Thursday, September 23, 2010

Adria Estribou - Fundraiser, Washington DC

I’m currently working as Development Officer for The Art of Living Health and Education Trust, focusing on Sri Sri University (which opens next summer!) Before I moved to Washington, DC, I was living in Hawaii, working as Executive Director of a grantmaking nonprofit. I have a Masters in International Conflict Management from Johns Hopkins SAIS and a BA from Smith College in Religion.


Go ahead, twist my arm 

I was very resistant to taking the Art of Living Course – a friend of mine was so inspired after meeting Sri Sri that he convinced me to take the course. I’m so grateful now to that person. The effects of the course for me were immediate. At that point, I had already been meditating for 15 years, so I was surprised what a profound difference the course made in my emotional well-being. I was so surprised that such a practical tool existed to manage the emotions and stress, and no one had ever told me about it. I thought: Why isn’t everyone learning this in school? I’ve learned a lot of things throughout the course of my education, but nothing as valuable as this. As I continued to do the Sudarshan Kriya breathing at home, I noticed the cumulative effects growing stronger over time.  

Transformation Others Notice  

A few years later I took the Art of Silence Course with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It was such a blissful experience for me. When I returned to work the next week, I must have been literally glowing because people at work who had never expressed any interest in meditation or spirituality asked me where I had been. They wanted the same experience, and insisted that I start teaching meditation at work! My journey to become an Art of Living teacher started that summer. I can think of nothing more valuable or more rewarding to do with my time then teach others how to use these tools to manage stress and emotions.  

Time with the Founder  

This year, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Washington, DC at the same time as Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s tour stop here. Two things made an impression on me – first, Sri Sri took such utter care of each person, treating each one with respect and love, compassion, whatever was needed. It was obvious that he is living his teachings, those taught in the Art of Living Course. I also watched those teachings come alive in others during his stay. We all became better versions of ourselves – more loving, happier, more kind, more generous. Despite having more responsibilities and things to do during those days, we took care of each other and each person who came to see Sri Sri. Sri Sri’s influence on people around him could be clearly seen. I am stronger, happier, more loving, more giving, more centered and more peaceful because of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and the Art of Living Course. Despite the inevitable challenges life places before me, I have so much more joy and delight in living.



Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Lavinia Scott-Sellars Art of Living Experience - Perth, Western Australia

Company Director, Art of Living Facilitator
Art of Living Centers in Australia
Art of Living Experience as a business owner and manager

I'd like to talk about the Art of Living as a business owner and manager.  My husband and I built our company from scratch 19 years ago and turn over several million annually, with a team of 70 people.

I came across Art of Living 10 years ago when I was stressed and worn down by relentless work demands and being on call 24/7 year in and year out.  On my 40th birthday a deep 4 year mid life crisis arose, and to survive a bleak world view and a miscarriage, I smoked and drank heavily.  

One Saturday morning at 10am I sat with a stiff gin and tonic, utterly desperate.  I said "If anyone is there, can you please help me?".  Two weeks later something happened.  Every morning and evening, like clockwork, I felt a surge of energy and well being course through my body and mind.  Quickly I stopped drinking and smoking.  I lost weight and began a yoga class.  This lasted for one year.  People complimented me on breaking my addictions and losing weight.  I laughed and said "Sorry, I feel a fraud, this has nothing to do with me, it is just happening, I don't know where it is coming from!"  When I later did the Art of Living DSN course I realised the energy I felt was that of the Padma Sadhana practise.

Now to the business end.  In the Art of Living course I learned invaluable techniques to manage my mind and get rid of stress.  I learned profoundly useful knowledge to help me navigate the ups and downs of business and life in general.  My own behaviour and decision making abilities have improved and I have invited my staff and contractors to do the Art of Living course at our company's expense.

I have realised that the world is bigger than me and my small dramas.  In fact, 3 years ago my good friend Eleanor Alfred and I started an AIDS orphan project in Harare, Zimbabwe. She and her team of volunteers do the field work and our company educates, feeds and medicates 150 kids. The project is called 'Mai Tafara' and many Aussies help us by donating money. All we needed to start was 2 strong women and a bit of money - hey presto, the world changes - we don't even need to be in the same country!
More than 100 HIV+ orphans are cared for by Mai Tarafa, Zimbabwe
Through the Art of Living practices I have learned to 'get over myself', as they say.  I complain less, take more responsibility, don't get so bothered about things which inevitably go wrong.  

It is a supremely practical and useful way to live.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Breath, Meditation and Inner Peace

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar talking on Australian TV Channel 9  about breath, meditation and how they help in gaining inner peace, enthusiasm  and energy.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Vasanti S Iyer - Art of Living Experience

Art of Living Teacher

My name is Vasanti S Iyer. I was born in Mumbai in a south Indian family. My upbringing has therefore been shaped by the modern society that I lived in and also the traditional values practiced at home. I had heard the Beatles , Carpenters, seen the hippy generation as a child and also learnt the Vishnu and Lalitha sahasranama. My father had always been my greatest source of inspiration. His will, enthusiasm, sense of duty, his perseverance, discipline and a never say die attitude are attributes that I will always cherish. While my father continues to have a special place in my life, my Guru has shaped me, directed me and guided me in my spiritual journey and also to this beautiful stage of service and love that I find myself in today. Although  I met Guruji (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) in the Year 2000, I realised however that the connection has been eternal.

I feel light and happy after the Art of Living course

My mixed upbringing has always made me use the rational part of my brain. As a teenager, I found that accepting whatever is stated as it is was,was always a difficult proposition. I had never bowed down to a swami in life as I always considered them to be frauds. Saints existed for me however they were only in the form of Budhha, Jesus, Mahavir and as part of history.  It was however a volte face after the Art of Living Part I course which happened inadvertently for me later in life. The Art of Living Part I program offered such depth of knowledge and an experience which cannot be expressed in words.  After that there has been no looking back. I quit a professional job to offer my life to the service of humanity. There has never been a better bargain I could have asked for as I effortlessly live to spread smiles in peoples lives. I feel so light and happy as an individual today as compared to the world of competition, ambition, selfishness and greed that I had surrounded myself with.

Uplifting wisdom from Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Talk
Ask not what you get out of this world, ask what you can offer this world – this beautiful sentence is my anchor in life offered by my Guru. It is difficult to summarise the teachings from Guruji as he continues to impact me everyday. In the Ashtavakra Gita he says “ Situations are created around you for you to apply the knowledge and it is so true. My spiritual sojourn has been a path so far of exploration and understanding the vagaries of my mind . Guruji has always encouraged us to go beyond seeing the Guru only in a human form and look at the Guru Tattva (principle). Through him I found out that being spiritual implies having a state of mind of acceptability, having infinite patience and love.  Every moment spent with the Guruji is so uplifting.

