viji and the un-science of service

Posted on Monday, October 15, 2012

One would not know, with the brightness and enthusiasm in Viji’s voice, that she’s just been up thirty hours straight to welcome the last of the three babies she’s helped lead into the world in the past seven days.  Viji’s voice sings like light.  Her heart is big.  Service is what keeps her going.


As a medicinal organic chemist in the pharmaceutical industry, Viji spent close to fifteen years utilizing her chemistry background to design drug molecules that would arrest negative processes in the body, such as cancer.  I sit in awe, impressed with such a background at a young age.  Viji says frankly,  “That’s what I did as a career, but I was always being pulled by my heart.  My passions, my desires were to be of service.”  Viji, honored to be dubbed a ‘rowdy prisoner’ says that before she was ‘rowdy’ she felt like a trapped prisoner, saying,


I was utilizing my brain but I wanted to utilize more of my heart, not just in thoughts, but in action.


The desire to bridge her intellect with philanthropy built a strong foundation for her in helping others.  Viji has made an impact on others with her compassionate heart at homeless shelters and by listening and offering advice as a hotline operator for battered women’s shelters.  As if she wasn’t giving enough, Viji committed two years teaching science to high school students as a Peace Corps member.


Constantly striving to help others in a spiritual, emotional and healthful level, Viji received a fellowship in 2007 to study Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient, holistic medical science from India with a clear goal to “understand how we can best interact with our surroundings and ourselves in the most harmonious ways to establish and maintain health.“  Viji soon stood out in a unique way, fusing her experience in Western medicine with Eastern traditions as a Clinical Ayurvedic Practitioner.  It was at this union that Viji began asking herself, “Where do I allow this rowdy prisoner to escape?”  She continued to ask this question until the little lock to her cage began to rattle and the door slowly opened.


 This little bird within me just needed to fly out.


And with that, she began to spread her wings eager to make a new nest for herself.  While collecting the branches, Viji saw her desire for success and for giving, recognizing, “I deserve to be happy.”  As she openly expresses her struggle between the ego and the heart, Viji remembers herself contemplating how to arrive at a realistic but soul fueling existence.  She asked, “The world revolves around money, so how do you make all these energetic changes while still ensuring that you’re able to take care of your responsibilities?”


Life is hard, career changes are scary and overall happiness requires sacrifice, courage and patience.  In the middle of the storm, caught between east and west, the heart and the head, Viji says, “You don’t think you can do it.  It feels like your heart’s going to stop beating, but from somewhere within, even though you’re ready to give up, there is a thread of hope.  You take a little bit of rest and reprieve and you fight back.”  Once the “tornado” as she called it eventually settled down, she was able to find the answers.  Realistic answers, not exclusively based on an idealistic dream.


It was then, that some sort of divine intervention, miracle, or serendipitous conversation took place.  Viji’s circle of friends knew her strong desire to leverage her experience and do what she loved.  Two friends who were doctors mentioned that she would be perfect as a doula.  Surprised at their proposal, she asked, ”What’s a doula? Is it some sort of a babysitting job?  I don’t even have children!”  Persistent, the word doula came to her again and she gave up everything everybody thought was the height of achievement; “What everybody works so hard to get to.”  This decision changed her life and the lives of each life she’s greeted.


Accompanying over sixty births, Viji has learned that being a doula is much more than a babysitter.  Now, as a full-time doula of her practice, Divine Journey, Viji has fully given into her gift of service.  Her service, unique with each encounter, is one of a holistic approach; understanding each partner’s goals, ideas about the labor process, breathing, breastfeeding and bonding, Viji interacts with families with such compassion.  Creating a connection with each tiny being shaped inside the womb, she writes personal letters to newborns, birth stories for the family, and photographs moments along the way.  When we move from the heart, like Viji, our efforts feel fluid, natural and sure.  I can see in Viji’s smile, I can hear it in her voice, I can sense it in her core.  Igniting with enthusiasm as we speak, she freely shouts, “I feel most alive when I am of service.  This is not something I have to study; I don’t have to get a Ph.D.  It’s already within me and I know how to do it!”  My body becomes pregnant with joy, encouraged at the compassionate and dutiful desire Viji wishes to make in the world.  How does she do it?  How do we all live life like this?  Viji’s voice is stern and boasts with confidence like an unwavering mother:


My gifts are not education, but of loving.  I am good at loving.


We are roweled up in this rowdy cage.  As we talk, energy swirls of excitement and hope.  But it’s not always easy, Viji admits.  Each birth is different, each situation and woman fluctuate, but the trust in each woman fuels Viji to be a servant to each of them.  I wonder, what will it be like to house a forming life deep inside my womb, to drum a steady beat from my heart to the one that lives off mine.  How incredible it must be, this divine journey.  Ms. Viji, the giver of life says it best: “Birth is the most vulnerable time, but it’s also the most divine.”


feature image provided by Judy Mackey

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