Saturday, December 18, 2010

The 40min investment

For the last ~2 weeks my work life has gone crazy, average working hours are from 9:30AM-9:00PM with a lunch break of half hour and most times it boils down to grab something and eat in the lab. There was no break over the weekend either. Due to this, I was going home tired and drained every day. Because of the time I reach home, dinner was late and hence sleeping late and all such bad habits added to the agony.

In my previous life where I was doing simulations, I could take breaks while computer was crunching numbers and head to the gym or go for a run or do something physical to keep my spirits up, but the current situation is being stuck in the lab and there is more work for me and less work for the computer. In short no physical exercise is possible. 

Last night I got tired of this routine and decided to do something about this, of course there were several solutions ranging from taking time off for a day (if possible) or so and sleep through or go to the gym early in the morning before getting to work and so on. After a short analysis I figured, I do not lack sleep and hence sleeping longer wasn’t going to help; exercising early in the morning is good but somehow it doesn’t fit me (I have tried this in the past and concluded that evening is the best time for this).  

The answer to my problem was in the seven letter word “Sadhana”, the definition of which could vary depending upon whom you talk to; From my definition it is the routine that gets completed in 40mins or so and has to be done first thing in the morning. So, I set the alarm and made up my mind to wake up when the alarm goes off and slept a peaceful sleep.

Today morning I completed the 40min event and went on to do my other daily activities, I could see a remarkable difference in my energy levels through out the day. As usual I had a couple of meetings late in the evening and action items to catch up after the meeting and by the time I went home I was less than half as tired as I would have been otherwise.

I could have invested this 40mins every day and felt the same way everyday but I am not that disciplined (read lazy).

ps: if you want to know the what I am talking about do the YES+ or the Art of Living Course.     

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

NPR Article Highlights Research on the Power of Breath

As Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has commented for many years, science is slowly catching up to the power of breath and meditation. Studies continue to emerge proving the physiological and psychological benefits of regular meditation and pranayam practice.

On Monday, NPR aired an article about new research confirming the impact of breath work on blood pH and blood pressure, the body's reaction to stressful situations and even the expression of genes. Physician Mladen Golubic of the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine, Esther Sternberg, a researcher at the National Institute of Mental Health and Harvard researcher Herbert Benson are all quoted in the article. You can check it out here.

Enjoy and keep up your breathing practice to continue experiencing these great benefits firsthand!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

When the intentions are strong . . . . .

This incident happened nearly a year ago. Back in 2009 we made a trip to India and in that we had planned to visit the Bangalore Ashram. The reason to visit the ashram was two fold, one was to see the place itself and the other was to buy stuff from the divine shop in the ashram. All was well and we picked a date to visit the ashram and since we were travelling from Mysore to Bangalore we added couple more items to our agenda.

We reached Bangalore as we had planned and thanks to my laid back attitude and inadequate planning, by the time we reached the Ashram there was a satsang about to start and because of which they had closed both the divine shop and the main meditation hall. We were told they will open it after the satsang, we were a bit disappointed but we got to see guruji and that took away half the disappointment. Since we had to return to Mysore the same day we couldn’t wait for the satsang to finish and then the divine shop to open. So, we came back empty handed from the Ashram.

After returning to Mysore, we checked out the local music stores to see if they had any of the CDs we wanted and all we got in return was bad (read angry) customer support. All avenues were closed and I was thinking we should make another trip to Bangalore before we get back to the US.

A day or so later some volunteers from Art of living Mysore came around distributing flyers about their upcoming courses and events. My in-laws took the flyer and kept it on the table. I saw the flyer and I remember making comments on its design and sandhya took it for safe keeping and we forgot all about it as we had a wedding to prepare for (sandhya’s sisters wedding).

One fine evening I had a brain flash and it occurred to me that if the Art of Living Mysore is a big enough chapter, then they probably have their own divine shop and I could get my CDs from there. So, I called the number on the flyer and the lady on the other side was really nice (true with any AOL volunteer whose phone number is listed on the flyer) and she told me that they do not have a divine shop yet but there is something better going on in Mysore. She directed me to Mysore Dasara exhibition where Art of Living foundation had a stall.

