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AB: Often times, we forget to realize that clarity on our life's purpose comes with time and experiences. It's not out there, but in here - within you. Once we take the time to examine our lives is our first step towards walking closer to it. We think Nikhil Dhawan does this better than most. In his essay called, "Purposeful Wounds", he begins to show us how he transformed his "worst" moments into moments of great personal growth and purpose. He inspires us to always stay kind, curious and true to ourselves.
The easiest way for me to tell stories is by using phases of my life and sharing some context so you can put yourself in my shoes. This particular story takes place at an incredibly transitory point in my life. I was in my late 20’s, running two businesses, burning myself out, and not very happy. I was craving purpose and couldn’t seem to find it. I started looking for that purpose in many places, especially by reading. I was approaching 30, and life was not where I would have wanted it to be, not for any other reason, but that I didn’t know what I was doing with myself. When I was a kid, I thought I’d have it all figured out by 30; how wrong I was. Something had to change.
Lucky for me, I was turning 30 soon, so I decided to use my birthday as an excuse to treat myself. I wanted to know myself better, but it wasn’t proving very easy while staying in the same social surroundings day in and day out. So I put one of my businesses on pause and had my manager run the other one while I was going to travel halfway across the world to spend some “me time”.
Touchdown Nepal! First on the list: trekking Mount Everest Base Camp, then volunteering at a school for eight weeks; lastly, going to India for two more weeks of exploration. Countless stories, priceless adventures, infinite emotions, memories to last a lifetime, lessons for days; the list goes on. But, this isn’t a story about my time in Nepal, this is a story about one of the things I learned while I was studying myself, outside looking in.
Have you ever been in a situation where the world suddenly puts things in front of you, and it feels like that’s exactly what you needed? I think that’s what happens when we surrender to the flow of life, but that’s another topic altogether. When I had first begun to flirt with surrendering, I came across an illuminating thought by Emily Maroutian. She said, “If you want to know where to find your contribution to the world, look at your wounds. When you learn how to heal them, teach others.” I was seeking purpose, and so began this part of my journey.
At the time, my wounds varied across physical, emotional, psychological, and mental, even though I may not have realized all of that so consciously. Nonetheless, I set out to heal what I could, one wound at a time.
I spent most of my youth playing all kinds of competitive sports, but never took the time to stretch properly or take care of my body after injuries. Around my early twenties, it all caught up to me. I had no hip mobility, my posture was awful, my knees were bad, hamstrings tight, ankles cricking and cracking, and my back was horrible. At some point, I managed to displace three discs in my lower back, which ended up pinching on my sciatic nerve and causing excruciating pain. The physical wounds that I had compounded were real and painful and stemmed from being utterly irresponsible with how I treated my body; something needed to change.
Before I turned 30, my understanding of emotional wounds was pretty basic. I was under the impression that any time I felt emotional pain, it was caused by an external source. Maybe my family, my friends, or a significant other, was to blame. I was hurt by someone else, never by myself.
As I started to look at my wounds more closely, I began to understand that some were self-inflicted. If we think about it logically, why would a loved one want to hurt us? Anything that is being said or done isn’t targeted towards us; it’s the natural state of the other being. So why must it be taken personally? This was the first step to healing emotionally.
Our psychologies can be affected by our insecurities, life experiences, fears, and many other things I have yet to understand. Although I like to think that I’m “fearless,” the apparent truth is that doubts exist, even if it means the fear of losing a loved one. As for insecurities, I grew up with a million and one; but I look back now and realize that it’s quite a regular part of our childhood. My favorite thing to do now is to look at my life’s story as if it was someone else. As we enter adulthood, it becomes easier to look at things through a “zoomed-out” lens and distance ourselves from the character we’re studying in the story. I’m still too hard on myself, but I’m aware of it and working on it.
I think the word wound makes me think of something that needs healing, meaning its lacking health; hence, mental wounds are the opposite of mental health. This is one of the big reasons mental health is essential; we’re still figuring out how to classify these wounds and try to figure out where they stem from. After some introspection, my mental wounds have to do with mindset; if I’m lacking intention or a mindset, then I’m creating mental wounds. Being mindless exaggerates those wounds. Mental health exists on many levels across a vast spectrum. For most of the population, our mental health starts with watching and observing our minds. What do we think about? How important is the stuff that circulates in our minds all day? How often does our mind wander, and when it does, where does it go?
My goal is to study the patterns of my mind. I’m reading a book right now called Awareness by Anthony Demello. Again, that’s another topic altogether, but that book is helping me become even more aware of myself. The truth is, our journeys are long, and we can always learn more. Just because our system is designed in a way where our formal education stops in our 20’s, that doesn’t mean we should stop learning or growing. This is actually when the real learning and growing begins.
We all have wounds, and that’s perfectly okay. What’s important is that we try and study our own wounds; we find them and understand them, then try to work on healing them. Not every scar can be healed immediately; some take longer than others. But it’s been incredibly liberating to separate myself from my wounds and to attempt to improve them one at a time.
I’m currently trying to study the human body and understand it as if it were a complex machine. I want to move better and improve my posture, so I can constantly feel great in my own body, considering I’m going to have it for the rest of my planetary life. In a recent interview about yoga, the mystic Sadhguru said, “Hatha Yoga means to get your body in sync so that your physical existence is in sync with everything else—so that living in this body is not a struggle. Only when your survival is not a struggle, the possibility of aspiring for larger dimensions within the human being even becomes a reality. Otherwise, when your survival is a struggle, you will not even think of making this being blossom into something big; such a thought will never come because survival will keep you busy.”
I’ve currently prioritized my physical health so I can feel better in my body; however, I’ve noticed a shift and a change throughout the entire spectrum. I believe that our being is a holistic experience. If I improve my body, then I’m also developing my state of mind, which impacts my psychology and emotions. Not to say that I’m not working on them at all, but I haven’t studied those topics the way I’m studying the human body. With that said, emotionally, I’m trying to deepen my friendships and relationships. I always knew I was not too fond of small talk, but now I can’t stand it. I absolutely love deep and engaging conversations; they give me an incomparable high.
Life is short, so we must enjoy it, but life is also long, so we shouldn’t try to rush through it. I’m creating more patience for myself in the way that I want to share my purpose with people. Writing is one of those mediums, so thank you for taking the time to journey with me through this piece. Much love.
About Nikhil Dhawan
Nikhil Dhawan is a first-generation American who was born and raised in Los Angeles, California to immigrant parents from India. Although his family practices Hinduism, he was sent to a private Christian school for 12 years. Because of the sharp contrast between those religions, Nikhil spent a lot of his childhood asking questions and seeking the “truth”. Most of his personality is still based on curiosity and wanting to understand both sides to every story.
One of Nikhil’s favorite authors, Paulo Coelho, once said, “When I read about clashes around the world—political clashes, economic clashes, cultural clashes—I am reminded that it is within our power to build a bridge to be crossed. Even if my neighbor doesn’t understand my religion or understand my politics, he can understand my story. If he can understand my story, then he’s never too far from me. It is always within my power to build a bridge. There is always a chance for reconciliation, a chance that one day he and I will sit around a table together and put an end to our history of clashes. And on this day, he will tell me his story, and I will tell him mine.”
Nikhil is now 33 and wants to spend the remainder of his physical life on this planet listening to stories, sharing stories, building bridges, and becoming a better human with every passing day.
Medium Account: https://medium.com/@nikhil_89368