Focus on something you are passionate about. This can be something you want to change or improve. You might be passionate about getting rid of something that no longer serves you or adding something that’s missing from your life. Either way, when you are passionate about something you want to change, you gain momentum and enthusiasm for moving forward. Even if people tell you it’s impossible, or you can’t see how you’ll get there from here, keep your focus on the direction you want to go. Track your progress and celebrate your successes.
Resilience has been described as the ability to withstand adversity and bounce back from difficult life events. Times are not easy now. How do we develop greater resilience to withstand the challenges that keep being thrown at us? In this interview series, we are talking to mental health experts, authors, resilience experts, coaches, and business leaders who can talk about how we can develop greater resilience to improve our lives.
As a part of this series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Suteja.
Suteja is co-founder and head instructor at innertreasurehunt.com, a non-denominational, educational website dedicated to self-discovery where people can nourish and integrate all the aspects of who they are. Suteja’s approach is a unique hybrid of ancient traditions’ esoteric wisdom, natural healing, science, and practical application from which she creates programs and events that help people relax, rejuvenate, and ground themselves for the challenges ahead in as little as one session. Suteja (a former monastic) is humble, wise, and kind, and doesn’t believe she is anyone’s guru: she is a teacher and guide who helps people find themselves.
Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your backstory?
Thank you for inviting me to contribute to such an important topic as resilience, a subject I’ve thought about my entire life. As young child I asked “Where did I come from?” and “Who am I?” a lot. I drove my parents crazy. No one could give me answers that made sense so I sought out books, teachers, and experiences that could help me understand life. As a teenager I attended spiritual classes where I didn’t understand a word but it didn’t matter because I trusted that someday it would make sense, which eventually it did. At university I studied psychology, philosophy and theology but even with all that book-learning I still didn’t feel that I was closer to understanding the mysteries of life.
After graduation I joined a monastery to see if that might open more doors of perception, and it certainly did. Spending more than a decade living a monastic life taught me humility, patience, and compassion, traits that have served me well. After overcoming a devasting health crisis, I moved to San Francisco and focused on channeling what I knew about healing myself into a practice for healing others. Through my work, I discovered practical ways to use esoteric knowledge combined with natural healing methods that resulted in people gaining relief from painful and disabling problems. I now teach what I’ve learned about self-healing so others can take control of their lives and well-being.
Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
As a former monastic and healer, I’m not sure I had much of a career until co-founding Inner Treasure Hunt. For me, the most important event of my life occurred in a yoga studio when I was twelve years old. I had decided at the age of ten to be an atheist like my parents. As a child, I was a nervous wreck and my mother always dragged me with her to weekly yoga classes. One time, at the end of a session, the teacher made us repeat the mystical sound “Om” as a group. I found myself projected into the universe among the stars, becoming one with the infinite. After that, I started my lifelong quest for truth.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
People who have recently become aware of their inner path as well as experienced seekers describe Inner Treasure Hunt as unique, one-of-a-kind, different and deeper than anything they’ve encountered before. I think this is because our programs and events combine multiple disciplines and approaches in ways that allow students to dive deeply into themselves then immediately apply what they learn. Students report feeling more grounded and able to let go of addictions and destructive behaviors or ways of thinking, and moving forward feeling more aligned within themselves, clear-headed, and refreshed.
Our approach is to merge things that many people consider to be opposites. For example, in our programs and events we introduce left-brain information in the form of lessons, then follow up with right-brain experiences in the form of guided meditations based on what was taught in the lesson. We introduce ancient knowledge from India, Egypt, Mesoamerica, China, and Celtic lands to name a few, then follow up with recent scientific findings that confirm what the ancients knew about things like the effect of the moon’s phases on plants and animals including humans, or the regenerative power of mycelium. We enable people to fully relax and feel at peace, then follow up with homework to help them retain the balance and harmony they feel. Whenever we present theory, we always follow up with practical application. The best example I can give of this is the free 28-Day Moon Meditation Essential Program which consists of six short lessons focused on ancient and current knowledge about the moon and why we should care, and twenty-eight short daily meditations, one for each day of the moon’s cycle, which support students’ ongoing change efforts.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I’ll share two stories if I may. They both involve my friend Paula Grace. When I graduated from the California College of Ayurveda, Paula established a non-profit organization and office for me where I could practice what I’d learned to help people heal. Her support throughout the decades means a lot to me and I wouldn’t be here without it. The years passed and I was happy working with people one-on-one, teaching occasional seminars, testing my theories on myself, and studying all kinds of esoteric disciplines to see how I might integrate ancient and natural knowledge, as well as scientific research, into the healing and educating I was doing.
Then Covid-19 hit and I had to close the office. I knew in my heart that the upheaval in the world and in my life caused by the pandemic was actually the culmination of a vision I’d had years earlier about starting a school, but how do you start a school? An online school? During a pandemic?!? Again I turned to Paula and the timing couldn’t have been better. Shortly after the pandemic started, the company where Paula worked laid off her department and she was considering retiring. Instead she decided to help me realize my vision in the form of innertreasurehunt.com.
