INNER ENGINEERING LEADERSHIP PROGRAM
ISHA YOGACENTRE, COIMBATORE
21st – 25th Jan 2019
During the major part of our lives, we architect or engineer the structure of our outer world and spend our whole time and energy in shaping the future and career, either of ourselves or of our kids. All these years we become accustomed to see ourselves through the eyes of others. By being involved so deeply all these years, we forget to set right our own self, which we discover at a later stage, say, nearing our fifties, that whatever left in our own hands is nothing but a left over of the garbage and wastage as a result of the exercise of cleaning or making our outer beautiful.
A man’s journey starts with his birth and passes through various stages right from infancy, childhood, adolescence and old age. Another journey which is parallel to it, starts with it when he grows up and starts his career. When he reaches at the pinnacle of his career—a stage comes when he feels that to go beyond the concept of multiplying the wealth accumulated by him so far—a stage when he thinks that earning money is not the ultimate aim of his life. Then, he goes berserk with the thought as to what more should hedo in his life which should be more self-oriented towards one’s own alleviation. He looks here and there and venture to start a journey to visit his own self— a journey where you don’t have to go outward to see places but to come inward to visit your inner self. A journey inward is, in real, a journey which is an escape from the known world towards a destination where no one else has travelled so far.
To cut short what I want to say is that what happened to me. Sometime back, I had applied for participating in such a programme sponsored by Department of Personnel, Government of India. What could be more pleasant than that the news of one’s nomination by the government for such an opportunity which would have been otherwise costed you too much, not only monetarily but also sparing yourself from official and family obligations.
It was an email invite to me for a week-long Inner Engineering Leadership Programme—from 21st to 25th January, 2019—organised by Isha Foundation at Coimbatore. What was more satisfying than anything was the correct timing of the event to escape from the known world, being it socially, officially or domestically. I was comfortably allowed to undertake it from all angles.
When I googled in, I found out that the Inner Engineering Program offers powerful tools derived from the yogic sciences, to achieve one’s full potential. It has been specially designed for government officials holding senior leadership positions in the central and state governments, who stand to gain enormously from the timeless wisdom woven with insights on leadership. The program has been devised by Sadhguru and is conducted by highly trained teachers. It not only empowers participants to achieve an inner balance that translates into clarity, creativity, efficiency and harmony at the workplace, but also realize their boundless potential.
As per the information available on the Isha’s website, the program employs a variety of methods to address every aspect of wellbeing–body, mind, emotions and energy – to establish a sense of health, joy and vibrancy, rejuvenating guided meditations, energising asanasand kriyas; engaging discourses about the nature of the mind and practical wisdom to manage life’s situations.
The Programme would also include the teaching of Shambhavi Mahamudra—this ancient kriya(inner energy process) is transmitted as a practice to enhance life on all levels. Various research studies on Shambhavi Mahamudra show that it yields immense health benefits.
“Ambition to Vision” is a key component of the program, designed to enable participants to operate beyond the limited lens of ambition, through an all-inclusive vision. It will address significant challenges faced by senior officials in the government sector.
Gathering all this information, I made up my mind and started thinking towards the direction of reforming myself and achieving it. I got all the formalities completed within no time.
Delhi to Coimbatore journey
The day came and I started packing my stuff for a week long off from the worldly affairs. All the items according to their requirement—-umbrella, sport shoes, casual cotton wears walking shoes and above all mosquito repellant? Why so in an AC cottage room—why to argue—I kept Odomas as Iam comfortable withit.
Boarded the flight from IGI Airport Delhi at around 7.55 pm which landed at Coimbatoreexactly at 10.10 hrs. only five minutes behind the schedule.
The moment I landed and switched on the phone, there was a message from Isha Foundation that so-and-so driver is waiting outside. That is a wonderful omen that everything is line and half of my fear vanished in the air. Immediately after that the first call I received was of my driver, an Anna—who knows only Tamil or English—thanks to my education that I knew a little bit of English, but Tamil is a bouncer beyond my head.
After I boarded the taxi and it zig-zagged the roads of Coimbatore, it looked like being at home like Delhi roads. Seeing the traffic I felt that I am no longer a stranger here. The driver used to manipulate the traffic full of hustle bustle. I wondered whether I would find peace here in this city full of voice and noise. But to my surprise all the drivers either of a private car or of commercial vehicle, were so cool and limited to themselves unlike Delhi, where drivers are shouting at their fullest volume while jostling through the traffic—this temperament I missed …joking.
