Friday, December 17, 2010

Madhu Bhatnagar, Dubai, U.A.E.- Art of living experience

Everything is Changing!

From busy Mumbai to remote mineral rich Jadugoda(in Jharkhand), from Pilani to Pune; from India to New Zealand, from Wellington to the Middle east (Kuwait and  Dubai) - the  journey has been full of surprises, excitement, and growth.

Spirituality, in its true essence has always been ingrained in us. Our father, a nuclear scientist-with a passion for atoms and molecules, rocks, minerals, ores and geology, the vast Space, cared for gardening and spent a major chunk of his spare time in community service. He was a member of committees that pioneered schools in the tribal area, club activities, flood relief and such humanitarian activities. His motto was : Love, Laugh and Serve! He was a true Gandhian and was raised in an Arya Samaj environment. He didn’t care for rituals or idol worship.

The year 1975 brought a shift in our household. A neighbor brought in ‘Autobiography of a Yogi’ by Paramahamsa Yogananda and after an initial reluctance, Mummy( a medical doctor) started reading it. She became a member of Yogoda Satsang Society and we were suddenly thrown into the world of satsangs, Bhagwad Geeta recitations and became ‘reluctant’ listeners to Knowledge Sheets that Mummy read out from her lessons. The entire household revolted. No one wanted to see a long haired Guru’s pictures on the wall. The more Mummy asked us to read the Autobiography, the more we resisted.

However, knowingly or unknowingly, a seed was sown!
In my mid 30s, I was attracted by books such as ‘The Complete Works of Swami Vivekanada’ and  inspirational and motivational works by Wayne Dyer, Gary Zukav, Deepak Chopra, 'God talks with Arjun'-by Paramahamsa Yogananda; talks by Swami Chinmayananda and  the Maharishi Channel on TV. The books and the talks were bringing a shift in me, more on an intellectual level. The journey brought me closer and closer to someone who finally showed what Love and Devotion really is!

In Love!

In early 2002, my kids Richa and Anish went in for their first ART Excel in Dubai! They loved it! And they told me-"Mum-you will totally relate to it-go for it". It took 9 months for me to go in for my first Art of living course. It was a small morning group at Rugmani’s home. Every process, every knowledge point, every bit of the course was perfect! I felt totally aligned and at home - it resonated with my being. There was no looking back after that! I was very regular with daily sadhana and weekly follow ups. We listened to Narada Bhakti Sutras, Ashtavakra Gita, Patanjali Yoga sutras, Shiv Sutras.

Dubai has been lucky to host a lot of senior international teachers like Swami Jyothirmaya, Dinesh & Bawa, Swami Sukhchaitanya, Rishi Vidyadharji, Sangeeta Jani, Shreya Chugh, and so many more. Of course, Bhanu Didi has blessed us with her Sweet Presence several times too.

The first time I went to Bangalore ashram was in August 2004 for the Gulf Advanced Course. There was a sudden burst of rains as soon as I landed at the ashram and I was totally drenched. In my wet clothes, I managed to drop off my baggage at my shared room at Riddhi and rushed to Visalakshi Mantap.

WHOA! I had NEVER imagined the energy, the fun, the enthusiasm! It was like no satsang I had ever attended! Everyone was glowing, blissful, filled with joy, smiling and dancing! The first direct glance from Guruji happened on the steps of Vishalakshi Mantap one afternoon. We were all dispersing after a session with Swami Sadyojatha, when Guruji walked up the steps and we all lined up. Manal from Egypt was standing in front of me and Guruji acknowledged her and then looked right at me with a twinkle. I was in Love with Love! Suddenly, any remnants of my qualms about a long haired Guru vanished!


On my return to Dubai, a remarkable opportunity came up! The kids and teens chapter needed a helping hand.  I jumped in! During our 10 years at Wellington, New Zealand, I had spent a good deal of time exploring ‘Early Learning’. It had made me realize that education needs to undergo a total makeover. Education isn’t about rote learning, nor about adding pressure. At Kuwait too, I had spent 4 years teaching toddlers. Yet, I felt , something was lacking. And then came- ART Excel and YES! PERFECT! These youth programs provide the necessary skills, information and wisdom to make our youth world’s worthy citizens! I was given the honor of becoming Middle East coordinator for ART Excel. Our team has grown with the help of so many dedicated teachers and volunteers . Kids’ courses and follow ups continue in full swing. Dubai, Sharjah and New Dubai have been rocking with enthusiasm, creativity, fun and laughter. The proudest moment came in 2009, when our daughter Richa became YES+ Teacher at a young age of 22 years.
YES Advanced with Shreya Chugh in Dubai
In Service

Apart from youth chapter, came several more projects from IAHV- Road Peace Campaign, My Bag My Earth, helping with Special needs schools, Adopt-a-plant, Mission Green Earth, Stand Up & Take Action. We reached out to schools, colleges, corporate houses, government organizations, other NGOs ! More talents and skills came up-I got involved in managing Dubai’s website and weekly newsletter.

This is a journey of exploring hidden depths and finding infinite possibilities. However insignificant we may be in the vastness of Time and Space, Art of Living gives us a chance to be useful and to be available and ready to take up challenges. And it helps us stay in a state of ‘Gratitude’ .  We may slip, we may fall, but we never lose sight of the fact that ‘We are Love and We are being Loved’.


