Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The technology of spirituality

A beautiful talk by Bawa aka Kurshed Batliwala. I have been following his blog for quite a while, but never heard him or watched a video from him. This is the first video I watched and it is truly inspirational. 

It is a series of 7 videos on YouTube and here is the link to part-1 of the video. Watch all the 7 and don't stop in the middle, it is lively and entertaining.  A must see for everyone.

Secret of happy living

Life is a journey of ups and downs and it often tires us and makes us dull. We get so much burdened by our responsibilities and get caught up in the happenings of the outside world, that it suppresses the natural joy and enthusiasm which we used to have as a child.

All the teachings we go through our life is about earning our livelihood and making our life comfortable. Somehow in this race to be successful we have lost that charm for life itself and have become dull and stressed. Neither at school nor at home are we taught how to get rid of the negative tendencies of mind and be enthusiastic and happy in our life.

What are these negative tendencies? Fear and anxiety about the uncertainties of future, and anger and frustration about past happenings, these are the negative tendencies which stops us from experiencing the joy in every moment of our life.

What is the root cause of all these negative tendencies of mind? If we observe our mind it is either worrying about the future to secure it or is thinking about past. When we think about the uncertainty of future we generate anxiety in our system, if we brood over things which has already happened, we generate anger and frustration in our system. This vacillation of mind between past and future is the root cause of all our negative emotion and stress in our system. Only way to experience true joy in life is to be in present moment. Our mind is always busy fixing things endlessly. The only way to de-stress our self is to give our mind a deep rest. These moments of deep relaxation rejuvenates our system and brings back the lost joy and enthusiasm in our life. The real freedom in life is to be free from the worries of future and be free from the happenings of past and be able to enjoy the life which is happening moment to moment now.

The big question is how to give that deep relaxation to our mind. The secret to this is our breath. Breath is the most powerful tool to get rid of negative tendencies and distress our system. Every emotion has a corresponding pattern in breath. Like when we are angry our breath is shallow and fast. If we are depressed our incoming breath is very sallow and outgoing breath is long. But if we are relaxed and joyful, our breath is deep, calm and relaxed. We can not have a deep relaxed calm breath and still be angry. A little awareness about our breath and breathing techniques has power to immediately calm and relax our mind. So by using breath, which is very tangible, we can change the state of our not so tangible mind and bring it to the moment. That is why breath has been an integral part of all our ancient practices. Art of living teaches us one of the most powerful breathing techniques called “Sudarshan Kriya”, which gives us that deep experience of peace and joy within us. The program also covers other tools like yoga, mediation, knowledge and pranayaamas to give us that complete experience of our true nature. And it empowers us to start living a fulfilling and joyful life.

After practicing Sudarshan Kriya I see the experience of who I am has changed and I feel lighter and lighter. It has given the ability to see things in a wider perspective and the problem which normally would have been a big issue does not trouble much now. Life has got more meaning and world no more seems to be a big burden or responsibility but seems more like a game where you can enjoy every ups and down with smile.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

AOL Austin fundraiser event with Omkara

March 26th 2011 was a big day in the history of Art of living foundation’s Austin chapter, for one we hosted the biggest fund raiser event in the chapters history and second we did the event with our long time friends Omkara. A gathering of over 600 people who were totally entertained and enthralled by Omkara.

It started with a simple intention of Sridhar Adapalli (volunteer with Art of living Austin foundation) to host a fund raiser event for Art of Living Austin center with Omkara. Over the last couple of months, volunteers from the foundation made time in their busy schedule to show up at all the possible cultural and social gatherings to spread the word about the event. Some of the volunteers worked towards getting sponsorships for the events while others were busy with e-marketing for the event.  The fruits of all the efforts was evident on the event day when the auditorium was filled to the brim (~600 people) and we were scrambling for chairs to accommodate the last few people who showed up a tad late (what a wonderful problem to have).

Thanks to good leadership shown by the team leads and great efforts by the volunteers, the big day went very smooth barring a couple of minor glitches. To issue concert tickets for over 600 people and provide food and drinks to over 350 people isn’t a small thing after all. The setup team had the hall ready by the scheduled time, the ticketing team was very professionally managed, the food team packed and distributed the food as though they had been trained in the art and the ushering team which managed the seating of all the people. All in all it was a job well done and executed beyond excellence. 

The band itself did a wonderful job in keeping the attention of the people for the whole 3 hours of the event duration. The addition of Bollywood Shake provided the much needed color to the melody. The band had picked the right set of numbers to sing, the songs varied from the oldies to present day hits and the compilation had both Hindi and Tamil languages. It was evident that we had a great show when the entire dance area in front of the stage was occupied with audience dancing away and the band had to stretch their time in honoring the “once more” requests.

I do not know the financial aspect of the event, how much money the foundation raised or the final head count of the audience or the number of food boxes sold. I am sure I will have these numbers pretty soon and will share it once I have the same.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Light and Darkness

Here's a recent quote from His Holiness, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation.
"Light doesn't fight with darkness. Darkness has no existence, it is just the absence of Light. Even if a room has been dark for 20 years, it doesn't take Light 20 years to get rid of the darkness... Light comes and Darkness is defeated just like that."
We tend to give the negatives of life too much importance and power over us. It is easy to get caught up with this negativity, and fall prey to inaction and apathy. It is a common tendency of the mind to see a glass as half empty, but inaction is a really heavy price to pay.

With wisdom and commitment, we can shift our perception to the reality - that every negative is simply the absence of a corresponding positive. With this attitude, strength and confidence, it is possible to make a genuine difference in the world.

Once we do set our eyes on such a goal, we need a strong foundation in order to face such apparent negativity. It is crucial to empower ourselves with tools and methods to manage our bodies, minds and spirits and navigate the challenges of life.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

YES for juveniles - A success story

Recently, Art of Living Austin volunteers had the privilege of teaching our first ever YES course at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center.

It all started during Christmas 2009 when some of the volunteers decided to celebrate the season of giving at the correctional facility. What caught their eyes was how much the kids there could benefit from yoga and meditation. Thus started the free yoga once a month at the facility. They consistently conducted yoga throughout the year 2010. As and when new volunteers started signing up to lead yoga sessions, the frequency increased to once a week. The kids at the center loved yoga, and the supervisors realized the benefits too.

So, when Usha told the supervisor that they can conduct a YES workshop that would benefit the kids way more than the yoga, the supervisor readily agreed. After a few weeks of negotiations on the course timing and other logistics, the course was scheduled for February 18-21st. There were a lot of first things in this course:, it was the first course under the banner “Prison Smart” for Art of Living Austin; it was the first ever YES course taught in a detention center for our teachers too.

For Usha, the biggest hurdle was not getting volunteers lined up for the yoga sessions or finding teachers for the course, it was getting time on the superintendent’s calendar. Thanks to the persistent efforts by volunteers like Katie, Sanjeev, Lakshmi, Sridhar and their “never say no” attitude leader Usha, the course became a reality. It probably is a tiny step for the Art of Living Foundation and a big first step for Art of Living Austin but I am sure it was a giant leap for the 16 kids who participated in the 4 day program.

This time around the course was taught for the male population of the facility. We hope to conduct a similar workshop to the rest of the facility very soon. We will report back on this blog when that happens