Nehru Centre Director Amish Tripathi launched actress, singer and motivational speaker Raageshwari Loomba Swaroop's latest book Building a Happy Family: 11 Practices of Mindful Parenting this week.
Published by Penguin Random House India last month, the book seeks to enrich and strengthen the inner world of each member of the family to create the ideal atmosphere for the entire family to flourish in. Her candid stories and personable writing style draw on real-life examples and scientific research, including psychological studies, anecdotes of Albert Einstein's childhood and teachings from the Panchatantra.
The actress, known for Bollywood hits such as Ankhen and Main Khiladi Tu Anari, dedicates entire sections of the book to intimate stories of personal heartbreak and her facial paralysis from a Bell's Palsy diagnosis at the peak of her award-winning singing, acting and MTV VJ career in early 2000s. With the support of friends and family and the rediscovery of yoga and meditation, she pulled through with great strength.
During her conversation with Tripathi, Raageshwari spoke openly and earnestly about how the forced solitude of paralysis gave her the opportunity to realign her life. She reminisced about her "simple but magnificent" upbringing with "steel plates" and "newspapers on the floor", and how it was the life lessons from her parents and dinner time discussions which really stuck with her during the hard times.
"We would talk about how life is about the journey and not the destination. They would always tell me to meditate, but it wasn't until my paralysis that I finally gave it a chance, and then it snowballed into my life from there."
During the virtual book launch, Raageshwari also spoke frankly about what she had learnt since giving birth to her three-year-old daughter, Samaya.
"Children live mindfully, naturally. We don't need to teach it to them. You can reprimand them and they'll cry, and then they're ready to forgive you in the next moment. That's why it's called parenting and not childrening?. In many ways, children bring up parents.
"For children, love is not about physical intimacy, it's about love and respect. Even in divorce, children can adjust very well if there is amicability between both parents, as children see half of themselves in their mother and half of themselves in their father. When parents bring each other down, children can take that personally and grow up with such insecurities. Relationships are for growth, not hierarchy.
End your marriage if you want to, but do it with the acknowledgement that you are to grow from here and no one is to blame."
Raageshwari wanted the book to be as scientific as it is spiritual, so that it appeals to youngers and educationalists alike. As well as reading into psychological studies in preparation, she also conducted primary experiments with parents and children. She shared with the audience the concept of "growth mindset" and how it relies on the energy that is conducted through words.
The Panchatantra? said that age zero to seven are the most critical in a human's life because children live almost subconsciously. Therefore, Raageshwari recommends that parents refrain from saying the word "no" to their children during these years, and instead choose more productive and encouraging words.
"The word No? programmes you to believe life is over, when actually that's not the case until you give up. There are studies that show that when you flash the word no? in front of a human's eyes, their neurons and happy-centres start to die immediately. The brain is automatically asked to stop and switch off."
With the help of yoga and her guru Jack Canfield, Raageshwari's full recovery kickstarted her life coaching career. She now lives in London and runs a mindfulness company, Unicorn World Events. She speaks on big stages for global organisations on the power of the mind, and is also a guest speaker at the Oxford Mindfulness Centre.
Raageshwari reiterates throughout the book how one must embrace, not just accept, their circumstances.
"As humans, we love to blame, which is why this pandemic is so confusing. We have no one to point a finger at. Blame takes the power away. What we're thinking creates energy. If you really want to learn to be stress-free, take the onus onto yourself. It's so liberating!
"When happiness is always a moving target, it can never be achieved. But when all life is movement, the journey is what counts. Maximise your true potential, harness your energy and practise loving mindfully; that's the way to a happy family."
by Vidhu Sharma