Life Is A Challenge Meet It By: Reshma Shah, From: London, UK (Received: Feb. 2012)

Written by Ted Henry and Jody Cleary on . Posted in How I came to sai

Life is a Challenge, meet it….. Baba


As Swami says "Life is the best teacher”.  In life, not only do we learn from success but also from failure, we have to accept both equally.  When going through a challenge on many occasions we question ourselves ‘why me?’ and yet when we go through success we never question it and just accept it.  For me travelling through this journey of discovery I have been through many challenges, which has made me more determined to reach my goal.  Along with these challenges came a few success stories and in the article below I am going to share this journey.


Around 15 years ago, I considered myself a non sai devotee, simply because I did not know a lot about Swami or his teachings.  I was a very shy and an underconfident person and as a result, this effected my education at school.  I found it very hard to speak up, especially when an audience was present.  So you can imagine when I was stuck on a question I never had the courage to say “Sir / Ms I don’t understand can you please help me with this question?”.  Anyway, with all of this there was one thing I was certain about and that was I wanted to work with children.  After 16, I enrolled at college to do a childcare course and three years later became a qualified nursery nurse. 

After this I took a year out to work and experience the ‘real world’.  I learnt a lot from this, for starters there are no teachers on your back to make sure you are looking for a job or if your CV is up to date.  You are responsible for yourself.  It was around this time of summer 1999 that, Swami started coming in my dreams and I had an urge to go and see him in Parthi.  We planned a trip in December 1999 and went there.  We had a fantastic experience, one being, where I had given a couple of letters to my dad to take to darshan.  In the hall, there was a 5 year old boy was sitting next to him and the boy wet himself and so these letters got wet.  During darshan Swami was walking towards the left side of where the men were sitting and my dad was sitting towards the right.  My dad thought “Swami has gone that way and so he won’t come here”.  As soon as he thought this Swami turns and walks straight to him.  Swami put his hands out, wanting the letters.  My dad was reluctant to give them to him as they were wet.  Swami was still standing there patiently, waiting to receive the letters.  Finally, my dad gives them to him, and Swami smiles, gives his blessings and walks off.  This was our first darshan and first experience. 


This was the chance he gave us to go and see him, to experience him, and then accept him.  Thousands of people will go for darshan, and yet Swami interacts with all of us individually and in different ways.  We can all be sitting in the same darshan hall but we all take away a different message from it.  This is the beauty of our beloved Bhagawan.  He works with us only on a heart to heart basis.  And for me this is where my spiritual journey began…..


January 2000 I came back to London and just out of coincidence visited a Sai Centre. I felt at home here and Swamiafter a few months something inside my heart changed and I made a decision this is me and where I want to be. 


In the summer of 2001, I did the EHV training and came across a quote under the value of truth “face your fear and it will disappear”, I totally disagreed with this quote, I had always tried to face my fear and it had never disappeared therefore I came to a conclusion that this quote was untrue.  Little did I know what was going to happen next….


Towards the end of the course I was asked to give a talk at the centre about my experience of doing it.  Major challenge for me, I was shy and had a fear of public speaking, I believed I was never going to be able to do this, so immediately said no I can’t do it.  I could not understand why Swami was putting me in the deep end, he knew I had a fear; I would do anything else but not that.  Eventually the person that asked me said I was like that once, whenever I was asked to speak to an audience I would run a mile, but one day I had to make a decision, I have to face this.  If I do not face this today I will have to face it tomorrow, so it may as well be today.  As soon as she said this it got me thinking ‘how long can I run away from this?, I have to face this’.  So I said yes I will do it, I was still very nervous, as whenever I spoke to an audience my voice would always break and you would know that I was nervous. 


The day came when I was going to face my biggest fear.  After bhajans, I got up and started talking, to my amazement my voice was not breaking, I was not nervous when I was up there.  I was in a ‘wow’ moment, and finally that underconfident barrier had been broken.  I now believe the quote “face your fear and it will disappear”.  Swami made me experience this.  Later that evening, Swami came in my dream, and I saw he was in the room I was practicing in, and then when I sat down for bhajans he came and touched my head.  All along Swami was with me, we just have to believe this.  Sometimes in life at that moment we don’t understand why we go through a challenge, until we have accomplished it and look back after a few years and hopefully think oh yes I can see why I went through that.  Swami throws challenges our way as he knows we will be able to cope with it.  He helps us restore that self belief that we will get through it.  The impossible can become the possible. 


