THE YEAR I UN-BRAINWASHED MYSELF

After a lifetime of swallowing the societal pills of so-called security, 2017 was the year Sushma Sagar officially “un-brainwashed” herself and began living straight from her radical core …

Sushma starts to see the light

It was pretty much drilled into my generation that the path to success and happiness was getting a secure job, getting married, and having kids. For a long time, it didn’t even occur to me that there was an alternative way to live. But when I found myself coming out of the spiritual closet in my corporate career, it started a chain reaction that led to me starting a full-time healing business last year.

And beyond my working life, reassessing my professional priorities also found me re-thinking my personal goals. Did I need to be married with a family to be happy? Did the people “in charge” know what was best for me? Do I want to be motivated by fear, as at seems some of our leaders would prefer? What do I actually think, need, dream of, once familial, societal and social conditioning is removed?

Seeking to learn the answers made 2017 the year I officially un-brainwashed myself … 

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I began to think about the karmic consequences of our decisions … 

I attended a private girl’s school in the 80s, whose mission was to prepare their students to be strong independent females who would make it in a man’s world. We were educated to be career motivated, and highly successful, be it in law, finance, medicine etc. As I was a daughter in a high achieving Indian family, it was an ethos that was also echoed at home.

It was a challenge for somebody creative like me, as I didn’t see where I “fit” into this model. And anyone who didn’t fit was very much on their own. 

I found a way to smooth the edges of my artistic leanings, studying textiles instead of dance and fine art, for example. Then working in marketing instead of designing. My need for approval and acceptance was so strong, that I gradually convinced myself to become someone else entirely. Eventually, I forgot who I was underneath.

For years, I remained blissfully ignorant. But in 2016, with the country divide on Brexit, I was galvanised to think about politics and how it affected our everyday lives. I began to think about the karmic consequences of our decisions. I began questioning what I was being told in the media. I became aware of a world order at play, and found myself dismayed by the lies and corruption being unveiled.

This “awakening” spilled into my own life, as I began questioning if I was living my truth. Was I living with integrity for myself? 

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I felt the very fabric of my existence unravelling … 

Our education system drills us to follow those in charge, and not question authority. But when it becomes clear that those who lead us often don’t have the answers themselves, it’s like realizing that your parents are only humans after all. A sign of maturity, that brings with it the freedom and the duty of taking responsibility for your own choices.

At times this transition felt good, my creative juices started flowing after so many years of being frozen. But at other times it was disorientating and extremely uncomfortable. The eggs had been broken, but the omelette wasn’t quite coming together yet—as I felt the very fabric of my existence unravelling.  

The biggest belief to crumble, was do with identity and purpose, and my definition of “success.”

If I’m not a superwoman in a highflying career, married with four adorable children, then who am I? What am I? Why am I here? What will my legacy be? My self-worth was tied up with a traditional viewpoint, but I felt alienated from the values I’d grown up with. It was on me to rewrite a definition of success that felt congruent with my inner knowing. 

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There were two milestones along the way … 

In 2012 I fell head over heels for someone who was everything I ever dreamed of. Handsome, intelligent, devastatingly charming. Finally marriage, children, and the life I hoped for seemed to be rolling out just like in the story books. Then after a close death in the family, the relationship deteriorated, and I fell into a grief spiral. The dream plan went awry. 

A few years later, I found myself working as a resident healer at the Obonjan festival, doing intensive healing sessions in a pine forest. During one session, I had an incredible spiritual experience where, among other things, the trees began communicating with me. It broke me down and I found myself weeping tears of joy. Life suddenly felt very different, and I was aware of my soul evolving. I had tasted something profound that my current existence had not been giving me. I suddenly understood that success to me involved service and connection.

I have continued with this very deep, personal healing work. Shamanism, sound healing, meditations, acupuncture, family constellations, womb work, goddess work, inner child … you name it, I’ve done it! The need to connect with Spirit became all consuming, leading me to live a higher vibrational lifestyle. 

I became very sensitive to the things that affected my connection, such as meat and alcohol, and naturally reduced them. Of course, my own reiki practice has supported me from the beginning, and I’ve used this to navigate life and heal.

I’m lucky in that my family and friends have always been supportive of my healing work, in spite of them never fully understanding what I do. However, the more work I do on myself, the more I am able to understand what makes us all tick, and the more my relationships with others have improved.

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How to undertake your own “un-brainwashing” … 

In order to unlearn deeply ingrained patters, I believe you have to:

1// Examine your beliefs. 
Identify and becomes aware of your beliefs about key areas of life. For example: self, love, sex, family, religion, faith, society, culture, right and wrong, how life and the universe actually work etc.

Then go back and consider how you learned that belief, where it originated from. Was it from a teacher at school, or a family member for example?

Now ask yourself: if that origin were removed, and there was no judgement from anywhere, would you still feel the same way? Consider whether the belief makes you feel happy or obligated. 

Physical sensations will often occur when an idea resonates with you: goosebumps, chills or even a prickly feeling. Your body knows what is true for you and what is not, so look for the signs. How do different concepts, and beliefs about how to live your life, make you feel?