Mistakes should be viewed with compassion and love

Sometimes when I see people's outburst and criticism, I feel they have not digested the wisdom of the teaching. It is not their mistake but more so the nature of the monkeying mind which doubts. This world is made up of only two things – Love and distortions of Love.  Hence whatever someone says should be viewed with total compassion and love. I wish I could help them to see beyond. It is faith in this beautiful creation and the divinity that helps us get in touch with ourselves. They need to understand that they create their own world. Hence if today their monkeying mind is making them doubt it is their own creation. It is therefore also easy for them to move away and replace it with faith in the divine and they will experience the bliss within. All we require is awareness of the play of the mind.

My family today feels proud of the decision taken by me 10 years ago of embarking on this beautiful path. Today I have their full support and they too find solace in the teachings of Guruji Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It is difficult to summarise my story succinctly however I end by saying that I have been able to get a glimpse of the true wealth within me and that is love for humanity in all its forms because of Guruji. I thank him with gratitude.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bhavesh Tolani - Art of Living Experience

Computer Engineer, International Art of Living Teacher

I was born in Surat, India in 1975. I started my education from Vallabh Ashram School in Valsad. I further went on to New Mumbai to study Computer Engineering after which I worked for the Bank of America and then Standard Chartered Bank in Mumbai. In 1998, I returned to Surat and joined my father in his business of Construction. Being the only child of my parents, I was thoroughly pampered. There was no dearth of anything. I seemed to be living a life full of fun with good friends and amazing and supportive parents.

Art of Living Course - Couldn't believe I had not done it earlier

I remember my friend trying his hardest to convince me to attend the Art of Living Course with him. That was in 1998, I was 23 years old then. At first, I laughed and didn’t think ‘Living’ was something I needed to learn to do. However, just to keep up our friendship and to make him happy, I went to the course. Once there, absolutely nothing felt strange. I seemed to be enjoying the course from the moment it started. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it earlier on in life. It seemed to have filled an empty void in my life that I didn’t even know existed. My teacher was excellent. She made me wonder who might have trained her to deliver the course so beautifully. Sure enough by the end of the course I found out it was the founder of the Art of Living Foundation, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Teaching Art of Living Course in Africa, Asia, Europe, North America

The next few years flew by. I was so inspired by the week long course that I had attended in, that within a short span of time, I had participated all the various courses that are offered by the Art of Living and had started doing service with them. Within the first six months of my involvement with the foundation, I was fortunate enough to meet with Sri Sri (now Guruji to me), on one of his trips to Rishikesh. This is a trip that has been etched into my memory. On meeting Guruji for the first time, he said - I should become an Art of Living teacher. Overwhelmed, I began to doubt if I could really teach the course. But the love and sweetness in his voice washed away all this doubt. This was in 1999. Today its been over 10 years that I have been a full time teacher with the Art of Living Foundation and have travelled to various places in India, Africa, Europe and North America teaching the Art of Living courses.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a global humanitarian 

My first project as a teacher was in Arunachal Pradesh, India. I had to first check the map of the country to find out where this place was before I went. I had no idea where I was being sent. Once there, it was a total contrast to the environment I had been brought up in. From organizing courses, to teaching them, to cooking, to cleaning, I had to do everything by myself! At first I thought I was being punished, but now I realize that it is only because of all that experience, that today I am confident to go to any corner of the world and feel at home and happy. 

It was during my stay in Arunachal Pradesh that I understood how much Guruji loved and cared for me. At first, I thought I was just one of his hundreds of teachers and he wouldn’t even remember that he had sent me there. But I was mistaken. It was uncanny how almost whenever I would doubt my capability or have thoughts of leaving from there to go home, he would call me and pacify me, ask me if I needed anything, make sure that I was comfortable and was eating well and then patiently also make me see how much I could contribute to the place by being there. Soon I began to feel like he was with me facing every challenge I encountered. Sri Sri is a global humanitarian who had taken the responsibility of bringing a smile on every face on this planet, speaking to me on the phone he was doing just that – making me smile from every cell of my being!

Since my early days with the foundation, I would listen to some of the other senior teachers sharing their experiences of how at some point Guruji had known their thoughts or how Guruji had known what they were up to without even physically being present there. I would find these stories incomprehensible. How could he do that? Was it even possible? I had no idea that one day I would have my own miraculous story to share. After teaching courses, week after week in Arunachal Pradesh, there was one week where I had no courses. I actually had free time – to watch the movies I was waiting to catch up on. I began watching the first movie for that day. Moved on to the second and just as I was on my third movie, my phone rang and on the other side was Guruji! I was ecstatic! I expected to be praised for the number of courses I had taught. But instead, the very first thing he asked me was “How many movies are you watching”? Absolutely flabbergasted I said “Two movies”. I had just finished uttering those words and immediately he said “Two or three movies”?. That was the day I knew I was never going to be alone. I was going to have someone watch over me no matter what. I was upset and afraid that I had let Guruji down but I also felt loved, cared for and protected. And this feeling has never changed since then.

Spreading the message of love and belongingness across the globe

From the challenges of teaching in the North East of India, to the slums and prisons of Africa where I taught these programs, to the comforts and luxury of working in Europe and now North America, Guruji has held my finger and taken me through a plethora of experiences. I have often heard people talking and marveling at their faith in their master. Here I have a master who has such immense faith in me that he sent me to represent him and touch peoples’ lives with his message of love and belongingness across the globe. The last ten years have given me everything I had ever dreamed of and more. From wishing to one day seeing the pyramids in Egypt, to being busy contributing to the world, to even marrying the one I wanted to - he has made sure I got everything I have ever wanted. I am glad that with each new project he has given me, he has given me new challenges but ones that are very easily met because of his personal guidance and care. Everywhere I went, he gave me the opportunity to meet and stay with people who would eventually become almost family to me. Everywhere I went, I was showered with so much love and respect for just delivering Guruji’s message to them. Guruji let me bask in the glory of it all even though I knew that I had very little to do with the reason that they felt so grateful.

Love, enthusiasm and an undying smile

In my years of being with Guruji, I have had the opportunity of spending time with him and seeing him working every awake moment of his day. From his first appointment – be it a meeting with rural villagers, or a meeting with government dignitaries, or initiating conflict resolution in Iraq, Sri Lanka or Serbia, from  handling issues of the Ashram, to spending time with youth groups or even going through the thousands of emails that he receives everyday – until his last appointment for the day, he does everything with the same enthusiasm, smile and love. If I can even do a small percent of what he does, I would feel like I have contributed to his vision for the world.

Had it not been for Guruji, I would have been leading a mediocre life. He made me see that life was too beautiful to be just mediocre and made mine an extraordinary one. I will never be able to express the amount of gratitude I feel just for having Guruji in my life.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Aman Gohal - Art of Living Experience

Management Consultant, Washington DC

The ability to see beyond one perspective, the ability to take action beyond one role and the ability to sincerely care for others beyond one race, gender or religion is how Sri Sri Ravi Shankar transformed my life and inspired me to do the same...