Next day evening we strolled to the exhibition grounds and visited the stall, we found all the things we wanted and much much more. I was ecstatic, it had saved my extra trip to Bangalore and since I was in the exhibition grounds I visited the Navakarnataka press stall also and got to pick up couple of books from there as well.

Later It occurred to me, when the intentions are strong, nature will show a way and all I had to do was to energize my brain cells and do a little effort.              

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Light as a Leaf

I've been with the Art of Living Foundation for a while. In that time, I've attended who knows how many satsangs, from the intimate 2 person ones to ones that have filled stadiums and air fields. I've seen many super ordinary as well as super fantastic singers and performers both dazzle and fizzle. Satsangs with the Guru, satsangs *with* the Guru, and satsangs. It has been quite a trip.

Recently, Swami Suryapada visited Austin for one evening of satsang. It was raining rivers and the atmosphere was intense. Regardless, our center was full of people, and not just the usual suspects. A variety of people were present, many who I'd never even seen before. The room was choke full and the mood was suspect.

Swamiji breezed in and sat down. In the matter of a few seconds, He blew our minds off. I've never seen someone take such glorious charge of a venue with music. Here was someone who could do what the Guru does.

There were no concepts, He shattered them all. He was totally down to earth, rendered complicated bhajans with flair and the group couldn't but participate 100%. There were no limitations, no eastern/western bridges to build, no people to convince or impress, no need for complicated knowledge, people just experienced the moment. It was pure bliss.

In my earlier days, I put a lot of effort into satsang and I saw some of them go nowhere despite my contribution. I concluded that the group intention wasn't there and that it was impossible for me to overcome that. Here was someone who did completely the opposite. It was irrelevant what the group intention was. His intention was so potent and laser focused that the group became Him. And He became the group. So lovely, no limitations, no concepts, no barriers, total freedom.

It was a powerful lesson for me to do my 100% and not worry, nature cannot but support such intention. In fact, such intention becomes nature's intention, there is no difference, no separation.

He was the epitome of being in the moment, so much so that everyone else ended up there too. That night was wild and the memories still give me shivers. I've been with the Art of Living Foundation for a while and I'm still surprised by the possibilities. What a life!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving

Holiday season is right around the corner. This holiday season, make it vegetarian.

New York Times is publishing an interactive series titled

New dishes will be added daily until Thanksgiving Day. Do take advantage of these. The pictures look very appetizing as you can tell from the screenshot below.

Bawa once wrote a blog post titled 102 Reasons To Go Veggie. I love the following two paragraphs he wrote at the end of his list.
If you’ve read this far, I hope that you are beginning to see that the Meat & Dairy industry is a major contributor to misery on this planet. It is destroying the health of people in rich countries, starving those in poor countries, it is torturing & killing billions of animals every year and in the meantime it is one of the major factors in the destruction of the environment – so what does the meat & dairy industry have to say in it’s defence?

Well their only real point is usually “Meat is tasty” – fair enough a lot of people enjoy the taste of meat – but there are plenty of delicious alternatives (just consider the huge range of vegetarian dishes in Indian cooking – one of the oldest & most sophisticated cuisines in the world) and if you really crave meat & dairy, nowadays there are plenty of healthy non animal alternatives – just look in the supermarket & health food shop. So I hope you will agree it’s pretty pathetic to consider all the evidence & then say “well I know you’re right about the environment & health & the animals – but I just love my meat”
Read more: 102 Reasons To Go Veggie on Bawa's blog.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Six S's

I was recently thinking about the primary pillars of the Art of Living - namely Seva, Satsang and Sadhana, also, the implicit ones - Silence, Smile and Sadguru. I like to compare these aspects of life to a tree.

Sadhana is the practice - the root of the tree - grounding it firmly and providing the essential nutrients of life. It provides a strong foundation on which anything can be achieved. Without strong roots, life easily takes us for a ride.

Satsang is the group - the trunk of the tree - providing the infrastructure to grow. It is the support system that we need when life does take us for a ride. Sometimes, life's too smart for us. It is a life jacket which protects us from drowning.