The distance from airport to Isha Yoga Centre is 35 km and the expected time of arrival was showing in my GPS was one-hour and 35 minutes. But the moment we started, it reduced to around 60 minutes because that was not a time of traffic.
The route was totally traffic-free and weird looking, may be its dark all out there. At a point of time I thought I should have confirmed whether the cab is on the right way. Iopened the GPS on my phone and kept on watching the route which I found was all ok.
Inside the Centre
At last my cab reached at the gate of the Centre which was surrounded by a barbed boundary wall. The security guard enquired my purpose of reaching there at the midnight. I told him my name and the purpose. I was dumbfounded to read his face when he showed ignorance of any knowledge about my arrival. I had already informed the organiser about myschedule of arrival at this time and I was sure that there should be a message left at the gate. The guard randomly dialled two three numbers and after confirmation gave me a forgivingsmileand apologised. I regained my confidence and thanked him with the kind ofwords “hota hai koi baat nahi” and entered inside proudly.
At the dense dark and amid few dim pavement lights, I was dropped by the taxi driver, “Sir please go to reception and pay my hire”. I immediately obeyed and shelled out two 500-note and proceeded further in the hope to to find a reception to welcome me. But there was none. I stomped my feet to let someone know that a wanderer in search of reforming his soul has arrived at the gate of the Centre.
To my surprise, there was no signboard of any reception counter. I looked here and there in search of a human. One security guard after hearing the sound of foot steps appeared and guided me to a light where I should report. He also helped me to get a trolley to wheel up my luggage. When I found no success in the direction which he absentmindedly herded me to, I came back at the same point and with a little bit of anxiety I asked him to guide me properly. And then someone a wise man—later I came to know he was a volunteer there—appeared and took charge of me and took me to the right direction.
He managed to get me to my allotted cottage and helped me settle down. I was too late and it was not a time to get food for me but he managed to arrange few pieces of fruit which were enough for me to fill my appetite for the night. When I anxiously enquired about be the next course of action, he said smilingly, just relax and take rest.
The room which is called a cottage, was fully equipped with all the modern amenities, a double bed, nicely decorated wall, AC, modern washroom, copper water jug and tumblers, tea/coffee maker, electronic safe. What was missing, that was the TV—I don’t know why. I had my dinner in the form of fruits which satiated me to the full and enveloped myself in the blanket.
Curiosity woke me up early and as soon as the day light appeared, I looked around to have a sight of surroundings. My cottage was on the first floor of Nalanda—last one in the corridor which I always prefer. I can see a big open hall at ground floor with full of chairs and tables, perhaps a restaurant type.
Last night, the volunteer told me to check the schedule of the day at the reception of Nalanda. So, out of anxiety that I should not get late for my breakfast or other items, like dinner as on previous night, I approached the reception. I found there a nicely handwritten chart of the schedule tucked prominently at the reception (later I came to know that it is written in an Isha font). The breakfast, lunch and dinner timings and venue are all mentioned there. The first thing i.e. breakfast next morning was to start at 9:15 am, so there was sufficient time for me to get ready. I stepped down to reach the arena.
The programme starts
The breakfast table was lined up very nicely with a sequence of nutritious items including banana, soaked groundnuts, vada, sambhar, pongal and fruit juice. As we were enjoying our first meal there chatting with fellow participants, we heard a roaring sound coming nearer which seemed to be a chopper hovering down. Vaishali, who is our course coordinator, told me that the helicopter has come to pick up Sadguru who is going somewhere. I came to know he is staying here in the Centre. All the sevadars and volunteers gathered near the field to have a glimpse of Sadhguru. I asked Vaishali, wondering, whether we would have the opportunity to interact with Sadguru or not during our stay. I was told that he will take one of our sessions during the week.
Nothing to do till the next timing of lunch i.e. 12:30 to 2 pm. To spend time, I ventured out and took a round of the campus. But on the way, suddenly, I was stopped by a lady sevadaar who enquired where is my band or tag. I asked her what type of band or tag and wherefrom should I get it. She politely told me to get it from the reception.
