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Stories that change the world

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Heartfulness Way

Joshua Pollock is co-author of "The Heartfulness Way," and a Heartfulness practitioner and trainer from the United States. An accomplished Western classical violinist, he has performed and taught throughout the world, including multiple collaborations with composer A.R. Rahman. He is a dedicated spiritual aspirant, and is enthusiastic about sharing his passion for meditation, frequently lecturing at private seminars, holding practical demonstrations in corporate, educational and governmental settings, and providing ongoing individual support to local seekers. Pollock holds a Bachelor of Musical Arts degree from Indiana University and two master’s degrees from Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. Here is his story. 

My journey
I am from Maine, the most North-Eastern point in the whole country. I grew up in a simple setting. We didn't have hot boiling water until I was fourteen. We didn't have indoor toilets until I was nine or ten. We ate what we grew. We used wood stoves to heat the house, so we had to cut the wood. That wasn't totally usual for the area. It was just us. My family seemed to lead a pseudo-19th Century lifestyle.

I started playing the violin at age four and a half. I've been doing that for most of my life. I went to school when I was nine, and was home-schooled before that. Since my mother was a teacher, she took over. I started travelling to do concerts when I was twelve. I went to boarding school soon after, and went to two art schools. I graduated and went to music conservatory and did two Masters degrees in the UK. 

In 2002, I came across Heartfulness meditation. I had done other forms of meditation before - Buddhist meditations and some other things. Immediately, I realized that Heartfulness meditation would take me in the direction I wanted to go and I've been practicing it ever since. I became a Heartfulness trainer in 2007. Heartfulness trainers are all volunteers. They have other professions in life. This is because spirituality can't be sold. As my guide and co-author Daaji puts it in the book, 'God is not for sale. He has no price. If He did, and you could afford to pay it, then why would you need Him?' Therefore, we offer training free of charge. Being a trainer doesn't mean that you are somehow more spiritually  'evolved' or anything like that - you just need willingness, dedication, a basic knowledge of the Heartfulness approach, and the time to dedicate to it. 

Spreading the message

It's easy to speak about The Heartfulness Way, but I prefer to give people a practical experience of Heartfulness. That way they don't have to take my word for it. When you experience something or yourself, you don't need belief or faith! I don't think that people who believe and people who disbelieve are very different from one another. Belief arises out of doubt. It is a result of doubt. For instance, when you have doubt and can't accept that you have a doubt, because of whatever socialization or conditioning, then you tend to repress that doubt. You cover it over, and whitewash it with belief. The stronger one's belief, the stronger the doubt that underlies it. There are two ways to handle such a situation. The first is to stop repressing these doubts and to face them. Instead of being afraid of the results of your analysis of this issue, face it with a spirit of inquiry and curiosity, and be enthusiastic to discover the answer. That feeling of childlike wonder helps you. But the best way is through personal experience. Experience makes belief redundant, actually. For example, I don't need to believe in the stars, the sun, the sky or the ocean - and why not? Because I can see, feel, and experience them. Belief is for things you have never experienced, and therefore, you either believe them or you doubt them. So what about peoples' belief in God? Have they experienced that presence? How to have that experience for oneself and move beyond mere belief? That is the role of spirituality, which is the way of personal experience. Heartfulness meditation is extremely effective in this regard because of a feature known as 'yogic transmission.' What is yogic transmission? I'll share an example. Air is all around us, but we only feel it when there is a breeze. Similarly, people say that God is everywhere. Do we feel this? Yogic transmission is that breeze by which the divine force becomes palpable. We actually feel it, for the first time in our lives, perhaps. And with what do we feel it? We feel it with the heart, which is the organ of feeling, after all. That is why we meditate on the heart. We can experience yogic transmission by meditating along with a Heartfulness trainer. But the best approach is to meditate first on your own, without a trainer, and then to meditate along with a trainer. This will allow you to compare the two experiences and form your own conclusion. Then you will not have to be stuck in belief or disbelief, but instead, move on into the realm of experience. 

Peace within to Peace without

If I am filled with violence inside myself, against myself, if I don't like myself or accept myself, then I am fighting with myself all the time. A person who has no peace and is eternally reactive within is also reactive on the outside. If we have so many people who are reactive at the smaller level, how can there be peace in the world? 

Monday, April 9, 2018

Kavach - A movement

Bharati Trivedi runs an empowering initiative that is revolutionizing minds in the world around her. When a stunning realization dawned on her, she realized she was no longer interested in allowing the problem to continue unchecked: the time had come for her to act. Here is her story and how she navigated responding to a significant public health issue.

