Author of 99 Marigold Mornings: Prayer Poems for Everyday Life (2016), Jagruti Gala has worked in the field of transformation for 15 years. Founder of AURA, an after-school learning center for underserved children, Co-Founder of Stones2Milestones, an organization gifting children in India “the skill and will to read in English,” and Mentor to the team at a semi-rural school, Amrit Vidyalaya, Jagruti has a deeply rooted passion for bringing quality education to those who need it most.
KS: What makes you curious?
JG: Closed doors! Closed doors make me curious and life’s wide and fabulous tapestry makes me curious. From poetry to how birds make nests to intricacies of the universe, I am curious about everything. I love to learn and I’ve had great fortune in my life: Every time I’ve wanted to learn something, I’ve been able to. Accessing so many learning experiences from around the world, I find myself reflecting on the disparity in India. There are very few who can have those kinds of privileges.
Over the past 15 years, I’ve constantly updated myself from institutions like the Harvard School of Education and taken courses in Non-Violent Communication, Coaching, Emotional Intelligence, Trauma, etc., and then come back and shared all I’ve learned with my team at the non-profit that I founded called AURA, and the semi-rural school that I am guiding Amrit Vidyalaya. That way, the children from the underserved walks of life are getting similar learning experiences and high quality inputs as those in high-profile educational institutions.
KS: Why did you decide to focus on nurturing the skill of reading?
JG: Reading is so joyful. And it brings power.
When I noticed my sons weren’t reading the way I did, I began researching and realizing this wasn’t just something happening in my home. All over the world, children are reading less and less, which is impacting every area of their lives. So I decided to act.
KS: What’s your top piece of advice for parents, to get their kids reading more?
JG: Don’t nag. Read to them, talk about what you’re reading and make sure you delight in books all the time. Make them see that it’s part of the joy of life.
KS: How did your book, 99 Marigold Mornings, come into being?
JG: I wrote those prayers at a time in my life when my marriage was falling apart. Life didn’t make sense. One morning, after a very difficult argument, something just came from within. I wrote down some lines and was like, “Hey, I just wrote a prayer!”
I shared it with some very close friends and then started writing more. Next, to make myself accountable, I told them I would write and email them a prayer every day. After a while, I began sharing them with more people. At the 50th prayer, I started wondering how long I’d carry on for!
I’d wake up with a theme in my mind, based often on an experience I was having at the time that was either devastating or uplifting me, or just making me think. And then I’d Google it! I’d Google a few words based on this theme and look at the images the search yielded. Always, one image would catch my attention. I’d look at it and the words would just flow.
The whole process took me 10 minutes, each morning. These are not great works of literature but I consider them my life’s most delicate work.
I decided to self-publish. And my dream now is for Oprah Winfrey to read them and interview me…
KS: Well, this is good practice! Jagruti, where do you find your energy?
JG: At this point, I am master of my own time. My boys have flown the nest and I divorced a few years ago now. I miss the richness of family life, of course, but the fact is that it isn’t here right now. In a painful way, I became more empowered as an individual, and I began to see my ‘world family’. Empowerment comes from choice and at present, I have a lot of privilege to choose what I do, and I choose to live in accordance to my purpose – to be in loving service to the birth of a new, compassionate consciousness… so I use up less energy; I am rarely resisting life, in fact I meet it with courage and an abundance and acceptance in my heart.
When you have that, you’re not swimming upstream anymore. You’re going with the flow. I also get my energy from my spiritual anchor and positive beliefs around our humanity. I get energy from accepting the beauty of all parts of me – the good, bad and ugly!
KS: Flow is so important when it comes to energy. How does finding balance fit into that for you?
JG: I see balance as an increased ability to juggle and, therefore, to have more choices available for myself without losing energy.
KS: When did you first feel a connection to spirituality?
JG: I’m here only for that. I don’t remember a time in my life when I wasn’t aware of a deeper purpose, that was more than I could see. Spirituality, to me, is a way of being. It’s being able to live naturally in this life without harming anyone.
KS: That’s beautiful. In light of that idea, what advice would you give your five-year-old self?
JG: I wouldn’t give her any advice. I would take her hand in mine, run into the ocean, splash and have a merry time giggling. We’d spill ice cream all over ourselves, rub noses and read stories together; stories of people who break the rules.
KS: Finally, what is love?
JG: Everything. Love is who we are – our true nature. Love is not flowery, at least not all the time. It’s our capacity for acceptance, connection, oneness and equanimity. When all of that is wrapped up in grace, that’s when love blossoms. Love is what is, as is, where is…
An excerpt of Prayer 11 from Jagruti’s book, 99 Marigold Mornings
May the world
settle soft in me today
May I notice
innocence, beauty, tenderness
May I spread
peach fragrance all around
May I stop
a while to make a heart smile
May I know
everything, is an act of the divine
– Jagruti Gala