Exploring the soul ..
The urge to do something meaningful in life led Sheetal Sanghvi to lay grounds for The Urban Ashram. Had he known that the challenging times he faced would guide him to becoming self-dependent, he would have blessed every moment of those hardships.
In existence for less than nine months now, the ashram that is based in Pune is also Sanghvi’s sweet abode.
While narrating the incidents that inspired to follow a particular path, Sanghvi said, “The seed for the urban ashram was sown during my first Vipassana intensive.
I was going through a very rough period in my life, when everything I did suddenly seemed empty, meaningless… A particular series of unanticipated events had somehow managed to bring my life to a stand still, leaving me with a sort of mental paralysis. It was around that time that I started visiting Transitions, a community centre with a café, a book store, studios for healing workshops, and Moksha, a yoga studio that offers yoga classes and workshops throughout the day.”
He continued saying, “These two places were very helpful in helping me understand the connection between the body-mind-spirit. I realised the importance of taking care of myself at physical, mental, emotional as well as spiritual levels. I visited these places almost whenever I found free time between my university classes. The joy of learning in such places gave me a high; it felt like a celebration.”
And how did he come about the idea of setting up the ashram? “It so happened that when I was in a Vipassana course, I was at a stage where I had to decide what I wanted to do in life. I was nearly at the end of my 2 year MS in financial markets at the Stuart School of Business, Chicago. On offer was the chance to work in some of the best financial services firms in the world. On the other side was a deep inner conviction that my life was best suited to understanding the nature of spirit, of exploration of the finer arts like yoga and meditations, of the inner and the outer worlds.”
At that time, Sanghvi was also undergoing the churning of creating financial security for his future. The pressures of watching all his fellow students undertake cushy jobs, and take the responsibility of their family were taking their toll on him.
Sanghvi was urgently seeking the kind work that would marry his passion as well as provide a reasonable source of income that would allow him to live life independently. “The idea to attempt the same model that I had seen work at Transitions and Moksha, came instinctively. I thought of reconverting my old bungalow into a community space for the promotion of yoga, meditation, arts, and related activities. In my mind’s eye I saw the blueprint for the ashram begin to take shape. Slowly but surely, I was guided to people who helped me nurture this dream.”
He then took a year off to travel across the world. His journey took him to some of the most amazing places, where he met some incredibly inspiring people. Places on the itinerary included Bodh Gaya, Dharamshala, Rishikesh, Pondicherry in India as well as Yogaville studios in New York, Chicago and San Francisco in the USA. Sanghvi spent a considerable amount of time meditating and interacting with like minded people in these places.
“I was sure that now I wanted nothing more than to live my dream of creating a space where people could come to explore life in its many dimensions. Coming back home it was an effort to persuade my family to allow me to renovate our bungalow. I feel blessed that my family understood my soul’s yearnings and heeded to my desires. As my favorite quote from The Alchemist reads, ‘When you desire something, the whole Universe conspires to bring it to you’. Indeed, a lot of events started happening unexpectedly that helped me manifest the urban ashram.”
Along with classes on yoga, meditation, arts and crafts, the Urban Ashram also started hosting workshops on healing arts like pranic healing, art of living, health awareness, dance and drama therapy, inspirational movie screenings, book clubs and drumming circles, among other.
The ashram recently started an in-house shop that supports the swadeshi movement, with khadi clothes, aroma candles from ashrams in India, locally produced handicrafts and books.
“We will be soon start a café and an art gallery too that will help us take our initiative closer to completion,” said Sanghvi. “It’s only now after these nine months that we are beginning to get a sense of the enormity of the vision that has been undertaken. All I can say is that we are never given a dream without being given the ability to live it. Go on, live your dreams!” he signs off.