Silence is forbearance - the endurance of a tree - standing through all challenges and changes, unflinchingly. Life's challenges can only be faced unscathed if we can listen to our soul. Without that discipline, we can easily become part of the noise.

Smile is the attitude - the appearance of the tree - magnificent, colorful and real, adding beauty to the surroundings. An authentic and generous smile can make a big impact and a lasting impression.

Seva is the expression - the flowers and fruits of the tree - sharing their best with the world, bringing new life with love. It is the ultimate expression of joy, being useful to everyone in every way possible. The effects of unconditional seva only multiply.

Sadguru is the divine - providing the ultimate purpose for the tree - to grow. It is the guiding force that brings the means and the end in focus.

These pillars seem to form a sequence, just like the tree. The root and trunk are the physical aspects, forbearance and attitude are the mental aspects. Together they bear fruits that propagate the spirit. And the essential undercurrent is the divine, supporting this entire dance.

Different people tend to identify with different aspects. Some get completely absorbed in one, a few are able to go beyond preferences. The luckiest few end up dancing without even trying.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sri Sri Yoga Weekend 1 Ends With Smiles

Anyone who has had the pleasure of practicing yoga with Shriram Sarvotham knows that it's near impossible to walk away from a session without a smile. After three days of energizing asanas, relaxing meditation and ancient wisdom delivered in Shriram's trademark blend of gentleness, humor and concision, the current Sri Sri Yoga (SSY) class couldn't help but bear their pearly whites as they convened for the coming week. And to think—next weekend holds even more!

As an SSY repeater and aspiring yoga teacher, I watched Shriram lead the class with admiration, intrigue and excitement. Just when I'd begin to think I'd gleaned all I could on a particular posture or bit of knowledge, he'd offer something—be it as subtle as the tone of his voice, the grace of his movement or an illuminating word choice—that deepened my understanding. As I'm sure my classmates would agree, his unshakeable smile and loving commitment to his practice fill his students with a newfound appreciation and motivation for their own.

Our current, personal challenge: to maintain the SSY practice each day between now and our next session on Friday. Four days. 45 minutes each (don't forget final relaxation or Kriya/meditation!). 3 om's. Can we do it? I know we can!

But I hope we can do much more than that, too—by remembering what's brought us here together in the first place. How fortunate we are, as members of this beautiful human family, to have awoken to our connectedness and belonging; to salute the greatness in each other. Looking around the room at my SSY friends as they reveled in the bliss of their bodies' perfect spinal twists, I knew I'd become part of something much bigger than my own personal growth. We've joined hands in the common pursuit of spirit, of oneness—releasing toxins from the body, sinking deeper into that forward bend or holding that boat pose for just one more breath—well those are just perks of encouragement along the path!

As I bask in the last hours of this rejuvenating weekend, my mind quiet and peaceful, my heart full of joy and gratitude, my awareness ablaze and my body fully contented (yes, even despite a couple of sore spots!), I couldn't fight the ear-to-ear grin on my face if I wanted to.

Which, of course, I don't. Jai Gurudev!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Problems and Solutions


*One fine day*, a bus driver went to the bus garage, started his bus, and drove off along the route. No problems for the first few stops - a few people got on, a few got off, and things went generally well. At the next stop, however, a big hulk of a guy got on. Six feet eight,built like a wrestler, arms hanging down to the ground. He glared at the driver and said, *"Big John doesn't pay*!" and sat down at the back.  Did I mention that the driver was five feet three, thin, and basically meek? Well, he was.Naturally, he didn't argue with Big John, but he wasn't happy about it.

The next day the same thing happened -Big John got on again, made a show of refusing to pay, and sat down. And the next day, and the next.  This grated on the bus driver, who started losing sleep over the way Big John was taking advantage of him.

Finally he could stand it no longer. *He signed up for body building courses, karate, judo*, and all that good stuff. By the end of the summer, he had become quite strong; what's more, he felt really good about himself. So on the next Monday, when Big John once again got on the bus and said, "Big John doesn't pay!" The driver stood up, glared back at the passenger, and screamed, "*And why not?* " With a surprised look on his face, Big John replied, "*Big John has a bus pass* ."