For example, after the breakdown of my relationship, I realized that part of my grief was to do with the loss of a life path I thought I wanted. I had blindly trusted that I needed to be married with children to be happy. However, under deep scrutiny, I realized this idea originated from my culture and society in general, and I hadn’t really thought about my needs as an individual and a healer.

I concluded that being a parent might bring satisfaction, but may not actually make me “happier.” Besides, wallowing in mother-fomo was bringing me down. So I determined that it wasn’t going to be a deal-breaker and have felt a lot better since.

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2// Find new teachers.  
Trying to unlearn everything, pick it all apart and work out who I was under all the conditioning, has been incredibly challenging. Listening to teachers, in particular Shaman Durek, has helped and continues to help me navigate this process.

However, my biggest teachers have actually been my personal spirit guides, accessed through deep Shamanic work. I learn and continue to learn more from them more than anyone else, and they have helped me to discern what “I” think and want.

Finding your teachers is about using your intuition. Ask around for recommendations, Google subjects of interest, and see what authors you’re attracted to. Be guided by synchronicity. Whose face, voice and attitude resonates with you, or charges you up? Find people who challenge your status quo and make you think twice. 

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3// Honor your natural talents.
You were given your talents for a reason, and it’s your duty to nurture them—and, when you have mastered them, to share them with others. In the sentiment of Oprah Winfrey, speaking and living your truth is the most important thing you can do!

I launched my own healing brand, The Calmery, so that I could create something in my own vision, and not be answerable to anyone, but I’m still sometimes plagued with a “be nice, be liked, head down” corporate hangover.

There is certainly more work for me to do, to be living in my full wattage power. But my un-brainwashing is well underway, and I’ll get there soon enough.

 

Sushma Sagar is a former global fashion brand director turned Reiki Master Teacher, and is the founder of London based healing practice The Calmery. She offers private reiki sessions, tuition, and workshops by appointment. Join her for Reiki Level One Training on Sunday, February 18th in London. 

WHY YOU NEED TO DISCOVER YOUR “IKIGAI”

Want to discover exactly why you are here and what you’re here to do? The Japanese art of “Ikigai” can lead you closer to your soul purpose, says Sushma SagarMain Image: Samantha Wills Foundation 

Why are you here? What is your reason for being? This is THE critical question of human existence and many of us spend our whole lives seeking to address …  

The simple Japanese concept of soul purpose, or “Ikigai,” is designed to help you begin to uncover the answers by exploring the intersection between what you can be paid to do, what you love to do, what the world needs, and what you are truly good at.

All it takes is a pen, some paper, and a sprinkle of curiosity … 

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:: THE FOUR CIRCLES :: 

Draw a venn diagram with four empty circles that intersect in the middle, one for each of the elements below, and write your thoughts in the corresponding section.

CIRCLE 1 – PROFESSION 
Inside this circle ask yourself: What are you doing that pays the bills and are there any parts of your job that you particularly enjoy?

Your profession is what you are paid to do. It could be something you always wanted to do, or something that you were encouraged to do. It may have evolved from a subject you studied. Or perhaps you just fell into it.

You may be one of the lucky ones who loves their job, but if you still feel like something is lacking, you’re not alone! I began my studies in textile design but ended up in fashion brand marketing because textile design opportunities were scarce. While marketing kept me in the industry I loved, it always felt like a compromise …

Photo: Garrhet Sampson

CIRCLE 2 – PASSION 
Inside this circle ask yourself: When do you feel you are totally in the “zone” and time stands still? Are there any activities that you become so engrossed in that mean you don’t reach for your phone? 

Your passion is the thing you love, regardless of whether or not it has a commercial end. Passions excite us. They make us feel whole and consume our attention. Perhaps it’s something you used to do as a child but let fall by the wayside. As a child, I was obsessed with art and legos, and had a very specific vision for “weird” color combinations. Sadly, as my corporate life continued, these creative outlets eroded. Returning to our former hobbies can often shed light on our true passions.

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CIRCLE 3  – MISSION 
Inside this circle, ask yourself: How do you want to be remembered? What do you feel is your duty to the earth or mankind? What do you want to contribute to the world?

Your mission may feel more serious and involves the legacy you want to leave that inspires you to act. A mission doesn’t have to mean becoming a peace envoy or starting a charity! It could be that your mission is as simple as caring for your own family and friends. As a sensitive and quiet child growing up in a loud Indian household, I often took on the role of the diplomat. As an adult, I continue to strive to keep things peaceful and this mission has become the backbone of the healing work I have gone on to do since leaving my corporate career behind.

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CIRCLE 4 – VOCATION 
Inside this circle ask yourself : What aspect of your life, or things that you do, will be there no matter what? What thoughts or actions will you never tire of? What activity would you get metaphorically tattooed on your skin? 

Your vocation is a calling—something that you feel deeply compelled to do AND are suited for, and it’s often connected to your mission. Maybe you can get paid to do it, but money is not your motivation. Your vocation is not a fad. It is not something you try and then leave. It is something that is deeply embedded in your sense of self. It’s a bit like that favorite jacket you’ve had for years and you will always wear because it really suits you.

