Tuesday, January 8, 2008



About two weeks ago, I attended a Toastmaster ‘s gathering as a guest. Toastmasters are a group of people who get together regularly to practice public speaking. It is a non threatening atmosphere where one can overcome the fear of public speaking, which is actually the number two fear after fear of death.
I qualify in the category of knees shaking, palms sweating, voice cracking bunch of people who put public speaking even higher than the fear of death. So here I was trying to overcome my fear of public speaking by trying to speak in Public (which by the way I didn’t do). However I did get something out of the meeting.
The table topics topic that evening was Shangri-la. Table Topics is an extempore where anyone can say anything related to the topic for about 2 minutes. The table topics master introduces the topic and asks for volunteers to come forward and speak a few words.
She introduced Shangri-la as a fictional place described in the 1933 novel “ lost Horizon” by the British author James Hilton. In the book, "Shangri-La" is a mystical, harmonious valley, which has become synonymous with any earthly paradise—a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world.
She asked the audience if such a place existed, and if anyone had been there?
After a few minutes of uncomfortable silence one gentleman stood up to brave the audience and spoke about a place in New Zealand he had visited that reminded him of Shangri-la, another stood up and spoke about sky-diving and compared it to Shangri-la. Yet another spoke about spending a weekend with his children and how that was Shangri-la. By now I was getting a bit bored and frustrated and wanted to really get up and speak about what I thought was Shangri-la. But my shaking knees and racing heart beat stopped me from standing up. I just sat there kicking myself and thinking, I could do much better. But did I ? No, the fear of standing up in front of 40 people and allowing them to judge me as I was judging them paralyzed me and I just sat there frustrated.
Well, what is or where is Shangri-la? If one Googles the word Shangri-la , hundreds of links open up identifying Shangri-la as a paradise, a hotel, tour groups, publications and even a Shangri-la diet. Shangri-la means so many different things to different people. This mythical paradise has spawned such a big industry.
Have you ever stopped to find your Shangri-la?
What does Shangri-la mean to you? Is it really a place out there, somewhere ? A paradise? Utopia? Or does it exist in your heart? It has been said that Mind Matters Most and that anyone can manifest their desires provided they put their mind to it. ( I am still trying to manifest my fear of public speaking!!!!@$#$%^&) .
My Shangri-la is right here. In my heart, in my mind, in my everyday life. The fact that I wake up every morning surrounded by the beauty of nature, the sound of my daughter playing around. My dogs running around hungrily, the turtles basking in the sun and the phone ringing incessantly, inviting me out for yet another gathering of “Public speakers”. This is my Shangri-la. I choose it to be my Shangri-la.
I have travelled pretty much around the world, wined and dined in fine hotels and restaurants. Done a fair amount of adventure sport and have had momentary pleasures. All our life we are looking at satisfying the outwardly urges of pleasure and fulfillment. And when one has been there, done that, now what! sets in and makes one question this whole search for utopia/ paradise. I have done that and at times still do that. I still like to go to exotic locations for holidays, still like to indulge in gustatory delights and dream of jumping out of flying planes. Despite all of the above, I am contented to have found my Shangri-la. It stays with me all the time because I choose it to be. We can all find our Shangri-la and in our heart and still continue to search for the Shangri-la that exists somewhere out there.

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