Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Shreya Chugh - Art of Living Experience:

Art of Living Teacher, ARTExcel, YES, National Director for The Art of Living -Youth Empowerment programs

I was born and raised in Bangalore, India. I went to Sri Aurobindo Memorial
School and hold a Masters degree in International Business. I’m an ardent lover
of adventure sports and hold the Kirmani Award for rappelling . I've also won
many accolades in white water rafting and trekking. My passion lies in graphic
design, photography, music, cartooning and painting. I’m currently working
as the National Coordinator for The Art of Living -Youth Empowerment programs
and focusing on teenage youth from all across India.

The ABC of My Master

My Friend - My Guide - My support - My ALL

I was raised on a golden platter with luxury at its highest peak! Money, gadgets, cars, 5 star hotels meant everything. I thought I owned the world. My ATTITUDE was up in the air until I met Ajay, who was my best friend at school and HIS UNCLE (His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), mother– Bhanu Didi, Narasimhan Uncle, Amma– Gurudev’s mother, Pitaji – Gurudev’s father and Arvind! Not to miss, Chickoo - Ajay’s little pet dog !

Years passed by and I started to work for an Australian firm – Your Practice Online. Every day I would somehow feel I could be much more useful to the world in a different way. Every evening, I saw myself running back home, Ajay’s Uncle’s home – Sri Sri’s home! Often, I would visit the Art of Living International Ashram with Ajay, Pitaji and Amma to see Guruji. Initially, it was a picnic for me, a joy ride down the country side. In the ashram, I would sing, play, dance, meditate, serve and make new friends. All my friends were people from different countries, races, religions and backgrounds – This was an ideal place for me! My life! My Vision! My Expression! - An ideal Home! A One World Family!
After playing in the ashram, I would visit the Ved Vignan Maha Vidya Peeth school
with Bhanu Aunty. This school was started by Guruji in 1986 with a handful of students and now it provides primary education to over 2000 students from over 20 villages around the ashram. The children studying in the school were mostly first generation learners. Aunty, Ajay, Arvind and I would visit the school very often and distribute books, uniforms and stationary to them. Aunty would listen to the children with such intensity and reply with such positivity, as if they were her own children. She herself would serve them their mid day meals. This was the atmosphere in the school. One always felt loved and at home. Bhanu Aunty inculcated great values in my life. From her, I learnt to love, to stretch my hand first and to share and care.

I heard Uncle – “His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar” once say - " Rich are those who share their food, richer are those who share their wealth, even richer are those who share their power and Richest are those who share themselves".  This ONE statement Transformed my life, 180 degrees!

Guruji’s simple messages to me as a child gave such depth to my existence! He would call me aside and give me small responsibilities. I remember, one day during Shiva Ratri celebrations, in the center, He called me and told me to light the lamp that was placed on the stage. I went running looking for the match and some oil. It was a windy day and each time I lit the lamp, it would go off. He watched me with such love and care, that look in his eyes which said – go ahead!  I'm here with u, it will light up! and there it did!  He always taught me to do small things, with great love!

Some years later, the ashram was to celebrate the inauguration of its new Meditation Hall – The Vishalakshi Mantap. Dignitaries, Heads of States, Saints, Spiritual leaders, Industrialists, Farmers and Students, had to be invited. For this, an invitation card had to be designed. The ad agencies were approached and they came up with certain design formats. Gurudev, looked at the designs and immediately said, “Our shreya, she is very good, she will make a beautiful design".  I looked at Him and wondered ' Where did He see such talent in me? I was a child! To design a card that would reach the world, inviting people, for this huge event?' He looked at me and asked "By evening it will be ready, right ?" I immediately, said ‘YES! Guruji ‘ With great confidence in my voice. I sat down to work, and it was done! I quickly took a color print and took it to Him. He looked at it with such appreciation and shared – "She is brilliant, right!" There were so many
others in the room, who smiled and applauded! This is Guruji. He uplifts you. He sees the best in you. He gives you the freedom to express! He makes you aware of the impossibilities that you can do!

In time I started to volunteer for the the Youth Empowerment Seminars in Bangalore city. At the end of each course, I observed a beautiful change in the participants.  There was so much belongingness, love, care, happiness, joy, celebration and smiles. People came together and broken homes got repaired! Relationships between parents and their children improved. I observed the same effects in my best friends who underwent the program. Then one day, I thought to myself, what am I doing? Guruji is doing so much for the society. He visits over 40 countries every year, transforming so many millions of lives. I can be of much more use. I decided to be an instrument of change! I wanted to bring a smile on every face!  Guruji was arriving in Bangalore after 3 months. This time, there was only one thought in my mind. I wanted to ask him, if I could teach and before I did, He read my mind. He told me, “Go do YES!”. For a second, I didn’t understand what He said. As I walked down from his Kutir, I saw myself becoming a part of the Teachers Training Program.

I had decided, I will do something BIG. Guruji has always blessed me with such confidence and guided me in every step of my life, just like a father would do to his child. He gave me such FAITH, that nothing in the world seemed impossible.  I had decided to be his BEST INSTRUMENT! His best teacher! 

