Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sri Sri Yoga with the best

Every course I have attended with the Art of Living foundation so far, started with a disclaimer “all sessions are mandatory, miss one and you are out”. But here was one course that was a complete exception to the policy. This course had the policy, ”if you feel motivated and would like to come, please do. Else, not a problem (we already got your money :))”. At the same time here was the course that I was so motivated to attend and I wouldn’t mind waking up at 5:00AM on a Saturday just to be on time and not miss a single moment. Wondering what I am blabbering about, it was the Sri Sri Yoga with Dr. Sriram Sarvotham.

If you can, imagine a perfect blend of a yoga practitioner, an Engineer and a gifted teacher with an amazing sense of humor then you will probably get somewhere close to Sriram. A yoga practitioner who can bend and twist his body as though bones only exist for mere mortals, a genius who recites the yoga sutras of Patanjali and offers commentary on the same, a teacher who leads by example and can make you do asanas for nearly 2 hours and in the end you would wonder was it really that long?. I can keep talking about him but can’t do justice. I think Sriram should be called (Dr.)^2 Sriram Sarvotham, one for his PhD in electrical engineering and other for yoga studies. 

Now to the course itself, I was apprehensive when I found it was a “yoga” course and split over 2 weekends. The impulsive reaction and the follow up action so far had been to avoid the same. This time around I acted differently and I am happy I did the same. The course was a complete package and had everything for all the layers of existence (want to know more, do a YESPLUS or an Art of Living course). The postures were not new but what was new was the sequence and what kept it fresh was the teacher. The discourses were very original and I was blown away by the way (Dr.)^2 was putting the knowledge across to us.

By the end of the course, I now have a clear understanding of the Gunas(Rajas, Tamas and Satva) and the Doshas(Vata, Pitta and Kapha). I now know a few more pranayamas I have also become very aware of the importance of rest period after an intense yoga session. I loved the way Sriram led the yoga sessions and how he would indicate that some poses as pre-requisite poses for the next level tough poses. The answers to the questions would come out spontaneously and the knowledge flowed effortlessly. On the last day, most of us had sore muscles but all of us had soaring spirits.

Here is a piece of free advice, next time when Sriram is in town and teaching the Sri Sri yoga course, don’t think twice, free up your weekends and just jump in.

On a lighter note, wonder when will the name of the course will change to “Art of Yoga”, hmm . . . we will wait and watch.   

ps: if you thought yoga does not build body/muscle strength, next time when you are around babies/kids observe them carefully.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Why Do the Yesplus Workshop? (Part 2)

Here’s the second set of experiences shared by Austin Yesplus participants. (You have read the first part, haven’t you? The question we asked Yesplus graduates was “Tell me the most important reason why someone should do Yesplus.”)

First stress release. Second much better concentration in study. — Keya

They’ll learn why it is important to be vegetarian. I believe this is the unique thing about Yesplus. In none of the other courses do we have a debate about being a vegetarian or not… recently I have been reading so many books about connecting meat and cancer, that I believe that Yes!+ has awesome knowledge to be offered on this front. — Ramkumar

E-N-E-R-G-Y. One would realize his/her true potential with this course. — Geetha

My top most reason will be Sudarshan Kriya. — Nitin Satarkar

To get the right directions to solve everyday problems. — Shreya Joshi

To observe the self deep within and develop skills for handling people and situations in a positive frame of mind along with breathing techniques that help in achieving the above. — Uthra

Following are my reasons: 1. For rejuvenation 2. To understand how one should control his emotions (esp. temper) 3. For teamwork 4. Giving importance on helping the needy 5. To learn different techniques of yoga 6. This one is for you and Anoop. You guyz are one of the big reason as you were really good teachers. :) — Kareem Fazal

Because it can be an AMAZING experience for you that can help you change your outlook on life and help you lead a more positive, stress-free life! — Arjun Adapalli

Yesplus brings more fun in your life,opportunity to see the world in a different perspective and lets you experience and understand what SEVA is… :) — Sandhya

To become more aware. — Blaine

Raj had more then a sentence to share.

