Living the Extraordinary

Investment banker-turned-Art of Living teacher, she made a choice to devote her time in serving people. Meet Shreya Shah – a simple, next-door-woman, who is choosing to live an ordinary life a ‘little extraordinarily’.

“The thought of becoming an Art of Living teacher never crossed my mind.” These words come from a lady who is, today, a full-time Art of Living teacher, taking courses in Canada and changing people’s lives in Saskatchewan Province. It is hard to imagine that eight years ago, her face looked tensed and angry. Today Shreya Shah has a trademark smile, humor that doesn’t fade and a glow that radiates joy.

Bowled over by peace & knowledge

“When my friend asked me to try the course, I first mocked her a bit. Breathing? I don’t want to learn how to breathe. I wasn’t very slim at that time either so I said I’m not going to do yoga. I can’t move!” Upon much insistence, Shreya decided to give the course a try. “As soon as I went in and looked at the teacher (Namrata), she sat there with her eyes closed and there was so much peace radiating from her and I thought to myself, how can she be so peaceful?” Shreya realized the peace on Namrata’s face was only a reflection of the peace within. And this was what Namrata was teaching everybody else to have – a sense of inner peace and calm.

The knowledge delivered in the course impressed Shreya. “They gave me so much mental freedom. They were so obvious, yet so deep and powerful. I remember thinking that if I could just live these points, there’s nothing more to life. I’ll never be stressed, angry, upset or have any negative emotions.” That first course helped Shreya find her purpose to life – to reach this knowledge to people.

So deep was her resolve that Shreya quit her job as an investment banker in Canada and began volunteering. “I realized that millions of people come on this planet, do everything in life and then die. I wasn’t on this planet to just sit in an office from 9 to 5 and crunch numbers all day. I had money but was so miserable, always stressed out. I kept asking myself: Isn’t there another purpose to life? What am I doing? Why am I here?” Once she found her answers, there was no looking back.

Transforming lives

An Indian from Kenya, Shreya revived prison courses at the largest maximum security prison in the country – the Kamiti Prison. This became her first service project after she became a full-time Art of Living teacher. She recalls that never once was she afraid when teaching the inmates. “There were six-foot-tall men who had done unfortunate things in their lives and it would take them less than a second to snap my neck if they wanted to. But I only thought that we were allowed to go in and we had to do something for the inmates.” As prisoners would share their experiences and smile, Shreya knew they were much better able to accept their situation.

Canada beckoned next with the Youth Empowerment Seminar (Yes!). Today, Shreya is the only teacher in Saskatchewan Province and teaches the Part-1 Course in cities there. “This knowledge has to spread, it doesn’t matter to whom and in what way,” she says.

Drive to serve

And what inspires her? “Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been my biggest driving force,” she says and continues, “My father was the one who got me into this whole seva bug.” Born in Kenya, Shreya grew up seeing poverty. Since a very tender age, she had always been aware of the fact that she had what others didn’t. She shares, “My father was an important member of the Lion Clubs and he used to organize eye camps, blood donations and health camps. He used to take me to all these camps and for me this was fun.” Since then, Shreya wanted to serve, to bring a smile on the faces of under-privileged children.

“In the next five years, I wish to develop the three regions in Canada that I’m currently working in. I’d also like the Yes! school programs to have started in every school in Canada,” she shares enthusiastically, adding, “If I can even be a tiny atom of existence in my Guru’s vision of serving humanity, my life is a privilege then. I haven’t just existed but actually lived.”

And on the personal front? With a determined look on her face, she shares, “My personal goal is to live knowledge better in my everyday life.”