Pray twice every day, being grateful for all of your blessings. Prayer helps us realize we need to focus on conducting life with a positive approach and do what is expected of us while leaving the rest to the Divine. We never know where a crisis or uncertain time is leading us. Everything that happens to us individually or collectively always brings about a better outcome when thought about from different perspectives, though we do not see it at that moment.

As a part of my series about “How To Develop Mindfulness And Serenity During Stressful Or Uncertain Times”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vidya Shetty

Vidya Shetty is the Lead Yoga Counselor/ Ayurveda Counselor at YO1 Wellness Resort & Spa in Monticello, New York. She received her Bachelor of Science Degree in Ayurvedic Medicine from Gulbarga University, India and a Master of Science Degree in Yoga from Mangalore University, India. She is a learned, accomplished Ayurvedic physician and Yoga Coach with over 15 years’ experience distinguished by integrity and compassion and a lifelong dedication to the “Science of Life.”

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the backstory about what brought you to your specific career path?

Asa youngster, I always aspired to become a Doctor. Life provided me with an opportunity to study Ayurveda and be a Doctor of Indian System of Medicine. During my undergraduate studies in Ayurveda, I participated in Yoga as part of the course curriculum. I was appreciated for my flexibility in performing some of the Yogasanas. That ignited my interest in Yogic Science. Later, when I wanted to pursue my studies, I had to choose between a master’s degree in Ayurveda and Yoga. Though the popular choice at the time would have been Ayurveda, I was directed by my destiny to opt for Yoga to balance my family life. It is during this time that I realized, Ayurveda and Yoga complement each other, and I was blessed to learn both and share whatever I have learned with others for our betterment.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I would not say it is necessarily a story. Still, it is fascinating as to how I ended up in this country of opportunities towards almost the end of my career at the age of 49, which is very unusual but makes me trust in Karma Yoga even more. When your intentions are pure and conscience clear, all that life brings you is a blessing in disguise.

I had never been out of my country — India, until I received this offer from Yo1 Wellness Resort & Spa in Monticello, N.Y. I had heard of stories, how it was not easy to, first of all, find a job in the US and then if you find one, to get a work permit. It felt no less than a Miracle when everything was taken care of so well without a single hitch, making me realize how blessed I was. Initially, during my counseling sessions, I was not sure how the guests who visited our wellness resort would receive me. But within a few months, I was told by one of the guests that she was happy that I was here, and she said I was destined to be at YO1 and appreciated my services. It felt very rewarding to be recognized by a native of this country. I couldn’t believe how, when the souls connect, no limitations whatsoever matters. That is when I was able to perceive in the real sense that we are all one, and each soul is pure, genuine, as explained in Ayurveda and Yoga.

What advice would you give to other leaders about how to create a fantastic work culture?

You can create a fantastic work culture when you, as a team leader, are empathetic and trust every member of the team. A leader should always acknowledge the input of every team member; however small the contribution could be and give them due credit. It is still important to remember that you are a leader only because you have a team. There is an absolute necessity to have a vision for years ahead and clarity on what needs attention in the present moment. It is always helpful when you take one thing at a time and give your 100 percent while you work on that and leave the rest to the Divine. The leader should also be a role model in “practicing what you preach.” It is this that makes the team members trust you as a leader. Once trust is established between the leader and team members, nothing stops you from reaching the goal together.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

“The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle was life-transforming. Though I was considered successful, and all my students looked up to me, I was always struggling to find answers to many questions that bothered me too often. I had to study ancient Indian scriptures like Upanishads as a part of my learning and to teach it as part of my profession along with all other medical subjects. The challenge was not in teaching science but to make the modern generation understand the relevance of these teachings as applicable to recent times. I have a specific style of teaching these lessons through examples that related to their life experiences. But I had my own unanswered questions and my search for something unknown. When I read The Power of Now, I realized how beautifully the author put forward these teachings of ancient Indian scriptures, especially — The Advaita philosophy of Shankaracharya. The purpose of life, according to Yoga, Ayurveda, or all our religions, be it Buddhism, Taoism, Hinduism, Christianity is Awakening or Realization. Eckhart so well explains this in his book in a simple, practical way. All that one needs to be is “aware” and live in the moment surrendering to what is, without any resistance, no matter what. It takes life’s misery out, allowing us to lead a blissful life. It was as if my search was over. It made me understand my life’s journey and gave me clarity on the lessons that I have learned in the process, guiding me rightly to lead a peaceful life.

That makes me think, now, if only I had gotten a chance to read it earlier maybe I would have been able to make a difference in the lives of many young students igniting a spark in them in terms of how simple life is when we can understand it in its essence. There is a universal truth that is explained so well in this book, which can end our daily struggle and misery forever, making life worth living.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. From your experience or research, how would you define and describe the state of being mindful?

Being mindful occurs when you are fully involved in a particular activity using all of your senses and with a fully attentive mind. You are aware of every movement you make, every sensation in the body, and the thinking that comes with it.