I’ve to say more than one reason.

Do you want to be more enthusiastic in life?
Do you want to have a clear mind?
Do you want to be successful in career or school?

If YES then do Yesplus. — Raj

My top most reason why someone should do Yesplus – soul searching process. — Nancy Ng

I feel deeply relaxed with Kriya which gives me lot of motivation. One more fact I liked about YesPlus course, few things though we are aware of, but we will never follow, YesPlus brings us to a whole new level of understanding. — Sowjanya

Yesplus is a fun course and meant for anyone who wants to learn knowledge without being said. — Mamta

I think the top reason to do Yesplus would be to take an AOL course with people who are facing similar challenges in life that are common to a narrow youth age group. — Kieran

With the new knowledge and techniques you are able to quiet your mind which helps reduce stress and anxiety. — Elizabeth Draughon

The number one reason that I feel someone should do Yesplus is to unlock the deep sense of belongingness, peace, joy and freedom that exists in all of us, whether we realize it or not. Yesplus allows you to brighten your inner light, embrace your ideal Self and make lifelong friends. :) — Katie Walsh

Ritesh had more then a sentence to share.

I would say that the top most reason to take YesPlus is for happiness! The happiness derived from the Sudarshan Kriya and knowledge / activities shared during the course is like a kick-start to being happy, joyful, and energetic. With your distractions clear from your mind, you can help others and achieve so much more from life with greater concentration &/ focus.

Since the course, I’ve become a Big Brothers Big Sisters Volunteer and feel like I’m making an impact in my “little’s” life. Such a wonderful gift for the both of us! :-)

– Ritesh Sheth

Stress reduction. — Kishore Paidimarri

1. Its one of the funnest courses. You will have a blast.
2. Experiential so you know what the course point means.
3. Can’t get the concentration breath in any other course.
– Lakshmi Damerla

Yes plus infuses you with positive energy and helps you explore your life in a way that makes you a stronger, happier, and more capable person. — Vishaal Sapuram

In my opinion, Yes+ gives people the perspective of being mindful of every moment. — Bhawna Sharma

Once again, Thank you to everyone for responding and sharing your experience.

Join us and experience Yesplus for yourself. :) We have a Yesplus workshop in Austin Sept 15-19. To find a course near you, visit

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Currency of Time

Imagine that everyone in the world got $1000 to spend. It would be used to do a variety of things. Some would chose to go out and party all night. Some might just deposit it in their bank and forget about it. Some might invest it on a child's future while others might decide to donate it to a worthwhile charity. Some might repay a portion of a loan while some might finally afford basic necessities or have a proper meal.

We label some actions as good, some as wasteful and perhaps some as bad based on an elaborate value system devised over time. However, the essence is that everyone got the same $1000. Most of our time above was spent looking at actions, rather than the basic fact that everyone got some money. Even focusing on the amount of money, or money itself distracts from the essence that everyone got something.

We all really have only one currency and that is time. People do all sorts of things with their time - they serve or laze, entertain or bore, create or steal. Debating about how a person uses his time again drifts from this essence. Everyone just spends time being and doing.

What people do with their time has been the basis of all judgments. It has been ruminated on for centuries. All laws, rules, values, morals and ethics are based on what people should do with their time. There is already enough attention and awareness towards this concept.

For a few minutes though, experience this essence instead - the basis of all existence, this absolute time, free from all judgments.

That is Shiva and experiencing it is meditation.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Why Do the Yesplus Workshop? (Part 1)

One of our good friends Manjunath asked us to write the top ten reasons why one should do Yesplus. I thought about it and decided to ask all the participants who have completed the workshop in Austin the same question. “Tell me the most important reason why someone should do Yesplus.” I was overwhelmed by the responses. Here are some of the responses.

