Born and raised in the strife-torn region of Jammu and Kashmir, Rachna persevered despite living under the constant threat of terrorist attacks and experiencing lengthy disruptions in her schooling.
She knew that a better life was possible, and she set out to make that happen. She went on to create a highly successful career in India’s hotel industry and received an executive education leadership development program at Harvard Business School, then she went on a spree to specialization in authentic leadership.
But delving deeper into the science of the power of the mind, a greater calling had begun to emerge since 2012. She finally quit hotels and started her mission for world peace.
She founded Vision 2021—One Million Youth for Peace, a social initiative and mentorship platform to help young people break the cycle of violence and unhappiness by providing the tools to develop minds, nurture talent, create economic opportunity and learn the life skills to operate on a global leadership level.
As a very small child, I had a very curious nature. When I walked with my mother, I would ask her why the sun was walking with me. When I closed my eyes, I wondered why there was suddenly darkness. Has the light gone off? And where did the moon go when it disappeared? Although I could not articulate it at the time, I was very interested in this mystic world beyond me.
I was born in the far-flung region of Jammu and Kashmir in a remote town called Kishtwar. There were no lights for months in occasion of snowfall. We would not be connected to the city, roads cut off from avalanches and landslides. The newspaper and few magazines were our knowledge centers.
When I was 12, I saw an advertisement on newspaper about a cassette tape with music that could increase the power of your subconscious mind. That had a research paper attached with it. I asked my father if he could buy it as a birthday gift for me, so I could increase the power of my mind and get better marks at school. I started reading more and more about it because I knew there was something higher and bigger.
But then I forgot everything. We suddenly had terrorism when I turned 15. It completely changes the focus of your life. It becomes all about survival and nothing else. All of these good methods of self-actualization and exploring the world go out the window. It was particularly devastating not being able to go to school because it was shut down. I had to go and find a teacher who could work with me in my locality. I had to find a way to somehow appear for my exams and get good marks. Eventually I got fed up. I didn’t want to live in this hostile environment. I knew somewhere there were people who believed in living a happy life, and I wanted to live amongst them.
So when the right opportunity came, I left my town. I graduated in hotel management and did very well. For 12 years, I was very happy, a very successful hotelier. I had loved what I was doing. I had the skill set, the commitment, and I worked really hard. It gave me the perks, the incentives, the promotions. I worked hard to achieve my goals but I realized with time that these were not the ultimate goals of my life or my purpose. I was also informally educating myself on how to find purpose, contemplating my own story and what my life was trying to tell me.
I think what I had been born with and what I was doing in my childhood, which I had forgotten, was coming back to me and knocking on my soul every day. That same child that listened to that tape cassette was now grown up and began reading up on the science behind the brain – that’s how I was introduced to meditation and mindfulness practices. As a young career-oriented person, I would see all the monks and all the people who would come to India to learn meditation. I would make fun of them. I remember thinking, ‘I don’t understand what they’re doing and how this is going to change the world and how it was going to change them. How can you close your eyes and expect things to work for you?’
Slowly but surely as I got inducted into mindfulness, my life was changed, and I was changed forever. All of that emptiness that was inside of me was filled by this bliss of finding my true purpose in life. I had more confidence. I was more fearless. I was more creative. Suddenly my voice, instead of speaking from my throat, was coming from much lower down in my heart. I didn’t know where my words were coming from, but I could suddenly explain things to people in ways that I couldn’t do before. I could now articulate my purpose and vision to others clearly.
Most importantly, I learned that it is not just about closing the eyes for 20 minutes and some magic is going to happen. You have to also do the study and contemplation. Knowledge and ritual both have to go handin-in-hand. I believe it has to be a perfect balance to be able to see the change that you want to see. I can guarantee that once you start doing that, there’s going to be a profound change in your personality. Once you change, everything changes around you. Laws of nature / universe operate in alignment with you, but you have to first know what those universal laws are.
People say that I’m very tough, that I have this resilience in me. Where does it come from? It comes from something higher. It chooses you, and you look back and say, “That was all meant to be.” I had a realization that the time for instant gratification was over—a greater calling awaited me, which I call dharma. ’Okay, this is my time to give back and apply what I have learnt through my life.”
Possibly I was born to actually help the people in Jammu and Kashmir, who have no information and are suffering, to realize there is hope. To those who are picking up stones and throwing them, they are living only a life of war and conflict and dying, not experiencing any beauty of this short life at all. It is hard to change the external conflicts that are beyond our control, but we can do much to fix the internal conflicts. Our young people have to enjoy this gift called life.
My work is very simple. We practice very simple values—humility, compassion and peace. We’re just standing for youth and saying that we want to give them the information and exposure to develop themselves, to create jobs and earn money and have a good life. Imagine a city where the schools are shut, the shops are closed, the transportation system is nonexistent, and there is no tourism or trade. What are people going to do?
Once they have development, become engaged and start making money, they will be tired at the end of the day and won’t have time to think about conflict. They will be bothered about themselves and things that they have to achieve for sustaining the good life. They will automatically ignore conflict. I want to develop a community of people irrespective of their past who are positive and want to become more positive.
For more information on Rachna’s work, go to www.vision2021.net