This might be intuitive to you, but it will be instructive to spell this out. Can you share with our readers a few of the physical, mental, and emotional benefits of becoming mindful?

Mindfulness improves health and wellbeing. It helps you to recognize, simple joys and pleasures of everyday life, be grateful for all that we already have like our friends and family, a safe shelter, invariably reducing unnecessary worries and stress. It also equips us with greater strength and courage to overcome obstacles. One becomes stronger emotionally and realizes the energy that we unnecessarily waste in thinking about the past and fearing the future.

Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. The past 5 years have been filled with upheaval and political uncertainty. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have only heightened a sense of uncertainty, anxiety, fear, and loneliness. From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to develop mindfulness and serenity during such uncertain times? Can you please share a story or example for each.

  • Pray twice every day, being grateful for all of your blessings. Prayer helps us realize we need to focus on conducting life with a positive approach and do what is expected of us while leaving the rest to the Divine. We never know where a crisis or uncertain time is leading us. Everything that happens to us individually or collectively always brings about a better outcome when thought about from different perspectives, though we do not see it at that moment. For example, this period of quarantine can help us spend quality time bonding with our families. If someone is in isolation, it can help him be insightful and move inwards to accept his own self better by understanding himself. Prayer will help us to be strong in times of adversity, getting rid of fear or anxiety and developing unwavering faith and trust in the Divine.
  • Observe breathing every time you are aware, which stops unnecessary chatter of the mind. For example, when we are disturbed or angry, our breathing pattern changes without our knowledge. If we can breathe consciously at that moment, our mind calms down. Maintaining a regular Hatha Yoga routine brings this into practice. All yoga techniques help us to pay attention to the breath and thereby assist us in managing our mind in times of crisis or otherwise.
  • Sit quietly in nature, observing the mind allowing the thoughts to pass without getting involved in the thought process. There is an absolute necessity to sit quietly, not doing anything at all, called being with yourself — being aware that you are the soul and an integral part of the universal energy. Turning inward makes you fearless and instills courage to face every adversity. This practice converts loneliness, which is miserable, to solitude, which is joyous.
  • All meditation techniques will help us become more aware of our breath and thoughtlessness. Mantra chanting, observing the subtle sensations in the body, observing our own emotions, and simply watching it as an observer are all different forms of meditation to practice. If one can engage in an activity that he is passionate about, like painting, drawing, or listening to music with total involvement, it can also give you the same effect of meditation as it makes one thoughtless.
  • Yogic techniques like Yoga Nidra (Psychic Sleep) and Trataka (Candle Gazing) can be practiced regularly in the late evening to induce sound sleep. Yoga Nidra can also help you change the habit pattern of your mind. For example, if somebody continually finds something to worry about, he or she could get rid of this habit by regularly practicing Yoga Nidra. Yoga Nidra is said to make changes at the level of the subconscious mind effectively. Trataka also helps to overcome emotional ups and downs.

From your experience or research what are five steps that each of us can take to effectively offer support to those around us who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?

First and foremost, we can offer emotional support to people around us by listening to them patiently. Most of the time, in adverse situations, everyone feels vulnerable and wants someone to listen to them; merely listening brings about great relief. We can also counsel those feeling anxious to induce self-confidence and reassure them that this too shall pass. Helping with their daily needs and sorting through the stressors that are causing them anxiousness.

Being proactive and influencing them to have a disciplined lifestyle to keep them engaged and anxiety-free.

Introducing a healthy lifestyle and food habits, which reduces stress and anxiety remarkably and, in turn, strengthens the immune system.

What are the best resources you would suggest for someone to learn how to be more mindful and serene in their everyday life?

I have three inspiring figures that I love to share with others that are seeking to bring mindfulness into their daily lives. Books and discourses by Eckhart Tolle, Osho and Jiddu Krishna Murti and fantastic resources.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

“You consciously teach what you know and unconsciously what you are.”

This quote has always helped me lead my life with sincerity and honesty. It was my parents who taught me this way of life by living it themselves. Hence there was never a doubt in me as to how effective it could be because I had witnessed it myself. Therefore, I was always aware, whether it be children or students, they would learn more effectively by observing us rather than learning what is taught to them.

As a mother, a teacher, and a team leader, I practice what I preach. To quote an example of this, especially when it came to Yoga practices, I made sure to teach my students by demonstrating the postures myself. Being very young, students admired my level of flexibility in practices at my age, and that would inspire them to strive to perfect their posture as well.

I always insisted on regular training and made my students realize it was a lifestyle to be lived. I demonstrated this by attending Yoga classes with them every single day early in the morning and practiced it with them. Therefore, I believe it is vital to have a similarity between what you are as a human being and what you teach or preach to make the teaching effective for the younger generation to learn.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Start an awareness about healthy, simple living, which makes us realize that we have enough and that the speed at which we are moving, without knowing where we are going or why it is not needed. The need of the hour is to pause. Nature is driving us to pause right now in the form of this worldwide crisis. Or in any other way whenever it happens individually or collectively, where we have no choice but to stop and introspect ourselves.

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Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!