To explore inside. Kriya definitely boosts prana and immunity. Purely physical aspect. — Kalpesh Soni

To get back focus. — Mazhalai C

To realize one’s own internal/personal power and the ability to understand situations and be calm if things/people are not in control. — Niharika Nidhi

Apart from experiencing a glimpse of spirituality, learn and practice simple techniques for learning to live a happy and content life. — Sucharit Ghate

To appreciate life fully. One should take it just for the Kriya. But, I think the whole package of life lessons is much more than any book/talk could offer. My key take away was a simple thing – Be happy no matter what! I’d recommend it to anyone who wants more out of life. — Vinodh Kumar

Different experience. — Kilol Shah

Brings dynamism in that person in form of openness, confident… all comes through surge in energy due to practices in workshop. Everyone knows about these good qualities, read somewhere but only practices/kriya makes it reality. — Manisha Soni

Hmm… I think I learned how to have clarity from the course. Now, nothing really holds me back when before I would let the past bring me down. — Sumuk Raja

To get back in touch with how to live life with confidence and enthusiasm. — Ambica Ashok

To me in this busy world, doing yes plus is a special time with yourself, you get to know yourself better, more like a guided introspective experience. — Rangakrishna

I think a course of this sort helps you become more aware of yourself kinda forcing yourself to take the time to think. — Sindhu

People should do it for the kind of awareness and enthusiasm it brings in their young lives and also because it will change their life forever. — Deepika Akella

Makes a person more active/dynamic. — Mathura

I would say to join Yesplus is the greatest honor to yourself because it helps you see how capable your body is, especially when your mind becomes open. :) — Sarah Lovin

Brings confidence and dynamism. — Shalini Batra

It is endless fun from start to finish. — Manjunath

Ben had more then a sentence to share.

The top reason…hmm that’s not easy.

I believe in today’s society we are constantly bombarded via multiple angles and mediums with information that negatively influences our perceptions of each other(cultures and societies) and ultimately how we interact with each other as individuals. YesPlus creates an environment of unilateral acceptance of our diverse backgrounds and cultures. Through YesPlus’s teachings on breathing and meditation individuals attain improved clarity of thought and peace of mind. Provided a clear and balanced mindset we are able to better frame our emotions, understand our thoughts and act in accordance with the wisdom of Guruji and the YesPlus instructors.

An old Chinese proverb(via a fortune cookie): “For the things we have to learn before we do them, we learn by doing them.”

YesPlus facilitates an environment to learn how to be a better person, both to ourselves and to each other.

Articulating my statements above to someone that does not understand humanity’s predicament and it’s individual impacts is difficult.

– Benjamin Block

Thanks to all who responded. :) We will continue to have fun Yesplus courses in Austin, as well as in many others places around the world. Do tune in if you haven’t already!

More sharing from Austin Yesplus-ers in the next post.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Info Session at Liquidation Channel

On Friday, July 29th 2011, the Liquidation Channel hosted an information session for its employees. The session was aptly named "Breath in Life, Breath out Stress" as all of the 50 attendees felt energized yet calm after. Shyam and Poornima led the session and talked about the effects of everyday stress at workplace on our bodies, minds and souls. Shyam explained how achieving success in life might mean many different things to us, but one of the most pivotal measurement of success is to have a healthy body, a stress-free mind and a smile that never fades away. Often, when we are energized, we are not calm and when we are calm, we are in a state of inertia. By regulating our breath, we can achieve a state of inner peace and outer dynamism. Even our emotions have associated breathing patterns! By breathing in certain rhythms, we can enforce positive emotions and discourage negative emotions.

The group at the Liquidation Channel showed a lot of enthusiasm regarding this knowledge. When Shyam led them through Bhastrika pranayams and a guided Ram meditation, the crowd woke up feeling energized and uplifted, and even greeted Shyam with an applause! Overall, it was a great experience and a privilege to have attended this information session. We are very excited with the feedback we received, some of which included "Life changing," "I felt giggly right from the start. Awesome experience," "I came to work feeling very exhausted, I didn't know how I was going to make it through the day. After the meditation, I felt so energized I didn't know when the day was over. I did it again when I went home and slept like a baby."

If interested in hosting an info session at your workplace, contact Shyam ( or Poornima ( to make your office a happy, smiling one.