The early years
I was born and brought up in a small beautiful hill station called Panchgani, in Maharashtra. I did my schooling from St. Joseph’s convent, junior college from New Era High School and completed my graduation from KVM, Wai. I got married in 1995 to Kumar Trivedi, a lawyer, and had two boys, Nimai and Advait. After 10 years of my marriage, I started studying again to become a Psychologist, a Career Counselor and a Sex Educator and was always into the practice of Graphology (Handwriting Analysis). I started my institution called Nurturing Minds in the year 2013. 

The birth of Kavach
Kavach became an actual movement when I put across a Facebook post. Fast forward to now, when we have a team, a permission letter from the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai to change the lifestyle and thoughts of the coming generation! 

The post was as follows: 
I begin with a recent experience which is giving me sleepless nights…….. Recently, I visited a vernacular medium school in the Central suburbs of Mumbai for conducting a sexuality awareness programme for the students of Grades 8th, 9th & 10th. Prior to starting the programme, while I was sitting in the office of the Principal and interacting with the Principal as well as the teachers, a girl from Grade 9 walked into the room and sought the Principal’s permission to go home. On the Principal asking her the reason for which she wanted to leave school at 11.00 am, the girl replied that she had got her periods and will not be attending school for the next 4 days. The Principal informed her to take a sanitary napkin from her class teacher and not go home. Hearing this, she promptly replied – “Ma’am it is not about a sanitary napkin – I am not wearing an undergarment as I do not have one”. This left me shell-shocked, to put it mildly. I could not believe my ears. For years I have been conducting programmes on sexuality awareness and hygiene but not once have I realized the severity of the problem, though I had inkling to the same. The Principal informed me that 90% of the girls in the school (and several others staying/studying in similar areas) do not have or wear undergarments. This left me sad and shattered. It was really shocking that in this age and day, some girls in our country cannot afford the very basic necessity of feminine hygiene, may it be undergarments or sanitary napkins. It was there that I firmly decided that Nurturing Minds Charitable Trust (the public charitable Trust formed and run by me, my sister Sangeeta Mehta, my friend, Drsonal Patel and my husband Kumar Trivedi ) will, henceforth, attempt to provide to as many such girls/women as possible (from new born to older women) at least one set of 6 undergarments per year and adequate number of sanitary napkins (for girls of the appropriate age). Probing further, the following alarming data came to light: @ Millions of village girls/women use rags, sand husks & leaves during their periods – Why? As they do not know any better @They use cloth and taboo forces them to dry the cloth indoors away from the sunlight and open air. This results in the cloth not being sanitized or disinfected @ Around 70% of all reproductive disease in India are believed to be caused by poor menstrual hygiene @ A study says that around 23% girls (age group 12-18 years) in our country drop out of school due to inadequate protection once they start their periods. Thus the lack of awareness and means has a serious impact on education for young women I URGE ALL OF YOU TO TAKE A PLEDGE TO ENSURE THAT NO GIRL/WOMAN IN OUR COUNTRY IS DEPRIVED OF THIS BASIC NEED. WE HAVE ALREADY RECEIVED A REQUEST FROM THE AFORESAID SCHOOL FOR PROVIDING UNDERGARMENTS FOR 1000 GIRLS. WE ALSO INTEND TO EXTEND THIS FACILITY TO AS MANY GIRLS/WOMEN, ALL OVER INDIA. WHILE WE WILL BE CONTRIBUTING TOWARDS THE CAUSE, WE ALSO URGE YOU TO DONATE GENEROUSLY FOR THE SAME KINDLY CONTACT ME FOR FURTHER QUERIES AND CONTRIBUTIONS Contact Numbers : <...> MINIMUM CONTRIBUTION RS. 100/- With gratitude… Bharati Trivedi” 

The main initiative espoused by “Kavach - A Movement” is to inculcate the importance and logical need to maintain hygiene, follow an ethical conduct and respect oneself and others. This happens when you begin with the basics. Our key areas of work include, sexuality awareness and hygiene, prevention of child sexual abuse and training programs on sexuality awareness for adolescents also conducted for the knowledge of parents and teachers. One such awareness program that we have is called Training the Trainers that recently conducted a workshop “changes and challenges”. 

