Sudarshan Suresh, took part in a Life Matters workshop in Melbourne in 2017. The four-day residential workshops give participants a chance to reflect on their lives and draw spiritual inspiration to explore and discover their sense of calling to make a change in the world. He talks with Kirsty Argento about how Life Matters launched him on a new path.
Personal growth through Life Matters
Sudarshan moved to Melbourne in 2016. He had taken part in an IofC India youth conference, ‘Let’s Make A Difference’, nine years before. In Melbourne, he heard about Life Matters through friends in the IofC network.
‘I was a little lost and disoriented in my first months here,’ he said. ‘Besides moving from an accounting background to pursue a Masters in Creative Writing, I was in a new country and context. Something had happened in my life that at that time that I didn’t feel I could talk about with anyone. I was feeling quite stuck when I took part in the Life Matters youth program.
‘My biggest takeaway from Life Matters was the experience of being in small groups and sharing our stories. I shared my story, I unburdened myself which bought immense relief and healing and allowed me to move forward.’
His experience of personal development through the program, along with connecting and meeting new friends, offered Sudarshan clarity to the next phase of his Australian journey. He went on to join the facilitation team of Life Matters over the next two years, excited to support a space for others to explore themselves and their stories. He believes that the best learning comes from listening to others as they share their own stories, letting a room fill with the wisdom of personal experience, and allowing both storytellers and listeners to gain new perspectives and a deeper understanding of themselves and others.
From this experience, his passion for facilitation has grown. ‘Facilitation encourages me to be honest with myself, he said. ‘I have to be authentic as I am journeying together with people. Facilitating a personal leadership program forces me to take a good hard look at myself and my values on a regular basis. It’s also incredibly inspiring to be part of breakthrough moments for others and hear their stories of transformation.’
Making a difference for international students
After completing his Master’s, Sudarshan participated in the Spiritual Ecology Leadership Program (SELP) that ran in early 2019. The program, jointly offered by IofC Australia and the CERES Environment Park in Melbourne, took participants through a weekend retreat followed by a series of four workshops, in which they developed their own projects for restoring people’s relationship with nature. Through SELP, he designed and facilitated ‘Project Flourish’, organising sessions for international students at the University of Melbourne, which introduced them to practices of inner reflection, self-inquiry and connection with nature.
‘International students are all pretty stressed out,’ Sudarshan explained. ‘Many in the group were going through similar experiences to what I had gone through. Moving countries, finding your new identity and trying to feel grounded in a new environment, land and context. I designed Project Flourish because I thought about what I’d gained in terms of perspective from my own experiences and saw a need for other international students to have space to explore these issues.'
‘Many of the programs that I’ve done have been about doing “inner work”, whereas SELP combined that with the element of creating community initiatives and actually making a difference in meeting a need in a particular community.’
Building further on this experience, Sudarshan went on to co-design and facilitate ‘Creating Space’ – a public monthly theme-based reflective space at IofC Australia’s centre in Melbourne.
SELP has led him on a new career trajectory altogether. ‘I now want to work in the renewable energy sector,’ he said. ‘SELP helped me arrive at a point where I realised – alright, I’ve developed skills and gained a certain amount of knowledge and I want to apply it to an area that’s going to make a real, pro-active difference to the future of our world.’
On specific practices and approaches he has learned from IofC, Sudarshan said, ‘I practice inner reflection on a daily basis. It has become a foundation stone for my life, in a way.
‘Something else I’ve also developed through IofC is the art of listening. I feel like real listening leads to perception and perception leads to action. When I’m really listening to someone, I can see, OK, this is exactly where they are coming from. I can see, OK, this is their need, I can see their core need, and then from that I can instinctively understand what actions might help to fulfil that need – if it’s my responsibility.'
‘A strong thread running through my life has been to explore as many different things as possible and push myself to my limits in different areas. I think that’s connected to my urge to constantly keep developing myself to be a better version of me, whether that’s physically, mentally or spiritually. Being associated with programs like these has given me a really good platform to continue that journey, whether it’s working on myself or journeying with others as they work on themselves.’
- Catch Sudarshan when he facilitates the monthly ‘Creating Space’ events at Armagh, IofC’s Australia-Pacific Centre in Melbourne. See more about the ‘Creating Space’ events here