Himanshu Nagarkar : High on Life
Himanshu Nagarkar is a mountaineer by choice and a corporate soft skill trainer by profession. He has done his Master's in Law with a specialization in cyber law. This dynamic YES!+ teacher has been brightening thousands of futures across the country. But there’s a story behind his destiny. Not too many people know that doctors had told Himanshu that he would not live beyond the age of 30. But he proved them all wrong. Here he shares his experience of how the Sudarshan Kriya changed his life and how he overcame substance abuse.
How and when did you take the first step towards alcohol, smoking and drugs?
As a child I would watch a lot of Hollywood movies and inspired by them in class 7, I started smoking.When I smoked my first cigarette I felt like James Bond. It was a fantastic feeling. But as I got addicted to smoking I soon graduated from smoking one cigarette a month to one a day. It soon snowballed into 40 cigarettes in a day. Apart from this, I was also give in to alcohol and drugs. This was in 2006.
But I never worried. Everything was perfect, until one day I met with an accident. When the doctors carried out some tests they discovered nicotine patches on my lungs and the doctor said, “Congrats! You won’t live for more than 15 years.”
It came as a huge shock for me. That was when I decided to take control of my life and do the YES!+ (Youth Empowerment and Skills workshop, The Art of Living course specially designed for the youth). During the 7 days of this course I did not smoke. Later, during the Art of Silence course at the ashram too I did not smoke or drink. It were these stints that taught me that I could do without smoking and drinking.
What makes you practice Sudarshan Kriya regularly?
I was a talented child and when I would waste my time in smoking and drinking I would feel very guilty. And the guilt would turn into frustration, stress and depression. To battle this depression I would drink and smoke even more. It was a vicious cycle. I was living with a mindset that if I didn’t smoke something wrong would happen. However, this perception changed as I kept doing kriya on a daily basis.
Would you consider quitting smoking more of a psychological challenge ?
True, most often one is guilty of smoking. People who want to quit get caught up with the guilty conscience. If you notice, a smoker will only have friends who smoke cause they want to cover up their guilt .This is when Sudarshan kriya helped me. It strengthens the big mind and shuts the small mind.
How did your smoking buddies react when you stopped smoking?
‘Thu sadhu ban gaya, tera kuch nahi hoga’ (You’ve turned into a sage. You won’t achieve anything) was their first reaction. However, I was determined not to get caught up in the same old cycle and stood by my decision. Today most of my friends have quit smoking. Instead of them changing me, I inspired them!
There are t-shirts and other merchandise that endorse smoking. In fact it is considered super cool to smoke. How can this mindset be changed?
Why does the society make such a big deal out of smoking? This increased guilt and makes it further difficult for people to quit. Like in my case, I was made to do more seva. In a very subtle way I was always engaged and made to do some or the other activity. This helped me better than listening to gyaan. Sudarshan kriya, exercise, good company, and seva are the only ways I can think of to come out of this cycle.
So you are massively involved with mountaineering. Would you say your fitness is back?
Totally! While mountaineering at massive heights, the lung capacity has to be good because there is limited oxygen. In my bygone days of smoking, I used to choke up and couldn't manage climbing beyond 19,000 ft. And that was a big problem. But in 2009, when I trekked with an army group, I managed 22,000ft easily and was deemed the fittest amongst the batch of 15. Also recently, I skied down the highest skiing mountain in Asia known as Affarwat, in Gulmarg. I skied at an approx. speed of 100km/hr for which you need extreme breath control and immense courage. This would have been an impossible dream if I hadn't quit smoking!
Don't you get inclined some days to just take one puff or drink just a peg?
Yes, I do. But at the end of the day I know that it won't do me an ounce of good. Being bedridden in a hospital or being fit atop a gorgeous mountain; the choice is not such a difficult one!
You are a young Art of Living instructor and help other youth get out of substance abuse today! Life's come a full circle! Do you have any interesting experiences to share?
Karthik, all of 25yrs, was a participant in one of the Art of Living workshops I conducted. He claimed to be the most addicted smoker in the universe because he smoked 25 cigarettes a day. Quitting to smoking, was not even a possibility in his mind. However, after I shared that I used to smoke 40 in my time, and that I am clean now, he was inspired. Slowly and steadily gave up smoking completely. Infact, he volunteers with an NGO involved mainly in de-addiction. Because I openly share about my past of being in hospital due to my ill-habits, the course participants who are often embarrassed to speak about their addictions, come forth, share, and start their journey towards a clean lifestyle.
I am affiliated with the Nehru Institute of Mountaineering (NIM), Uttarakhand, which has trekkers mainly from our defense forces. When I go trekking with them, they are often stunned at my immunity and bodily tolerance to the rough weather conditions. They jokingly called me "yoga baba"! Infact, they asked me to take the Art of Living workshop for them. On the 5th day, their Major General came up to me and told me that after doing the meditation techniques, he just doesn't feel like smoking.
The thrill of doing Sudarshan Kriya at - 23 deg C at mind blowing altitudes is unparalleled. Smoking doesn't even stand a microscopic chance in front of this!!
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Written by Priya Mani based on inputs from Himanshu Nagarkar.