*Management Lesson*: "Be sure there is a problem in the first place before working hard to solve one."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Experience sharing from Swami Suryapada’s visit

Here is what people had to say about swamiji’s visit to Austin and Sri Sri Ashram.

Gayatri Jayendran

“The Satsang in Ashram was phenomenal and every cell still reverberates with music and grace. Swamiji was really rocking and each one of us truly immersed ourselves in the moment. My 2 1/2 yr daughter could not really stop dancing for the entire satsang even when it was 10.30 in the night. She was bubbling with energy and joy seeing every single person dancing. The Rudra homam and following Satsang was truly heavenly. I enjoyed every bit of the second I happened to be with Swamiji. I also urge everyone to be part of these joyous and graceful moments.”

Usha Sapuram

“The whole evening with Swamiji was so magical. Felt the true meaning of "One Consciousness" when all of us kept singing and transcendng  in his divine presence. Truly was a blessing to be with him. This flawless event would not have been possible without your kind efforts, my gratitude to you all. "Lets move together".

Shyam Gannavaram

“Words can't convey the richness and celebration we have all experienced in the presence of Swamiji these last couple of days! At yesterday's satsang at the ashram, the room exploded with joy, dance and true celebration. His one-pointed devotion to the Master is so apparent. Krishnaji was telling us that Swamiji is scheduled to visit 36 cities in 26 states in a matter of ~45 days on his current tour! What dedication, its truly inspiring!”

Tina Hendley

“ A really wonderful evening.Was apprehensive about entering this room filled with people on the floor not knowing what to expect when a lady named Rochelle (maybe rocha) greeted me warmly at the door with a smile and a hug and invited me to go in with her.Swami G was such an endearing presence. He smiled the most beautiful smile throughout the event as we sang loudly while clapping, meditated, and intently listened as he offered up wisdom in the sweetest and most humorous way that we can apply to our lives here. I really did leave there feeling totally different than when I had arrived. I was extremely peaceful, happy, & centered and am still feeling this today. I am very grateful for the experience and will certainly be returning. ”

Patrick Van den Nieuwenhuysen

“ It was very nice. Certainly the most powerful "ohm" chant I ever participated in. ”

Saturday, September 18, 2010

An evening with Swami Suryapada

On Friday September 17 2010, Art of Living Austin had the pleasure of hosting Swami Suryapada, a traveling saint from India. Since he was in town for a few hours we had to be satisfied with a satsang and nothing more.

I had heard about swamiji earlier through some senior teachers like Rajima and Commanderji but had never met him in person.  So, needless to say I was excited that he will be coming to town. By the time we managed to reach the venue he had already entered the hall and was working on his Harmonium. In the first impression I was blown away by the simplicity of his attire and in some aspects he resembled the guru himself, the beard and the long hair added to the resemblance.

The satsang (or as I usually refer to as Sat Sang) was very different, instead of starting with random songs, he started us off with an initiation mantra which he recited in sanskrit and then we sang a song in the praise of lord Ganesh, next song was in the praise of the guru or teacher and the very next one was in praise of goddess sharada (goddess of learning). At the end of each song he would recite a few more verses in sanskrit. His voice was so captivating and his pronunciation of the mantras felt so authentic that the whole room had gone into a trance. After these three we sang for a while and by then I had lost track of time.

At around 7:45PM or 8:00PM, he said lets meditate and I was expecting we would be getting all the kids out, closing the doors and dimming the lights but to my great surprise none of it happened. He just asked us to clasp our hands above the head and start chanting “Narayani Narayani” and after the continuous chant for a while he asked us to lower our hands and guided us through a small procedure and asked us to open the eyes. I felt  lighter, more energetic, I felt I had meditated.

After the meditation, he gave a small knowledge session. He was natural, dynamic, effortless, completely in the moment, spontaneous and had an awesome sense of humor. His talk did not feel pre meditated or targeted towards anybody nor did he have any specific agenda. I felt perhaps after sri sri himself, here was one person who could translate the complicated knowledge of spirituality into a concrete, tangible, practical wisdom. He had the audience captivated. When somebody asked if this talk were recorded, he said all it matters is it being recorded up here (he was pointing to the head). He had the breadth and depth of knowledge.