Born in Patiala, Punjab, India. I was brought to the U.S. at one years old and grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am the youngest of three children. I attended UCSC. Intuition, inspiration and adventure guided me to DC after college, where I attended The American University for Graduate school and studied Organization Development. I work as a management consultant facilitating organization development, leadership development and diversity programs, as well as love to volunteer with The Art of Living and the International Association for Human Values as an organizer and instructor. I was raised Sikh and therefore Seva or self-less service is a part of life, not an extracurricular activity. My parents live in San Francisco and thanks to Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and The Art of Living Foundation the rest of my family is all over the world.

Beauty lies in Silence, Spirituality and Humanity

When I was seven years old, I read a book on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. which transformed my life. I was struck not only by his love for humanity, but the hatred that existed based on difference. And how such hatred was reinforced in social constructs and institutions. I attended a Roman Catholic school in the Bay Area. During world religion classes in school, I found myself in awe when discovering the similarities among religions and cultures and yet the violence that still occurs among them for similar reasons  that Dr. King's book pointed to when I was a child.  I longed for the wisdom to know how to live with turmoil and simultaneously contribute toward peaceful solutions. I feel lucky that there have been many teachers, many guides who have provided wisdom and insight throughout my life including my own parents.  

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has been the one that I personally have connected with not only in words, but in action--and most often in silence. I remember, he once said, "silence is when the souls speak" and thanks to him, I have really come to enjoy silence while with friends and family. Words are not always the best form of expression.  He has taught me the beauty that lies in silence, spirituality and humanity.

Art of Living - connecting with people all over the world

As you can see, Art of Living has been much more than a "Self-Development", "Stress Management" or "Meditation and Breathing course" for me, it was an avenue to learn more about the richness of various cultures and religions as well as an opportunity to unfold the beauty of spirituality. It is an avenue to connect with people from all over the world, engage in service projects with them and stretch to work with and relate to all kinds of differences, not just background but also difference of opinion :-). That is what makes the service meaningful and challenging to move beyond the difference and into a commonality. I have personally learned much more from people that I could not understand at first and  have sometimes felt more connected to them because I fully came to accept and value the difference they bring.  However, the ability to be more and more open to differences...came from the techniques...

Benefits of Art of Living Techniques in my life

When I sit to do the techniques created by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the whirlwind of thoughts and emotions settle down, and a calmness from within begins to creep forward. What I distinctly remember from the first Art of Living Course I did with Sri Sri was a soft, gentle peace, an effortlessness. It is truly like dipping into a vastness of pure deep rest and emerging refreshed, rejuvenated and inspired to not only experience but enjoy what the world has to offer. The value of these few minutes have been immeasurable.

As a college student, the it provided an avenue to learn more about myself and others. College is a time in one's life when choosing an identity can be a confusing experience - be it your majors or relationship. The technique and knowledge I learned in Art of Living made this transition natural and light.

As a graduate student, it provided a solace to long days of working full time and then going to school full time to pursue goals and still contribute to society in order to take small steps toward financial independence.

As a management consultant for the public sector, business owner, team lead, project manager, conference chair, facilitator, traveling trainer, instructor, daughter, girlfriend, best friend, aunt, sister, niece, and all the roles I play.. it allows me the space to breathe and bring the fullness of  life to each and every endeavor...

Awareness and conscious choice

The greatest impact has been an elevation of inward awareness to deliberately and consciously choose...that is true empowerment...because one can only choose when one has the awareness of a choice. And without consciously choosing, there is always room for regret.  Choosing to be happy even in tough times, choosing to listen to oneself more than the opinions of others, choosing to let go and see the world as it is rather than as you want it to be, choosing to see things from more than one perspective...these are all powerful choices and to make them intellectually is much different than to feel them from your core being.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is someone who chooses to act with human values, who chooses to connect with anyone no matter their background, who chooses to respond to humanitarian needs and crises instead of wait around and who chooses to unveil the potential of others by raising an inward awareness all while bearing an undying smile that speaks to the joy emerging from his very being.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Longtime smokers quit smoking after doing the Art of Living Course

Testimony from several longtime smokers who kicked the habit after doing Art of Living Course. This gathering is at the Art of Living International Center at Bangalore.


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Mallika Krishna - Art of Living Experience

Masters in Clinical Psychology

I grew up in a family with 3 brothers and 1 sister, all much older than me. My mother was religious and also spiritually inclined and spent her time in some activity or the other which was more for the society than herself or her family, and if there was any time left, she would be reading the Puranas (ancient texts) and such other books. She would tell me stories, which she had created herself and I used to tell her that if she were to record them, she would be a famous writer, which of course she never did. Her philosophy was very simple in life, help others and do whatever you can to make others happy – “I come last”. I grew up with this and it stayed with me.

As I grew up I got busy with studies, reading, helping my nieces and nephews grow,  but did not make too many friends. Once I completed college and started working with the mentally challenged children and adults that I had specialized in after my Masters in Clinical Psychology, my life got sucked into the day to day functioning of the world – work, home, friends, outings etc. My life seemed to be taking me over rather than me living my life the way I wanted. In spite of everything I did there was always something missing.

Meeting with Guruji (HH Sri Sri Ravishankar) - I had met the One

Then The Art of Living Course happened to me in 2002 during the Valentine’s week. Within a few weeks I found the books “Bang on the door” & “God Loves Fun” pushed into my hands by a friend that left me wanting to meet the ONE who had written this book. My first meeting with Guruji left me in no doubt that I had met THE ONE for whom I was searching all my life (of course, I didn't even know it then). My life did a 180 degree turn. My life seemed fuller and I was suddenly aching to do more. I seemed to have too much time on hands in spite of my job as coordinator in an organization that trained NGOs. I quit my job and joined the Bangalore Ashram as a volunteer in 2002 and since then I have been here. I look after the free education project under the guidance of Mrs. Bhanumathi Narasimhan (Guruji’s sister), women’s empowerment projects and HIV-AIDS awareness project and much more. These projects help people in the rural, tribal and slum areas in India. I am happy and content; my relationships with people around me are much better than they used to be.

Today, I realize that each one can contribute to the betterment of the world and no one needs to hold any POSITION to do so. My life of service is more complete and fulfilling than anything I could ever imagine.

My grateful thanks to Guruji for showing me that life is so wonderful and teaching me how to live !!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Deepali Patel, Art of Living Experience

Growing up was an easy job. I had parents who gave me the freedom to chose my career, my life, my decisions and always supported me even if they were not always okay with what I had decided to do and at the same time inculcated me with deep values.

From the time I started my college I was very clear what I wanted to became : a successful career woman. I graduated with a Bachelors degree from HR College of Commerce and then went to France for a period of three years. I studied the French language at the Sorbonne and went on to do my higher studies at Universitéde Dauphine . Coming back to India I worked at the commercial section of the French consulate and then moved on to the International Sales and Marketing Department of the Taj Group of Hotels.