It was only Swami that helped me break this ‘unconfident barrier’ and I became a confident person.  After facing this fear, I made a decision to do my GCSEs, I applied at two colleges.  At one college they rejected me, they told me at 21, I have been out of education too long and was unlikely to pass.  I was quite nervous about going to the other college, as I feared the same response.  However, to my surprise they accepted me.  At college, having confidence made a real difference, I was now able to ask for help without the fear of being laughed at, and this helped me get through the course and exams.


Whilst studying, I was immensely involved with a Sai Project called ExCEL (Excelling in Careers, Exam and Life).  This project helped me establish my own way of excelling in my career path and gained a better understanding of the issues young people go through when choosing their career.  I wanted to make a difference in their life by sharing my experience.  When involved with Excel in 2003, 2004 and 2005, I had no idea how my own life was going to shape out.  Nevertheless, I have learnt to follow my heart, my dream and never give up when faced with a challenge.  Instead, rise up to it; turn it into a learning opportunity. 


After my GCSEs, I carried on studying for my A Level’s.  It was at this stage of my life when a friend encouraged me to do teacher training.  Somehow I got the courage to enquire about this and I applied at four universities.  I got interviews in all and was fortunate enough to get three unconditional offers and one conditional offer. 


In the end, I decided to go to Middlesex University, as it was near home and I would save on time, money and energy.  While looking at the university website, I noticed that they were offering scholarships, so applied for the Community and Cultural award, not really thinking anything of it.  After doing this I went through a phase where I did not want to do teacher training anymore.  I started having doubts, “it’s not for me”, “I won’t be able to do it”.  Then I made a decision, if I don’t get the scholarship then its Swami saying to me don’t do teacher training, but if I do then I must pursue this career.  Few weeks later the university letter came and it said “congratulations” and the answer was there, Swami wants me to do this.


Beginning of September 2005, I started my first week at university. I was quite nervous and excited, looking forward to the adventure.  Up till now everything was going well, but then I faced my first obstacle, my aunt said “why are you studying at 24, you don’t have to do this, give up and get a job”.  On hearing this, I felt really sathya-saidown and again the doubts started coming “maybe she’s right, I won’t be able to do this and I should give up, in fact I was ready to give up”.  I spoke to a friend and they helped me see the light and I remembered that I made a commitment to Swami, if I get the scholarship he wants me to do this, without Swami’s will nothing happens.  From that day I believed he would help me no matter what came my way. 


In life there are two ways we can deal with a challenge.  First, is to give up, that is the easy way, and the second is to rise up to the challenge, conquer each battle and reach the goal. “Life is a challenge, meet it”.  The more challenges that are thrown my way the better I have become in dealing with it.  There are days when you will be low and days when you are happy, all are a learning experience for us.  If you never try, you will never know what the outcome will be and if the outcome is not what you expected then try again, but don’t give up. 


During the second year of university, I was again successful in being awarded the scholarship.  However, during the summer I failed an assignment twice; this meant I was unable to move into the third year in Sept, to do my school placement.  During this time, I was told by my lecturer that I have to ‘step up’ in my writing; otherwise, I will not be able to cope with the third years work.  At this time I had no idea what was planned for the future and was not even sure if I was going to make it.  I could have given up, in fact that was the easier option, but instead during summer till December I worked really hard and made every effort to get extra support so I could ‘step up’ in my writing.  I was still quite nervous in attempting the assignments, but all this hard work paid off and I got through all the assignments. 


In September 2008, I was unsuccessful in being awarded the scholarship for a third year.  But this was ok, as not only do you learn from success but also from failure.  Never give up, there is always light at the end of the tunnel.  One afternoon, just out of the blue, I received a reply to an email I enquired about two years ago to become a Student Ambassador.  I was invited to go for an interview and few days later was told that I was successful in the interview and have become a Student Ambassador for Middlesex University. 


Swami works in mysterious ways, for me the reply to the email came at the right time and I believed I also became Swami’s Ambassador.  I felt it is important for me to share my experience with others, its never to late to achieve your goals.  I believe that the amount of knowledge and information we gain, we have to be grateful for the opportunity given to us. It is never just for us to use for our own benefit, it is our duty to share and give others that same opportunity we have been granted. 


From this experience I have learnt that we all go through challenges, but the key is we should never give up. 


We are all unique and have something different to offer, if we were all the same, life would be boring.  Welcome challenges and use it to rise up to it. Hold your head up high and believe you will come out successful.  You hold the key to unlock that locked door.  Believe in yourself and this alone will get you to your destination. 


Life is a challenge, meet it…. Baba

Sai Love

Reshma Shah