First and foremost, my name is Mentor. Yes, you heard that right; my name is like that, and it is not my title. From time to time, I do have a tendency to play the role of a mentor, which makes everything so confusing. I was born after three sisters and raised together with them in a tiny house in Prishtina, the capital city of Kosovo, and there is a whole interesting story about that. But to cut it short, I was born into injustice and was violently kicked out of my house with my family by Serbian paramilitary forces, which forced us to live in a refugee camp for some time (will describe this story in the next post).
Fast forward, the war ended, Kosovo became an independent country in 2008, and right after that, I came to the US as a high school international exchange student in Apple Valley, California. If you do not know where Apple Valley is, I do not blame you! It is in between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, a.k.a. the middle of nowhere desert with no real apples, just tumbleweeds and freaking goat-heads. I lived there for 3 years, made some incredible friendships, and made discoveries about life and its situations. I was pursuing an associate’s degree in math and physics from Victorville Community College and really fell in love with physics – and then I got to quantum physics and cosmology; and my life morphed into one that questioned not only what stars and atoms are made out of but also who the heck is asking the question!?
My dad was an electrical engineer, and I was following in his footsteps – as a lot of people tend to do. Nothing wrong with that, right? Wrong (at least for my case)! I had this moment that changed everything midway through my junior year of the electrical engineering program at Arizona State University (yes, I got out of the California desert to go to the Arizona desert – story of my life). Witnessing the fact that some of my professors, though brilliant, were involved in designing atomic bombs. This sounds like they are super smart, but the opposite is true. I thought, how can a person who has so much intelligence use that intelligence for destruction? Then I realized that in school, we do not learn to use our intelligence for advancing humanity as a whole; we just absorb tons of information, repeat and memorize instructions, and do last-minute work. That moment, I realized that this had to change! Schools should be places where students are going to educate their minds, but also cultivate loving kindness and compassion in their hearts.
From that moment, I went ahead and started five student organizations at ASU, co-founded two non-profit organizations, launched a movement at Arizona State University, and became a student senator representing students. All this while getting recognized with many awards and being a student leader while I was finishing my engineering degree (mostly for my parents and for me to have a piece of paper). I told myself, I’m going to get a master’s degree in entrepreneurship! Nothing could get in my way!!
With this in mind, I wanted to start a university in Kosovo that educates the minds and the hearts of students. I envision it to be a “Factory for Changemakers.” With this bold and crazy idea, I went to the dean of students, Dr. Aaron Krasnow. He was that person who gave me permission by telling me that “you can do it, but you just got to start small and build your way there.” I thought to myself, “Holy moly, the dean of Arizona State University told me that I can one day build a university that educates all students to be Changemakers!” Then, I also got to see the movie The Secret, and my ego boosted 100%, and I started believing in the power of my thoughts to create and manifest. Nothing could get in my way!!
The summer after I finished my undergraduate degree in 2014 was a tough one. While I was enjoying the summer working with my friend, Nathan, to start a business in Kosovo, and enjoying life to the maximum! After a night in Prizren that was full of dance, singing, and drinking, my cousins woke me up looking like something has gone terribly wrong. I looked at my phone, I had a million missed calls. Then I realized that something has really gone wrong. My cousin, who was looking extremely concerned, woke me up and told me that I have to go back to my home. I asked him why, and he told me, “Your sister, Drita, is in the hospital.” In that moment, I knew that she had passed away. We went back to Prishtina, where I had to face my family. I will never forget their devastated and broken spirits. Extremely heartbroken, I told myself and the family that we have to accept this and not resist it. Nothing can be done about it anymore, but to learn lessons from her life. Remember when I said that nothing could get in my way? I was wrong!
This event led to a series of chain events that were devastating to me and got me into extreme depression and anxiety, disease, and ultimately a lot of suffering. The school decided not to fund my master’s program because funding got cut, my residency in the US was being put into question, I had no job lined up, filled with student loans, and I was not able to keep up running all the initiatives together with getting a master’s degree that was supposed to be two years, but I had to compact it into one year so I can afford it (basically, taking two semesters of classes in one semester). I barely finished my thesis in time – and at the same time, I got chosen to speak at the graduation ceremony at ASU – what an honor. However, I found that outside success does not matter more than inner success (well-being). I did give the speech, but inside, I was suffering from anxiety and disease.
All of my efforts at ASU had gotten me some recognition from the community, and through that, I got recommended for a job that I thought was my dream job. The job was at Ashoka, the organization that pioneered the field of social entrepreneurship. After 8 months of interviews, they offered me a job – yeah, it was intense! I moved to Washington D.C., and was ready to start my first job. The people were nice, and the team was extremely unstructured. I loved working there, but I had still not overcome my disease and anxiety. I was struggling with my stomach pain, to a point that I got hospitalized while giving a speech at a New York City event. After another 8 months (magic torture number) of going through doctors and tests to figure out what was wrong with me, they ended up diagnosing me with gastritis, acid reflux, irritable bowel syndrome, and my favorite, appendicitis. None of them were right; I was still struggling, and the medicine was not helping.
While I was going through this turmoil, the only thing that was calming my mind down was YouTube videos of this Indian mystic named Sadhguru. He was not telling me to let go or stop my mind or any of that nonsense. He kept blaming me for causing this to myself. I realized that I was powerless against these thoughts, and he was pointing that out. One night he came into my dream and inserted a chewing gum into my mouth with force!? I woke up feeling struck but also needed to go to the bathroom. The next couple of days, I woke up and grabbed my phone to turn off the alarm. As soon as I clicked “Snooze” on my alarm, I received an email saying “Special Invitation for Inner Engineering with Sadhguru.” I felt like either this is a freaking strange coincidence, or this is some kind of divine intervention. The only way to find out was to go and witness what this Inner Engineering is all about. Let’s go to Atlanta to meet Sadhguru!
I went to Atlanta! Booked seats in a hall that had more than 1000 participants. Had an open but skeptical mind. I sat down, and they started playing this video of Sadhguru – I was thinking what a cool guy. Then, it was all quiet, and he entered the hall. As soon as he entered, I started feeling this intense energy in my spine and forehead. He goes on stage and starts chanting, and by this moment, I’m completely in awe of what was happening to me. I’ve read a lot about how people were describing meeting enlightened masters, but nothing really got me ready for that experience. He initiated all of us into a meditation practice called “Shambhavi Mahamudra,” which is a 21-minute daily kriya practice. They told us to do this practice twice a day for 40 days, and then they said you will see the difference and will do it at least once a day.
This meditation turned out to be one of the biggest boosts in my life because not only did it help me with my stomach issues, but it also gave me so much energy, focus, and inspiration to be the best possible version of myself so I can best serve others. This got me to realize that well-being is not just extra information in our brains, but it is the practice of well-being that makes the difference. In other words, it is not knowing that gratitude is a good thing, but expressing gratitude. I am committed for my life to be an expression of love, compassion, and joy in action to benefit all life on earth. I still am committed to ensuring that well-being and changemaking are prioritized in society and especially in the way young people grow up.
Here is my Linkedin where you can learn more about my professional career as a Social Entrepreneur, Facilitator, and Speaker. Let’s partner up. Speaking of partners, I’ve got a partner, Ali Fraenkel, who is a huge inspiration to me and to all around her. She is a community builder with so much joy and has an ever-loving heart for humanity and all its creation.
Thanks for reading my story. More details will be uploaded either through blogs or videos. Stay tuned! Would love to build relationships with new people – so please do not hesitate to reach out.