Art of Living - To serve the planet, society and humankind

As by nature, I am always passionate about what I do, I was completely absorbed by my job, enjoying the traveling, meeting new people and sure that I would climb the corporate ladder. However after a few years down the line, I started feeling a sense of void in my life that I could not fill.

The work, the traveling, the partying, nothing could fill this empty space. I felt that life was going by and I was just looking at it instead of participating in it. I kept asking myself what is the purpose of my life. Even if I made it big in the corporate world, even if I made a lot of money, married, got children… So what ! It was nothing. I wanted to do something, give of myself to this planet, to society, to humankind but I just did not know how. That is when I heard of the Art of Living course.

There are no coincidences in this world. After attending the course, I found a drastic change in my entire perception of the world. I met the founder His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and was introduced to the social work that the organisation does in over 150 countries. Immediately it struck a cord.


I still remember that day when I went to H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and told Him that I wanted to do something, anything in my capacity to help. I gave up my job and under went the Teachers Training Course phase 1 and 2. I became an instructor with the Art of Living Foundation. From that day, I have not looked back. Being bilingual, I travel mainly to French speaking countries in Africa and Europe.

Amazing transformation in Ivory Coast and Cameroon by Art of Living

One of my best memories are in the rural villages of Ivory Coast and Cameroon. In Ivory Coast, Sri Sri sent me to put into place Conflict Resolution Programs. The country has been in war since 1999, there is no government in place and the country is split in to. Philippe Torella (a local Art of Living Teacher) and myself went to many of the rebel zones. Even the local Ivorians were taken back and advised us against it.

Once we went there, it was like magic. The people there had been so traumatised by the war. Almost everyone had lost at least one family member, had there houses looted over and over again, seen dead bodies strewn been eaten by dogs. Due to all this exposure, many had taken to alcohol to forget bad memories, became insomniac, lost all hope in life. We conducted programs for over 100 youth in these areas. Once they were relieved of their trauma, there was no stopping them.

Not only did they decide to take responsibility for their lives but also of all those surrounding them, which is the aim of the program. They cleaned up the market place, built roads, dug gutters, repaired the village orphanage, cleaned the local hospital… The entire village was surprised. All this for no money ! this was unheard of especially in a society that was so closed up after the war. One of the most beautiful instances I remember is when the youth of one tribe rebuilt the houses of the rival tribe (that they had thrown out of the village after living together for years) and invited them once again to live in harmony in the same village.

Love, Peace and Happiness

It was so touching to see the enthusiastic faces of these youth as they made peace with each other. That is when I realised that life is really very simple. It is just the human mind that is complicated. After all, we all belong to the same human race irrespective of our religion, nationality, colour, gender. Every human being is looking for the same thing – love, peace, happiness. The purpose of all our actions is to be happy and at peace. Once we recognise this, we can see the spirit that imbibes the human race and we can resolve all conflict and live as a true One World Family.

Life has never been the same since I met His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. He has inspired me to go beyond my limits and reach for the impossible. By teaching me to only see what I can give instead of what I can get, I have became the richest person on this world….

Friday, September 10, 2010

Karishma Anand, San Francisco, USA

Management Consultant, Boston Consulting Group, Art of Living YES Plus Teacher

Last year I completed my MBA from The Wharton School and I now work as a management consultant at The Boston Consulting Group in San Francisco, California. I live in the Bay Area with my husband Amit.

Sri Sri - a Beacon of Strength, Peace, Serenity

I met Guruji in a meditation program in Bandra in Mumbai. There were close to 5,ooo people on that course. I distinctly remember the scene - On a hot and humid Mumbai afternoon, under a bare bones tent he walked for more than 4.5 hours, meeting every single person who wanted to see him. He heard their stories, he gave blessings. He made it personal for 5,000 people that hot humid afternoon. I was touched by the discomfort he underwent to just meet with everyone. The crowd pulled at his clothes and his hair, jumped to get his attention, people came right in front of him such that he could have almost tripped. He just floated, a beacon of strength, peace and serenity – untouched by the crowd.

Caring so much for everyone

Later that evening, I had the chance to observe him again. He was meeting the volunteers who had put the entire course and celebration together. This time I noticed another phenomenon. Everyone’s faces lit up and he walked into the room. As he spoke to people, he seemed to kindle in them the same strength, peace and serenity that was so obvious within him. I walked away from the meditation course rejuvenated and but with one question - Why does he care so much about people? But at some level the question didn’t matter – because I had experienced myself that his presence was special.

Fast forward today. I teach the Art of Living’s YES+ program for college students and young professionals and lead the Outreach Support team for the Art of Living Foundation in the US.

Over the years I have had the privilege of meeting him, interacting with him many times. In Dec –Jan of 2006, before the Art of Living’s Silver Jubilee Celebration, I lived at the Art of Living Bangalore ashram to volunteer and help with the event. In the ashram, I realized that each day Guruji met at least hundreds of people. Each day was like that afternoon in Mumbai. He met everyone such that they all left feeling special and most importantly happy. He was actually there for people.

Simplicity and profound wisdom

I am continued to be amazed by Guruji. He can share the most profound wisdom, in the most simplest manner. He is wise yet playful.

To watch him go through his day is an inspiration. To have known him and spent time with him is a privilege – and to be able to have him as a ‘Guru’ (spiritual teacher) is nothing less than just plain old fashioned good luck!

Sanja Kordić, Croatia

International Art Of Living Teacher, Croatia

I am an international full time teacher from Croatia. In April last year, I had a terrible car accident in Bulgaria. I was injured very much. Art of Living people from Bulgaria found the best hospital for me, came every day to see me in numbers that was problem for the staff in the hospital, bringing me everything what I needed.

From the very beginning of this story, from the accident, I had a very strong awareness of Guruji’s presence all around me. He phoned me twice in the hospital and helped me so much. Also at least more than 10 young Art of Living Bulgarians gave their blood for my operation. A girl from Art of Living Macedonia, came daily from Macedonia to take care of me, and after 15 days came Snježana. Art of Living full time volunteer from Croatia and continued to take daily care until the end of my stay there. I've got so many cards, SMSes, from satsang groups all over Europe.

Love Beyond Anything I Knew

After coming home, I was completely immobile and I live alone. So, Art of Living Croatians had a list where they put their names to cover me 24 hours a day. I had full care from them and it wasn't just bringing me a tea, remember, I was immobile, I couldn't do anything for myself, even toilet or washing. Still I wonder how they could do this. It was love beyond anything I knew. They gave me so much love, care, attention, service, that for all doctors, my recovering was a miracle. After one year, I started to walk. Ayurvedic doctor recommended 28 massages, 14 Marmas and 14 Abhyangas, you know how expensive that is. Then one couple, both Art of Living teachers from Slovenia took me to their house and during 3 weeks they gave me massages and special Ayurvedic treatments just for seva. After that, I could walk without crutches.