We work closely together crafting ITH programs and events, and it’s enjoyable and inspiring. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, though, because we’re very different kinds of people. I’m spiritual, she’s agnostic. I’m right-brained, so intuitive, creative, and free-thinking. She’s left-brained, so analytical, methodical, and pragmatic. We work well together because, despite our differences, we share a passion for education and teaching, an incessant curiosity to learn new things, and a passion for trying to improve life on the planet. Her support during this time of transition means a lot to me and Inner Treasure Hunt wouldn’t be here without it.
Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?
For most people, resilience has to do with bouncing back from obstacles, enduring something bad, or overcoming failure, disappointment, or loss. The goal is to return to the statis, the sense of balance and control, you had pre-obstacle. Ancient cultures thought of resilience differently. Challenges were not something to overcome. Challenges were wake-up calls, internal manifestations of unexamined beliefs held in the subconscious, opportunities to courageously face your shadow. From this point of view, your shadow is your biggest ally because it is the path towards your highest destiny. To the ancients, the only thing you had to overcome in life was your shadow. If you think about it, this is the hero’s journey. At ITH, we help people access their shadows in healing and transformative ways.
Humility and patience are the traits that I most associate with resilience. This is because resilience is based on the silent decisions you make within yourself, not something expressed outwardly. You make the decision to give up or let go or overcome or build a quality. If it were easy to be humble and patient, we all would be. So in many ways, the most resilient people are not those who dive in and take fast action. The most resilient people are those who humbly and patiently do the internal work associated with heeding their own wake-up calls.
Courage is often likened to resilience. In your opinion how is courage both similar and different to resilience?
If resilience is moving forward and creating a new future, as I believe it is, then courage is what propels you to put one foot in front of the other along the path. The word courage comes from the French ‘coeur’ which means heart and, as the Yogis taught, the heart is the seat of consciousness. So courage connects to consciousness which animates your vision of where you are going. Courage is about taking conscious action.
Resilience is quite a different thing. Resilience is about taking subconscious action, which you cannot just choose to do. The only way to take subconscious action, to really change or dissolve old belief systems buried in your subconscious that are impeding your life today, is to dive deeply into your own hidden world. You have to trust yourself, let go of your assumptions, open yourself to new experiences, and believe in yourself. Yes, you can change things that are detrimental to you. Yes, it can take a long time and be hard to do. And yes, you’ve tried things before and they didn’t work. Does any of that mean you shouldn’t start now? This is why we named our business Inner Treasure Hunt, because the whole point is to help you embark on an internal hunt in search of the buried treasure which resides inside of you and only you can access. Even if you think you’re the one human on earth who doesn’t have treasure buried inside, you’re deluding yourself. Every person on the planet is a walking treasure trove.
When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?
I choose Quan Yin, the Buddhist bodhisattva of compassion, whom you may think of as a mythical being but her story is, in fact, the story of every human being. The story of Quan Yin starts with her village being destroyed and her fleeing into the forest to save herself. In the forest, she lives like a wild animal, enduring trauma, pain, and suffering. One day she meets a teacher and little by little she heals herself. She returns to civilization as the embodiment of compassion and teaches others how to heal themselves and achieve enlightenment like she did. Her story illustrates every human’s path. When we incarnate, we are thrown into chaos which takes years, decades, or a lifetime to make sense of. Throughout it all, we have the opportunity to reach a state of balance, peace, and harmony, and help others do the same, just as Quan Yin did.
Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?
I had been living in a monastery but was afflicted by a mysterious illness which caused total exhaustion, low blood pressure, and heart palpitations to the point where I couldn’t do anything. The doctors were mystified. Now we would call this chronic fatigue syndrome, but back then there was no recognition of what I was going through. I was forced to move in with my parents and became so disabled that I couldn’t move. It felt like all the doors and windows of my existence were closing. I continued to meditate and one day a ray of light appeared with a vision of my spirit crossing the ocean and arriving in San Francisco.
As a monastic I knew that visions have to do with a higher calling and cannot be disregarded, doubted or ignored, so I knew I had to take action. I slowly got better and started telling my family and friends that I was moving to California. I had little money, did not speak English, didn’t know anyone in San Francisco, and was just getting well enough to move around. They all told me I was crazy and that it was impossible for me to do that. I ignored everyone because I knew that by trusting my vision and acting on it with integrity and a true heart, I would find the support I needed. When I was well enough to travel, bought a plane ticket and came to America. When I arrived, I got help and support from many quarters and am eternally grateful for everyone who has been part of my life in America.
Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?
When the pandemic started in early 2020 and I had to close my office, it felt like something out of my control had hijacked my life. I think the whole world was feeling that. I had no idea where to turn or what to do next. I just kept clearing my mind and listening for whatever messages might come through. I ended up reconnecting with a vision I’d had for decades: a school to teach people how to use the wisdom of different traditions to heal themselves and the planet. ITH came from this vision and I’m grateful every day for the benefits ITH provides to people. It’s a lot scarier to be in the public eye the way I am now rather than just seeing clients in an office. But in terms of feeling inspired and empowered, you could say I bounced back from a setback stronger than ever.
