of praying became more meaningful.
Friday was the last day of camp. We started with a quiz, as usual, but after the quiz, we collected the candy we had earned with our points. We recited the whole Hanuman Chalisa multiple times, going over the diction and pronunciation again. Then we took a snack break. After that we held a Hanuman pooja. We started by venerating Ganesha, applying vermilion, and tying “mauli”, or sacred thread, around our wrists. By this time all the students’ family and friends arrived. Together, we chanted the Hanuman Chalisa 108 times. After the chanting, we all ate prasad and enjoyed hanging out together until our parents took us home.

I am really thankful to Nidhi Aunty for holding this camp. It was a lot of fun and I made many pleasant memories. I think what I learned in this camp is going to really help me and I appreciate Nidhi Aunty working so hard to make this possible.

Written by: Anvita Gurumurthy
Student of iReikiNow 

P.S: Watch out this space for my YouTube video about this camp.


Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Kirtan music with Wah! – Where you meet God

I was 6 years old when my grandma asked me to accompany her to “kirtan”. It is a practice where a group of people congregate to praise and seek the divine through devotional songs and prayers. “Wahan Bhagwaan milenge,” (You will meet God there) she smiled. I instantly agreed. After all I had never seen God. During the two hours, while everyone sang, my eyes darted frequently to the door. I was waiting for God to appear. I began to lose hope. Perhaps God had not heard us, despite our loud and energetic chants. I then fixed my gaze at the women who were singing. They seemed to be in a beautiful trance, not a care in the world. I wondered if they would metamorphose into God. “Bhagwaan hum sab mein rehte hain” (God resides with us), was another lesson my grandma taught me. On our walk back home, my 6-year-old self felt cheated. God had not appeared. I could have played in those two hours instead. But even at that tender age, I felt a contentment that I could not verbalize then and perhaps can’t even now. Thus began my journey into the world of “Bhakti yoga”.

Growing up in India, I enjoyed kirtan. Whether it was chanting the “Hanuman Chalisa”, or “Gayatri Mantra”, vibrations from kirtan always brought stability and seemed therapeutic. It set my spiritual foundation, which helped me to eventually establish my healing practice, iReikiNowOn moving to the United States, we retained the practice of chanting within the family but I missed the large group setting of kirtan.

Fast forward to July 12, 2018. While staying at The Omega Institute, Rhinebeck, NY, attending a training course on past life regression by Dr. Brian Weiss and Carole Weiss, I saw a brochure about a “Divine Feminine Concert”. It said “bring your joyful self and celebrate with kirtan featuring Wah!, including stories, mantra, meditation, and call and response chanting in Sanskrit.” I smiled! It was about time.

That evening, I entered a packed hall. The crowd was a surrogate of the popularity of Wah! and the acceptance of kirtan by mainstream America. I learned from her website that Wah! was the first female to bring kirtan music to the West in the 1990’s. Wah! stood in front of the microphone with her bass guitar. She was accompanied by musicians/singers playing the sitar, drums, keyboard, flute and other instruments. Wah! started with the track, “Amritamayi, Anandmayi”, in honor of her Guru, Mata Amritanandamayi, or Amma. But to the audience, Wah!'s words were “Amrita” (nectar) and brought unbridled “Anand” (joy). She continued with “Om Jai Ganpataye”, “Lokaha”, and other tracks.
With Wah! after the concert


Wah! mesmerizing the crowd
Wah! effortlessly combined the principles of Indian classical music and Sanskrit shlokas to Western musical instruments and English vocals. Her voice was enchanting. Her pieces started soft, and gradually gained momentum, reaching an electrifying crescendo which seemed like a rallying call to the audience to awaken and embrace their true selves. It did not take long for the multi-racial and multi-cultural audience to start dancing in abandonment, free of judgements, self-limiting beliefs, and barriers. It reminded me of a prayer written by my friend, Wendy Messier“O, Lord, I long for that forever time when my heart and your heart beat as one.” It was as if, in that moment, we did merge with the universal energy. The color of our skin, nationality, or gender was meaningless. Wah!’s music reminded us that this was a time of true acceptance and to radiate love. Paradoxically, the music led me to a path of internal silence, and a mystical connection with the divine. It also reminded me of YoYo Ma and watching his global troupe, Silkroad perform while I attended an executive education program at Harvard Business School. “Music builds a more hopeful world”, YoYo had once said.  Music has no language, or barriers; it is a joyful union with the collective consciousness. Read more about my experience at Harvard here.