I would have loved to listen to him if he had spoken the whole night, but the evening had to come to an end and we ended with the kannada song “baghyada lakshmi baramma”. Many people in the audience couldn’t understand what he was singing but his voice, music and the tune made us all enjoy the song.

It was truly a pleasure hosting him and spending the evening with him. Thanks to all who made it happen. I only wish he were here for a longer time and had conducted a course or two. If you ever get a chance to be in his presence, do not miss the chance.

The post would have been more effective if I had posted some pics from the satsang, I do not have any with me and will post them once I get them.  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Health and Happiness Series in Austin

The Health and Happiness series is a weekly 2-hour session covering a range of topics on (you guessed it) living a healthy and happy life.

Here's a picture of Jai leading a small group in a problem-solving exercise during last week's session, which was titled Freedom from Mind Games.

This series is open to all, and costs $10 per session. Upcoming topics include:

  • Understanding Emotional Intelligence
  • Stepping Into the Big Mind
  • Finding Real Communication
  • Overcoming Obstacles

Read more on the series on the registration page for HnH.

Kudos to volunteer organizers Varsha and Bimal who put together the topics and the framework for this series to happen. Varsha is now busy planning the next series, which will take place immediately after this one ends, so watch this space...

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Swami Suryapada’s visit to Texas

Swami Suryapada better known as Chayanna is coming to Texas to spend time with us, we at the Art of living Austin are hosting a satsang on Friday September 17 2010. Here are the details for the same

Date: September 17 2010
Time: 6:30PM-8:30
Venue: Art of living Austin Center (5555 N Lamar Blvd  Suite C104 Austin TX, 78751)

If you want more of Swamiji you can follow him to the Sri Sri Ashram in Uvalde and take part in the Rudra Puja conducted by Swamiji himself on Sunday September 19 2010. Here is a little secret for you, this will be the first ever Rudra Puja performed at the Sri Sri Ashram.

Please RSVP for either or both the events by registering on the secure site.

For satsang follow the link here

For Rudra Pooja at the ashram follow the link here

If you are interested in the ashram event please register asap for the accommodation is limited and the volunteers really do not like last moment surprises.

About Swami Suryapada

Swami Suryapada embodies what he teaches. His blissful, open-hearted presence and beautifully simple exposition of yogic wisdom have inspired thousands around the world. He is one of the few Art of Living teachers who give extempore commentaries on Astavakra and Bhagavad Gita. He has traveled extensively in Australia, the Caribbean's, Germany, New Zealand, South East Asia, UAE and USA and his courses and satsangs are much sought after wherever he goes.

Swamiji has been with the Art of Living Foundation since 1991 and trains all of SSRVM (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Vidya Mandir) school teachers. He completed his master’s degree in Physics from Bangalore University and has served at the prestigious R.V College of Engineering in Bangalore as Head of the Department in Physics. He is a gifted musician and plays the harmonium and keyboard.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Health and Happiness Series: BODY MIND SOUL EXPERIENCE 2010


All sessions are not mandatory and no prior knowledge or experience is required.
These are 2 hours workshops every Saturday and are OPEN to ALL.
These sessions present the basics of Yoga, Meditation, Breath work to beginners and more experienced practitioners alike. During these sessions emphasis will be given to learning the rhythm of our breath to increase our overall focus and awareness.

Buy Tickets

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Guruji in Hartford

(Crossposted from Anoop's blog)

We are in Hartford, Connecticut. Guru Poornima celebrations are in full swing. A few hundred people are now in silence, in the Art of Silence course. Guruji is here.

Guruji Says Hi

Here is my transcript of what Guruji said in satsang yesterday... starting with:

Look around and see who is not smiling... Now for the next few days, you take care of them.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Becoming an Expert

The Yoga Sutras of Patanjali are an authoritative text on the practice of Yoga. Ever since I was introduced to this ancient text, I've always liked and remembered some specific lines from it. Today I want to share one of them which has deep meaning for me in the practice of Yoga, Sudarshan Kriya, and meditation, but also in other aspects of my life.

sa tu dīrgha kāla nairantarya satkārā sevito dṛḍhabhūmiḥ

In the context of Yoga, Maharshi Patanjali says three things are needed to establish oneself and be firmly grounded in the practice of Yoga:

dīrgha kāla: For a long period of time.

nairantarya: Without a break.

satkārā sevito: With honor and respect.