This year has been a year of turmoil, rapid changes and loss. Our father passed on this summer at the age of 87 ½. He was ready to shed this body with its baggage. At the time of his hospitalization and last 2 weeks at home in Mysore with him, Guruji’s support came constantly-through the Ashtavakra Geeta sessions going on at the ashram. Modern technology makes it so easy now to receive this wisdom. Even though Papa did not stop being a real scientist, he spent the last 4 years relishing every word of the book ‘The Guru of Joy’ and he was an avid listener of Guruji’s talks and meditation on Worldspace radio. He felt that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is here to fulfill his dreams of seeing this world full of laughter, non-violence, compassion and service. Mummy too never misses any chance of darshan - whether at Mysore or at Boston! Truly- Science and Spirituality go hand in hand.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Mamta Kailkhura - Art of Living Experience

Since a young age, life and God presented a constant puzzle to me. Nowhere God to be found and the purpose of life seemed hidden. I voraciously devoured all great literary works, biographies of stalwarts, philosophies of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, Nietzche, etc.  While the intellect delighted in the temporary pleasures of books, life remained empty of meaning and purpose. Soon after finishing my studies in social sciences, I joined India’s top media house and made quick progress in career. Yet I was bothered by the inner urge to find the real purpose of life.

Sudarshan Kriya Experience

As if it was a divine intervention, an elderly Reiki master advised me to join the Art of Living classes. I immediately signed up for the course. Though I started with lots of doubts, I was totally bowled over by the Sudarshan Kriya and the knowledge sutras. I felt very pure and clean from inside.

The course rekindled my faith in the goodness of life. The cynicism born out of harsh experiences of life was replaced by faith that it is possible to live the values of love, sharing, compassion, honesty and selfless service.  Something very deep in me was touched, filling me with a joy and bliss I had never experienced before.  All the questions about life and its purpose disappeared; At last I had found what I was looking for since so many years.

I met Sri Sri in a darshan line on the last day of the course. I was struck by his utter simplicity, beauty and innocence. A week later, when I met the Reiki master she remarked that my aura was unusually clean and bright compared to other people who came to see her. She enquired whether I had done anything new. I told her that I had just finished the Art of Living Course. She said that was the reason for such a remarkable change in me.

Very soon I became a frequent visitor to the Art of Living International Center on the outskirts of Bangalore, waiting eagerly for the days when Sri Sri would be there. He would take questions from the audience and impart deep wisdom so simply. Sitting in his presence, listening to simple words of profound wisdom, my spirits would stay uplifted for days together. His words would ring in the heart with such force that all the bookish knowledge now seemed dry. Sitting in the presence of an enlightened master, my real learning had started. The only regret was that it came so late, at 23!

Very soon, I finished the Art of Living Advanced Courses and was inspired by the service activities of Art of Living foundation. The win-win formula of spiritual practices for oneself and seva (service) for others appealed to me so much that within a year of doing the Art of Living Course I became a full time resident volunteer at the Art of Living Bangalore Ashram.

Art of Living  Healing Experiences

A disturbed childhood had made me very wary of being among people. I had developed a habit of stammering and throwing violent tantrums. While unending sessions with my psychologist and speech therapist weren’t very useful, Sudarshan Kriya and service at the ashram worked like magic. In the loving care of Gurudev, I soon developed more confidence and got rid of stammering. I now frequently address crowds at different fora and receive many compliments for being a good speaker. The credit goes to Sri Sri.
For years, I had been carrying stones in the gall bladder, due to which I had to be careful about my diet. While, my liver and digestive system had improved considerably after doing the Art of Living course, the stones still showed up during ultrasound scanning. Though the stones were not troubling me, my doctor insisted that I undergo a surgery so that liver is not affected.  When I shared this with Sri Sri, he simply patted on my head and said everything will be alright. Two days later, the doctor, who was all set to do the surgery, was surprised to find no stones in the ultrasound report.

Countless times, I have seen Sri Sri downplaying miraculous healings that happen around him. This is contrary to the trend I have seen in faith healers who advertise healings in dramatic way to draw huge crowds.  

Sri Sri - Love, Patience and Service

The more I see Sri Sri, the more I wonder as to how it is possible for a human frame to express such unconditional love, patience and undying spirit of service. He seems equally available to all irrespective of rights and wrongs, titles and positions. I am grateful to Gurudev for radically transforming the quality of my life. Life is now enriched with a deeper joy and beauty and a sense of belonging with whole humanity.

I am a witness not only to the turnaround in my life but also in the lives of many others. In the prison workshops that I have conducted in remote parts of India, I have seen hardened criminals wake up to the human values dormant in them, thankful for the break from their violent and disoriented past.  I have seen the gratitude in the eyes of weary and tired border security personnel after Art of Living teachers and volunteers reached out to them to give them deep rest at physical, mental and emotional level. A group of militant youth from Kashmir shared with me how after meeting Sri Sri they don’t want to pursue the path of violence any longer. I am witness to countless such experiences.
I am convinced that our planet can really become violence free if this wave of love and service started by Sri Sri is taken to every corner of the world.