The security and feeling of being protected

I was twice in Art of Living International Center Bangalore to see Guruji. Every time I've got the best accommodation and nobody ever asked me for any money. Now, everybody treats me as a miracle. I'm walking, I still have some problems with my body, but Art of Living family saved my soul. From the very beginning of this story,from the accident, I had a very strong awareness of Guruji's presence all around me. He phoned me twice in the hospital, but I don't mean just that. It was just a feeling of being protected and security that I'll have place in his life whatever happened. However this ends, he will give me the meaning of life, include me in spreading of the knowledge. My body was suffering, I was in pain, but my soul was very relaxed. This is the secret of my recovering.

For a year and a half, I was not able to work, but they, the Art of Living Foundation pays me regularly. God bless them all, my gratefulness is unlimited.

I fell so very grateful to Guruji. It is just a feeling of being protected and the security that I'll have place in his life whatever happens.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Shikha Grover, Bangalore, India

Art of Living Teacher

Ever since my childhood, I have been a happy go lucky kind of a person. Be it studies, extra curricular activities or being a dream child of parents, I was all that. Breezed through school with flying colours and then college happened. I never had a problem which I couldn't really handle without losing the smile on my face. After college, I chose journalism as a career option and enrolled myself in one of the prestigious institutes in Chandigarh. I thought that life couldn't be better when I found myself being chosen as a trainee as a feature writer for the Times of India. This was when everything started going wrong for me.

Breaking free from the pattern


I got into the company of friends who only lived to shop and pass time until their parents found some rich suitable boy to marry them off. It took no time for me to become just like that. From a girl who had big dreams in life, I became someone who started treating life very casually. The inability to shake myself from these shackles of aimlessness started taking a toll on me. I wanted to break free from the lifeless pattern yet there was a part of me which was enjoying that kind of a lifestyle. My relationships with my parents, friends, sister, and brother began to suffer.

Verge of depression to fountain of pure love

It was at this point that my aunt (an Art of Living teacher) enrolled me into a YES plus workshop. For me, the workshop spelled torture. I was not interested in any self development workshop. For me, I was ‘just fine’ the way I was and no one on this planet could understand the emotional mess I was in. While everybody sat there mesmerized with the knowledge, I was counting each minute for it to end. I didn't want any kind of transformation in my life. On the last day, glad that it was finally over, I went in front of Guruji's(Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) picture and said “Thanks for this stupid workshop. I will never come again.”

That was it. After that I completely forgot about Sri Sri (Guruji) and Sudarshan Kriya. My life didn’t show any sign of improvement. I was almost on the verge of depression. Thinking that a change of place would do me a world of good, I accompanied my aunt to the Art of Living Bangalore Ashram for Navratri (celebration honoring Mother Divine). The ashram was upbeat, brimming with youngsters laughing and full of enthusiasm, but I felt suffocated. I sat for the Art of Silence Course, but participation was the last thing on my mind. I wanted to run away but didn't know where to go. My aunt took me to the place where Guruji was giving darshan to the course participants. Unwillingly, I tagged along. There was a huge crowd waiting to see Him. I do not know how but I managed to squeeze myself into the crowd. Then I saw ‘Him’. A radiant smile on His face, meeting His eager devotees. Every face in the hall had lit up. It was as if a sudden fountain of pure love had opened up. My throat choked and suddenly I found myself crying without any reason. I just couldn't stop myself. It was as if a huge weight was being lifted from my shoulders. I suddenly felt so light, so new, a kind of huge relief. That was it.

The beautiful path led by Sri Sri

It has been 3 years since that day. I have been a full time volunteer with the organisation. Doing seva (service) in the Art of Living Bureau of Communication at the Bangalore Ashram. It has been such a fulfilling journey. I have moved from confusion to clarity, weakness to strength, shyness to confidence, unhappiness to being the reason for others happiness. I am a completely changed person. So many aspects of my personality have blossomed by being on this beautiful path led by Guruji that I sometimes surprise myself. Life has found a beautiful meaning. Seeing Guruji work so tirelessly for humanity makes one feel that ‘Yes, I need to do my bit too’. Guruji has taught me that the most fulfilling experience is when you make yourself available for people. I never knew that carrying a small bag of an unknown person could bring so much happiness in my life.

Life of happiness, fulfillment, joy

It is said that ‘life is a gift that is why they call it the present’. My heartfelt gratitude to Guruji for making my life an abundance of happiness, fulfillment and joy. It is not that there have not been any hardships or bad days in my life, but when dealt with this beautiful knowledge has become a learning for life. As an Art of Living teacher, now, my aim is to add this life to other’s living.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Shailey Sharma, Maryland, USA

Healer, Artist, Activist, Art of Living Teacher
Degree in Occupational Therapy

Born in Nepal, brought up in various parts of India and Libya, I grew up - loving life! A premature baby making it without being stuck in an incubator, in a little town in Nepal, I have always felt a little extra ‘Divine’ spotlight on me. Growing up in a traditional religious family, I was aware of a power greater than myself, had immense faith in that power and knew that I was taken care of, no matter what. I was a peace - loving and content child, averse to discord and altercations finding refuge instead, in the nearest temple and found myself in quiet communion with my God.

I graduated from Delhi University with a degree in Occupational Therapy. I was drawn to the human interactive aspect of my profession, and felt fortunate to have heard my calling. After working in India for a brief period, I moved to Florida in pursuit of professional satisfaction. I am a Healer, an Artist, Activist and now an Art of Living Teacher. I currently live and work in Maryland .

From cynicism to gratitude

I was introduced, by my sister, to the Art of Living Foundation in 2002, on one of my trips home to India. My sister had seen a flyer about this life-transforming course, that focused on breathing techniques, meditation and some pearls of ancient wisdom, enrolled in it and seen tremendous change in her life. She was undergoing a tough time personally (to put it mildly) and it was truly life-giving for her.

She tricked me into meeting her Course teacher, and I ended up arguing with both of them, convincing them I was not ‘stressed out’, did not need this course, and I was satisfied with the current level of spirituality in my life. I was also averse and cynical to the concept of a "Guru" , as I felt, I had a direct connection with God and didn’t want an interpreter. Here I must mention , I had been intrigued and interested in reading the works of an Indian Scholar, Swami Vivekananda, and his teachings on the Vedanta Philosophy. His discourses had brought me immense peace and solace.

However in February of 2004, still cynical about this spiritual course and questioning the validity of it in my life, I was yet again tricked by my family, on yet another trip to India, to accompany my mother to the Art of Living International Center in Bangalore, India. During my stay at the Ashram, I would experience little magical moments of grace as well, yet chose to ignore them. Finally at the end of 10 days, I caved in and took the Art of Living Course.....and, no, wasn’t hit by lightening but I felt human again. I had tremendous amounts of Gratitude for the Founder of the organization, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who had truly blessed us with this gift of a course.

Service inspired by Sri Sri

I was instantly taken in by the various humanitarian programs led by the organization, the holistic approach to life and re-kindling a sense of community, and service in thousands of people in over 145 countries. I believe in redemption and second chances and was immediately drawn to the Prison S.M.A.R.T Program( Stress Management and Rehabilitation Techniques) led by Art of Livings’ sister organization I.A.H.V ( International Association for Human Values) also inspired by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (‘Guruji’ as he is adoringly called by me and many).