Monday, August 01, 2011

The world culture festival

Art of Living celebrated its 30th anniversary in the form of world culture festival on 2nd and 3rd of July 2011. Here is a short video of the celebrations.

Also, checkout what Austin's own Anoop Iyer had to say about the memorable event.

Science of Breath

Meru Chikitsa – Ancient Ayurvedic Spinal Care Treatment

About Meru Chikitsa:
Meru Chikitsa can be described as an ancient Ayurvedic healing technique/treatment/system that incorporates mechanical, psychological, bio-force, biochemical and nervous aspects of the spine. The term "Meru Chikitsa" is a Sanskrit word which means "Spinal Therapy".
The technique involves spinal manipulation, breathing and gentle pressure / massage to balance nerve impulses, blood and other body fluid currents to restore harmony of the body. It has also been reported to enhance and bring balance for the spine to restore more "Prana" and to facilitate longer periods of Meditation.

Who can benefit?
Everyone's Prana can be boosted and balanced to positively impact well-being.
Also, an immediate/permanent relief can be achieved especially if one is challenged with headaches/back pain/leg pain/sciatica/carpal tunnel/shoulder problems/digestive problems/leg or ankle pain/depression/low energy.

Experience sharing:
Here is a blog post from Manjunath's blog about his recent experience here in Austin...

About Rachael:
Rachael is a graduate (1998) from National College of Chiropractic USA. Inspired by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, she has traveled around the world for the past 20 years and provided healing through 'Meru Chikitsa' for  hundreds of people thus positively impacting their well-being. She also offers nutritional counseling. She can be contacted at

Consulting fee:
$60.00 for a 20 minute session

To schedule an appointment, email Sanjeev Mathur at <> or call @ 512-203-6751

Sunday, July 17, 2011

My experiences of GURU PURNIMA

Dear Friends,
A few of us just returned from an absolutely incredible week of silence, celebration, wisdom and joy in the presence of our dearest Guruji His Holinesss Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. I'm very privileged that this was my 12th Guru Purnima with Guruji but he never ceases to amaze! It is very hard to put into words the depth of the experience we had. As many of you have already experienced many times, it is an amazing phenomenon to witness Guruji: tirelessly giving unconditional love and care to all that come, taking away everyone's garbage &amp; burdens, and transforming tears of sorrow into tears of gratitude, such profound wisdom one moment and then playing pranks and mischief the next. The gratitude and fullness everyone felt in the room on the day of Guru Purnima was so palpable. (I know some of you are new to the Art of Living and/or have not been around Guruji yet. I would ask you to not believe a word of this and go seek and trust your own experience. Definitely be sure to find yourself in Guruji's presence anytime he visits this part of the world!)

One of the many beautiful things Guruji said was this: He asked everyone if we could all do just one thing: DO NOTHING! For 20 mins everyday atleast, do absolutely nothing! The mind is constantly engaged in doing, in planning, in analyzing throughout the waking day. And the highest is achieved not by our effort but through effortlessness. It takes a certain effort to get onto the train (taking the course and doing the practices everyday for example) but once you are on the train, it is time to let go completely and sink inwards. All the veils, desires, impressions, patterns, cravings and aversions that the mind is caught up in prevent us from experiencing our own depth, our own divinity. And meditation along with Sudarshan Kriya are the surest means to lift ALL those veils so our essence may shine forth in its full splendor. (the complete video of his morning talk on Guru Purnima day can be seen here.)

There are two very wonderful opportunities where you can learn and practice DOING NOTHING :) coming up:
1. If you have not learnt the Sahaj Samadhi meditation practice taught on the Art of Meditation course, there is one coming up soon July 22-25. The priceless gift of meditation is something you can give yourself everyday for the rest of your life along with the Sudarshan Kriya.

2. We shall be having the next Art of Silence program offered at the Texas ashram over the Labor day weekend Sept 2-5. For this one, you won't have to take any days off work and it will be conducted by none other than senior teacher Philip Fraser! Even this time in Canada, Guruji said that in a world and lifestyle so full of noise, it is absolutely essential for everyone to take 2-3 Silence programs every year. So if its been more than 6 months since your last Silence program, I'd say just jump in! You'll be so glad, promise!

