By Anupama Bhattacharya
Agnese Rizvi, academic-turned-personal growth guide, believes that the essence of happiness lies in choosing what you want from life
Want to feel safe and secure in your connection with life? Try this meditation technique, suggested by Agnese Rizvi.
• Breathe out through your mouth and empty your body of breath. Breathe in through your nose.
• Visualize breathing out through your feet from which roots are growing. Feel them going deep into the ground. Sense their texture, color, thickness.
• Do not judge. Just observe.
• Feel the earth energy nourishing your roots.
• As you breathe in and out of your roots, send them to the center of the earth, let them grow big and strong with the earth energy.
• Breathe in through your feet, back and the lower back.
• Send the energy inside your abdomen and visualize a flower below your navel.
• Breathe out through that flower.
She doesn’t call herself a healer. For Agnese Barolo Rizvi, wife of Gauhar Rizvi, South Asian Representative of Ford Foundation, the gift of healing people is just that—a gift. She’d rather be called a self-transformation facilitator because she is ‘allergic to the word ‘change’. It implies that what is, is not good enough’.
Agnese, however, did not begin her life as a believer. Born in Italy in a family famous as wine makers, she did her doctorate thesis on Edward Lear at Oxford University in England where she first met her husband, a Rhodes scholar, and taught at the university for over 15 years. ‘I was an academic,’ says Agnese, ‘and an academic does not dwell on auras.’ But life had other plans.
‘About 25 years ago, I went on a journey of self-discovery,’ recalls Agnese. ‘I learnt TM, energy work, tai ch’i. But I didn’t take up any of these systems professionally. When people ask me what qualifications I have, I say zero.’ But an innate healing energy kept on surfacing. ‘In these classes, I often wouldn’t know what chakra or aura meant. But I could see through people’s bodies and figure out what was troubling them.’
Agnese remembers a workshop where all the participants were working on the solar plexus. ‘Suddenly, my hand reached out for the woman in front of me. I could see something like a tumor. When I asked her if she had any discomfort in that region, she admitted that she had a cyst on her right ovary. I was confused, since I had seen the mass on the left side. But she later called up and said that tests had revealed a cyst on the left side as well.’
Most of it, however, was unconscious. ‘It was just there, I didn’t really try to see any of this,’ says Agnese. In fact, her actual work as a ‘self-transformation facilitator’ began when she moved to New York five years ago. ‘It was there that I started to hold professional workshops and individual sessions,’ says Agnese.
In New York, the number of her clients grew. Agnese also began to put together her own techniques of transformation, one of them being organizational transformation (OT).
‘OT can happen only through individuals, which then filters into the team,’ explains Agnese. The technique involves talking about the sense of self, energy, as well as team building, negotiation and communication skills.
‘The real work for me is going within, finding our center and have a great deal of compassion for our journey.’ The trick, according to Agnese, lies in what you send out. ‘Your breath is like a sticky boomerang. What you send out comes back to you, with much more that it has gathered along the way. If I send out my anger, hatred and jealousy, I invite the same thoughts manifold.’ Which is why your state of mind has a lot to do with your thought pattern. ‘You are constantly thinking of the person you hate,’ explains Agnese. ‘But nobody can make you mad if you don’t invite them into your energy field.’
The idea here is not to react. ‘When we react, we repeat somebody else’s act,’ she says. So if somebody is good to you, you copy his act by being good to him or vice versa—without thinking that this puts that person in charge of your actions. ‘The first step in self-transformation,’ Agnese explains, ‘is to realize that you have the choice of not reacting.’
So, once we learn to check our reactions, we become ‘response-able’—capable of checking our responses. This also lets us overcome the constant fear under which most people function. ‘We are always scared,’ says Agnese, ‘of not being good enough, of others taking over. So you try to push others down. It is okay for you to be good, but if others are good, they pose a threat to you.’ So you use up all your energy in trying to protect yourself, in building up shields, or being offensive.
To tackle these problems, Agnese has created a setup called Human Potential Unlimited, whose aim is to unleash the inherent capacity in every person. The organization works with companies to balance and harmonize the internal self with external surroundings, resulting in making employees more creative and productive, managers more effective negotiators, and stronger leaders. In fact, this also leads to individual fulfillment, as well as professional goals becoming anchored in shared
Agnese believes that the role of a teacher is to allow hidden skills to surface. ‘The word educate comes from Latin e-duce—to bring out,’ explains Agnese. ‘We already have the knowledge within. All we have to do is tap it. My technique makes people see where the key to joy is and how to use it.’
Lucy Reed, a US-based lawyer and Agnese’s client, agrees. ‘Agnese’s techniques help me calm down and show me a bigger picture.’
When Agnese came to India 15 months ago, she was already in tune with its spirit. ‘What Asians are brought up with, we in the West discover,’ she says. ‘I’m glad to be married to somebody who is naturally spiritual.’ The appreciation is unmistakable. You have to see Gauhar Rizvi and Agnese together to realize their deep bond. ‘Gauhar would tell me that if somebody has hurt you it has nothing to do with you, it’s that person’s business,’ says Agnese. ‘He pushed me into this.’
Rizvi, however, refuses to take any credit for it. ‘In the last several years, many people have said that Agnese has made a difference to their lives. I feel quite staggered,’ says Rizvi.
Today, living in Delhi with her daughter Maya and her husband, Agnese divides her time between New York and Delhi. She is deeply involved in her work, which includes corporate consultations, giving hope to suicidal people, helping with traumas and terminal cases, divorce, problem children and basically leading everyone towards a happier understanding of life.
‘I work with my clients on what created the problem. And I give people the choice: joy or pain.’ The decision, ultimately, has to be yours. For, as Agnese says, your life is what you make of it, since your approach determines your level of joy.
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