Benefits: health, creativity, awareness, relationships,

If I felt blessed to be alive before, now I am only more so - my health has improved, I experience more energy, accomplish more, more creativity blossoms and my relationships have improved both at work and personally. I had never been so connected to myself before and interested in observing the workings of my own mind. I am better able to handle my emotions, mind and due to an increased awareness, my whole life is slowly, very subtly transforming -- one breath at a time!!!

I have found my therapy being profoundly affected by this shift - I am more in touch with my patients, more compassionate, more present. My patients report feeling better with fewer sessions of therapy, regardless of the setting (Trauma Hospitals, Nursing homes, Out patient centers) or their individual diagnoses and the treatment rendered. This is nothing short of miraculous. The premise of the organization is “from peace within, comes peace without” and I see it in action every day!

Over the years I have taken a variety of courses that Art of Living offers, and each one enhances my life, bringing with it a new flavor, revealing more of myself to me. I have also been fortunate to be in the presence of and interact with Guruji, an enlightened being who walks the talk and reveals to me “Love in not just an emotion, it is our very existence

And so, it starts with the breath - our life.

Embrace it! Live it! Love it!

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

M Rajaque Rahman, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Masters Degree in Communications
Art of Living instructor, Former Journalist

I was born in a devout but liberal Muslim family in Imphal, the capital city of the North Eastern Indian state of Manipur in 1971. I had my initial education in Imphal and in the year 1992 I graduated in journalism from Bangalore University. Two years later, I obtained a Master of Science Degree in Communications from the same university. In the same year, I joined The Economic Times, India’s Number One business newspaper as a trainee journalist and rose to handle the entire Editorial Desk of its southern editions by the time I left it to take a assignment abroad in 2002. In the year 2005, I ended my very rewarding and fulfilling career in journalism to respond to the calling of my life and to get involved full time with the Art of Living.

The headache that turned my life around

The dotcom boom lured me out of a very rewarding and fulfilling stint at a top media house. When the bubble went bust, I was hunting for my second job within a year. And when 9/11 happened, along with the twin tower, my dreams of being part of the team that was to launch a top US magazine in India also came crashing down.

The joblessness, however, did not give me too much of a headache, but my migraine did. Instead of doing the rounds of prospective employers, I was visiting doctor after doctor to find a cure for my migraine which was almost becoming chronic. After uncountable number of tests and strips of medicines, I was still struggling to learn to live with my migraine. More than the lure of the lucre, it was the traumatic attacks that made me end my seven-year marriage with my maiden job.

Little did I know that the art of living with migraine would be taught at the Art of Living workshop. One of the doctors threw his arms up, suggesting that I give Sudarshan Kriya of His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar a try. My immediate reaction was, how could I learn a technique cognized by a white robed, long haired Hindu guru. My orthodox and ignorant upbringing convinced me that it would be nothing sort of blasphemy to learn such yogic techniques. All attempts by my friends to reason me out failed and I preferred to live with my migraine than commit ‘blasphemy’ until I couldn't take the headache anymore.

After eight months of dithering and fighting my migraine, I decided to heed the advice the doctor, reasoning out myself that my religion permits me to do even ‘un-Islamic things’ if they were meant to sustain my life. I enrolled for the course in Bangalore. It was a case of love-at-first-sight. I found the workshop revolutionary in its content and approach. And by the end of the six-day workshop, I was already married to it even as I kept waiting for the ‘un-Islamic things’ to come! To cut a long story short, there was nothing in the workshop that conflicted with the tenets of my religion. Instead I learnt skills that could help me go deeper in my faith.

I wanted to bring this knowledge to more people

The concepts like accepting people and situations as they are or not seeing intention behind other people’s mistake are also the essence of the many hadiths (sayings of the prophet) the neighborhood moulvi taught when I was a kid. More importantly, they no more remained mere concepts; the workshop imparted techniques to integrate them into my daily life.

After a few advanced courses, I was convinced that this is what I was looking for in life. I wanted to become an instructor and take this knowledge to more people, particularly to those who are mired in ignorance and misconceptions and deprived of the immense benefit the Art of Living offer.

When my boss at a business magazine in the Gulf refused to give me leave to attend the training to become an Art of Living instructor, I decided to give up the job and get involved full time with the Art of Living. This spontaneous move ruffled too many feathers back home. My mother and my siblings, all educated and liberal, could not comprehend the calling of my life. They simply presumed I was renouncing the world, and my faith, to spend the rest of my life with a Hindu guru. They even feared that I might be terminally ill and was not telling them the truth.

All explanations and reasoning fell on deaf ears. It was difficult to go against my own family, but I did not lose heart, as I knew that they would come around. Charity and service run deep in the family and I knew they would not stand in the way once they cared to understand what I was up to.

Slowly and gradually, they started to notice the depth that the Art of Living was adding to my life and they soften up. And when they heard the stories of transformation and solace people experienced after learning the Art of Living from me during my recent trip to a few Muslim villages in Assam, they shed their prejudice. Suddenly, the truth that true art of living transcends the man-made barriers of caste, creed, nationality and religion dawn on them and they started taking pride in what I am doing.

Oh, I forgot to mention about my migraine. No wonder! It’s has been nine years since my last migraine attack and my first Sudarshan Kriya!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Rachana Gupta, Bangalore


I was born in a small village near Chandigarh, my grandmom’s place. But soon after, my parents moved to Goa and we (my sister and me) spent our childhood growing up by the beachside and living a ‘bindass’ (Hindi slang for 'carefree') life. I moved to Delhi for higher studies and graduated in Literature from Delhi University.

The song that introduced me to Art of Living

I started my career as a Faculty & Technical Writer in Delhi and lived there for 10 years. One evening while channel surfing I heard someone strumming ‘Radhe Radhe’ on the guitar. And that held my attention and I had a ‘wow’ expression. It was beautiful and stayed with me for a while. I didn’t know it was someone from Art of Living or what Art of Living was. It was only later after many years that I got to know it was Vikram bhaiya and his famous guitar.

From Delhi, I moved to Hyderabad for another career opportunity as a Communications Specialist. One October evening, my parents called to say they were moving to the Art of Living Ashram in Bangalore and I could join them if I wished. That was the end to my loneliness and I joined my big family at the Art of Living International Center Bangalore in 2007.

Sri Sri - Total comfort with everything and everybody

I did my Art of Living course in Goa in October 2002 and the following week Guruji was in Goa. I had the opportunity of meeting Him very closely and there was an immediate magnetic pull. At that time, I could not comprehend what was happening but I know the seed was sown. I looked at Him in total wonder and admiration – the way He smiled, the way He walked, the tremendous patience, and at comfort with everything and everybody around Him. It was total wonder and the connection was made.