And as we take care of ourselves, let us take care of of our global family and share &amp; care. If you have any ideas on how we can bring lasting relief and celebration into the lives of our fellow beings, do share!

Jai Gurudev! ("Victory to the Highest within us")
Much love &amp; gratitude,

"There is a place you can come where everything is beautiful. Tourists travel from place to place looking for beauty. With photos and souvenirs they try to take the beauty back home with them. They only get tired and tanned. Yet the most beautiful spot anywhere is right here. When you come here, you find that everything is so beautiful wherever you are. Where is this place? Don’t look here and there; come within you. When you are here, then any place becomes beautiful. Then wherever you go, you add beauty there. If you are unhappy, even the moon irritates you, sweet things nauseate, music disturbs. When you are calm and centered inside, noise is musical, clouds are magical, rain is liquid love. Book yourself on a trip to this most beautiful place in the universe. Then you’ll find that every day is a vacation and a celebration."
---Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sri Sri Ravishankar interviewed on Tehelka

Sri Sri Ravishankar, the founder of Art of Living foundation and a humanitarian of the highest order. Recently he was interviewed by Tehelka, a leading independent weekly news magazine in connection with the on going stir in India against corruption.

The interview is worth a read for the balanced and wise answers he has given to the journalist asking questions. My favorite is the last one, “Will you ever join active politics?”,
Here is a link for the interview.   

Friday, May 27, 2011

Love, Laugh, Learn and Let go..

If you want a quickie of what last-week's AOL Yesplus workshop was about, the title says it all.

Here is the longer version ...
I took the course because, couple of folks, who I highly respect have been recommending this for a while and boy, am I glad that I did?? I had the most awesome time with some of the coolest people I've ever met.

This would probably be the only "spiritual" course, where you run around trees in the parking lot, dance crazy steps and do impromptu skits. I still wonder how it was possible, to make such a serious course, so much fun. It was a good blend of great breathing techniques, the famed SudarshanKriya and some freakish games.

What I liked most is the philosophy of simplicity itself. I tend to clutter myself with a lot of stale stuff. The forgotten saying - 'forgive and forget' restated:: Life is so short to carry around all the emotional baggage. Shed the weight. Travel light. Simplify life! - good concept, I should try.

The course was pretty deep with pranayamas, kriyas and meditation. But, if you just wanna nibble at the surface, you can takeaway a simple view:: Be happy - no matter what! Keep your mind at peace, at any cost! (Does this seem selfish? May be ..)

The homeworks were eye opening too: Make 3 new friends a day, do a nice thing to your parents. I was kinda surprised to see, how friendly strangers are and how even small actions can make someone's day.

On the whole, I got to reflect on myself and the workshop was hugely helpful in calming me down and I learnt some cool breathing techniques.

Until nexttime, be intensely happy

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Care for Children – My experience

School    House

         Last summer, I visited my home town Chidambaram, India and came to know about a school run by Art of Living Foundation in a nearby village. With the help of a local volunteer I went to the Sri Sri Vidya Mandir School in Anaikoil village. The village was badly affected by 2004 Tsunami. Agriculture is the major source of income for the people in the village and the lands were devastated by Tsunami, making it not feasible for agriculture. As part of the rehabilitation, Art of Living foundation started a school and built houses for victims in that village.

 KG Class      Lunch Hall

The school is well maintained and has the best infrastructure. It provides the students with academic materials, food and clothing. Kids start the day at school with yoga, pranayama and followed by meditation. I told myself what a way to start the day. I visited the kindergarten class rooms and found that the kids are taught by following Montessori methods. The school provides the students with balanced nutritious lunch every day. The kids have their lunch together and the teachers make sure they finish it. Most of the kid’s parents are not even literate. The school also has an Industrial education center for adults.

