'Help Me, Help You' -- How Service Made Me Fall in Love Again, With Myself

My patients are constantly telling me how unhappy they are with what they're doing for a living. I completely understand. I myself had once been in that same dreadful position. That is, until I found service. Serving others is one of the best ways to peel off all the self imposed layers we created along the way to living the life we thought we always wanted.

During the Spring of 2008, I was living at the Sivananda Ashram (a monastery of yoga philosophy) acquiring my yoga teacher certification. I was not interested in becoming a yoga teacher per se. What I was yearning for was something different, an epiphany, a personal transformation! One where the skies would split open and a Divine whisper would feather against my psyche and intuitively echo what my true calling was. You see, I had been working as a successful eye doctor for the past 10 years and despite living in two of my favorite cities, Manhattan and Miami, I felt unfulfilled, numb, without passion and had a burning need to change careers.

During my studies at the Ashram, I learned the importance of Karma Yoga. Karma Yoga is the yoga of action and selfless service. It is the path chosen primarily by those of an outgoing nature. It purifies the heart by teaching you to act selflessly, without thought of gain or reward.

Something shifted in me. Energetically I learned it was my obligation to help others, as part of my commitment to being human. The importance of helping others was always demonstrated to me by my parents. I just had not tapped into yet as an adult. Yoga helped awaken those early latent lessons and now, coupled with my medical skills, I could help the less fortunate. This provided me with an optimal vehicle to exercise my karma yoga in the world.

In the summer of 2008, I embarked on my first international volunteer medical mission to the mountains of Peru, and faced the difficult challenges of running a successful free clinic in a developing country. On returning to New York, an email and phone dialogue was initiated with a Monk, Swami Prem, from an Ashram in Uttarkashi, the Himalayan Mountains of India. Swamiji had been running a small medical clinic for the local villages for decades. That September, along with several thousand eyeglasses, medications and my epiphany tucked safely in my pocket, I arrived alone in India as its newest Karma Yogi. After two months and a longing to make a change in the world, the ThirdEyeVision Foundation was born.

Once back in New York, I ran the NYC Marathon to raise thousands of dollars for the eye camps. But this was not enough. I started a yoga and meditation accessories and lifestyle line called AshramChic, teaching the sacred lessons to urbanites like me through fashion. A portion of all proceeds from AshramChic go to support the ThirdEyeVision Foundation.

We also advocated the first Rotary Club to be chartered and in the spring of 2010, the Saumya Kashi Rotary Club of Uttarkashi became official. This venture proved to be extremely valuable this past summer when a devastating and fatal flood roared through the region allowing Rotary Delhi and Rotary Dehradhun to provide lifesaving supplies and assistance.

This past fall, we returned to India for the forth time and our largest mission to date. Our team consisted of three optometrists, one ophthalmologist and additional support staff, who traveled from all over the world. Our goal was to utilize the new clinical building and surgical theater, as well as train the local staff on standardized international primary eye care. Patients traveled many kilometers by foot, and eagerly awaited hours in line for their very first eye exam. It amazes me how much the clinic has grown from the first time I went there five years ago.

Currently, ThirdEyeVision is working on training staff and providing automized equipment to make the clinic sustainable all year round.

I recently opened my own practice "ThirdEyeChic Optometry" in Battery Park City, NY, on the ground floor of the Goldman Sachs building. I am now an advanced certified yoga and meditation practitioner and receive endless pleasure utilizing this knowledge to advise my patients on simple stress reduction techniques through; proper breathing, diet, exercise, relaxation, meditation and positive thinking. New Yorkers are open and eager to learn. However, many are too busy to dedicate 2 hours a day to a yoga mat, let alone spend months in an ashram. By blending my worlds of yoga, optometry, service and fashion, I've created a life that fulfills me in many ways I never dreamed possible.

So in the end, it was never the career that needed to change, it was me.