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THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

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At the age of 23, when most people are chasing careers or at the crossroads of their life, Shivani or Sister Shivani as she is now called, took the path of spirituality by joining the Brahma Kumari organisation. After completing an electronics engineering degree at Pune University in 1994 and then serving for two years as a lecturer in Bharati Vidyapeeth College of Engineering, Pune, Sister Shivani found her true calling. “Studying engineering has taught me to think logically. Education is always helpful,” she says.
Today, the India-based international speaker addresses a spectrum of topics such as self-transformation, self-empowerment, life skills, emotional and mental wellness, harmony in relationships, leadership skills and overcoming addictions. Her ability to analyse deep-rooted emotions, provide practical solutions to everyday situations, inspires, uplifts and empowers people to take personal responsibility for their lives.
Sister Shivani’s YouTube videos have been viewed over 72 million times, while her Facebook page has nearly two million followers.
Her popular television show Awakening with Brahma Kumaris has empowered individuals from all walks of life to overcome mental stress, depression, addictions, low self-esteem and unhappy relationships, by taking personal responsibility of their emotions. The show has crossed the 1000-episode mark and attracts audiences across Asia-Pacific, USA, UK, Africa and Australia.
A recipient of many awards, Sister Shivani is a sought after speaker travelling all over India as well as the UK, USA, Asia Pacific, Africa and Middle East touching and transforming lives of millions through diverse platforms such as public programs, interactive workshops, retreats, seminars, corporate trainings, blogs, radio and television shows.
She is touring Australia and will be speaking on various areas such as overcoming stress, anxiety and fear in order to live a more meaningful and empowered life. In an email interview with The Indian Weekly, Sister Shivani gives us an insight into her views on happiness, and more.
Before we get into anything, firstly from a 23-year old working professional you became a Brahma Kumari, how did that happen?
My parents were going to the Brahma Kumaris, I noticed my mother becoming visibly resilient and emotionally stable because of what she learnt there. She kept insisting that I join her but I did not find the need for it. It took me a while to start going off and on. Very soon I realized that the Gyan (knowledge) shared was simple and practical. I started studying and experimenting with it. The results were encouraging enough for me to attend the daily classes.
Brahma Kumaris is a spiritual study and meditation practice which becomes a way of living along with our profession and family life. It is not an option we choose, it is a lifestyle change, results of which reflect in our every role and responsibility.

Your talk in Melbourne will be on ‘Choosing Happiness’. Happiness is defined differently by different people. How would you define it?
Today, if there is one thing the world is pursuing, it is happiness. Most of us not only define it differently, we also perceive and seek it differently. Happiness is a feeling created by our thoughts. Happiness is not in what happens to us in life, it is in our response to what happens to us. We all have the power to create a right thought even in the toughest situation and remain happy.
A person could have no material comfort and yet remain happy – absolutely contented and at peace. Another person could live in the world’s biggest mansion, have a fleet of luxurious cars, all the riches yet be unhappy. Don’t we come across such people? Somewhere we got the equation wrong because we believed that objects of physical comfort bring happiness which is emotional comfort. The two are completely independent. Happiness is inner work – independent of our achievements, position, possessions and relationships.

Is there a path to happiness?
Happiness is the path, the journey and the destination. It is always present within us, because every individual is an embodiment of joy. What happens is that our path will, at times, have obstacles in the form of challenges posed by people or situations. We lose our emotional stability and create inner disturbance at the sight of those obstacles. That is when we lose happiness and the path seems tiresome. Obstacles are part of the path, and the journey of awakening is about navigating the path and covering the journey without spilling off happiness.

Ancient philosophers have associated a happy life with frugality and simple living, but in today’s materialistic world the simple lifestyle is hard to sustain. How does one derive happiness from today’s living?
Life is simple, our lifestyle has complicated it. Spirituality gives us the tool to reclaim simplicity. When we say the society is materialistic, let us understand it a little more. Materialism is not wrong. It is beautiful to ethically earn a lot, buy all the luxury money can buy, and possess all the wealth possible. Material success is perfect as long as the means is ethical. Important is to remind ourselves that happiness does not depend on our lifestyle or material possessions.
Secondly, the society is made of you and me. Each of us spiritually and scientifically radiate our consciousness into the universe as vibrations (vibes). This means, collective consciousness of the society is a sum total of our individual thoughts, feelings and attitudes. As a society if we have complicated our lives, each of us has made a contribution. So we are to blame, not anyone else. Each time I create greed, jealousy, anger, irritation, hatred or fear, my vibrations radiate and complicate life for me and others. And each time I create peace, happiness, compassion, forgiveness and empathy, life gets better.
We cannot simply live through our words, attitude or behaviour. It has to begin at the level of our thoughts, because thoughts are what manifest into words and action. So simple living essentially boils down to simplifying our thought process. If our mind creates pure, powerful thoughts which align with our nature like acceptance, co-operation, empathy, trust, respect, forgiveness, honesty and co-operation, we feel comfortable. We become more of who we truly are so we feel light, health improves and our relationships strengthen. But creating thoughts of the opposite qualities will complicate life. That is when a lot of effort will be required to sustain our roles and responsibilities.