Everything is taken care

In December 2002, I was in Bangalore for my MBA exams. More than exam fever, it was the wish to visit the Ashram that ruled the heart. I called the Art of Living International Center Bangalore and got to know Guruji was there only that evening and He was traveling to Germany that night. Inspite of a tough exam the next day, I made my maiden visit to the Ashram. I reached around 5:30 pm and promised myself to leave at 6:30 pm - I had to study. I met a lady at the Ashram and she asked me to stay for Satsang. Satsang she said starts at 7:30 pm and ends by 9:00 pm. I told her of my exams and the fact that I had to travel really far. All she said was everything will be taken care of. I gave her a cynical look and moved away from her. I thought she was crazy. But something deep down coaxed me to stay on for Satsang and I did. That was the most beautiful experience ever! At 9:00 pm, I was worried of how I’d get back to Indira Nagar and as I walked out of the gate, a car arrived and the couple asked me where I wanted to go. I said Indira Nagar and they said hop in. Everything was really being taken care of and continues to be taken care of to this day!

The magical Sudarshan Kriya

Practicing the Sudarshan Kriya everyday is like a new birth each day! Just 30 mins of breathing is so magical – it has helped me make better decisions, be more productive at work, be happy under any circumstance and the smile never goes away! At work when colleagues ask me the secret to my smile...all I do is wink and give them a bigger smile! I am very happy and lucky to be able to inspire so many of my colleagues to experience the Sudarshan Kriya and bring a positive change to their lives.

--

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Swami Purnachaitanya


Graduate in Indology, Journalism and New Media

I was born in the Netherlands in 1984. I was the first child of my parents, and less than two years later Sebastiaan, my younger brother, was born. I had a wonderful childhood. I finished my primary school and high school with very good marks, and went on to study Indology and Journalism & New Media at Leiden University, after a gap year in which I also traveled to India for a few months.

Is there a higher purpose to life ?

I enjoyed my life throughout these years, and had many friends, but I was always feeling that something was missing – I felt that there must be some higher purpose to life than just studying, working, doing our best to be happy, and then dying! I practised different types of martial arts during my childhood, but it was only later that I realized that it was actually the values, philosophy and meditation in these that had attracted me.

Living together peacefully, celebrating the differences

I was sixteen when my mother asked me one day if my brother and me wanted to come along to a public talk by a 'spiritual master from India'. She had done the Art of Living course some time before that, and the founder, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, was coming to the Netherlands for some programs, including a public talk in Amsterdam. We were very curious, and were happy to come along!

I remember the big hall, with what must have been around one thousands chairs in neat rows and columns, in front of a beautifully decorated stage. On the stage was a couch covered with a white cloth, and some people were doing some last-minute checking of the sound equipment. We were guided to our seats, and waited. When Sri Sri – also respectfully called 'Guruji' – came in, I was amazed. I still do not know if it were the stainless white robes, the neatly kept long hair and beard, the bright smile, or something else, but there was something about this person.

I still remember two things of that talk that really made me think: the first was that one of the main problems in today's society is that we identify in the first place with our country, our religion, or even our favorite football team, and are willing to fight, or even die in the name of this identity, if someone disagrees with us. Instead, Sri Sri said, we need to realize that in the first place we are all part of this world, this creation, and the second identification is that we are all human beings. If we come from this space, we are able to live together peacefully, celebrating the differences. That really hit home. Something so relevant in today's society! The second thing I remember was the guided meditation – when I opened my eyes again after what felt like a minute or so, I found out actually 25 minutes had past, and I was feeling so fresh again!

Quality of mind determines quality of life

Six months later I did the first Art of Living course for youth in the Netherlands, and I have done many more courses in the years that followed. I became more and more fascinated by the relevance and depth of the knowledge and techniques taught by Sri Sri through the Art of Living Courses. The extra energy, clarity of mind, enthusiasm and ability to deal with any stressful situations or challenges that I would face, have been an invaluable addition to my life. I never knew, that it would be possible to feel so good without needing a reason for it! I started organizing some Art of Living courses in my city during my studies, because when people heard about the benefits, they also wanted to do the course. I realized that it is truly the quality of one's mind, that determines the quality of one's life! You cannot enjoy anything you have, anything you do, unless your mind is free of disturbance.

After completing my studies I came to Bangalore, India to spend some time in the Art of Living International Centre. Since then I have been working there as a volunteer, putting all my knowledge and skills to use to make a positive change in other people's lives – whether they need a house, an education, or a way to deal with the stress they face in their daily life – and life has never been so fulfilling...

Selfless Service - Guruji has been my inspiration

People ask me sometimes why I am spending my time doing 'seva' (voluntary service, without expecting anything in return), when I could have such a successful career. I cannot think of a more successful life, however, then this. There is nothing more fulfilling then seeing that we can make a difference, we can do something for other people and this world, and then doing it! It is here that Guruji has really been my inspiration. Every time I meet him, I see someone who spends all his time, his energy, actually his life, to 'bring a smile on every one's face' – whether they need material support, advise, or just someone who sincerely cares for them. To meet someone who has been travelling all over the world for almost thirty years, inspiring people to come together in service and celebration, is truly a unique experience.

I could go on and on about the endless service projects of the Art of Living, and the experiences of the people I had the opportunity to interact with, that have benefited from these projects. I can only feel grateful that I did not have to spend my whole life looking for that 'something' that makes life full. Through the Art of Living, life has become an expression of joy, instead of a pursuit of happiness...

Friday, September 3, 2010

Rakesh Radhakrishnan, Washington, D.C.

Senior Solutions Architect, Oracle

I was born in London UK in 1968 as a twin and I was raised in Chennai, India with my 3 brothers and sisters and an extended family. My uncles and grandparents from mom's side all lived in ten homes within the same compound. My interests include reading, traveling, and enjoying life with my family – my wife Meena and the three boys Arjun, Trinith and Tushar (twins again), and all the next generation kids in the family.

Life Before and After Sri Sri

Until age 32, I was a very happy individual, loving the simple pleasures of life like parties, movies, vacations to theme parks, etc. In 2001, my 1st son Arjun was diagnosed with Autism and we confirmed it with a 2nd opinion from another doctor. Since Fall 2001, life has been a roller coaster, as I was emotionally and mentally shaken by the impact that this had in our family. With all the focus and efforts going towards ensuring that we did all that we could for Arjun, for many years at a stretch, I went through a lot of issues – stress, depression, anger, pain and frustration. Based on the recommendation of my wife's sister in California I did my 1st Art of Living Course in April/May 2006 with Hansa ji in Burke VA and immediately following the course we had the chance to see Gurudev in person - since he was in DC for a public event. Since then it’s been LIFE before Gurudev and LIFE after Gurudev (a new beginning). I followed up with repeating Art of Living Part 1 twice, Art of Silence course twice, yoga and meditation and many other courses. Through Gurudev's teachings (I bought a number of his books -there are over 50 books he has authored – and one of the best are his comments on the Shiva Sutras), practicing Sudarshan Kriya, yoga and more importantly my daily meditation - stress, depression, anger, pain and frustration has been replaced with contentment, happiness, peace, love and compassion.