My first challenge was going to Nagaland to conduct the YES program there.  Before I left, I seeked His blessings for the youth of Nagaland - "I always prayed for a stress-free and violence-free world."  As soon as I reached Nagaland (a small state in the fast east of India, troubled with insurgency ,drugs and AIDS), I organized Youth Empowerment Seminars.  We had 50 youth to start with and have now reached out to several thousand. The training not only focused on building their personality and communication skills, but it also worked on their emotional and spiritual aspects as individuals.  It inspired the participants to be free from violence, quit drugs, alcohol and smoking . Moreover they were inspired to volunteer for rural projects. The youth built homes for the homeless, organized health and cleanliness camps and also educated others about HIV- Aids.

In Nagaland, Guruji's teachings of love, practical wisdom, and service have promoted
harmony among people, and encouraged individuals to come together, love each
other and follow their chosen spiritual path, while honoring other paths.  Guruji travels to so many countries every year to share his message of social responsibility, conflict resolution, disaster and trauma relief, prisoner rehabilitation, women's empowerment, female foeticide, child labor, and access to education.

Today, with His Love and Care, I have touched the lives of over a million youth.
How much ever I write, its only going to fall short. I sincerely believe that dedicating myself to this cause, I am surely fulfilling the purpose of my life.

My pranams to my Guru , Jai Gurudev!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Pamela Brockman - Art of Living Experience

Art of Living Teacher, ARTExcel, YES, Art of Silence Teacher, USA

A Poetic Beginning

The mindset started a long time ago. In high school, I studied the poetry of Walt Whitman, an American poet of the “transcendental” school of thought. The writers of this time were greatly influenced by the Vedas and other writings. Walt Whitman’s poem, “Song of Myself” is quite Vedantic in nature as he sees all of creation as part of himself. I was so intrigued by this concept, I longed to learn to meditate and experience this and not just read about it. In a few years, while in college, I learned Transcendental Meditation (Art of Living hadn’t been formed yet!). I was in heaven --it was exactly what I had been looking for. My anxieties quieted and people noticed how I had changed.

Fast forward to 1991, I was a new mom with a young son, wishing for another child but unable to conceive. I was fortunate to be able to stay home and care for my son whom I adore. But I also used to yell a lot and was frustrated at leaving my career. My meditations were still deep and I had begun to desire a Spiritual Director I could consult to guide my experience. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar came into my life through a friend. I was not able to have another child, but that became less of a worry as I became very busy organizing courses and events for the Art of Living. It was not a choice but rather something I felt was an important and necessary part of my life. A happening.

I continued to become more and more involved, becoming a teacher of the Art of Living Course in 1998, ART Excel and YES! In 2000, the Art of Silence Course after that, as well as facilitating the Eternity Process. Teaching YES! In the Schools, Breath Water Sound for Trauma Relief and Sri Sri Yoga followed then, too.

Tricky Ego
With my son in high school and then college, I began to travel to Central and South America to teach. People would ask me if I also teach Sahaj Samadhi,(now The Art of Meditation) and the desire arose in me to also teach this course, so I could be more useful wherever I go. Guru Dev came to Chicago where I live and I asked him if I could become a Sahaj teacher. He said, “Yes, but first do your Pooja Phase 1 & 2 Courses.”

Now, even though I didn’t know how to perform it, soon after my first Art of Living course, I began to offer flowers and water and incense and fruit to Guru Dev(Sri Sri) in gratitude for the knowledge, techniques and growth. I remembered parts of the TM version of the Guru Pooja and would love to listen to it whenever I could.  I found versions of the Guru Pooja and began to learn the words. I would look up meanings of words and make up the rest in my mind.
Then, in 2010 TTC for Sahaj was offered for the first time in a very long time. Since I had been singing puja for some time, with others who had learned it the correct way from Bhanu Didi (Guruji's Sister), I thought maybe I could skip the Guru Pooja Phase 1 & 2 Courses and just take the TTC.  Why not? I could be more useful then. The thought was "I knew the pooja, so why should I take time for that course?" My mind rationalized and churned with planning and I applied for the TTC. Two of my friends from South America wrote to Guru Dev for special approval to take the TTC (as it was supposed to be only for English speakers, and only one spoke English well) and he said, “Yes.” I thought, “Oh, well, I can write too and maybe he’ll say I can go too!!! I wrote him and..... He said, (of course) “Finish your Puja 1 & 2 first.”When I heard back from Guru Dev, I cried, that in the midst of all of his responsibilities and greater problems and concerns of many, many other devotees, he bothered to write to me and guide my growth. I melted. Totally grateful, I registered for Pooja 1, still a bit smug, but happily resigned to the process.

Being “Fully Cooked”

Guru Dev’s comment made such an impression on me. Being “fully cooked” means being so equanimous, so centered, that nothing and no one can pull you out from your Self. Who knows how long this would take? My mind began to relax and realize that it’s all about the process and not the goal. I knew this intellectually, but it began to sink in deeper, experientially. Guru Dev’s in charge....I am growing at my own pace, and practicing my knowledge diligently helps, but I will grow and be fully cooked in my own time.

Awakening to Humility

In Hartford at the Guru Pooja Phase 1 Course, I surrendered more and more. I learned a lot -- different pronunciations I hadn’t heard before, meanings I didn’t know. I became more humble and grateful to be an instrument, however I am used, doing my 100% to do the will of the Divine, not MY will. Being totally Hollow & Empty, open and willing, simple and happy! What a relief!!!!! Jai Guru Dev!!!!!!!!!!!!!