From India to the U.S. — How Mindfulness Helped Me Weather a New Season of My Life
Meditation is a practice that helps people find focus in the midst of chaos. For me, it has played a huge role in many of my biggest life decisions.
I started meditation when I was about to leave my home country and embark toward a new, but uncertain, future. I had been working in India as a lecturer at one of the oldest and most prestigious Indian institutions. Seemingly, I had everything: a stable job, loving parents, and my family close by. It was the very definition of the phrase “comfort zone.”
Still, I’ve always had this tingling in my mind that drives me to do something more. Something I truly love. Something that feels right from the bottom of my heart. Back then, I had a youthful, chaotic mind, and I felt I was always competing against time. Though the feelings were quite natural, especially for my age, a chaotic mind always makes chaotic decisions—which is where meditation came in handy. During that time, an introduction to meditation helped me to focus my mind on my priorities and make my decisions with specific goals and ambitions.
A New World
When I arrived in this country with just one suitcase, I had big dreams to do something that would make my parents proud. I came to the U.S. to do my doctoral research, and I earned my PhD over the next five years. But it wasn’t as smooth a ride as it sounds.
Being a student in a foreign country with an uncertain future is a big challenge with lots of ups and down. There were culture shocks, and some of the experiences were truly overwhelming.
For the first six months, I was terrified to talk to anyone over the phone—even an agent or customer service professional. I was worried that they wouldn’t be able to understand my accented English, and it made me feel embarrassed when my words were lost on someone else. It generated a lot of stress within me during that time.
Again, I found that meditation helped. It grounded me, calmed me down, and helped me to identify my pain points and fears. Over time, it gave me confidence to adapt to the local accent, new culture, and environment. I realized that within United States, there is so much diversity among people, cultures, and dialects.
“We can't control the sea, but we can learn how to surf the waves.”
Still, being an immigrant in this country is not an easy journey. Until you’re able to obtain a green card, you feel constant stress about your uncertain future. You must make innumerable trips to consulates and complete hundreds of pages of paperwork—and still, you do not know when your residence will be permanent.
I was fortunate enough to get a lucrative job after graduate school, and I moved to Pennsylvania, but I didn’t have the courage to buy a house until a green card was in my hand. Those were long, stressful years of my life, and meditation helped me keep my focus on the things I can control. It reminded me that all I can do is my best.
For ten years, I practiced meditation and mindfulness, based largely on informal information I downloaded online. While internet materials are not bad, it can be hard to parse out which information has strong, research-backed roots. So, the first time I participated in a group meditation session at work, I was surprised to learn of the science behind meditation practices.
It was then I discovered different techniques, including mindfulness meditation, breath awareness meditation, loving-kindness meditation, and much more. I felt truly invigorated and dove right in to learning more.
All About Giving
About a year after my eyes were opened to the wide world of meditation, the pandemic hit, and many of us started working from home. It was a stressful time, especially being isolated from family, friends and colleagues, on top of living with constant fear—I was even frightened to read the news. To no surprise, I began looking for distractions to keep my mind off all that was happening around us.
Then, a new door opened for me. I was introduced to Project Blueprint, a program that prepared and trained me for a leadership role in nonprofits. As I started to grasp the real satisfaction of working with nonprofits, I was also overwhelmed! I found so many local organizations whose hard work and dedication made me truly understand the contribution they make toward the betterment of society.
It was during this time I also started reading about Shanti Project, and the more I read about the organization, the more it intrigued me. I felt that their programs are not just unique, but necessary in a society filled with stress and unmet social-emotional needs. In today’s world of continuous tension, divisions and distraction, everyone needs mental and emotional support—and I knew from firsthand experience that practicing mindfulness can make a huge difference in one’s daily life.
At the end of my training, when it came time to choose an organization, it was an easy choice for me, and I was welcomed with open arms. Now, I have been a board member of Shanti Project for six months, and it has been a wonderful experience to work with their team. I couldn’t be more gratified to serve the community I have, after many years, come to live and thrive in.