I started my professional career as a digital advertiser back in 2016. I left home and moved to Delhi. This was new for me as I never stayed without my family before. I realized how for me, getting my freedom wasn’t difficult but managing, oh boy!
I loved the advertising industry, the work, the creativity, and the new learnings. Hectic yes, but if you really like what you do then you try to see it as an opportunity to grow in every way possible and so was I, becoming a little more independent, a little more “free” every day. I got opportunities to work for many wonderful brands but slowly the same enthusiasm started falling when I worked for brands that, in my opinion, didn’t really add any value to our society apart from making people more materialistic and constantly generating a need for something new. As much as I loved how this industry was making me more creative, I disliked the idea that I was contributing more towards an unhealthy materialistic way of living.
Ever since I was a teen, I was very interested to learn more about how our minds work. What makes us happy, sad, angry, jealous, etc. I was always intrigued by different cultures, traditions, and beliefs. Thankfully my family has always been pretty open-minded with regards to respecting each other's belief systems. When I was 14 years old, I once watched a video of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama giving a speech about the suffering of sentient beings and the workings of the mind. He ended his speech with a prayer- “As long as space remains, as long as sentient beings remain, until then may I too remain to dispel the miseries of the world. May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.” I was so touched by this prayer that I started reading more books on Buddhism, Buddhist logic and reasoning, the mind, and the suffering of this world. Teachers like His Holiness, Thich Nhat Hanh helped me grow my interest in Buddhism as a philosophy and made me more curious to understand how our minds actually work. I made an aspiration to study Buddhist philosophy and the Tibetan culture when I become “independent” but then when I was independent, I was busy making TikTok campaigns for brands I didn’t like. I started feeling this gap between what I believe and my actions. With a hectic lifestyle, I didn’t get the time to study much so I seized every opportunity to go to Dharamshala, a city where the 14th Dalai Lama lives, and attend teachings and meditation retreats whenever I could.
In 2020, when the whole world started working from home, I decided to do a staycation in Dharamshala and try to learn the dharma as much as I can while managing my work. It was a good start until one night my brother called to tell me that my dad passed away due to a sudden heart attack. Studying so much about impermanence through Buddhism, this was the first time I actually experienced a loss so close. After a month of being completely silent and in shock, I decided to get back to work to change the pace of things. The grief felt really heavy so I couldn’t naturally focus on my work. After many emotional breakdowns, I sat down one day and decided to follow the instructions of my masters. So, I let my mind face the pain instead of running away from it. Every day I’d sit, recognize how heavy my heart felt, feel the tenderness but not fight or change it and just stay with it as long as it was required. Slowly, the same heavy heart started feeling more bearable. Healing is never linear so the grief still resides within me but now it reminds me to be more compassionate and gentle towards others because I don’t know what kind of grief their hearts might be carrying.
My father’s death was indeed a great learning on impermanence for me. Contemplating how uncertain life is, one day I decided to quit my last corporate job and shift to Dharamshala to pursue my further Buddhist studies and resume my yoga practice more thoroughly.
Qitting my job wasn’t that easy since I was more familiar with a sense of financial stability. In the beginning, I’d get friends asking me questions about how does it feel to leave everything behind or if I am planning to live in a cave (no kidding, I actually got this one), who will sponsor my studies, who will pay my bills, and so on. Apart from the cave question, the others were quite valid. In my opinion, we tend to romanticize the “follow your passion” aspect a bit too much. As much as it is important for us to do what we love, it is also important to be fully aware of where we’re headed and count on our resources. You do need money to have a good and stable livelihood, the problem starts when we become more greedy. We end up in a spiral of mindless consumption and greed which does nothing other than make us suffer more. Instead of using money as a tool to live a better life, we use it to keep consuming more things and allowing ourselves to never be satisfied. We get so consumed with what we wear, how we look, what we own that we lose our sense of identity and who we actually are. I feel, the meaning of life is not derived from what you own but what you carry in your heart.
If I have to conclude my journey so far, I would say that my grief immensely helped me and gave me the courage to listen to my calling. Now I am fully based in the hills, working as a freelancer, studying Buddhist science, philosophy along with practicing yoga and sharing it with others. With the kindness & support of my family and teachers, I truly feel fortunate to walk on a path of love and compassion and I wish to continue walking this path as long as I live.
- Risha, Buddhist Psychology Student and Yoga Practitioner