This was something very interesting that happened in Dec 2006, when I had gone to attend Art of Living program at Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s ashram in Bangalore. Few years ago I had written a very detailed post on my experience at this wonderful ashram which I would be posting sometime later but for now I would restrict myself to one experince that taught me something very beautiful
The 3 days course of Art of Living is basically about the Sudharshan Kriya (Art of Breathing) which helps one connect with his inner self and release negativity. But for me it was the other experiences during the course which left a lasting impression. This is one such experience.
It was the second day of course and all 30 of us who were part of it had known each for over 24 hours now. This was just before lunch time and we were told to assemble in a common hall where food was to be served. We were all seated on a mat laid down and each of us was given a plate. Then the volunteers came to each one of us and started offering food, there were many varieties and each one took what they preferred. I remember my neighbor was a south Indian and did not prefer chapattis, so he took only rice and sambar. There were some foreigners who took only sweets. And so everybody took what they liked and after 15 minutes all of our plates were full of food which one had chosen. I too took some chapattis and vegetable skipping rice which I don’t generally eat. We used to have an early breakfast and therefore most of us were really hungry could not wait to start eating.
Before we could hog on to the food in front of us, our teacher asked us to close our eyes and pray for 2 minutes in complete silence to thank the almighty for the food which was offered to us. We did that. There was complete silence for 2 minutes as we prayed. When we then opened our eyes and looked at the food in front of us, we were in for a complete shock. Our plate was gone it was replaced by our neighbors plate!
I ended up getting my neighbors plate who had taken only rice and dal, which was my least preferred combination. My plate went to my neighbor on the other side and he did not seem too thrilled with it. Some old people in the group immediately protested with murmurs that they can’t eat this as it’s not what they had chosen.
Our teacher who had been watching us all this while, was smiling. Probably she knew it all.
She asked everyone to remain calm. And she sat down among us. She said”I know all of you are not thrilled about the food in front of you. It’s not something which you wanted, right?”. “But my dear friends let me tell you, THIS IS LIFE. We choose and plan for a lot of things. Things which we feel will make us happy. We feel we deserve this and more than others; we don’t really care for others and what other want or have. We are too much fixated with what we want. And that builds our expectations. And look what happens in the end. Life gives us something totally different than what we expected or planned for. We never thought we would be eating this food as it was not something we wanted or planned for. In fact it could be exactly opposite of what we wanted! But that’s a fact which cannot be changed. This is the truth. So we feel angry frustrated and unhappy. We feel let down”
She continued as we looked at her in complete attention. “It is here were we should be thankful for what we got and instead of complaining make beautiful of what’s given. Comparing with others will do us no good. It will only worsen us as a person. We should be content with what’s on our plate and eat it with the same gratitude which we had earlier. We should realize that the food on our plate is something which is highly desired by someone sitting next to us. And so it’s not that it’s bad or not desired. It’s just our expectation are different. If we accept our reality we would enjoy our food and our life even better.
As we listened to her we had this magical feeling of experience within us. As if we learnt something very beautiful. At that point nobody said anything, no grumbling any frustration. And suddenly we all looked at our food with lot of compassion and satisfaction. It was as if this was what the almighty wanted us to eat. And we were happy to oblige.
The teacher again asked us to close our eyes now with this new realization and pray once again that may god give us the wisdom to accept things as they are and be content and create something magical out of it.
This time we prayed with total gratitude. And thanked god for all he has given and this experience as well. When we opened our eyes to start eating, we were again surprised with what happened. The plates in front of us were exchanged and we got back our original plates. We had a smile on our face but not because we got our preferred plate but because the realization that what we ultimately get is not in our hands and we should be content with what we receive and create magic out of it. The food never tasted so good.