Actually, last night only, I arrived in the middle of the night, so I straight away checked in my cottage. I was directed to accompany a volunteer to approach at the entrance gate of the Centre. A full fledged hi-tech Help Centre was there where I was greeted and welcomed properly and officially registered myself with the programme. A badge and an introductory folder was provided to me which contained all the information about the Centre with a wifi password to use in the Campus.
Now, I felt a little proud participant of the Inner Engineering Leadership Programme of Isha Foundation. Courageously brandishing the badge around my neck, I came back to my room by boldly informing the same lady sevadar on the way that now I am not an alien in the Centre. She exchanged a smiling thumbs up.
After taking a light nap, the time has come to go down and have lunch, let me see what is there. A very light and nutritious platter—creamy salad, moong-ki-daal, steamed rice, cabbage, papad followed by dark-orange coloured mango (in Delhi rarely we find dark-orange coloured mango, its always of yellow colour.
Now again the rest time wastill 4:30 pm followed by the time for refreshment. Had a potato Vada and a cup of herbal tea blended with honey, powdered jaggery was also there.
At the refreshment table, I happened to meet few of my fellow participants, a Staff officer to Minister of State for Defence, an IAS lady officer working in Cabinet Secretariat, an accounts officer of Indian Accounts & Audit Service cadre working in Ministry of Urban Affairs. There were total 58 officers of All India Service of Government of India posted all over India
One more person, a volunteer also joined us—he is a businessman based in US and already attended an ISHA course in US. His parents and wife are staying in the Centre. His kids are studying in a residential school run by Isha. Very lively and energetic person—looked very young. But when asked why he is associated with Isha at a young stage, I was surprised to know his real age, he was just 32 and when he explained the reason of being associated with Isha was inexpressible in words. His passion to serve here was reflecting in his eyes. When asked why he joined ISHA at a young stage, he replied that more younger people are associated here than his age.
Immediately after the refreshment, there was a gathering in Nalanda Hall of all participants briefing them about the guided tour of the Centre. We were told to be bare-footed or wear slippers so that every time while entering various places of worship, we don’t need to untie and wear our shoestime and again.
Guided tour of Isha Yoga Centre
The Isha Yoga Centersituated at the foothills of Velliangiri, on the outskirts of Coimbatore, is the headquarters for Isha Foundation. Isha is a sacred space for self-transformation, where you can come dedicate time towards your inner growth in the beautiful and serene backdrop of the Velliangiri foothills.
First we were taken to Dhyana Lingam. “Just sitting silently for a few minutes within the sphere of Dhyanalinga is enough to make even those unaware of meditation experience a state of deep meditativeness” – Sadhguru.
A huge black sculpture of a Nandi welcomes you which is seated facing the Dhyana Lingam.
As we enter the Dhyana Lingam which is inside a covered dome, we are told photography is not allowed inside. This is a place totally noise or voice free. Silence is the first and foremost condition here. Even we were told to fold our pants ends so that there is no sound of ruffling. Ladies, if wearing anklets, were told to tide it so that there is no sound inside. A 13-feet height Shiv Ling made of high density black granite, around which you have to sit closing your eyes and just listening to the music or the sound of ragas beautifully sung by a female voice. Ten to fifteen minutes you have to be there—first two to three minutes my mind was wandering here and there but once you engross yourself in the music and surroundings—a great sense of self-being and calmness surrounded me.
Since today was a special night with full moon, a large number of people gathered there to witness an organisedprocession followed by an Aarti of LingaBhairvi at 7:30 pm. Till such time, we were taken to visit the Theerthakunds—the Chandrakund for women and the Suryakund for men.
After having visited the Theerthakunds, we were asked to be seated around the Nandi statute which was arranged at a space specially for DoPT officers in front row ahead of other devotees. A very unique type of procession started with a group of young boys bare chested carrying burning torches in their hands followed by a number of men holding the deity of Linga Bhairvi on their shoulders. They seem to be fully trained to dance with the rhythm of drum beating and bells. After the programme was over, we all came back to Nalanda and took dinner and called it a day.
Till now, nothing rigorous or harsh has happened to us. But Inner Engineering will be going to happen, but when, perhaps from tomorrow. Mind is gripped with apprehensions whether really I will be starting a journey inward from tomorrow! Whether I am competent enough to engineer myself from inside…with all these questions in mind when the sleep engulfed me I didn’t know.
