Recently, I interviewed the New York Times bestselling writer and mystic, Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev. I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would being in the presence of a realized soul awaken my own intelligence, and would I be able to impart that experience to my readers?

I waited in a hotel that bordered Central Park in New York. He walked in wearing a kurta, a draped shawl with a massive turban looking just like his pictures on the Internet, many of which depict him flying on a motorcycle giving him the name “motorcycle guru.” Aside from the attire, he seemed like other mortals: I sensed no halo or special vibes. He touched my arm and asked me to move closer, an invitation to intimacy that I was unprepared for. Mildly taken aback, I suddenly remembered the fresh flowers and the woolen shawl that I had brought as gifts. My cousin-in-law who is a devotee had advised that I take these to show my respect.

The movement of rustling plastic shook me back into the present and I remembered my list of prepared questions. I told Sadhguru of my own background. I served six years in the United States Army, 15 months of which were spent deployed to Iraq. I began asking him a few questions and very quickly the conversation turned to politics. He said, “I am amazed to see people committed as Democrats or Republicans. They are two tribes, which will invariably fight. How they fight may not be with guns, but they fight.” He explained to me that when voters are pre-committed to a party, then they don’t take the time to evaluate a candidate based on merit or views.

Sadhuguru said, “In the name of democracy we are going back to a feudalistic existence of belonging to different tribes. Right now, there is a blue tribe and a red tribe: an elephant tribe and a donkey tribe. America should not be divided on a tribal basis: this is a melting pot. Now you are trying to divide by creating a new kind of tribe.” His words gave me pause. We are conditioned to believe that our democracy, our way of leadership is superior. But is this true? Is the fighting between candidates that we see currently in the media and debates civilized? As Sadhguru said, there are no guns, but the words of these candidates do incite violence and hate crimes. The deep division that currently exists in our country between political supporters is a growing chasm.
So I asked Sadhguru—what is the solution? He told me that leaders have to become meditative. They have to cultivate inner experiences, which will give them insight into humanity. He said, “being meditative you are not identified by the limitations of the physical boundaries of the body, your clan, your family or nation. There is a larger experience of life beyond your identities. If such a thing happens to the top leaders of this world, everything can be changed.”

He continued, “What are our problems? Our problems are of nourishment, health, and education. Conflict is not even an issue. Statistics say that in the year 2012, we generated enough food on this planet for 18.6 billion people. Today we can get food anywhere and as much as you want. Still 50% of the population is hungry because we don’t have inclusive consciousness. We have never experienced ourselves beyond identities we have artificially taken on in the society we are living in. If the leadership on the planet experiences a deeper dimension of life, there is a solution for everything.”

We continued our meeting in his car enroute to his next appointment. He pointed to a tree and said, “What you inhale, the trees exhale. What you exhale, the trees inhale. One half of your breathing apparatus is hanging outside. Just look at the trees, it looks like your lungs actually.” Then he pointed to another tree that had been partially cut off for beautification, “Except that one—only one lung left.” We laughed, and he said that if we experience the fundamental unity of life, then there is no need to work on resolving conflict—it will happen naturally.

After my meeting, I checked myself mentally and emotionally for the slightest hint of a buzz or strange feeling, but I found none. Totally spiritually sober. Last night, as I watched the third and final debate between Trump and Clinton, I couldn’t help but see how my friends indulged in verbally violent comments on social media. They forgot that they were, in fact, friends or that they had served alongside each other in war.

I didn’t experience any psychic changes after meeting Sadhguru, but his words have stayed with me. This morning, as I ordered grocery items online, I recalled the statistic of how much food is available and all that separates its distribution is the lack of inclusiveness, of true global leadership. And later as I went for a walk, I stood near a tree and inhaled deeply. In response, a limb shivered in the wind—perhaps my intelligence was being awakened.

Supriya Venkatesan is a freelance writer based in Princeton, New Jersey. Her articles have appeared in Forbes, Washington Post, TIME, and Huffington Post. She is currently working on a memoir based on her military deployment to Iraq. @supriya_venk(twitter) or