Tears of Joy and Gratitude

When I was with Gurudev for the 1st time in 2006 – I had a huge amount of tears in my eyes – tears of sweet surrender. Through his grace those tears have transformed to tears of joy.

Arjun has been making slow and steady progress and he will be 15 this year. I am confident that he will earn a college degree by the time he is 25, based on his progress now. His behavior, comprehension, communication skills, cognitive and physical skills are probably appropriate for a 8 or 9 year old now – however the gap is slowly getting reduced.

I am truly thankful for Gurudev and Art of Living for all the benefits my family and I have reaped through their programs. I regret the fact that I did not know about Gurudev or Art of Living prior to 2006 - just like all the millions who go through this thought the 1st time they experience Art of Living.

I am now 42 (next month) and I am looking forward to a Life that will be intimately tied to Art of Living and being in close proximity to Gurudev (when possible), by actively participating in all the Sadhana, Satsang and Seva!!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Pooja Tolani, Teacher Art of Living

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Graduate in Sociology, Diploma in Marketing and Advertising

I was born in 1979 in Shillong, a small town tucked away in the hills of the state of Meghalaya, India. I completed my schooling from Jamnabai Narsee School in Mumbai and then moved on to the prestigious St. Xaviers College for my graduation in Sociology. In order to chase my dreams of a high career in Advertising I obtained my diploma in Marketing and Advertising from SNDT College, Mumbai. For over 10 years now I've been a full time Art of Living instructor. I now along with my husband Bhavesh who is also a full time Art of Living teacher, travel to various different parts of the world.

The beauty that the Art of Living added to my life

I met Sri Sri Ravi Shankar( Guruji) soon after I had completed my first Art of Living course in the Summer of 1999. Attending this course had not been a personal choice but more as a result of emotional blackmail from my mother. And yet if there is one thing I am thankful to my mother for forcing upon me, it is the Art of Living Course and more so for dragging me to meet a “Guru” as she had said. I remember at that time I had a skill of doing exactly the opposite of what my mother wanted. And yet this was one occasion when I felt all my skill was falling short. I couldn’t wiggle my way out of meeting Guruji and now when I think back I remember that there was something in me, like a little voice telling me how I just had to go. Whether it was curiosity or my calling I don’t know. But I went, having no idea what to expect or no notion of how my life was never going to be the same! The one thing that Guruji told me upon meeting me was, “become a teacher and make people’s lives blossom”. The experience was so intense that I immediately went to Bangalore ashram of the Art of Living to do an advanced meditation course and soon the Teacher’s Training Course. By 2001, I was a full time Art of Living teacher, a best friend to my mother, the most loving sister and over all a better human being.

Challenges encountered in helping youth in North East India

An uncertain transition from the young and careless campus of St. Xavier’s College to the challenging terrains of the North East India, isn’t the best career step a 20-year old would take. But I rejoiced in it and found the purpose of my life. That was the kind of inspiration I had gained from Guruji’s unconditional love and selfless service to the world. I acquired a habit of venturing into challenging places of the North East of India to teach people the precious art of living. Be it dealing with misguided youth in Nagaland or helping drug dependants in Meghalaya or training specially challenged kids in Arunachal Pradesh, I thrived amidst adversities. I enjoyed every moment of being in these places, not because I was adventurous but it was in these challenging places and moments that I was fortunate enough to be able to experience the love, protection, and grace of my master for me. It was in times like these that I had opportunity to let miracles happen. It was in times like these that I was able to let go of all worries completely and let a higher power handle things for me. It was in times like these that I realized that come what may Guruji will never let go of me and would let no harm come even close to me at any cost. He gave me the strength and freedom to go out there, make mistakes, learn from them, be of use to others, serve and enrich my life. I went there with the idea of serving people but soon realized that it was Guruji’s service to me.

One Wold Family and Grace of the Guru

The idea or understanding of a ‘One World Family’, would have never even have occurred to me had it not been for Guruji. Week after week, year after year I see Guruji going out of his way to make this a living reality not just for me but millions of others all over the world. He has given me family where ever I have gone. Before I even feel the need for something he makes it available. I still remember on a cold evening in Nagaland, when the family that was hosting me and my colleague, suddenly found out that they had relatives coming to stay with them. Due to lack of space, we were asked to vacate their home. In any other part of India, this might not have been such a problem. But in Nagaland, for two very young girls, to be standing on the road after 5.00pm, it was considered very unusual and inconceivable. By this time of the day it gets dark, markets shut down, people return to their homes, as it is considered unsafe to be out on the streets, due to terrorist activities and violence in the area. We stood on the street with our luggage not knowing where to sleep that night. Before we even began to worry about this a stranger comes and stops his car in front of us saying, “Aren’t you the Art of Living teachers? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s teacher?” We though a little baffled, said yes. Excitedly, he said, “ Your Guru changed my son’s life! Please let me repay him by inviting you my home. Stay as long as you wish”. With a smile on our face and gratitude in our hearts, we drove home with him knowing that yet again we were taken care of. We later found out that this person’s son had quit his addictions and negative company only after he had met Guruji and been inspired by him.

The Language of Love and Service

It is a known fact that Guruji’s work is bringing about a huge change globally and that is why he has even been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But im sure I speak for millions across this planet when I say that the difference he makes in every individual’s life is of utmost importance to him. In spite of there being millions of devotees each one feels like they are so meticulously taken care of. Each one of us have hundreds of such experiences to share. From the North Eastern states of India to Europe and Canada, where ever I have travelled, I have learnt how universal his knowledge and the language of love is. He has and continues to inspire millions of volunteers to bring a smile on people’s face. And he does this not by command but by example. How can I not want to go out and serve when I see my master in knee deep water, wading through the floods of Bihar to bring solace to the flood stricken families? How can I not want to care when I see my master walking into the ruins of the Tsunami to bring relief to the victims? How can I not forgive and love when I see my master embracing inmates in a Prison giving them the deepest experience of acceptance and love that brings tears to even the eyes of the hardest criminal? If I have been able to bring about even an iota of positivity in this world, it is only because I have learnt form the best in the field, H.H. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Sri Sri's vision of Stress Free, Violence Free Society

Today as I write this and have a chance to reflect on my life, there isn’t a thing that I would want to change. Yes I was ambitious and wanted a successful advertising career, a hefty pay cheque, but day after day, people come with so much innocence and gratefulness for the way the Art of Living, something that I am privileged to be a part of, has changed their lives. I can’t aspire for a better pay cheque than that, can I? I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that I am one of the most fortunate people in the world for loving every moment of what I do, for being a part of Guruji’s vision of creating a ‘Stress Free, Violence Free Society’ and for having a master like His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar who is my teacher, my mentor, my guide, my inspiration, and the cause of everything that makes me smile. All I can say to Him is - thank you.