Next morning the session will start at 9.00 am, immediately after breakfast timings from 7.45 am to 8.45 am.
5.30 am is my alarm time and I woke up and felt like taking a morning walk around. But when I looked around to find whether it is wise to go out for a walk. But since I did not see anyone except the tranquility outside mixed with melodious chirping of birds, sparrows, I observed that no human being is out there. So I decided to have a little more nap and after that got ready to go down for breakfast followed by the first session of the training at 9 am.
It all started with registration and introduction of everyone in the group. Swami Naksatra, our course conductor, started to slowly take over our souls and minds with his soothing voice and logical explanations of mending our body from inside through various exercises.
The session started under strict and guided observation of Swami and his supporting staff. First, the mantras with closed eyes—which are always to be chanted every time before practice or before food—followed by Upa Yoga.
Upa Yoga essentially means “sub-yoga” or “pre-yoga”. This program offers a simple yet powerful set of 10 practices that activate the joints, muscles and energy system, bringing ease to the whole system. The session ended with chanting of closing mantras—which are always to be chanted ever time after the practice—followed by a break for lunch at 12 noon then to meet again at 3.30 pm. The Upa Yoga must be practiced on a light stomach condition or two-and-a-half hours after a meal.
The time in between we went to walk around and visited Linga Bhairvitemple where a traditionalprocessionwas going on at that time with hundreds of ladies singing together and carrying pots of green plants on their heads. A large crowd was also gathered there to witness the festival. After having Darshan of Linga Bhairvi, we visited the local shopping complex and a departmental store.
On the way coming back to our rooms, we noticed young scholars, be it local or foreigners, sitting under the secluded places of their choices, either under tree or at an open space, engaged in doing yogic kriyas, totally engrossing in their own self regardless of who is passing by and what is going around. What are they doing, and why? I cannot sit like this under a tree or anywhere totally disconnected from the surroundings!
But surely, somewhere in our inner core, there must be a desire of it that there should be a space for one’s own self, a space purely of own own where we could prevail completely in ourselves, nobody else, even the thoughts.
At 3.30 pm, the next session started with video lessons followed by a snacks break and a guided tour to a Home school run by Isha Foundation. Isha Home School is located amidst the tranquil surroundings of the Velliangiri Mountains near Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. Founded in 2005 by Sadhguru, the school strives to incorporate his educational approach into its day-to-day teaching process.
The next session was to start at 6:30 pm. After gulping down an apple coffee—a special tea sachet provided in the room—I went down to attendthe session which included Preparatory Asanas followed by Shambhavi Mahamudra. There is a pre-condition for both of these Asanas that these must be practiced on empty stomach condition, four hours after a full meal, two-and-a-half hours of a snack and one-hand-a-half hour after a beverage—excluding water. The session ended at 7:30 pm followed by dinner time.
After finishing dinner, few of us walked down towards Dhyanalingam at around 8:30 pm and sat before the Dhyanalingam in a closet like sitting spaces specially made in the walls for meditating purpose, closing my eyes and mind trying to meditate. After about 15-20 minutes, I quietly came out of the premises and reached back to my room and retired.
I noticed that at the campus of the Centre, rarely did I find any old aged person roaming around there. Majority was of youth be it Indian or foreigners. You can find someone sitting either under a tree or at a chosen place of his/her choice in solace unmindful of their surroundings, doing yogic kriyas.
During the previous day’s concluding period, we were told that from tomorrow onward, the day will start early in the morning say 6.00 or 6.30 am. We all decided to keep it at 6:30 am. We were also asked about how would we like to be reminded to wake up in the morning—either by phone calling or playing a flute sound/mridangam sound. We all agreed to the flute and mridangam idea.
I woke up myself by my own alarm set at 5 am and got ready by 6 am. There was a flute playing outside at 6.00 am another reminder followed by mridangam being played by sevadaars in the corridors as a wake up reminder—what a soothing and befitting form of alarm to get up.
The session started sharp at 6.00 am preceded by swallowing two small balls of neem and turmeric powders with a warm sip of water which is mandatory for all. We were told that Neem and Turmeric with lukewarm light honey water is a wonderful way of cleansing and dilating the cellular structure in such a way that it is able to absorb energy, cleanses and takes away the cancerous cells in our body.