We also distribute a “Kavach kit” (to the girls) that acts as a catalyst for the quick change in the mindset of the adolescents and thus their parents and thus the society. A “Kavach kit” includes a sufficient supply of underwear, sanitary napkins, a khadi towel, a bathing soap & a washing soap. 4) You work in the domain of shifting mindsets towards access for basic necessities for women, which means you work to address some rather deeply ingrained views and issues. 

Jumping hurdles
My field of work is sure challenging as when we conduct our sexuality awareness programmes, we come across parents and teachers who are not comfortable initially. Then, there have also been cases where abuse has been hushed because of an image in the society that people have to maintain and save the embarrassment of speaking about it. A very crucial problem that I came across was that, the girls did not have underwear. These girls come from low income background where feeding their children is the parents’ main concern rather than worrying about the child’s right to being clothed right. What people fail to understand is that a body part is to be covered to keep it away from diseases. Underwear is for your “KAVACH” and everyone must have it.  

Success stories
The biggest and the most delightful is the response I have received for Kavach. Everywhere I go, I have been welcomed with open arms. But to mention one, I identified a PT teacher in a school who had been molesting school girls for 22 years and made sure the school takes appropriate remedial measures. Similar cases have been in many schools and homes in and around Mumbai. Once, two girls after my workshop came to me and said, ‘Aaj hame pata chala ki hamara sharer hamari jimmedari hai, ladkonke khelne ke liye khilona nahi hai’ Also, after considering my work of over 10 years and the “Kavach” movement, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has given us permission to conduct the sexuality awareness workshops and distribute our “Kavach kits” in all the schools run by them in Mumbai i.e. covering almost 4,00,000 kids.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Giver

Nisha Varghese is a force to reckon with. One of the 200 Young South Africans in 2016, Nisha's work has touched many lives. Here is her story. 

 On March 25, 1991 I was born in my beloved South Africa to my parents who are humble and
hardworking teachers who instilled in all three of their kids the value of hard work, kindness and
generosity. I went to special school for the first eight years of my schooling until medical issues forced me to finish my high school career at home after which I was a Social Media Manger for a while until I realized that my heart had always belonged to Humanitarianism.

My first foray into Humanitarianism was in 2009, when I attempted to raise $1000 for UNICEF. Despite failing miserably, I learned a lot and used those lessons a few years later to raise $7 862 for
The Water Project, Inc – the money was used to build a well for a community in Kenya. Since then, I have raised money $1075 for the Not For Sale Campaign, $1088.84 for the Elton John AIDS Foundation (UK), $5307 for the Malala Fund, and $10317.04 for Smile Train (which was enough to pay for 41 cleft-repair surgeries). Initially because I was using social media to spread my message my greatest challenge was to prove to people that I was a well-intended human being trying to do good and not some kind of scammer trying to rob them. Recently, I started my campaign for MiracleFeet. I believe that all children regardless of their socio-economic circumstance deserve to live to their fullest potential without the hindrance of clubfoot (which is entirely possible since Clubfoot is treatable in 95% of the cases). People can donate at or follow #50NewFeet on Twitter and
share my tweets.

The thought that with God working through me I can leave the world a little better than it was when
I got here keeps me going. Additionally my family inspires me and my Superhero Catherine
Constantinides inspires me. She is an Environmentalist and Human Rights Activist – when she’s not
building new leaders or planting trees she is at the UN demanding that the Saharawi People, the
people of the Western Sahara, be given their right to self-determination. My Superhero is so very
special I’m so proud of her every day and I hope everyone Google’s her name she is guaranteed to
amaze and inspire!

Every year the Mail & Guardian chooses 200 young people to watch. In 2016, I was nominated by
my friend Caryn Gootkin (thanks Caryn!) and the journalists at the Mail & Guardian chose to include
me in the list. It’s such a huge honour I still can’t believe it happened to me!

Going forward, I work with the hope that people could be more inclusive by focusing on a differently-abled person’s ability not disability. The world must focus on an individual’s strengths not their weakness. 

Monday, March 26, 2018

Intersectional Musings #19

In this issue, we feature Archana Sarat, an Author and Poet for the last ten years. She shuttles between Chennai and Mumbai and loves both cities passionately. Her works are published in various popular newspapers, magazines and anthologies like The Times of India, The Economic Times, The SEBI and Corporate Laws Journal, The CA Newsletter, DNA Me Magazine, the Science Reporter, the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, the WRIMO India Anthology, the GloMag Literary Journal and many more. Though she is a Chartered Accountant by qualification, she took up her childhood love for writing as her profession. She has a Diploma in Creative Writing from The Writers Bureau, UK. She lives with her husband and two sons.

Read the comic here.