Doing the practice for a long period of time, without a break, with honor and respect — that's what it takes to become firmly grounded in the practice of Yoga and all the benefits to the mind, body and spirit that it brings.

But wait, that applies to becoming an expert in anything, doesn't it? All around us we see people who are experts in their domain. More often than not, the above three steps outline how they got that expertise. Very few people are born as prodigies; expertise gets built up over time. And time alone is not enough; steady application of oneself unbroken in time is essential. And these two together do not make one an expert, if the attitude and approach to the task or craft are casual or irreverent. A sense of honor and respect is also essential.

Want to master a musical instrument? It takes years of unbroken practice. Want to become a pro golfer? You need to hit the links several times a week for years together. Want to be great at what you do? Keep at it... with honor and respect! Often we dabble in something and give it up after a while if we don't get results from it, and take up something else... without realizing that value gets built up more and more over time when we stick to one thing.

There are many more such simple and insightful lines I love from Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, including the definition of Yoga, which I will leave for another post. Hint: it's not just the practice of tying your body up into pretzel shapes. Thanks to Shriram Sarvotham and his amazing teaching of the Sri Sri Yoga course for awakening my interest in this text. Guruji has given a fantastic commentary on the Yoga Sutras in 11 talks; I highly recommend listening to the whole series.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

First AOS Course Experience

We just returned from our first Art of Silence(AOS) course from the ashram this weekend and felt like sharing this with you all.

We have taken our time to dive into the part2 and until 3 weeks ago had no plans to attend this one too. Then out of the blue, Mamta suggests to me that she wants us to do the AOS course together as her birthday (6/30) gift. She was riding HIGH after just finishing her first YES+ course with Anoop/Shraddha - I asked her once just to make sure and needless to say signed us up.

Due to a last minute instructor re-arrangement Philip Fraser taught the course instead of Jim. We had the pleasure of picking up Philip from San Antonio airport en route to the ashram - we had a nice conversation and got to know him a little bit. At the ashram, everyone said, "we were lucky to do this course with one of the very best teachers".

Both Mamta and I have to agree - Philip has such a calming, peaceful, graceful personality. No "Do's or Dont's" - hearing him play the flute was magical ... he even woke us up at 5:45 a.m. with sounds of flute.

Pakshi, Neelam aunty and the seva volunteers did a magnificent job of making us feel at home and food was so healthy and delicious.

Satsangs were fun especially the last night when the energy level was so high with everyone dancing away to the melodious voices of Yamuna, Neelam aunty, Birjoo and others.

For me, the course was an "eye opener" ... thoroughly enjoyed the silence, nature and saw the mind settling down. Though I did often experience deep meditation, I couldn't resist the urge to doze off at times missing out on the instructions. Couple of times, I wondered when this torture would end :)

Mamta was anxious the first night ... The course was everything that's not in her nature!

  • Wake up at 5:30 a.m. (oops. not a morning person)
  • No caffeine (can't function without bed tea)
  • Silence (she sleeps best with T.V on :)

She was 100% committed ... got to the hall 15 mins before and did not miss a single session. During one of Guruji's speech, she thought he was speaking to her and burst out laughing when he said "You may have doubts that this is not for me .... may be you opened your eyes and saw if you were the only misfit and saw everyone else deep in meditation!"

Philip had earlier told us that it is ok to have neutral or negative experiences at different times. Sometimes, we expect every time/everything to be positive and are disappointed or have doubts about ourselves when it is not so.

Those who know Mamta a little know that she is black and white - The first words that came out of her mouth when the course ended were "Thank God, It's over ... Ahh .... the sound of my voice, I am not repeating this again" :). As everyone shared their experience, they encouraged "first timers' to repeat (eying Mamta) ... she agreed then to repeat only if Philip came back to teach the course!.

