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Love and Light

Youth Wing - "Life is a challenge, Meet it!"

Swami came into my life when I was 5 years old. My mum was invited to visit a Sai Centre in the city of Caracas, Venezuela. Although she had read a little bit about Swami, she did not know in deep who He was. She took me with her on for Thursday Bhajans. As soon as I walked inside the Centre , I recall running to the front of the altar and being drawn like a magnet to Swami’s photo. As Bhajans commenced, my mum who was sitting behind me, was astonished that I was singing Bhajans in Sanskrit without even looking at the words. I remember her asking me: “How do you know this language if you have never heard it?” A question to which I replied “I do not know mum, I just know it”… After this day, considering I was a child of 5 years old; going to Bhajans on Thursdays became my favorite activity of the week.

Coming to the UK all the way from Venezuela has been the most challenging but beautiful experience so far.

In 2007, Swami blessed me with the opportunity of visiting Prashanthi for the first time. I was still living in Venezuela. It was an amazing trip as Venezuela participated in the Cultural Programme at the World Youth Conference. Whilst in India, one day Swami came into my dream and told me “Greys, you will be singing the Spanish song that you composed for me, in the Youth conference with your guitar”. As soon as I woke up I started practicing my song and used to leave my guitar near the Sai Kulwant hall, just in case Swami asks me to sing suddenly. Every day, I used to go to Darshan with the expectation of sitting in the first row and Swami asking me to sing my song for Him. I did this for 5 weeks. Nothing happened.

A few weeks later, another Venezuelan youth and I were asked to join the UK musical Programme, singing and playing guitar. They wanted to hear our song options to then decide what Spanish songs to include in the Programme. Without any doubts, I thought, this is the time for me to sing my Spanish song, but again, it was not selected and did not happen. I cannot explain how disappointed and frustrated I was feeling, thinking that what Swami told me in that dream did not occur.

A few days before returning to Venezuela Swami instructed me "when you finish your degree, you will study and live abroad, you must study English as that will be more useful than your degree..." I was a bit shocked as at that time I was in my first year of Economics and did not know a word of English. Contemplating of going abroad was never in my mind as I am the only child of the house; and leaving my parents and my country was not something that I never even felt like doing. Therefore, I did not pay attention to Swami’s words and continued my life studying Economics and not studying English as I panicked of having to learn a new language.

Two years later, in 2009, I visited Prashanthi for a second time and the fact of not being able to communicate properly made feel embarrassed, therefore the idea of going abroad to USA or UK to study English was popping into my head.

Without me forcing anything, Swami’s plan was taking place…15th May 2010, my UK student visitor Visa got approved and that night I was sitting on the plane making my way to London. A journey of 13 hours was enough for me to remember Swami’s words in 2007. That was the moment when I put my head down and said to Swami from my heart "You knew I was not going to make this decision if you don't give me a reason to leave my country, what You told me 3 years ago now is happening..."

I don't know the feeling of being compelled to do something because Swami said it, but I'm 100% confident that when there is purity in our feelings, His plan happens in the sweetest manner. Only when my heart felt I was doing the right thing is when I thought, "Swami was right".

Even though I came to London with a smile on my face it has been a 3 year journey where each year meant a new challenge to face.

I faced migration difficulties during the first year of my Biomedicine course. My visa had been cancelled by the Home Office for external reasons; forcing me to leave the UK and not being able to continue with my studies. Other various challenges also presented itself in my life such as coping with my Dad's heart disease. These were all tough experiences that made me think of giving up and returning to my country forever.

Questions such as: "If Swami told me I would live here why is all this happening? Why have I lost the legal right to come back to the UK? Doubts started appearing and a feeling of anxiety was slowly catching my faith. Months later a solution came up! I received a notification from the Home Office saying I could only come back to the UK if I get an offer from a highly trusted university to enroll on a postgraduate course. But this must happen in the next 30 days. And this happened... in less than 10 days got an offer from City University to enroll on the MSc in Health Economics, two weeks after I obtained the approval of my student visa and got back to London. My prayers had been answered.

Even though I had the choice between giving up or trying harder, I knew inside my heart it was a test from Swami for me to learn to adapt to changes, make decisions under pressure and discriminate about every step I was about to take.

Swami had certainly placed many boulders along my journey, but I realize today that it wasn’t for me to move them, but to keep pushing against them to make my shoulders stronger…

Today I express my gratitude to Swami for not only enabling me to learn such important language as English, but also for having completed a Biomedicine course, MSc in Health Economics, the Sathya Sai Leadership Training Program (SSLTP) in the UK and the opportunity to get an Entrepreneur Visa and develop my own business in the UK.

Not only that, but I also had the opportunity to sing my Spanish song in the 2013 UK Youth Conference, 6 years after composing it. Whilst attending to one of my last SSLTP modules, Shyam Jamnadas [UK Youth Coordinator] came to learn that I play guitar and sing and asked if I would like to sing in Spanish for the Youth Conference in February 2013. He had not finished his sentence when that dream I had in India in 2007 came into my mind. I thought myself “Swami this is the Youth Conference you want me to sing my Spanish song for!” Of course, Swami did not mean the World Youth Conference, nor India Youth Conference nor Venezuelan Youth Conference but UK Youth Conference. I humbly said yes to Shyam and few weeks after I was singing my Spanish song with my guitar at the UK National Youth Conference.

One lesson I learnt, for Swami there is the right time and place. In his words He never specified that I was going to sing in India in the World Youth Conference, it was my mind which started creating expectations or trying to make it happen. There is always the right time and place for Swami’s will to take place,

During the process, Swami made His presence clear through people that never left my hand. Even in those moments when I felt like giving up, Swami was there talking to me and supporting me through very special people I met both within the UK Sai Organization as well as outside.

It is a mistake to expect that Swami’s plan comes in a bubble, roses and smiles, but what is fully certain is that His plan is the best fit for what we need to spiritually.

Swami may not always give us what we want, but he certainly knows what we need.

What made me stand on my feet and push myself forward was the thought of "I have found the reason why Swami brought me here, and I must accomplish it". Remember Swami knows our past, present and future, we don’t!

After 3 years of challenges, blessings and achievements I find myself as a woman stronger than before with clarity of values that give purpose to my everyday life. Crucible moments were a blessing as they brought out the best in me. All we need is faith in ourselves and courage to beat the obstacles.

I have learnt that if Swami brings you to it, then He will indeed bring you through it,

I have learnt to always be grateful and be ready to accept whatever is next; the least we are attached to our mental structures, the easier life flows. Even though we are taught and trained to make things happen, sometimes it’s appropriate to surrender to Swami and let things happen.

The journey continues and the spiritual growth as well.

I would like to conclude this article with a prayer I wrote to Swami.

"I do not ask you for everlasting happiness, I ask you for the equanimity to accept ups and downs as same. I do not ask you to solve my problems, I ask you for giving me the patience and the faith to understand there is a right time for things to get sorted out. I do not ask you to remove all obstacles of my path, I ask you to give me the discrimination and the humility to learn from the difficulties and move on. I do not ask you for success, I ask for wisdom to at least not loose the lesson when I fail"

With Love, Greys Penaloza Caracas, Venezuela (currently living in London, UK)