When I discovered that energy healing was my vocation, it felt like a soul calling—a commitment I had unconsciously made. The innate empathy and sensitivity that were less useful to me as a child, and in my former profession, finally had a raison d’etre. My desire to keep the calm now had a methology.

Photo: Sasha Freemind

 :: THE CENTER OF THE CIRCLE—YOUR IKIGAI ::  

As you look at the contents of the 4 circles you’ve sketched, ask yourself … Are there any threads that link all four parts of your life? What common themes or activities come up? Could there be something that connects them together? Something that simultaneously gives you joy, satisfaction, life purpose, and reward? This could be your Ikigai. 

Don’t worry if nothing comes up, or if you find that you’ve found some intersection but it’s not perfect. My Ikigai is only just starting to emerge after A LOT of soul searching and some recent alignments in the stars. Over many years, my quietly growing healing practice has gone from a vocation to a passion to a mission … that has now also become a profession. Aha, Ikigai!

The journey to Ikigai is the ultimate in self-realization; it involves experience, analysis, and a life lived. And always remember, the journey itself is also part of your Ikigai … 

Sushma Sagar is a reiki master and teacher, and founder of The Calmery—an energy healing practice based in London. Follow her on Instagram for more magic! 

COMING OUT OF THE SPIRITUAL CLOSET

Sushma Sagar pursued a high powered career in fashion, but always practiced reiki on the side. She shares how she finally found herself coming out of the spiritual closet at work.

 

“I’m a closet hippie” I used to jest to my close friends. “She’s doing her witchy stuff again” they would say, all tongue in cheek, making a silly joke. It was no joke.

I’ve been practicing reiki healing on the sly for around 16 years, and only now do I feel like I can admit it freely. It’s not the middle ages, I’m not going to get burned at the stake, so why has it taken so long to come out?

Of course you must always look back to look forward. As a kid, I played with the other children and got along just okay, but was always a bit on the outside. A little misfit who would hang around with other misfits to fit in. Fitting in, being what you thought others wanted, was what you did. A child of Indian doctor immigrants, with success and achievement drilled into us from an early age, assimilation was the most important thing.

Childhood passions were quashed one by one – dance, theatre, art, textiles- and I grew up to find myself working in marketing for well-known fashion brands like Diesel, Ted Baker and Ben Sherman. It was fiercely competitive, and as for fitting in…well that goes without saying. I was so desperate to prove myself and to get along, shape shifting became natural.

But quietly, outside of work, I was developing other interests. The catalyst of heartbreak saw me visit a healer who used acupuncture and reiki to calm my heart and make me smile, when I believed I could not. Astonished and intrigued, before I knew it I had done a course and had been initiated into this, then secret, world.

And as anyone who’s experienced their reiki initiation will know, once on the path, it slowly changes you; your trajectory shifts and, whether you want to or not, you move towards your personal truth. As did I…but on the weekends only!

So my double life continued. By day, corporate world, shallow dreams, and fickle desires. On evenings and weekends, I was back to my private world, filled with magic, loving energy, and heart opening activities. As far as I was concerned these worlds were mutually exclusive, and I felt more comfortable keeping them that way too.

But then holistic therapies began to gain interest; LA’s healthy living and New Age thinking was becoming popular in London. Celebrities and their holistic entourage were being reported in the press, spa and yoga retreats were all the rage. I ploughed on, reading and practicing until I finally completed my master reiki training. Simultaneously, my corporate life was also going from strength to strength.

And all around me, I could feel attitudes changing, judgments becoming less harsh, and ideas about “alternative” healing finally entering the mainstream. By now I had also joined a wonderful fashion brand, that celebrated interesting women. And yet still I didn’t let on to anyone about my “interesting” side.

But then, heartbreak yet again, and some serious healing was needed. I called in the big guns and found a shamanic practitioner in London. Together we journeyed back in time, healed some karmic contracts and made my soul whole again. Delighted, I trained with him to learn these skills for myself. As a result, I now felt so fully and completely me, that hiding “myself” seemed impossible.

Life was improving fast now on every level. My heart was healing after all I’d come through romantically, and I felt whole, settled and happy in my skin. I got promoted at work, felt inspired again, and began working on all the creative side projects I’d been afraid of starting.

The last piece of the puzzle was to find a way to bring my two separate worlds together. To cause a synthesis of my spiritual self and my life in the fashion world – something I’d never felt a need to do until now.

Then, when I was invited to give reiki taster sessions to professional women on a retreat hosted by a friend, the fact I understood their life turned out to be an empathetic advantage. I realized you can have one foot in the material and one in the spiritual!

Monday morning at the office following the retreat, the conversation began as usual: “so what did you do last night?” asked my boss. Me: “OH, I did a healing exchange, I gave a friend some reiki and he did some energy work on my knee.” “You do reiki?” she cried, “That’s amazing, you never said.” Me: “Didn’t I? I’ve been doing it for years, I must have mentioned it. Anyway about that budget…”

And just like that, I came out the spiritual closet. I haven’t looked back.

To book a shamanic reiki session with Sushma contact [email protected]

How did you come out of the spiritual closet? Share in the comments below!