How have you cultivated resilience throughout your life? Did you have any experiences growing up that have contributed to building your resiliency? Can you share a story?
My parents moved house all the time when I was a child which had a negative impact on my education. I’d be the star pupil at one school only to go to a new school and fail because it was on a different system. I believed that I was smart and belonged at the top of the class, so when a new school failed me, I would be patient, study hard, and give myself six months to get to top of class. It worked. This pattern repeated itself when I arrived in America where I was considered stupid by pretty much everyone because I couldn’t speak English. I was patient, studied hard, and ended up as valedictorian of my graduating class at the California College of Ayurveda.
What truly makes a difference between who is and isn’t resilient is based on the deepest subconscious belief system of the person. Deep down I believed I was smart and should be a top student. This belief drove my behavior in a specific direction. We all have beliefs buried deep inside, usually unexamined, which drive our behavior. Some beliefs are beneficial and drive us in healthy ways, enabling us to grow, develop, and thrive. Others are detrimental and drive us in unhealthy ways, spawning addictions or destructive behaviors and ways of thinking. The good news is that there are tools and techniques you can use to journey to your deeply-held-and-unexamined beliefs to either reinforce them if they’re helping you or eliminate them if they’re diminishing you.
Resilience is like a muscle that can be strengthened. In your opinion, what are 5 steps that someone can take to become more resilient? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Connect with your body. Your body contains a world of mystery and treasure, and the best thing you can do for your body is inhabit it fully. Our free program Awaken Your Chakras helps you get in touch with the energy centers along your spine that influence your mental and emotional states as well as your physical health. You may want to clean your liver because when the liver is heavy you lose your ability to adapt to change and get stuck, feel grumpy, and are unable to handle stress. According to ancient traditions, your lifeforce is stored in your liver so a healthy liver supports a healthy lifeforce and the ability to change. You can begin to clean your liver by drinking burdock, dandelion, red clover, or chamomile tea, and by eating kale and daikon. You can also watch a sunrise and direct the energy of the sun into your liver.
- Connect with nature. Nature is everywhere around you and within you. Just as forest bathing benefits physical and mental well-being, any loving engagement with the natural world can help you find peace and serenity. Remember that nature includes more than just plants, animals and minerals on earth: nature extends her reach into the furthest depths of space everywhere in the galaxy. The 28-day Moon Meditation Essential Program helps you live in alignment with the rhythm of nature by being in harmony with the moon’s cycle. And one suggestion: do not ingest toxic plants or people; instead remove them from your life.
- Turn inward. Find some quiet time every day to shut your mind off. I’m talking about the incessant chatterbox between your ears, ‘Radio Me’ that never stops broadcasting. Turn down the volume and give your mind and body a break. Stay present with yourself and see what comes up.
- Listen to your subconscious. This means investigating your shadow. Pay attention to your dreams, physical pain and discomfort, and emotional turmoil like anxiety, anger, and depression, because they are clues about your subconscious and how you are wired. Your shadow is not your enemy: your shadow is your ally. Exploring your shadow is how you build resilience.
- Focus on something you are passionate about. This can be something you want to change or improve. You might be passionate about getting rid of something that no longer serves you or adding something that’s missing from your life. Either way, when you are passionate about something you want to change, you gain momentum and enthusiasm for moving forward. Even if people tell you it’s impossible, or you can’t see how you’ll get there from here, keep your focus on the direction you want to go. Track your progress and celebrate your successes.
Watch Suteja discuss five things you can do to become more resilient here.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I would love to see programs in schools teaching children how to deal with their emotions — how to tap into their emotions, live in tune with their emotions, get messages from their emotions, and not be trapped by their emotions. There are very simple techniques that even toddlers can do, like breathing with their abdomen, to calm themselves and relax and recharge. In ancient Japan and China everyone knew how to breathe with their abdomen because it was part of the culture. In the Western world we either never had that or forgot how to do it, but it’s a surefire way to calm oneself down, clear the mind, and develop a sustained focus. There are other self-healing techniques I wish could be taught to children at an early age and reinforced throughout life.
We are blessed that some very prominent leaders read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them :-)
The brilliant historian Yuval Noah Harari, celebrated author of such classics as Sapiens and 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, asks the same questions I do: “Who are we?” and “Where do we come from?” He examines collective myths, studies modern research, asks questions about civilizations and the natural world, and often finds surprising and unexpected results. His conclusions make sense and inspire further questioning. His humility, curiosity, wisdom, compassion, and humor come through in everything he writes, and his messages often refer to meditation and going inward as having value. It doesn’t hurt that he communicates better than Mercury the winged messenger. I am consistently inspired by his work and would be honored and humbled to ever speak with him.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Anyone can attend a bi-monthly moon celebration where the lesson and meditation are followed by a live Q&A where students ask questions and I dive more deeply into topics. You can follow the ITH Linkedin page and the ITH Facebook page to stay informed of programs and events, and join the ITH Facebook group to participate in conversations with me and other seekers. You can also join ITH as a member to gain access to members-only classes and Community Forum. And when it’s safe to meet in person again, I look forward to leading on-site seminars and retreats. Until then, I hope to see you on a screen sometime soon!
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!