As the concert culminated, I stayed back to thank Wah! That was when I met her partner, James. Over the next 2 days, I chatted with them. They were humble and friendly. Wah! was born in Alabama. Even as a child, she seemed to have a heightened spiritual awareness and a love for music. Her mother, a professional violinist, helped cement that love. She often fell asleep under the music stands. She attended the Oberlin College and Conservatory. Wah! studied Indian classical music and “Raaga” on the violin, with Pandit Ravi Shankar’s disciple, Roop Verma. She then went on to learn the tabla, sargam, and mantra. Wah! started a record label in 1999. She traverses the globe performing at concerts. Wah! has published books and CDs on yoga and healing. She has lectured at Princeton University, CU Boulder, Loyola Marymount University, and performed with Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer. Wah! continues her own “sadhana”, as she chants and meditates every morning and follows an Ayurvedic lifestyle.



With James and Wah!


Wah! and James have known each other for 20 years. Dr. James Leary was born in Greece. He is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Medical Qigong, and PhD of Behavioral Psychology.  In his childhood, James was recognized by Chinese masters for having a special healing gift. His spiritual awareness helped him support his brother who suffered with and died of muscular dystrophy. James has developed a healing protocol, Life Qi Renewal, to help others heal and lead a healthy life.

As I left Omega, I looked up to the sky. I pictured my grandma smiling, “Kaha tha na – wahan Bhagwaan milenge” (Didn’t I tell you that you will meet God there?)


Despite my best attempt, I have been unable to articulate the emotions I felt attending Wah!’s concert. Hear her on YouTube. (My favorite is “Jai Ma”... click on the YouTube link below) or look her up on http://www.wahmusic.com/ and attend her concert. It will be a feast to your mind, body and soul. As Hans Christian Andersen said, “Where words fail, music speaks.”

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The power of the spouse


How the progressive Mahindra group celebrates alternative thinking



A few months ago, my husband, Ritesh, surprised me. He was invited to attend The Mahindra Universe Program (an Executive Education Program) at the Harvard Business School with an additional day at MIT. "Wow! That is awesome. You are so lucky!", I exclaimed! "Well, you are invited too," he responded. My jaw dropped. Or was I indulging in wishful thinking! But it was true! I didn't know who to thank…. Ritesh… for being my spouse… or CP Gurnani for nominating Ritesh or Anand Mahindra… for being so generous. I was overjoyed as I hugged my darling husband. (Note: Suddenly he became my "darling".) Ritesh and I have been married for 20 years. Finally, the ROI of putting up with him comes to me in the form of an HBS program :-)

The next few weeks went fast. I had graduated from Business School 21 years ago and was filled with anticipation to relive my life as a student…. With the tiny ;-) difference that this time I would be going to Harvard. I could understand Ritesh getting the invite, but it was a pleasant surprise for me to receive the invitation. I wondered why the group would invest in spouses' educational development. Was it a retention strategy, Anand's benevolence, or does the Mahindra group fall in that rare category of corporates which believes in the coexistence of strong karmic accounts and financial accounts? Regardless of the reasoning, I was thrilled to receive this gift of education. This was unlike any other organization I know. Celebrating the spouse was an unequivocal case of alternative thinking. Clearly, the Mahindra group, embodies the 3 pillars of their core values and is driving positive change in the lives of their employees. The things you say and do are symbols of who you are. It's a proxy of your value system. With the invitation to spouses, the Mahindra group seems to recognize that behind the "role and responsibility" of an employee, is a human being, who has a family. The entrenched message that was being sent was: "I value you. And since your spouse is an equal participant in your life, I value your spouse too. You both are part of the Mahindra family."

(Read more about Mahindra's RISE brand  http://www.mahindra.com/about-us/brand)


We received several emails with meticulous details regarding the course, schedule, case studies, and the logistical details. Meals and activities were planned by the day. A special shout out to Shubha Shetty, who was helping to organize the program. On noting that I was a vegetarian, she sent an email to point out that desserts on the menu were egg based. I was overwhelmed by this level of detail and thoughtfulness. Thank you Shubha!