What finally sealed the deal was our ride back to San Antonio airport with Philip. Mamta insisted that she drive the car with Philip in the front seat. Since we got to the airport early, we spent another hour with him. Even though we were still 'supposed' to be in silence, the conversations with him were just out of the world. He shared stories of his beginnings with Guruji when there were just 5-10 of them back in 1989, his stay in India from 1991-95, on 'spirituality' in general, how it is ok to have doubts, he himself along with others he mentioned were not sure when they first started. I think it was Guruj's plan to send Philip as a guide for us! :)

I'd like to end by sharing a miracle story. As everyone was getting ready to leave and head out to their cars, they noticed a lot red ants all over their front and rear seats. It had rained quite a bit and then the sun coming out monday, along-with possible food in the cars must have driven the ants towards them - it took them at least 30-45 mins spraying ant killer, RAID etc. to get rid of the ants.

Our car was parked in between with an empty fruit bowl that we had taken for Philip still lying in the front seat - when I opened the car to check ... NO ANTS ... Not a single one! The only explanation we have is Philip rode in it and we planned to take him back in it! His Grace!

Written by Akash Verma.

Monday, June 14, 2010

YES+ - We participated, We played, We learned and We had fun

For a long time I had been asking my good buddies Anoop and Shraddha that I want to write about their efforts in making YES+ happen and appreciate their efforts in energizing the YES+ team. They always told me to do the course and then you can write and my excuse was, when you teach by yourselves, I will think about doing it. 

YES+ as it is advertised is the Art of Living Course (basic course, part-1) but designed and modified with youth in mind. Since I wear the old timer hat with the Art of Living organization and I have done quite a few part-1 or basic courses, I did not feel the need to the YES+ course. Basically, what is the point in drinking the same medicine in a new bottle  So, I was pretty reluctant to enroll myself and whenever the course was announced I was thinking of my excuses. Finally the time came last week and I was enrolled into it without me actually wanting to do so and at the end of 6 grueling days and 28hrs later, I am glad I did it and I am proud to call myself a YES+ graduate. 

The course is a complete package in itself, it has the seva, the sadhana and the satsang (for the purists, I mean company of the good). There are more practicals than theory, the processes/events in the course stir up emotions in you and at the same time you are given the tool to handle it. It brought out the leaders in us and at the same time taught us the very important lesson of life "TO HAVE FUN and ENJOY THE GAME". It was physically demanding (not as much as advertised though). Other courses try to teach the lessons and this course makes you learn the lesson. All done in a fun filled and happy environment. I wouldn't sugar coat and say it was all goody goody, on the weekdays, sessions were long and tiring but definitely not boring. I can't say anymore without giving out the course itself.   

For a good course we need 3 things, good venue, good participation and good teachers. This course had it all, everybody gave their 100% and no holding back. The teachers truly led us from the front, they always were there before us and had the place ready for us to start. Some of us knew that they were teaching for the first time but none of us could say they were novice.   

In the end I felt the course is advertised in a wrong way, it has parts and elements from the other courses like any other course taught under Art of Living umbrella but in the core it is completely different. In short, it is not the part-1 course targeted towards people in the age group 18-30, it is a course that anybody can do as long they are willing to be physically a bit active.  

If the above writing did not convince you to come join the upcoming YES+ course, then here is the carrot. There is a very important meditation that they teach during the course that is not taught in any other Art of Living course.  

The post wont be complete without thanking behind the scene volunteers who got us food every day. Special thanks to Bawa and Dinesh for designing this course. 

Anoop and Shraddha, you guys rocked. Keep the good times rolling.      

Friday, June 04, 2010

Part-2 Course at the Texas Ashram

After a big push from my wife, I finally enrolled and completed the part-2 course during Memorial day weekend. It was a 4 day course held at the beautiful and scenic Texas ashram. This was my second course but after a long break.

