This article is an excerpt from DAAJI’s upcoming book, The Wisdom Bridge: Nine Principles to Live a Life that Echoes in the Heart of Your Loved Ones. It is being published by Penguin India, and will be released later this month.
If we plant a seed, it cannot jump thirty years and become a fruit-yielding tree. It must go through the stages one by one to reach maturity, and that is the process of growth. So, it’s inevitable that a tree’s life begins with a seed, then a sapling, then a young tree, then a mature fruit-bearing tree.
In our life, youth is the journey toward maturity. It is a time of great promise and potential. When I spend time with young people, it gives me a window into their buoyant hearts. When I hear their problems, which some time ago were my problems too, it deepens our kinship. When I listen to their ideas, I feel energized. When I see them drowned in meditation, I witness a new humanity awakening. These young adults are the change agents in our world.
As parents, elders, and teachers, it’s our duty to prepare children for young adulthood by laying strong moral and emotional foundations. From an early age, if we introduce good habits, then when they grow up they will have a well-tuned inner GPS guiding them. Throughout history, whenever young people were supported by the wisdom of elders, they went on to change the world in amazing ways.
But supporting them is not an easy task. Their age is a heady mix of promise, inquisitiveness, defiance, and energy. Saying “This is how we do it” won’t work, because they push back on authority. Talking down to them or pandering to them doesn’t work. We have to meet as equals. Of course, it takes patience, empathy, authenticity, and a good bit of humor to connect.
Once a group of 20-year-olds came to visit me at our meditation center in Kanha Shanti Vanam, India. Kanha is a sanctuary of peace, chiseled out of the arid lands of igneous rock and quartz of the Deccan plateau. Today, Kanha is home to thousands of trees that line the walkways leading to the world’s largest meditation hall. Picture this: A hundred thousand people from around the world meditating for the collective purpose of unity and peace. Kanha is the Garden of Eden of meditation.
At the time these20-year-oldsvisited, the meditation hall was still being built. Several projects were underway and two thousand people were working every day at the site. The youngsters were here for volunteer work. When you sign up as a volunteer, whether you are laying bricks, planting trees, pulling cables, or sweeping floors, your heart becomes more open, aligns with the vision, and you care for what is being done. The work ethic and habits that you develop also serve you well in all aspects of your life.
I gave them a fact-finding mission. I asked them to observe the work and then report back to me. When we got together a few days later, they pulled out a list, almost two pages long. They had identified problems related to shift hours, waste management, landscaping, worker safety, quality of materials, and many other things.
Next, I gave them a couple of days to brainstorm solutions and present their ideas to the project team at Kanha. I also told them that I wouldn’t be attending that meeting. I preferred that they had a free-range discussion, and asked one of my associates to listen in. My associate told me that the meeting started well but quickly went off the rails.
Here’s what happened that day. When the young volunteers presented their findings, the project team felt that they were calling their baby ugly. They also felt that the suggestions were half-baked and lacked proper context. The project team became defensive, and the young volunteers became aggressive. In the heat of the moment, neither team was mindful of the goal, which was how to make Kanha better.
I knew this would happen. Over the years, I have seen how clashing egos squash enthusiasm. I wanted the project team to learn how to process feedback. I wanted them to grasp the proverbial wisdom of separating the wheat from the chaff. But, when emotions run high, we end up collecting chaff from the wheat. I also wanted the youngsters to learn how to offer feedback in a constructive way.
A few days later, when both teams had cooled off, I called them over to my place. I used my weapon of choice, which hasn’t failed me to date. Warm masala chai and some finger-licking Gujarati savories. The instant these weapons are fired even the mightiest meekly surrender to the onslaught of sips and dips. Soon the teams started chatting again. This time around, I asked them to keep the big picture in mind, and having said that, I left for a walk.
I was later told that the conversation went well. This time, the youngsters understood the project team’s viewpoint. They had a better appreciation of the sleepless nights and grueling work involved. The project team, for their part, appreciated the energy of the youngsters. They understood that not only were they offering solutions, they would also work on implementing them. The meeting ended with a feeling of kinship and solidarity.
There is an old engineer’s lament, “Between seeing the glass half full or half empty there is also the possibility of the glass being designed for twice the capacity.” When the energy of youth is supported by wisdom, new perspectives emerge. Young people are not wild horses to be tamed. They need to be inspired and enabled as a force for good.
The biggest strength of youth is energy.
Their energy is creative.
There is no turning off the fire.
There is no hibernating
through this phase of life.
When youthful energies are channeled
in the right direction, such energy is
The biggest strength of youth is energy. Their energy is creative. There is no turning off the fire. There is no hibernating through this phase of life. When youthful energies are channeled in the right direction, such energy is creative energy. The energy of youth is designed for a period of vigorous activity with aspiration. What is the aspiration that drives them? Can it be how to become gentle, how to become loving, and how to become wise?
As an elder, I feel a responsibility to impart wisdom and surround our youth with wise people. Their wisdom will help today’s young people achieve their full potential and bring positive change in their families and communities.
Illustrations by PRAMITI RAMCHANDRA
Kamlesh Patel is known to many as Daaji. He is the Heartfulness Guide in a tradition of Yoga meditation that is over 100 years old, overseeing 14,000 certified Heartfulness trainers and many volunteers in over 130 countries. He is an innovator and researcher, equally at home in the fields of spirituality and science, blending the... Read more