Finally, the day arrived. The program commenced on Sunday, May 13th with an address by Anand Mahindra. He welcomed us to the 11th annual Mahindra Universe program. Each year, 30+ executives (and their spouses) from across multiple companies/geographies under the Mahindra umbrella are invited for a week long session of learning. Anand termed the program as a "spa for the brain". He welcomed the spouses warmly, and urged them to participate fully. Prof. Forest Reinhardt also welcomed us to Harvard Business School. He is the head of HBS's Business, Government, and the International Economy unit. He is also the chair of the HBS Executive Education in the Asia-Pacific Region. This year 46 executives and spouses attended the program. While the majority of the employees were from India, employees from Finland, France, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, UK, USA, among other countries, were also present. Spouses also came from a diverse background. There was a doctor amongst us, a therapist, entrepreneurs and many from the corporate world. We were respected for what each one of us brought to the table.  For me personally, it was a time to step out of my comfort zone, learn from the best minds in academia, make the acquaintance of and socialize (networking sounds a bit formal to me) with everyone, observe and learn the culture, common language and the parlance of the shared values of this organization.

Thank you for an extraordinary gift of education

The evening receptions were a perfect opportunity to mingle with the participants across different venues, such as Boston Public Library, and the Harvard Art Museum. I met many of my husband's colleagues and their spouses. Putting a face to a name makes the human experience more valuable. We spent time over meals, watched performances (such an honor to watch The Silk Road and The Berklee Music Exchange), exchanged ideas and forged friendships.

The 4 days at Harvard and 1 day at MIT were filled with case studies, role plays, and lectures. We covered topics such as organizational behavior, HR, strategy, operations management, finance, technology advancements, history and political science. It was a treat to be taught by the likes of Professors Nicholas Burns, Amy Edmondson, and David Moss, among others. I was awestruck and soaked in every single word that the professors effortlessly uttered in every session. The classes were intense, the participants eager to contribute and the professors seemed to weave it all together and pack in so much in a single session. It also reaffirmed my belief - that I knew so little :-( and there was so much to learn. It was truly an intellectual immersion…till we attended Prof Tom DeLong's session. What started as a case study about self managed teams, turned into a "spa for the soul". He gave me faith, because if HBS is teaching current and future leaders the power of gratitude and reminding them that each one of us are humans before we are an "employee", our collective future is bright. In fact, I would argue that every case had a "human" angle to it …. Yes, I may be biased as I am seeing it from my lens of a healer (Meditation coach and a Reiki master, iReikiNow). Whether it was the Columbia space mission case study or the Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road case study (This case came with celebrity power. Yo Yo and his entourage sat through the case study! ) where we focussed on the core value proposition and shared values of an organization (much like the shared values of Anand and the GEB team, who made every attendee feel warm and welcome), to me the basic fabric of any organization is the human capital.  Trust emerges when we are surrounded by people who believe what we believe. Trust begets trust. When the employee and his spouse feels valued,  together, they are far more vested in the success and well-being of the organization.

What a privilege to meet with Anand Mahindra

During our informal networking sessions, I was intrigued to find out more about the trust based culture of the Mahindra group, and therefore the loyalty it evokes. I heard several anecdotes. One particular incident warmed my heart and soul. Romila N still chokes at the thought of the earthquake that hit Gujarat in 2000. Clearly, her emotions are still raw. A pregnant Romila was home, but her husband, Sachin N, was traveling. The building which housed their apartment was damaged. There were about 25 more Mahindra group employees in the city. Senior management flew down from Mumbai to reassure and comfort the employees that help was at hand. They advised Romila and Sachin to move into a hotel for as long as it takes for the building to be repaired. All expenses would be borne by the company. She was also given the option to fly down to her parents home, should she prefer that. Romila's gratitude was evident in her facial expressions and in her quivering voice when she recounted this incident. She vouches by the generosity of the executive management. What is to be noted is that Romila was not the employee of The Mahindra Group; she is the spouse …. Yet another example of the Mahindra group's magnanimity, and the value that the group places on the spouse. Needless to say, Sachin has been a long term employee of the group.

As the sessions were wrapping up, and we bid goodbyes, I mused about the turnover rate of those who have attended this event since it started 11 years ago. But the priceless smiles and the contentment on the face of the attendees reminded me that the pursuit of empirical evidence would be futile. What mattered most was the feeling of being valued. That was the absolute truth at the given moment. 
As Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said in The Little Prince: "And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."


Disclaimer: These views are my own. It was my choice to write this blog post. Nobody from The Mahindra Group asked me to do so. When Romila and Sachin narrated the incident mentioned above, they did not know (in fact, at that time, I did not know either) that I would write about their experience. Subsequently, I took permission from them to share their story.  

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Abide by these 5 Do's and Don'ts for a happy partnership

Relationships are meant to to be treasured and cultivated. Following some basic rules may help you deepen and strengthen your bond. Abide by these 5 Do's and Don'ts for a happy partnership - this article, by Taylor Bennett, was originally published on Thriveworks

Don't miss the 5 Do's by Nidhi Idnani, iReikiNow :-)