Session started with usual chanting of mantras, Upa Yoga followed by Preparatory Asanas and Shambhavi Mudra. There was a breakfast break at 8:30 pm.
At 10.30 am, we were asked to assemble at the hall to start a walk upto Adiyogiwhich is situated outside the premises of the Centre but within a reach of a walk upto approximately 2 km.
Adiyogi is recognised as the world’s largest bust sculpture by the Guinness World Records, the face of Adiyogi is 112 feet high, representing the 112 ways he offered for one to attain to wellbeing and one’s Ultimate nature.
We came back from Adiyogi before the lunch break. After lunch, we on our own decided to visit Surya Kunda to have a holy dip. The Suryakund is situated 20 feet below ground level. A unique cosmic feeling ran through my spine while having a dip in the holy ice cold water falling from a height and taking a round of three Rasalingas installed in line in the pond. In the ceiling of the Kunda, there is a stunning 20 ft brass and copper sculpture of the Sun. There is a very nice arrangement of securely keeping your clothes while taking a shower before the dip. You will be provided a saffron colour loin cloth. Everyone has to enter the Kunda wearing only that cloth after taking a shower fully wetting yourself. You will be provided another cloth for drying yourself. A very hygienic process of whole the exercise under strict supervision of volunteers.
There was a long session waiting for us for the rest of the day. We were told that today Sadhguru is coming to give blessings to Isha School students for upcoming board exams. There was a nice arrangement of this programme near the Dhyanalingam premises with a special space for all of us just opposite the dais of Sadguru. Very interesting interaction with the audience including school children—Sadguru gave his replies based on authentic and logical explanations, as usual. Someone from the audience asked Sadguru, what three things should we do during this Republic Day. Later, this interaction was broadcasted on Youtube.
After attended Sadguru’s programme, we come back to Nalanda, had dinner and called it a day.
The next day started with the drums and flute sounds followed by the Session which started at 6:30 am. The series of various daily Asanas went on as usual.
After breakfast, we were taken for a trekking to the forests sprawling in the foothills of Vailayagiri Hills which was 4 km one way. We entered the forest area, walking on a trail one behind the other led by Swami Naksatra and escorted from the sides and behind by other trained volunteers. We were cautioned to keep total silence as not to attract any wild animal.
Suddenly, the group was scared off a roaring sound of an invisible elephant. Our leaders asked us to pause and wait till the elephant moves away. After ensuring that the danger is over, we all moved on. On the way, once or twice, we had to remove our shoes and while crossing the not so dangerous knee deep streams. The trekking path ended at a medium size but broad stream falling from the top of hills.
The source of the natural water coming out of hills was unknown because this was not a rainfall or snowbound forest. We all enjoyed bathing in spring water and eating fruits and laddoos made of jaggery and groundnut which the volunteers had carried with them in sufficient quantity. No other food can replace the taste of those stuff which seemed like a fruit of our hard work after trekking. After coming back from trekking, we had lunch and rested till 4.00 pm.
Session for the remaining part of the day started after lunch time. After a short break for a light snack, the time had come for dinner. The moment we came out from the hall after exercise for dinner, we were taken aback with awe to see that the Volunteers had arranged a surprised special dinner for all the tables decorated with candle lights. We were delighted to see that all of the Nalanda Hall was full of candles light only and we really enjoyed a different type of platter serving personally by the volunteers. A great gesture of gratitude serving the food by the volunteers themselves was noticed by each of us. On being asked who has prepared all these items, there was another super surprise that each and every item was cooked by them also.
Another session in the form of a video discourse was waiting for us immediately after the dinner which ended at 9:30 pm. As this was a long and a stretched day, immediately reaching my cottage, I fell into deep sleep.
Melodious sound of flute mixed with birds chirping added with a cool breeze welcomed the start of the day. This was the fourth day of our training.
We had our usual yoga classes till 7:30 am and after that having a sip of herbal tea mixed with honey, we were asked to assemble at the playground nearby. We were asked to make a circle and played a flying saucer game and volleyball followed by a relay type of competitive team wise game. The winner team danced like kids on the tunes of dholand drumsalready arranged by the volunteers and everyone cheered and danced together for nearly fifteen minutes.
