With Perfect Life Spot, Charnita Arora aspires to make the world emotionally literate.
by Nikhil Sreekandan
All her life, Charnita Arora has sought out education that is relevant to life. Even when she was just a little school girl at a Christian missionary convent in Delhi, she remembers, the fervour with which she used to take notes when her teachers talked about their personal life experiences or anything beyond the course curriculum.
After completing her graduation, she moved to Berlin for her postgraduate studies, where she got to experience an alternative philosophy of education. Charnita moved back home soon afterwards to take up a teaching job at the Delhi University (DU), only to realise that the curriculum simply did not take the needs of the students into account.
It was all about cracking exams and landing that high-paying job, nothing to do with the more important things in life – about being happy, having a balanced life, having good relationships, having skills to earn money even if you don’t have a job, building entrepreneurship skills. Back in Berlin, Charnita had already started developing an alternative curriculum using life education as the core philosophy, and her experience of teaching at the DU only pushed her to pursue it even more.
Initially, it was in the form of a blog where she shared her ideas, but it quickly developed into a physical space where people started to come and soon it all fermented together into something called Perfect Life Spot – a non-judgemental space for evolution and belongingness where your individuality and free-spirit is nurtured and encouraged to help you along your path to self-actualization.
INKLINE talks to Queen’s Young Leaders runner-up Charnita Arora as she discusses the importance of being in touch with one’ emotions and the need for a community where one can feel connected and cared for.
INKLINE: Why the name ‘Perfect Life Spot’?
Charnita Arora: I was in the second year of my college and I felt like a total misfit. I knew that if I wanted to live in this world I needed to create an alternative way of living life. I was basically looking for my own perfect life spot where things would be perfect. Yes, it came from a very idealistic, romantic understanding of life but at the same time I really liked the gentleness in the abbreviation, PLS – Please.
I: How important do you think is ’emotional literacy’ in today’s world?
C: I feel it is vital for a healthy and balanced life, to be connected with your feelings and emotions. When I imagine the world, I look at it as concentric circles: the central circle being you, the next circle, all the people in your life like your family, then your society, and so on and so forth making up the full world. So, if as an individual I am not aware of my feelings then everything about my world will be disconnected. I truly believe that all social problems are interrelated with emotional issues.
For example, hypermasculinity is a result of suppressing emotions like tenderness and gentleness. I meet a lot of clients for whom a strong conditioning is referred to as not crying, not sharing your feelings, and then I see how it later gets represented as physical aggression. So, what starts as something so subtle and invisible as emotion is then translated into something clearly visible and tangible as physical aggression.
I: Perfect Life Spot was started way back in 2011, which makes it almost seven years. How’s the journey been like?
C: Perfect Life Spot has been a journey for me to evolve and understand myself more, understand the society more, and the requirements for my inner and outer world more. It’s been an amazing experience, building the community – you can meet people from far across the world with whom you share a clear sense of inclusion, belongingness, and support.
The importance of community, the feeling of being a part of something real is simply unparalleled. Especially, in the world we live in today – virtually connected and emotionally disconnected. When in fact, in a community where people look at you, touch you and connect with you on a regular basis then it’s hard to feel isolated.
You know, when someone asks you how you are and they expect you to be fine or okay. Often what doesn’t happen is a few minutes of open, honest and effortless conversation – that can change the flavour of your day. In that sense, Perfect Life Spot has been a beautiful lesson for me.
I was an introvert, somebody who did not work a lot in groups, isolated. Being a part of this community has really helped me understand how much support means to an individual and if you are growing up in a space where people respect you and care about your feelings and need you, then you are bound to have more to give to the world.
I: What are the activities and workshops that PLS has to offer?
C: Yes, so we have one-on-one emotional support which is a very popular service here. It includes compassionate enquiry, non-judgemental communication and emotional intelligence stones to connect with each and every individual and their feelings. The second is empathy groups, we’ll have a weekly group of 5-6 people who come to just share what is going on in their life, we create a space where they can be emotionally safe and open their heart and be vulnerable, they are free to go wherever they want, eat something, share their belongingness.
