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     Volume 6 Issue 40 | October 12, 2007 |

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Inner potential It's all in the mind

Kavita Charanji

There are well-loved children's storybooks that contain messages for adults as well and are remembered for their universal appeal. One such oeuvre is The Wizard of Oz, the story of young Dorothy and her little dog Toto who encounter a Tin Man, a scarecrow and a cowardly lion. In the course of their adventures they meet the Wizard of Oz and each of them is told that they already have what they are desperately searching for--The Tin Man a heart, the Lion courage and the scarecrow a brain. Likewise Dorothy already has the ability to achieve her heart's desire to return to her uncle and aunt's farmhouse in Kansas as she has the red shoes given by the Good Witch of the North to take her anywhere she wants.

In real life too, many of us go in search of ourselves and desperately seek what is already within us. Much of our angst comes from early rigid conditioning, academic and work pressures, peer pressure, and sometimes sheer ennui. Take the young child who has an immense innate creativity and imagination which he or she displays through art forms such as singing, painting, recitation, dance and endless curiosity about the world. Somewhere along the way the wonderful gifts are knocked out by unimaginative curriculums, rote learning, unreasonable parental demands and peer pressure to conform.

One young girl of my acquaintance could reasonably be called brilliant. Her endless questions about the universe stumped even the grown ups she encountered and she was cheerful and uninhibited. However, the rigid school curriculum knocked out every ounce of her immense creativity. This, combined with a turbulent family situation and peer pressure, led her to the precipice. Thankfully she had a renaissance when she went abroad to study and excelled in literature and journalism. Her innate brilliance was recognised by her professors who termed her “an amazing journalist”.

For the young one, parental pressures can take the form of expecting good academic results and dictating career choices. The general tendency even today is to expect that the child will go into the time tested and lucrative professions such as engineering, finance, medicine or teaching. Today many children have rebelled and successfully opted for interesting and creative fields such as the electronic media, IT, NGOs and the arts.

So, too, the early conditioning which can create have in a person's psyche--particularly women. By and large, at least in Indian families, girls don't have the same freedom of movement and the ability to make their own choices about the way they want to live or even their marriages. However, today things are beginning to change a bit and many women have successfully overcome the hurdles of their growth and learnt to stand up for what they believe.

Just imagine the future of women when they have a conducive environment such as excellent aerobics instructor Vinita Randhawa who at an early age was encouraged by her father, now a retired army officer, to explore new arenas such as hang gliding and sky diving. “When a person is willing to step out of the rut of daily life and do self-assessment on a regular basis, it can help unleash the inner potential and creativity that we are all born with,” she says.

And talk of 'developing one's potential' is not just a catch phrase for the upwardly mobile. Even physically challenged sections of the community have the ability to pursue their calling and excel in their chosen field. The late Lovely, a tetraplegic (paralysed below the neck) had immense creativity which she displayed through her mouth paintings of flowers, boats and landscapes. Many accolades came her way--in addition to winning many prizes, she went her wheelchair to Germany to sell her cards and calendars at the invitation of the Friends of the Centre for Rehabilitation of the Paralysed (CRP). At the end of 2003, she went to New Delhi to participate in the 6th International Abilympics. Helping her realise her aspirations was the Savar-based CRP, where she learnt painting.

Along with her artistic talent, she had a zest for life which translated into a passion for the music of Bangla singers like Ayub Bachchu and Indian stalwarts such as Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Hemant

Mukhopadhyay and Kumar Sahani. “Sometimes I feel low and then I listen to music and my spirit rejoices,” she said once to this correspondent.

Of course the credit must also go to organisations like CRP which has imparted skills such as painting, jewellery making, drama, administration, electronics, shop management and lately filmmaking to its differently-abled residents.

All this goes to show that one can find one's calling when one's talent crosses with the needs of the world. It's a statement that is oft repeated by spiritual gurus. In fact as more people turn inwards, there is a realisation that one can attain one's full creative potential in the stillness of the mind and serenity of the psyche. This is born from the premise that body, mind and spirit are closely connected and as one charts new pathways one can unleash the potential for optimum health.

One famous exponent of this theory is Dr Deepak Chopra, a motivational guru and also author, teacher and broadcaster. “I'm obsessed with the infinite possibilities that are contained within the human potential, that the human being is literally a field of pure potentiality,” he is quoted as saying. “My mission is to bring the technological miracles of the West with the wisdom of the East,” he adds.

While Chopra has often been vilified by the critics for his showmanship, his theory of the mind-body connection has been corroborated by alternative healing therapies such as meditation, Reiki, Pranic Healing, Yoga, The Art of Living, herbal medicine, massage, aromatherapy. Today round the world, many have taken to this path for healing and self realisation. Bangladesh too has adopted some of these practices such as meditation Yoga, Reiki, The Art of Living and herbal medicine. By helping relieve stress and promoting relaxation, these therapies have helped promote the creativity that we are all gifted with. And clinical psychologists like Arpita Anand who practices in a South Delhi clinic, do not scoff at such therapies. As she says: “Alternative therapies are gaining a lot of popularity. Research does indicate that methods like meditation create changes in brain chemistry and are associated with a sense of well being.”

(L) Although Dorothy and her friends from The Wizard of Oz each felt lacking in something,
through their journey in Oz they all soon discovered that what they were missing and
what they desired the most was within themselves. (R) Deepak Chopra.

What is interesting about these healing techniques is that future citizens can start early on the path to self-realisation and creativity. One such major pathway is the Art of Living's offshoot Youth Empowerment Seminar (targeted at the 14 years to 18 years age group). This technique, along with being a stress buster, promises to “manage negative emotions, develop social and leadership skills to nurture human values such as non-violence, compassion, kindliness, friendliness, cooperation and an attitude of service towards others.” The seminar, spread out over 18 hours, included unique relaxation and beathing exercises.

Arpita has concrete advice to offer for the realisation of one's potential. Among the strategies she cites are: An assessment of strengths and weakness, setting short, medium and long term goals, setting reasonable targets, using problem solving strategies to overcome hurdles and finally having a back up plan in case original plans do not work well.

The last word in tapping one's formidable potential is the
lyrical verse of famous poet Iqbal: “I reach the moon, the stars, the galaxies, but this is not my final destination. High and higheronwards and onwards for if I stop I die.” Thinking along these lines can definitely help humankind to use their maximum energies and live to their optimum levels.


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