Fully exhausted and tired we all came back and together had a super nutritious and healthy breakfast at the hall. We are told to assemble again in the hall at 10 am. Let us see what is in store next.
Another long session which ended at 11:30 am and thereafter we all were assembled for a group photograph, followed by sitting lunch in a south Indian style served on the banana leaves. Very satisfying feast personally served by the volunteers.
Next session was to start at 3.30 pm. I chose to remain in my room to check my emails and Whatsapp to find out what is going on in the outer world out of curiosity because since long I did not check it
The next session started at 3:30 pm with usual yoga practices. Today we will have the opportunity to interact with Sadhguru in the evening. All are very excited and we all assembled in the hall at 6:15 pm.
Exactly at 6:30 pm Sadguru arrived. A very nice live session with Sadguru on various aspects of life held followed by questions and answers and photographs. The session lasted till 9:15 pm and dinner was also ready by that time.
Tomorrow would be the last day of the program and everyone was confirming his departure arrangements at the travel desk. Some would be leaving tomorrow evening itself. My flight is on day after tomorrow i.e. on 26th.
Since today is the last day of our training, we were asked to assemble in the hall at 7 am—what a relief of half an hour from the daily meeting at 6:30 am. After giving our feedback and contact details, the day started with regular kriyasand mudras. We were told that today there won’t be any breakfast. Rather we will have the opportunity to eat the brunch at Biksha Hall—a large hall for community feeding like langar. Lots of south Indian varieties were served and after finishing we are required to wash our own utensils.
As I came back to my room I found a paper bag containing a book on Aadi Yogi and a framed certificate of participation. I felt proud that the period of our five days strenuous exercise has produced fruitful result.
Next meeting is at 11.15 am which is in the form of a valedictory session as well. A sort of reminder to the things which we learnt all these five days of our training and a heartfelt gratitude from both sides—Swami ji on behalf of all the volunteers and organisers—and from participants.
While stepping out of hall where we spent a full week, I could notice a warm and emotional good bye in the eyes and hearts of volunteerswho were lined up to say bid an emotional farewell. Even Vaishali—our course coordinator—was all the way virtually rolling her tears from the eyes. It showed how completely and deeply to their hearts and souls they were all involved in conducting this program.
When I was coming out of my cottage carrying my luggage, Mukund, who is an Civil Service-aspirant and a volunteer hailing from Delhi, appeared suddenly out of nowhere and approached me to help and called for a e-cart. I hesitated to take his help but he insisted to escort me upto the gate of the Centre and helped me to get a taxi to reach the airport. He was so gentle and kind as I have no words to thank him and left the Centre with ta-ta with heavy heart.
Benefits to be achieved after going through this programme are immense, as claimed by them at the website being it health wise, which include—heightened energy levels throughout the day; reduced need for sleep; relief from chronic ailments such as blood pressure, diabetes, allergies, back and neck pain, asthma, headaches, insomnia, obesity, anxiety, poor resistance to cold and flu, fibromyalgia, depression etc.
As regards the performance during the day of your work life, it will benefit you in the manner of increased efficiency, multi-tasking skills, and ability to handle stressful situations; enhanced focus, clarity, concentration & memory; develop new perspectives for problem solving and handling complex situations; improved communication and relationships through an increased understanding of others; clarity in evaluating personal values and life goals to deliver & direct good governance; creating inter-departmental synergies to achieve governance objectives; ability to tap the reservoir of innate intelligence; transcending prejudices for insightful decision making etc.
The quality of life as a general will become truly aware of one’s responsibility at a profound level; establish a positive, open approach towards life; transcend limitations and go beyond fears; live with a deep sense of inner peace and fulfilment; achieve a heightened state of consciousness and awareness of body and mind.
At the valedictory session, we were told to carry on the set of exercises and the routine for the next 40-days (a mandala) at least. Coincidentally, the end of our mandala would be ending of the day of Shivratri i.e. on 4th March.
To be very frank, I could not do so due to certain domestic exigencies mixed with harsh cold weather in Delhi. But I am looking forward the opportunity and waiting for that fine day, when I would start the mandala.
But I can say with determination that sometime we feel that the right opportunity has not yet come and when it comes we wait for a much better opportunity and we let it pass by. Later we realise that that was the opportunity we should have utilised and repent we missed that. My suggestion is that please don’t let it go—immediately grab it and enjoy it.