Photo Credit Jan Garrison
Search featured in Oprah documentary
November 3, 2016

Reshma Thakkar appeared to have everything a person would want: a high-end car, a nice apartment, a well-paying technology position, and living in Chicago with its active social scene.

But she woke up “dreading” every day. She crammed her business and social calendar so full she didn’t have time to think about what was nagging her. She played the music loud in her car when she was alone to drown out the voices in her head.

Still – when she first woke up and everything was quiet – that sense of dread returned. She knew something was missing, but she didn’t know what. But she also knew she had to find what her life was lacking.

So, she decided to give up her lifestyle and embark on a pilgrimage to India, her spiritual homeland, in the hope of connecting with her internal self at the world’s largest Hindu gathering: the Kumbh Mela.

It was not an easy decision, by any means, Thakkar told students during her Culver Academies’ visit that was sponsored by Spiritual Life and The Global Studies Institute. She was a first-generation-born American citizen, yet she felt a deeper connection to India than her parents, who questioned why she would do something so rash.

She had already disappointed them once when she told them she didn’t want to become a doctor after entering Indiana University to study pre-med. “Thank God they were hundreds of miles away (in St. Joseph, Mich.),” she said. But Thakkar was already starting to question the definition of success at that time.

There was a total disconnect between my external and internal worlds.

Reshma Thakkar conducted a workshop with Culver students.

Reshma Thakkar conducted a workshop with Culver students.

“Was I pleasing myself or others?” she said of her decision to become a doctor when she was younger. She was doing well academically, but she lacked the passion she needed to continue. “What was it that I wanted. What was true for me.”

And, while she had the outer trappings of a successful life in Chicago, Thakkar said she was again lacking that passion. It wasn’t necessarily religious, but it was spiritual. She was looking for “the truth for me.”

“There was a total disconnect between my external and internal worlds,” she explained. Her life felt mundane and it “wasn’t cutting it for me.” And that is when she decided that a journey to India and Nepal to explore her Hindu background at Kumbh Mela would help settle her soul.

As soon as she told her family and friends she was going to make the trip “everything fell into place.” Whether it was coincidence or divine intervention, she doesn’t know or care, but she was surprised at how easy the trip came together.

During this time, she was approached by a film production team working for Oprah Winfrey’s network about following her spiritual journey. They had learned about her trip through her yoga instructor.

Here I was, at one of the most confusing points in my life, and they wanted to put it on TV.

“Here I was, at one of the most confusing points in my life, and they wanted to put it on TV,” Thakkar said. “But it was a blessing in disguise.”

A blessing because Thakkar believed she did have message to tell the world. And showing the world the confusion and chaos that occurs during a spiritual journey was not such a bad idea. The result was the documentary Belief, which tells Thakkar’s story along with several others, which aired on Winfrey’s network. It is now available on DVD.

Since her return from her 2010 journey, Thakkar feels that her life has been following a flow chart, of sorts, and there are “bread crumbs” leading her to each new point. She has also established a business called Made with a Purpose that employs women in India in order to provide them with a stable income and improve the quality of their families’ lives.

Personally, Thakkar said she has become “a more intuitive being.” She believes “we know what we are meant to do. What our legacy is going to be.” But we also have to “pay attention to the things that make you fully alive.”

She described the feeling as a “flow state” and said it is similar to when athletes talk about getting into “the zone” during a game. And people should incorporate those activities – such as yoga and meditating – that produce that feeling more often.

And while it isn’t necessary to go on a spiritual quest halfway around the world, to find your true self, Thakkar said, “I felt like India was home for me.”


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Posted in Culver Academies Spiritual Life
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