Life can present you with people who influence you in such profound ways, that you could never imagine having lived without having known them. One such person in my life has been Nithya Shanti – one of my favorite spiritual teachers and friend.
My first encounter with him was at a HADAYOLI (HAppiest DAY Of your LIfe) workshop at a common friend’s house. I had been taking sessions from this common friend and a couple of techniques which worked a lot in my life was taught to her by him. Hence, she would mention him every so often. When I set sight on him, something just went “Click!”, a response that he still triggers every time I see him even now, three years after having known him. His signature workshop, HADAYOLI, has been the most transformational workshop for me since I am still learning, applying and experiencing the teachings picked up then.
Beyond his workshops however, I was fortunate enough (rather mysteriously), to get a chance to assist him in 2 of his workshops while I was working in Bombay. Each of them was a deep, healing experience, to say the least. Moreover, we would “bump into each other” at workshops and other spiritual programs, and it was always a turning point just meeting him, because he would leave me with a line that would unravel its significance in my life over the course of the next several months. Just being with him, listening and following him has brought in a world of change within me. The way he sets out intentions for his workshops, to his powerful use of intuition in understanding what the group needs best “at runtime”, to simply laughing at his non-stop, tongue-in-cheek one-liners has been a way to help me break free of my own inhibitions as the child I innately am.
A ‘silly transformation’ I always love mentioning is how, due to being deprived of the pleasure of eating ice-creams like other kids because of the sinus in childhood, I had given up hope of ever eating an ice cream, and how, after the first HADAYOLI I drove down to Baskin Robbins out of the desperate urge to eat ice-cream just to discover, to my utter surprise, that I didn’t get those “frozen headaches” anymore in the aftermath! I could experience the pleasure!
His infinite status updates on Facebook are an endless train of anecdotes, whacky rhymes and pearls of practical, every day wisdom that are delightfully in sync with so many people’s mental processes who are subscribed to them. Above and beyond that, when I started delving very deep into spirituality, Nithya’s timing in my life was so perfectly orchestrated that it prevented me from falling into this huge cauldron of blowing healing and transformation out of proportion. By being with him, I learnt that spirituality is not about learning concepts, not about practicing out-of-body experiences, not about trying to read people’s auras, not about fixing people up, not about trying to convince people about parallel dimensions, not about validating ghosts, angels or spirits, but is simply about applying simple, profound truths in your life at a point when you are ready to give up, and simply about being where you are completely. He made it okay to not have read the “big names” of spiritual texts, but would in fact cite everyday life examples from common authors and scientists. His practical approach of pointing where what Buddhist sutta can be applied would make me want to practice it in my life. His focus on making us do physical exercises in his workshops, right from simple Qi-Gong techniques to stretching exercises, stretched my mind’s framework of what spirituality needs to be, rather than living it up in one’s own mind. He is a living example for me of the understanding that enlightenment is just a shift in perception – one that he lives up to in a very big way. Every time I meet him, he has broken through my hallways of thought and given me a new perception to integrate that greets me with a new wave of happiness (the happiness teacher that he is!) that lies just beyond it. A big lesson that I have come to practically understand and value – that happiness is free, cannot be obtained by any condition and carries infinite value!
But Nithya’s charm is truly his ability to tell stories – whether it is something he has read as an email forward, or one of those Zen stories of enlightenment, a silly fable with a profoundly simple meaning, or just a situation he has gone through, he has a knack of animating it with his unique choice of words, enacting personality and being present as part of the story as well as the narrator, in one fluid session of storytelling, conveying presence, point and feeling, leaving the audience aware!
Here is Nithya, sharing my personal favorite – a story about the 3 most important questions at any moment in your life. As he himself puts it, “the quality of your life can be determined by the quality of the questions you ask yourself ” , this story conveys the 3 highest quality questions one can ask oneself at any point in time.