Can simple living be a topic that engages students today?
The student fraternity is facing more emotional challenges than ever. They are getting stretched and torn by unrealistic proportions of competition, peer pressure, relationship conflicts, technology overuse and addictions. As a generation, they are becoming emotionally vulnerable. So life skills and value-based education are no longer options, they are obvious needs. One may assume that today’s students shy away from spirituality or emotional help. The truth is that students are increasingly leaning towards them. They are realizing its power and are seeking these channels to unlock their inner potential.

Is the fast pace of life too time-consuming for happiness?
Happiness is just one thought away. Create one right, beautiful, pure thought even in the middle of a chaos and you experience happiness. Happiness is a conscious choice of right thoughts in response to people and situations. To create and sustain right thoughts, our mind needs to be strong. This can happen when it gets regular emotional nourishment. Just like good food keeps the body healthy, right intake of emotional diet keeps the mind healthy. Daily practices like meditation, spiritual study help us get there.
Emotional health is the need of the hour and Brahma Kumaris has helped millions of individuals and families reclaim it. Brahma Kumaris has several centres across Australia. Would be good for people to only take out a few minutes to learn Rajyoga Meditation which increases emotional strength naturally. It is a seven-day course, an hour a day, taught free of charge. It is a way to retreat within ourselves anytime, anywhere for a few minutes to emerge our original qualities of wisdom and happiness and come back into the situation with stability.
Anyone is free to walk in to the centre and fix a time convenient to learn it. Thereafter the person can choose to meditate at home, heal emotional blockages and emerge happy and healthy. They are also welcome to attend daily study classes. The experience is like having an extended, loving family that is always present for you. One can find the nearest centre from http://www.brahmakumaris.org/centre-locator.

For those predisposed toward pessimism, what’s your piece of practical advice about being happier?
Human beings are creatures of habit. Any action we do repeatedly becomes our habit. This means, if I create a pessimistic thought 5 times, 20 times or 50 times today based on my present situation, negative thinking or pessimism becomes my habit. Thereafter I look at even simple scenes of life through the lens of pessimism.
To change it, I only need to consciously check and change my thoughts – and create right thoughts. When I do it 5 times, 20 times and 50 times, optimism becomes my habit. My mind learns a new way of thinking.
We are all originally happy, optimistic and powerful beings. Only when we forgot our potential we deplete our inner power and permit the mind to create damaging thoughts. Taking control of life is easy because it is in our hands. There is no dependency on anyone or anything outside.

There are hundreds of thousands of people in Australia affected by anxiety and depression, what do you think will help them overcome this to an extent?
We are all living in a world where vibrations of anxiety and depression are in the air. If we are emotionally strong, we do not get affected. Otherwise we catch the emotional infection. Good news is that we all have the power to rise above the influences of negativity. Apart from medication (as the case may be), simple lifestyle changes make a big difference in healing depression –
a. Avoid newspaper and news channels in the morning. Meditate, read or listen to at least 20 minutes of pure and empowering spiritual knowledge.
b. Delete negative and wasteful messages on WhatsApp without even reading. Ignore such messages on Facebook and other social media.
c. Avoid gossip, criticism and negative conversations.
d. Food and water have vibrations, so they deeply influence our mind. Take care to eat High Vibration food prepared and consumed in a pure state of mind.
e. Ensure that money is earned ethically so it comes with pure vibrations of happiness and blessings from employers, staff or clients.
f. End the day with 10 minutes of spiritual study and meditation. Avoid world news, daily soaps or newspapers at bedtime.

What is the one message that you would like to give our readers on anything – happiness, self-transformation, self-empowerment or life skills?
Quality of our relationships, professional success, physical health, mental health and emotions are all dependent on the quality of our thoughts and feelings. We are the creators of our thoughts and we need to start taking care of our self. Meditation is the tool for Self-Care. Meditation is no more an option, it is now a necessity if we want to live a happy and healthy life.
By Indira Laisram

(Sister Shivani will give a talk on ‘Choosing Happiness’ on Sat, Aug 18 at the Plenary, MCEC)

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