The peaceful and beautiful island of the Kingdom of Bahrain became the backdrop for a very powerful and inspirational conference entitled “Creating Change”. It was organized by the Bahrain Meditation Centre (BMC), and ran from 7-9th February 2017. After many months of preparation, the conference was inaugurated on 7th night, by its Patron, the Deputy Prime Minister, His Excellency Shaikh Khaled Bin Abdullah Al Khalifa.
I would like to begin by saying that the entire conference was run totally by volunteers. No one, including the President, the speakers, the organisers, nor any of the huge backup team, were given a salary or income for their continuous hard work. Everyone present was there because they believed in the message and wanted to create something positive and meaningful that would inspire people around the Middle East and elsewhere.
The President of BMC, Dr Ebrahim Al Dossary, welcomed all of the delegates and acknowleged that we are living through a time of great change. It is we, each of us individually, that need to bring about small changes that will in turn bring about those major changes we so seek. In a later speech he said, that these days there are so many violent pictures on the TV screen, that it has become customary to see bloodshed. Children are growing up believing this is the norm. We do indeed need to be mindful and careful.
In summarising, he said: standing still is not an option. The question is: will time change me, or am I taking the responsibility for my own transformation into my own hands? And more: How can I become an influencer, a master, an instrument for positive change in the world?
At the Opening Ceremony, His Excellency Shaikh Khaled inaugurated the conference by cutting a ribbon of real flowers and handing out gifts to the sponsors. Then, after receiving tokens of thanks from the organisers, His Excellency Shaikh Khaled went across to the painting which was being created throughout the ceremony by artist Michelle Pfeiffer, and added his touch. He drew small blue birds symbolizing peace and wrote the word ‘HOPE’. His Excellency Shaikh Khaled is a very kind and dignified person. We are delighted that he has been our patron for each of the four previous conferences, and he always greets us with genuine warmth and respect.
Dadi Janki, the Spiritual Head of the Brahma Kumaris Organisation and aged 101 years, was not able to attend the conference, yet she sent a very beautiful message that touched people’s hearts. Here is an excerpt: “Change is a good topic for the current times. Today the world is in a lot of upheaval. There is change all around. Change is natural, it is the order of things. Expect change. Change makes us grow, learn and become wiser. But now time is asking us to become masters of change. It should not be that we feel helpless in the face of change, but we must realise that we can be the architects of change for the good of everyone”.
The other speakers came from different countries and a variety of backgrounds. Management consultant Mr Ken O’Donnell came from Brazil. Ken is the author of 15 books on leadership and personal and organisational development, and has worked with some of the biggest companies on five continents.
He began one of his sessions with a reflective exercise, which included such questions as; “Whose leadership qualities do you like or admire?” “Do people become happier when you arrive or when you leave?” “Is there anyone willing to follow you?” In Ken’s opening speech he said that a mother in Brazil who loses a child cries in the same way as a mother in USA or Europe; that all of us have the same intrinsic experiences, and qualities. Another important point Ken made in his session ‘The Empowering Leader’ was that people do not leave companies… they leave bosses!
Ken made an interesting observation about perceptions. When a message (of change) is delivered to others, for example, in the workplace there are so many dynamics at work: there is:
What I want to say
What I say
What I think I said
And for the listener:
What he hears
What he thinks he hears
What he retains
What he conveys to others.
So it’s no wonder that people are often in a state of confusion!
Sister Jayanti’s perspective was a unique one. She is the European and Middle East Director for the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual Organisation, and its NGO representative to the United Nations, in Geneva. Sister Jayanti is a keenly sought after speaker and broadcaster. Her travels have taken her to well over 100 counties. As an environmentalist, she has spoken at numerous UN climate change conferences. Through her books and recordings, she has helped guide many along the path of meditation and self-discovery.
Sister Jayanti explained that there are two energies present at the moment; ascending and descending, implying that there may be many things happening in the world that appear to be negative, but also there is an energy of hope and great potential. Sister Jayanti explained the mechanics of the mind from a spiritual perspective. She said that when a thought is repeated over time, it creates a feeling, and feelings do not go away that easily. We lack the inner power to change. Change begins by giving respect to myself, to all forms of life, to all natural laws of life. Unless we start to change from the inside out, there is no change.
Mrs Harriet Mayor Fulbright is a well-known figure in the world of education and the arts. She is president of the J. William & Harriet Fulbright Center, named after herself and her late husband, US Senator J. William Fulbright. It is an educational organisation which aims to foster peace and justice through collaboration, and many former ‘Fulbright Scholars’ have gone on to take up important roles in society. Mrs. Fulbright has been awarded many honors including the El Orden de Manuel Amador Guerrero from Panama, ‘the Middle Cross’ of the Order of Merit from the Republic of Hungary, and the Order of Australia.
Mrs Fullbright’s main message to all of us was that education and especially intercultural education is the key to a better world. She stated that that change is inevitable but progress is not. Change can be exciting but can also be unsettling. We have to work to make change a positive experience. Her presentation “Building Bridges for Lasting Change” highlighted the necessity for us all to seek to find how alike we are, and not be threatened by our differences. Only through co-operation can we create a better world. She went on to say that international exchange programs are essential to foster peace and understanding. To date, the Fulbright organisation has, through grants and donations, sponsored 300,000 students to work and study in 150 countries.
Dr Surya Sripada is CEO of Neuroleadership LLC (USA) which specializes in Leadership Development and Change Management. His vast experience includes senior leadership positions in multinational corporations in Europe and USA, where he led organizations, delivering several hundred millions of dollars annually in profits and cost reductions through technological innovations. Dr. Sripada has conducted seminars and workshops in more than 20 countries around the world. He is the author of 25 peer-reviewed publications in top scientific conferences, journals and books. He is also the co-author/co-editor of two books in computer science.
Dr Surya explained that change can be good, but it can also be disruptive. Disruptive does not mean bad but it may mean many changes. He cited recent examples of dramatic change due to technology. The move from traditional photography to digital makes whole companies and their people redundant. Driverless cars may mean that taxi drivers the world over may lose their jobs. The retailer Amazon in now considering delivering packages via drones, which will mean no need for human delivery services. All of these things and their impact on humankind need to be considered. Speaking from a neuroscience perspective, Dr Surya said that you are not your brain. The self is different from the brain.
In one of his talks, Dr Surya told us how we can change our habits. For example, if we use a pair of shoes for some time, they will wear down in a certain way. Then, the worn shoes themselves will actually determine the way we walk… whether a little bit crooked, etc. In the same way, we create our habits and then the habits rule us! The way to break a habit is to notice what triggers us, and choose a different, beneficial response. So when we are triggered we then tell ourselves that this urge to carry out the behavior is coming from the brain, not from us! Then we tell ourselves “I, the self am the master… I will do what I choose”. Thereafter implement the alternative behavior, and afterwards say to the self “that urge was not important, but doing this (new behavior) was beneficial”. In this way we can change a habit in approximately 21 days.
Sujatha Rathi de-stressed us throughout the conference with her invigorating exercises.
All in all, it was a really impactful event. The feedback was excellent, and many took a great deal from the conference and the energy it created. They were inspired and enthusiastic about the future, and they were ready to change and send ripples of change out into the world.
It’s Time… to be the change!
© ‘It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK