Putting things into perspective for busy people. More than a year ago I went on a “renewal trip”. One of my destinations was India, an exotic land full of contrasts. 

I arrived in Mumbai a month after the 26th of November bombings. I jumped in the taxi with my hosts to the city of Pune (number 1 city for technological investments), three hours from Mumbai.

The next day we travelled 30 km away from Pune, towards the mountains. I see the contrast between the old and the new, between poverty and wealth in a way that I have never seen in my native continent of South America; women wearing colorful saris, working in the middle of the fields, carrying heavy bundles over their heads, men ploughing the land with oxen are all dressed in white.

Twelve years old girls chopping rocks on the sides of the road…."This happens like this, without machines, to keep unemployment low" my guide says.

There is rubbish everywhere, wherever one looks and all the drivers sound the car horn non-stop. The traffic is chaotic but nobody crashes. Everyone possesses an impressive ability to circulate in badly made one way streets. They do not insult each other; they do not get angry, they only sound their horns and apologize straight away if they touch each other with their vehicles.

Many women work crouching on the sides of the road. They have an incredible physical condition and they smile as we pass by in our vehicle and when I ask their permission to take photos of them they move their heads in an adorable way to say “yes” when in reality they seem to say “no”. 

I ask how they keep clean and so neat, particularly the women. My guide tells me that there is always someone who has access to a cold water tap or shower. They help each other and they lend the facilities to others who do not have them.

My guide also tells me that these people live in the present, they leave the past behind as if it had not happened and they overcome their frustrations quickly. They do not plan ahead; neither do they worry so much about the future, they live in the present; they are together as much as they can. They walk hugging each other, men with men, women with women.

Pune also is home to the headquarters of Osho International Meditation Retreat, one of the reasons why I wanted to go to Pune. I was interested in seeing what it is about and how this controversial spiritual leader was able to attract so many people from all over the world. Osho died in 1990 in India after being deported from the USA.

This centre places special emphasis on the importance of awareness, meditating, celebrating, expressing creativity and practicing humour. These qualities are suppressed when people are conditioned by their belief systems and religions, according to Osho, a philosophy professor.

I find myself living a surreal experience as I walk to the auditorium, all dressed in the same color. This auditorium, for meditation purposes, is shaped like a pyramid, with black marble floors and can host around 3,000 people. It is surrounded by water pools and delicate gardens probably designed in feng shui style.

Besides the meditation programs, they offer a variety of courses such as ayurveda, energy therapies, auro-soma, how to utilize painting to activate creativity and a number of other things.

What amazes me the most is that I see so many people, particularly western professionals, psychologists, stressed out executives who come from all over the world to meditate in Pune;  to be present, to free themselves from the stress and the anxiety for the future, and to forget the pains of the past. They leave the meditation centre and return to their hotel, alone, to eat well and sleep in a comfortable bed.

Around the corner, there are the ones who sleep in a not so comfortable bed and are probably exhausted after chopping rocks all day long. They do not think about the future and avoid remembering the past. They do not travel thousands of miles seeking to be in the present. They simply enjoy it… and smile, and stay together, even if they are poor.

A few words from Osho’s book called “Maturity”:

Sometimes, limit yourself to do nothing. Relax on the grass and look into the sky. Sometimes, close your eyes and simply look at your inner world let your thoughts move, float, let your wishes come and go.  Imagine, “not to be” for a second. In your house, pretend that you do not exist for a few moments. Imagine it, one day you will not be there anymore.

Originally posted on: 13 June 2010
Last updated on: 18 February 2024

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Silvia Damiano

Silvia Damiano

Founder & CEO
About my Brain Institute

Scientist, educator, author, speaker, coach, award-winning leadership specialist, filmmaker and creator of the i4 Neuroleader Model & Methodology.

Silvia's scientific background and curiosity about the human brain led her to a decade long journey of research into optimal brain functioning and the application of neuroscience in leadership and daily life. Her past and current roles have uniquely prepared her for the current undertaking, that of leadership activist & change agent.

Silvia Damiano founded The About my Brain Institute in 2009, with the purpose of democratising leadership & neuroscience. She has a passionately held belief, that leaders in our 21st century global economy and their organisations must radically change long-held ideas of what constitutes effective leadership

In her ground-breaking books ‘Leadership is Upside Down’, ‘Brain-Friendly Leadership’ and the 2018 documentary ‘Make Me A Leader’, Silvia provides both compelling evidence and explores the importance of leadership in our personal and professional lives and what it takes to develop the human behind the leader.

Silvia has worked in different countries, across many industries, helping teams and organisations improve business performance. Silvia’s clients have described her as a passionate, dynamic, a highly experienced speaker and master facilitator on the topics of Emotional Intelligence, Cultural Change, Neuroleadership & Engagement.

Silvia is passionate about leaving a legacy of well-rounded leaders who can act and decide in a way that better serves humanity. Her clients include Microsoft, Australian Stock Exchange, NSW Government, VISA, Fuji Xerox and Manpower amongst many other global companies.

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