Reflections on a seminar with Dhira Govinda
Posted February 16, 2004
How did the Life Skills/Personal Transformation Seminar affect me?
Well, I came out feeling lighter, as if a load that I had been carrying was finally lifted off my shoulders. It gave me a deep insight of how, till now, I have been living my life not to my fullest capability because of my way of dealing with situations, because of emotional patterns that have not been effective. The feedback exercises were very valuable for me. I've understood that instead of reacting to someone's expressions to and about me, I can take it constructively. I'm free to consider the comment, and accept it or not. I don't need to take it personally. In these seminars I learned a humbler approach to criticism, wherein I consider the person as a well-wisher, not an enemy.
Another very powerful thing I learned was about commitment. I realized how important it is to be committed, first of all to myself, thereby taking responsibility for my actions. That means that even if I was late or didn't keep one commitment or other, instead of giving excuses or justifications, I could tell myself that because of my own choices I didn't keep a commitment. This shows that the responsibility of my life remains in my hands. It made me aware of all the times I find things lacking in my life, or not the way I wish they would be, I understand much more deeply now that it is up to me to make changes and that I have the power to do so.
Usually I would find excuses as to why I am not on par. For example. Since quite some time now, I'm having a hard time waking up early in the morning. This is creating some frustration in me because I feel that I would achieve more if I got up earlier, did some sadhana, read a bit more, etc. I have been giving myself all kinds of reasons and excuses as to why I can't get up. Since the seminar I feel that if I don't get up, that's OK because maybe I need this rest period. So instead of using waking up late as an excuse to achieve less, I take responsibility for my choice and what comes with that choice. And instead of looking for reasons as to why I don't get out of bed earlier, I find myself looking at a solution, which would allow me to do so. A whole different perspective.
That's what the seminar did for me; it gave me a whole different perspective on life. A perspective that allows me to be more positive, affirmative and naturally loving. Because I feel good about myself, I can feel good about al those who surround me. Life is no longer a drudgery of "He's on my side and that person is not." Everyone is a person with their qualities and their wonders. That's another thing this seminar has brought to me. Even devotees who I really disliked, not to say hated, I could see so many nice qualities in them, I appreciate them and want to know them better. I learned that when we face each other with anger or mistrust it is because we don't really know who we are. We are wearing these masks we learned to put up and use throughout our life. It made me realize that because I was judging people on a basis of friend or enemy I was cutting myself off from so many wonderful experiences, so many wonderful qualities in so many people. This does not mean that all of a sudden I get on with everybody and see all as servants of the Lord. But I can appreciate that everybody has a wonderful aspect in their personality and instead of concentrating on the parts of their personality that clash with mine, I can appreciate the ones that don't, and that are wonderful.
Another change the seminar has brought is that previously, when people would ask my advice or I would kindly just give it to them, it would upset me if my advice was not taken in consideration. The commitment aspect of the seminar helped me realize how that, although we are all there to help each other and stand by each other, still it is the liberty of each person to accept their responsibility. I can advise or help a person, but it shouldn't come to a point where I impose my solution upon that person. Several experiences during the seminars helped me to realize the powerful effect of facilitating a person to find and generate their own resolutions, instead of imposing my agenda on them.
Regarding abuse that happened when I was in gurukula, I released a big load of painful emotions connected with that. For a long time now, every time I met "gurukulis" my heart would hurt because sooner or later I would find out some abuse story they experienced. Often tears would well up in my eyes at the slightest mention of abuse from some gurukuli and I would feel pain in my heart. Now all that is gone. It is kind of strange because coming out of gurukula I didn't really have a problem with that. I was even against the whole (what I called) witch-hunt that went on in the mid-nineties when I'd received mail asking that we denounce any known abusers. Not that I thought that it wasn't the right thing to do, but I didn't see how it would take away the pain or actually punish the people who did those things. When I had my own children, and they grew up, I saw how this sexual abuse affected me in my relation to my children. That was horrible for me. I wasn't able to take them in my arms and cuddle them or show them affection as much as I would have liked to, for fear of becoming an abuser myself. Since the seminar all that is gone, and it is such a relief. Particularly with my oldest daughter, I'm able to hug her and hold her hand, tell her I love her. Previously I was fearful that she'd think I was creepy, or an abuser. I still feel anger, particularly when confronted with situations that remind me of certain things from the past. For example, yesterday I had lunch at the temple. They had made some baked pumpkin slices, which I didn't take. One devotee mentioned to me how tasty they were and as he said that, I realized that I hadn't taken any because it reminded me of meals in gurukula when we would have baked pumpkins for days on end. Before the seminar that kind of thing could have sent me off on a major episode about ... well whatever I wanted to vent my anger on. This time, however, it just made me laugh and I told him very calmly that no thanks because it brings back memories of nasty prasadam (none of us liked pumpkins in gurukula, and we had them practically at every meal at one time). But there was no anger or resentment like before.
I really appreciate that these seminars are being done by devotees, and how expertly Dhira Govinda prabhu can tie it all in with Srila Prabhupada's teachings. It is so nice to do this along with devotees. I have done some seminars, with some similar elements, before, and it was always a hassle having to listen to the "we are all god" conclusions of the facilitators. It made me see (it's not completely realized though!) what is the meaning of humility, compassion, jiva doya, happiness, and devotion. It gave me a deeper insight of what is the attitude of a Vaisnava. I know that some of the leaders of ISKCON, and even some who follow Srila Narayana Maharaja, have done this seminar, and I really hope and pray that they will be able to bring an end to all this bickering and lead us to a win - win situation.
I strongly recommend that every gurukuli should do this seminar. And all sankirtan devotees as well. And all devotees who were abused by the negative aspects of institutional life. I sincerely pray that all the kids who were in gurukula with me or that I got to know while traveling will have the opportunity to do this seminar. It'll transform your life. For me there is only one word for this seminar which describes it - it's magical. I would like to ask the GBC, and I hope that they will read this and actually get round to doing it, that they set up a fund which will allow gurukulis to do this course or at least offer facilities in temples around the world so that Dhira Govinda Prabhu and his crew can organize these life skill transformation seminars in a way that would make it more accessible to all the gurukulis. This in the interest not only of the gurukulis but of ISKCON as well.
Dear Malini and Dhira Govinda, I thank you very much for having been there for us, allowing us to make this change, not only by your expertise, knowledge and skills, but also by allowing Sarva to organize the seminar here at a preferential price. I'm aware of the worth of your input and the long-lasting effects of your work, not only in this life but in all the future ones too. I'm talking to all I know, doing my best to get them to come in April for the next one. I also thank Sarva and Lasika for their effort in making this seminar possible through their determination, hard work and sacrifice of their personal creature comforts. Thank you very much.
Nitai Gaura Premanande !!!