By Belinda Coniglio, current student of the University of Sydney Business School MBA program
I did not know what to expect before embarking on my journey, maybe because I hardly gave myself time to think about it let alone pack the correct attire – ladies are still required to wear loose clothing that covers their entire body. As I sat in Critical Analysis and Thought Leadership, the half way point of my MBA, questioning my personal and professional direction, I decided to book the last spot on the retreat and fly to New Delhi the next day.
The retreat was held at the Anand Prakesh Ashram in Rishekesh, a spiritual town at the foothills of the Himalayas made famous when the Beatles visited in 1968 and stayed at Maharishi’s Ashram.
Observing the rules of the Ashram, I woke daily at 5am to mediate, practice yoga, chant and attend a Hindu fire ceremony before breakfast. There was no access to wifi and we were encouraged to limit telephone calls, consumerism and observe silence between 9pm and 9am. I explored the region in my spare time, trekking to Shiva’s temple, bathing in a waterfall at the confluence of Bhagirathi and Alaknanda rivers (Devprayag) where the Ganges begins, and visiting the Taj Mahal – possibly the greatest love story of all time. The magic of India and the stories of the people I met on my journey – each searching, discovering, creating or healing gave my own life perspective and clarity.
Perhaps the most valuable lesson though was about dharma, a word that has no exact English translation. The essence of dharma is accepting your path, your duty – mine is to serve and to make a difference to people, even if that is only one person – that person may go on to change the life of many. Our teacher, Stuart used an analogy about a street sweeper in India, sweeping because it is his dharma to do so.
Immense importance is placed on food (Ayurveda is the traditional diet and medicine that includes eating seasonal produce for your body type), culture (yoga, sound healing music, dance, colourful saris) and love for the family. These are the currencies that add value to their lives. I hear that even the School of Inspired Leadership (SOIL) has included yoga practice at the Asana Pranayama Bandha Mudra to encourage mindfulness as part of their MBA program.
The story about dharma reassures us to keep our faith and reminds us that we are each truly on our paths to realising our “dharma.”
What is your dharma?