All of this is possible because of Care for Children; a service project of Art of Living foundation started in 1981 to provide school education for under privileged kids. Its main goal is to reach out to areas where there is no school or transportation facility. All of us can be part of this transformation, to know more about Care for Children, you can visit the website or contact Raj @ for more details.

Here are some more pictures I took during my visit to the school.

Weekend Update

Lot of things happened over the weekend. On Friday (May 13) was the birthday of Sri Sri Ravishankar (fondly known as Guruji), so we had a satsang at the Art of Living Center. The satsang had a few firsts, this was one of the few birthday satsang that started off with a Guru Pooja, we did a different meditation than we usually do during satsangs. As usual for any Art of Living activity we ended the session with a lots of food. After the birthday celebration I reached home and saw Guruji’s birthday message in 3 different languages Kannada, Hindi and English.

On Saturday we had organized a volunteering activity at Capital Area Food bank. 11 of us showed up and helped the food bank sort out the donated food (mostly cans and boxes, no fresh produce). There was a lot of learning from the food bank activity.

  • To volunteer at the food bank, you need to be wearing closed toe shoes (no sandals allowed)
  • Canned foods were kept even after 2 years of expiry date
  • Peanut butter, Mayo and Tomato Sauce unless sealed inside the bottle with the aluminum foil, were not kept.
  • Mayonnaise was kept if it was within 10 months or so of expiry
  • If the can had a dent and it was expired, and the first 3 ingredients are tomato, those were thrown away
  • Baby food were only kept if they had at a minimum of 3 months of shelf life
  • All food came through donations and I was amazed to see people had donated things that were 5 or 6 years beyond expiry
  • The 11 people who showed up had good fun, we plan to go back again in the near future to do it again

And on Sunday I went for my session of Meru Chikitsa, I have already written about it.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Experience sharing from participants of Bhagavatam

I felt relieved from my burdens. I felt the love and comfort of my co-students. I became a better Christian. I felt such presence of god, of which I have been void in my life –Elaine Filion

I feel very grateful and blessed to welcome to this home and to receive these stories - Suzanne

Divine love in every word – Satish Kumar

Wonderful, amazing, when we made plans to visit Austin, TX, we never knew that Bhagavatam is going to happen, so fortunate to be part of this program. Thank you all, with great pleasure enjoyed the program and gained the knowledge. Thank you again Rajima – Vaidehi Raghunathan

I had the pleasure of hosting Rajima’s Bhagavatam. Listening to holy scriptures is one of the ways to increase spiritual knowledge, spread bhakti, and induce good character and moral values in the community. Sincere thanks to Rajima for being a catalyst to remind us of our duties and the purpose of our lives. – Chandrika Kaushik

I experienced bliss in all flavors, she herself is divine. It was a magical experience to see how each lesson kindled an emotion, experience and much more right away. Life couldn’t seem be any better than right now, it was a blessing - Anonymous  

It was a wonderful and amazing 5 days. Bhagavatam is interpreted as as if we are totally Bhagavatam ourselves and how each story has the effect on our day to day life and how we can separate the good from the bad.  – K Ramachandran

I thought I knew the story of Krishna from childhood. After this discourse, I realize what I knew was a speck in the whole vastness of knowledge, the Bhagavatam discourse Rajima offered. That god is egoless to help you and if you drop the same, you can reach him is the holy grain of this discourse. How beautiful the scriptures are, thank you Rajima – Geethapriya Raghavan

Knowledge snippets from Texas Ashram

Yesterday was Rama-Navami and guruji gave a beautiful perspective for Ramayana.

Rama stands for light/shine inside us (or as Rajima puts it that which is shining in us is Rama)

Dasharatha is Rama’s father, the name means lord of ten chariots. We with our 5 external senses of 5 senses of perception form the Dasharatha

Kausalya is Rama’s mother, the name means skill (which can be attained by purifying, I will get to this later)

Hanuman is the breath

Sita is the mind

Ravana means the one who does not listen to anybody, he comes up with 10 different types of logic to prove he is right (stands for his ten head). He stands for Ego

So, if we look at the story of Ramayana in a nut shell, we (Dasharatha) with the skill (Kausalya) can give rise to the light (Rama) in us and this light with the help of breath (Hanuman) will rescue the mind (Sita) from the ego (Ravana)

Now the skill, the skill can be attained by act of purification, here are things we can do to become pure.

