I have had three avenues through which I volunteered: as a conservationist, as a meditation teacher, and as a musician. All three have been enriching and valuable in the development of my career, lifestyle, and personality. I think discussing each experience will help others understand the value of volunteering, especially in our modern age.
At the age of 16, I volunteered in a march from the Cascade Mountains to the Puget Sound called the Mountains to Sound project. It was for commemorating a new trail in the Pacific Northwest, and efforts to restore the surrounding forest after clear cutting had devastated the area. Besides marching, we planted trees and learned about environmental conservation. The new trail, called the Mountains to Sound Greenway, was over 20 miles. I decided to walk and run the whole way in one day. There were horse buggies for those who wanted to take a break. My brother, myself, and one other person were the only three people to walk the whole new trail in one day out of maybe 100 people. I had to push myself to my limits of physical strength and endurance, but the feeling after achieving it was unique. I felt that after this trek, I could walk anywhere, no matter how far. I also discovered I had reserves of strength within me that I did not know about. At one point, fueled by adrenaline, I was even keeping pace with the trotting horses. This experience showed a different side of myself: determined and goal-oriented. It also further inculcated a love for nature that had been developing since my early childhood.
Turning to the topic of being a volunteer meditation teacher, I have been teaching meditation for free for over 10 years. I was commonly shy in front of an audience and looked for ways to avoid doing presentations. Through teaching meditation classes as a volunteer, I learned the art of presenting myself and giving speeches. In addition, I learned how to remain personable yet respectable in front of an audience. So, being a teacher has boosted my confidence and my presentation skills. I also gained a lot of joy from teaching and seeing others grow in their peace. Through this, I learned the satisfaction one can garner from teaching. In retrospect, it is difficult to think of a more important task that I have done in my life than teach meditation as a volunteer.
I have been playing percussion and singing since I was a child. However, it was only when I attended an academy for learning the art of tabla, an Indian percussion instrument, that I had more expertise in music. After attending this academy for 10 months, and practicing daily for many years, I started performing. Almost all of my performances have been on a volunteer basis, as I have been invited to spread awareness of Indian culture and meditation in schools, halls, auditoriums, embassies, and many other places. The music I primarily play is for inducing a state of meditation, so this music complements my meditation teaching. Probably the most memorable performances I took part in were in India on a tour to spread the awareness of Indian traditional culture and meditation. The reception I, and the group I was a part of, got from people native to India was extremely heartwarming and encouraging. This activity boosted my confidence as a presenter, and gave me a sense of respect as a musician and messenger of traditional Indian culture. After performing for sometimes thousands of people at a time, giving a presentation in a business setting is now no sweat.
These three volunteering experiences—being a conservationist, a meditation teacher, and musician—have aided me in being more self-empowered in business and in my personal life. I believe it is important to prove to yourself that you can achieve great results, and for a charitable cause. It is perhaps the most satisfying experience to act for others rather than for yourself. This insight is important for children to learn, as they often think about personal gain only. It is key for children to comprehend that perhaps the greatest success is to provide success for others.