The teacher Commander Suresh, whom we used to call Commander-ji had flown all the way from India to meet his daughter and grand kids and in the middle of his vacation he decided to teach the course for us. He was a gem, one in a million. He took personal interest in each and every one of us. I liked his schedule driven approach towards the course. He used to come up with a schedule for the day to the minute and worked hard towards maintaining it, too bad we students could not keep up with his schedule. His preparation towards the course is another thing worth mentioning, he had the audio for the meditations on his ipod and couple of sets of tapes. He was so sweet, I almost wanted to call him grandpa. His devotion to the master is another story onto itself. He advised us to continue our sadhana on a regular basis and said you will see a benefit but at the same warned us not to attach expectations to the sadhana. He said even if you stop doing sadhana for a week it is almost like starting all over. He was very approachable and non judgemental, this is the first time during my time in Art of Living that I havs spoken to a teacher during the course about my concerns, I wasn't alone either. At the begining of every meditaion he would make sure he could completly see each and every participant and insisted on people to change their postions so that he can have a visual.    

The course itself was a roller coaster ride. On day 1 I was completely miserable and was feeling very tired and sleepy, by the end of day 1 I had a throbbing head ache on my right side. At the end of the satsang on day 1 I went to my room and crashed only to wake up at 4:30AM next day. Day 2 was better then day 1 but by end of the day left side of my head was throbbing away but the intensity was milder than previous day. It was on day 3 morning during one of the meditations, something flipped and I was energized and went on a complete high. By the end of the day 3 I was on cloud nine only to be brought down in night by some weird dreams. Next day morning I was sad again that my high is gone but the sadhana in the morning gave it back to me.

The days I was feeling tired, my mind was thinking may be its the heat outside that was making me drained, or may be I didn't sleep well previous night or I didn't have enough for lunch and so on. At one point I started thinking, I am probably wasting my time here and should have stayed home and played wii and saved some money also. But something in me kept me pushing and I simply followed the teachers instructions without questioning and now that I have completed, I feel it was well worth the money, the time and everything else. If I think back the duration of the course was exact for me, if it had been even a day shorter I would have come out with a negative thought and not on a postive high.    

I went to the course with lots of questions on my mind and I came back with all of them resolved. Another observation was on the meditation in the course, start of the course the meditations were more like sleep sessions or day dreaming time for me but by the end there was a complete 180 degree phase shift in the meditations. On the 3 days of the course we got three specific messages from "THE MAN" himself.

On the way back I got the wonderful opportunity to drive commander-ji back to airport and that in itself was a experience. When I appreciated him on his time sense during the course, he said the sign of a true leader is to be ahead of the rest and report 15mins before the expected time, this he said he learnt while he was in Indian Navy. He said you need love and discipline to progress on this path and not just quote guruji and create chaos and think we are enjoying it.

Thanks to Selva, Yamuna, Prakash, Uncle and Aunty and a bunch of other volunteers, all the cottages were well kept and the food was amazing. We didn't feel a pinch while staying at the Ashram.

One last thing I have to mention is the co-ordination among us 4 room mates, they all were just truly wonderful, using the bathrooms in a sequence went like clock work. Each one honored others timing very well.

A beautiful experience in the end. 

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Art of Living Austin Center

I have been associated with Art of Living Austin for more than five years now and I have witnessed its progress as an organization. It was just a couple of years ago when some of my friends took the initiative and decided to have a place we can call a center. There were lots of logistics to be worked out including but not limited to, how to finance the place?, what would we like to accomplish from this place? and aren't we good the way we are?.

I too had all these questions and to say the least was not too interested in the center. Thanks to the YES mind of some of the people who just dedicatedly worked towards changing everyones attitude (including me) from a NO to at least a May Be and we had a place.

The center presently sits in a commercial complex at 5555 N Lamar and does not seem much from the outside. Inside are two halls, one with yoga mats spread over uniformly (which we call the meditation hall) and other a lounge for people to hangout while some activity is going on in the meditation hall, but this is the place we can call our own. Here we are not dependent on others schedule to host an event or organize a course. No fear of getting kicked out for we ran out of time. We no longer have to hunt for a place to hold a satsang and because of its central location and accessibility by bus route makes the place even more attractive. Just a couple of days ago I celebrated one of the most awesome shivratri's.

Kudos to the people who truly drove the initiative and made it all happen. May be my perception, but it seems that we are having lot more events and activities now that we have a center.

Yes, I do see that the whole thing could have gone south and the skeptics like me could have bragged that "we been right from the beginning". But I am glad to say that it is not the case and the center is thriving (from what I can see). It is truly an example of great vision and leadership.