Seva – Purifies the action, self less action

Satsang – Purifies the mind

Sadhana – Purifies the thought/memory, he mentioned pranayamas, Kriya and meditation

Knowledge – Purifies the intellect, Ashtavakra Gita, Bhakti Sutras, Bhagavatam, Yoga Vasishta and so on

Charity – Purifies the money, guruji said at a minimum 1% of our money should be donated to charity

Fasting – Purifies the body, guruji said to listen to the body and fast 1 or 2 days every six months.

He also spoke about calm with in and action outside and not the other way.

ps: I may have Satsang, Sadhana and Knowledge jumbled, it doesn’t matter just do it all.      

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Bhagavatam with Rajima

The other day I was sitting in my office at ~5:30PM and I got a call from my buddy Sanjeev asking me to show up for Rajima’s Bhagavatam sessions. I had almost made up my mind not to go and looking for other excuses to completely make up. Then suddenly there was a shift in my mental state and I decided to show up to the session. After 14hrs (spread over 5 days) of intense sessions, I cannot thank Sanjeev enough for making that phone call.

Bhagavatam as Rajima said on the first day of the class is not just stories but about life, it is about me and you and it is about the lessons to be learnt to lead a righteous life.

Being born and brought up in India, most stories that Rajima talked about during the sessions were not new to me but the fact that it is also my story in the present life was completely new to me. The perspective Rajima presented to the stories were new, fresh and hit home. I had heard and read quite a few commentaries on the stories in Bhagavatam, but none came closer to what Rajima had to offer last week. In an essence she gave the right vision to the story.

If you are like me and had the questions like,

  • Why was Sudhama being a friend of lord Krishna (the king and god) was so poor?
  • What is the significance of Elephant Crocodile story?
  • What is the significance of Amruta Manthana (churning of the milk ocean)?
  • Was god fair in sending Bali to the underground?, even though he was such a good king and so on and so forth

My sincere suggestion is for to you attend a Bhagavatam session with Rajima. I will do a complete injustice if I even try and answer these questions, the answers coming from the right source makes all the difference. One thing I would like to share though, there is a big significance for all the avatars of the lord (it is not just the story of evolution) and the stories associated with it. Here are a couple of learning I would like to share, don’t get stuck in the physical level of the story or get attached to the form, do not treat the scriptures as cock and bull stories.  

The best part I still admire about her is her punctuality, she started on time, she ended on time. Her sense of humor, her impromptu songs (in multiple languages) and the motherly love I felt during the time is something all of us to experience. Not a single moment in the sessions I felt bored or the question “when will this end” arose in me, in fact when she used to say, “we will stop with this story for tonight/today”, I used to feel, “No Rajima, please keep going”. Of course I should be considerate to the vocal chords of the 60+ year old woman.

During the question and answer sessions she insisted that we should, ask things that matter to you, that is bothering you, that can help you make your life better and not hearsay and/or imaginary things and the answers were right on the money. 

This is the second time that Rajima has given commentaries on the Bhagavatam in Austin, first time was in 2009 and I didn’t attend. This time around in 2011, I almost missed it too. I definitely consider myself lucky for having completed this session.

There are DVDs of her earlier sessions available for sale but my friend it is secondary or even tertiary, her presence is what matters. If she is in your town and conducting these sessions, do not miss it, just show up. 

With my wife and baby daughter being gone to India for a trip, I sure was to get bored (I experienced that for the first couple of days in the week) but thanks to Rajima, the week went past like a breeze. I am sad the series have ended. 

I have collected the experience sharing from the Bhagavatam sessions and will post them on the blog in the next couple of days.        