Then, we have mindfulness sessions, awareness training where we try and learn the skill of being in the present. It’s about clearing our minds, looking at a singular moment and uplifting the silence between thoughts. That’s also a very celebrated activity or workshop here.
The new developments have been regular early morning meditation, every morning from 7 – 8, people have started coming for meditation and I do something called concert of silence which is a concept from a movie called Green Beautiful. It’s a French concept, a concert where there is no musician or choir but they listen to the silence. So, we create a space where it is possible to listen to the silence without being restless, plus my own guided instructions about how to take care of ourselves when silence becomes uncomfortable.
After one hour of silence, everybody, almost everybody gives the feedback that it felt like just 15 minutes. It kind of tells us that silence is the need of the time and we are so used to non-silence that we can go out there and overlive and overtalk, overdo things.
I: Looking back, what has been your favourite memory with Perfect Life Spot?
C: Back in 2013-14, when we were concluding our first batch of students, for the farewell, the students gifted me a lot of interesting things. Amongst them was a handmade cushion, it had around 70-80 different kinds of buttons, each button was different from the other and in the centre was the logo. When I unzipped the pillow, there was a card inside which described Perfect Life Spot as the place where they were born again.
When I read that, it became very clear that I have to take care of this space and that it has to grow and grow. It is a beautiful feeling to imagine that you can have a new childhood; irrespective of how your childhood was if you can have a refresh button then anything is possible. And, all of these people were saying that Perfect Life Spot was the place where they could re-experience life, unlearn what they needed to unlearn and allow for a new identity to get formed.
Being non-judgemental is so simple that it is difficult.
I: Why is emotional well-being so important in today’s age?
C: The one thing I’m the most grateful for in life is being in the field that I’m in today, well-being is definitely the field of the times. The most important lesson I have learnt is that everyone is looking for one thing in relationships and that is somebody who can listen to them and look at them without any judgement.
The irony is all of our lives we have been trained to judge, evaluate, discriminate and decide accordingly. When we do that, we kind of imprison ourselves and others into a red-marker list of right and wrong and good and bad.
In doing that, we reduce the other person into a concept, so this journey really allows you to see that what is the meaning of a connection. Somebody comes to you, meets you for the first time, is ready to share the most vulnerable details of their life because they feel the trust and they feel that there is no judgement whatsoever. So, that is a very inspiring and emotionally recharging space to be in and gives me a lot of fuel to plan and write more books, do more seminars across the world in universities and conference spaces and just to sow the seeds of well-being.
Being non-judgemental is so simple that it is difficult. Because a lot of unlearning and letting go of past perceptions is required.
I: What next for Perfect Life Spot?
C: Future goals include sharing the ever-growing lessons with the world in the form of videos, books, seminars, products and services. We are coming up with something very exciting called the well-being handbag which is something you can gift someone and enrich their mind, body and soul.
India is a country where gifting during Diwali and many other festivals in the norm. So, instead of commercially packaged biscuits and sweets, we thought to make something that is more full and real for the receiver and the giver.
So, a lot of things are sprouting and the creative manner always comes from the space itself. Like the cafe idea. Since we at PLS have a very mindful kitchen which has very amazing food and drinks, we thought now it’s the time to make it a public space.
We want to expand this into a fully functioning cafe space and something that has all the senses – so as soon a person enters it is visible what it means to de-separate and disconnect with the virtual reality and come to the real setting.
Nikhil Sreekandan is a journalist with a desire to explore life through the stories he chases. An engineer who found recluse in the world of words, he is a journalism post-graduate from Cardiff University. He works as a content editor at Nature inFocus, India’s leading platform for nature and wildlife. When not lost in cinema, contemporary literature or his earphones — there is a genuine attempt at ‘giving chase’, and it is beautiful.