Friday, April 08, 2011

Creatures big and small support a noble cause - fight against corruption

We all are aware of the battle against corruption going on in India, where a renowned Gandhian Anna Hazare has taken up to fast until death to force the government to pass a strong legislation against corruption. One of the days in the ongoing Bhagavatam class, senior teacher Rajima asked us to fast for a day in support of this cause. The following is an account of how Elaine Filion managed to do it with her family (two lovely poodles, Scott and Red).

Dear Rajima,
Thank you for sharing the information about  the man in India who is fasting in an effort to put a stop to corruption.Corruption is such a serious issue but I believe in the spirit of love we can counter this evil .I have not fasted for anything more than a blood test for 50 years until today.Thank you for encouraging us to do this.I have done it with the purest of intentions.To go a step farther,as you know I have two small poodle dogs.They are very dear to me.I ask them this morning to fast with me.They usually beg for treats when I am working on my computer,but this morning after the first whimper I ask them to be good and not beg.Within a few minutes they went to another room to lie down.I also picked up their gravity food bowl but of course left the water.I am convinced that St Francis,the patron saint of animals must have been whispering to them as through out the day there was not one demand for a treat or food.It is very refreshing to have witnessed this marvel and I can certainly testify that most creatures great and small are willing to sacrifice to help.
To further get my point across,I have enclosed this picture of the poodle looking at the treat but not touching it.
Elaine Filion
Your humble student
Austin TX


PS: Rajima mentioned that, with the support of the poodles, this time we will make it happen and yes it happened.

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

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Wisdom is beyond all arguments

It is said that logic has no loyalty. Any kind of logic can be concocted to be for or against an issue. Remember those debating contests in school? Pick a topic and tell one person to debate for that topic and the other to debate against it. True wisdom is beyond such logic.

There is no shortage of such controversial topics - in fact, it is the easiest way to divide a group. The topic could be something as simple as the humble apple or as complex as off-shore drilling. It is impossible to know everything and by that metric, any opinion is at best a guess. When our own position is a guess, what are the odds of comprehending another person's point of view?

Nature reflects this wisdom. There isn't only one type of apple, there's hundreds of varieties. There isn't even just one type of fruit, or even one category of food. Nature is comfortable with millions of opinions on everything - birds, leaves, stones and seas. And that is the wisdom beyond arguments. It's all already there to see, no arguments can change that.

Once that wisdom dawns, there are no winners or losers anymore, just the universal truth.

Monday, January 03, 2011

Reflections on 2010

2011 is here and as we celebrate new beginnings, let's pause a moment and reflect on our achievements this past year. Our Art of Living Center turned 1 on December 2010! and we have a lot to be proud of, thanks to the dedication of our volunteers. Here is this year's the main highlights:-

  • Increased  teacher headcount from 4 to 8
  • Started the Art of Living Austin Facebook page, and a very successful blog
  • Taught/Hosted the following courses:
    • 5 YES+ workshops (3 of which were conducted by Austin teachers)
    • 3 Sri Sri Yoga workshops
    • 2 Know your Child Workshops
    • 2 Sahaj Samadhi meditation classes
    • 2 Refugee Empowerment workshops - one for adults, and one for teens
    • 1 Art Excel course for kids
    • 1 Know your Child Teacher Training
    • 1 Know your Teen Workshop
  • Successfully completed a Health and Happiness Seminar Series, and launched a second one.
  • Revived weekly knowledge sessions with ongoing sessions of the following series :
    • Ashtavakra gita
    • Patanjali Yoga Sutras
    • Bhakti Sutras.
  • Hosted Swami Pragyapad. He taught the Art of Living, and Sahaj courses, and gave a public talk.
  • Spent an evening in divine satsang with Swami Suryapada
  • Spear-headed and led Sri Sri ashram activities and all ashram renovation work.
  • Conducted weekly yoga sessions, and taught relaxation techniques to juvenile delinquents between age group of 11-17 years at Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center.
  • Conducted free weekly yoga sessions for students at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Organized a retreat for University of Texas at Austin Business School students at the Sri Sri ashram.
  • Started Hindi workshops for kids and teens as part of center activities.