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Category Archives: Art of Living Projects

Art of Living Projects category gives the brief introduction about the service projects initiated by the Art of Living.

Art of Living Tribal schools in Jharkhand


THE BEGINNING

In 1999, Shri Brij Bhushan Chawla was blessed by H H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living, to start tribal schools in Jharkhand, one of the most backward states of India. Today, Art of Living is running ten tribal schools in Ghatsila Block and twenty more in the tribal belt of Jharkhand and West Bengal. These schools provide education to 2,734 tribal children from 60 tribal villages who come from families that have been ignored for centuries and bypassed from mainstream development.

COMPREHENSIVE UPLIFTMENT OF TRIBAL POPULATION

It is not just the students, but entire families who are being uplifted. The tribal school teachers provide counseling to the villagers besides running the adult education program since many years. Regular medical assistance is provided to the villagers by Art of Living doctors who visit these areas at least once in a fortnight to conduct medical camps. Medicines are made freely available for the patients at these camps. Before Art of Living started its tribal school project, malaria was rampant in the area and child mortality rate was pretty high. Today, the regular supply of medical help by Art of Living volunteers has minimized the death toll.

UNFAZED IN FACE OF CHALLENGES

The team remained unfazed in the face of many challenges that came up while setting up the schools. The first and foremost challenge was lack of proper connectivity to these remote tribal areas. Miles away from roads, there was no electricity, and water supply in the area. Lack of infrastructure prevented sufficient and timely medical help from reaching, leading to deaths of tribals during emergencies. The Art of Living team led by Chawla ji toiled hard to get the electricity lines and the roads built to reach these places. They also created clean water sources by installing hand water pumps at every school and digging wells. The rising spread of Naxalism in the surrounding area was also a matter of great concern. Today, due to the good work that has been happening over the past decade in this area, there is no threat from the naxalites in running these schools.

Initially the parents were reluctant to send their children to school. They preferred to send children to work or engage them in household chores or baby sitting. The volunteers had to convince the parents of the value of education and make all the arrangements for the kids to attend the schools. These schools run free of charge and provide books, uniforms, school bags, bicycles and transportation, along with lunch and milk to the students.

HOLISTIC EDUCATION

The schools impart education in a holistic manner as envisioned by His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji. In Gurudev’s words, “Every parent would like to have a child whose personality shines wherever the child goes. It is the personality that is appreciated everywhere. Such pleasing personality is what is the main aim of this education.” This is very much visible when we look at kids studying at our tribal schools…

TEACHING METHODOLOGY

Progressing as a team

Group-based learning is encouraged in the students. This helps them in imbibing human values such as sharing and helping each other to grow. Each group is assigned a leader to encourage the leadership qualities in the students.

Each tribal school has its own garden in the vicinity of the school structure. The garden is maintained by the students themselves. Fruits and vegetables are cultivated using zero budget natural farming. The students learn the value of teamwork and hard work while toiling in these gardens.

Fostering the hidden potential

The tribal kids are very good at arts and their creativity is encouraged by giving them opportunities to make craft and decorations at the school. All the charts put up inside the school are either prepared by the teachers or the students themselves.

The classroom walls are fixed with blackboards which are used by the students to draw paintings of their choice. When we look at the paintings of these kids, it is unbelievable to learn that there is no teacher appointed to teach them drawing and painting!

Fine balance of indoor and outdoor activities

Physical activities are an integral part of their routine at the school and sports events are regularly organized where students from all the schools get a chance to come together and interact with each other.

The culture of the tribes is maintained by encouraging the children to perform dances and dramas in their own traditional language and costumes.

Expanding the horizons of the tribal mind

The middle school has a well-equipped computer lab that provides access to quality educational material. Once in a while excursion tours are organized to give the students exposure to the outside world and expand their thinking horizons. Today these kids have started nurturing the ambitions of becoming doctors and teachers to serve their own community.

A DAY AT THE TRIBAL SCHOOL

Every morning the students arrive happily at their respective schools. Those students who reside far away from their school are provided with bicycles to come to school. Their day at school begins by cleaning the school campus. This imbibes qualities like responsibility and cleanliness in the students. This activity is followed by fetching water from the hand pumps and watering the plants in the garden next to the school building. After this activity students gather for prayers, which consist of Sanskrit chants and patriotic songs. This activity helps to instill sense of pride and moral responsibility towards one’s community, culture and country.

After the prayers, students settle down in class rooms to do exercises and meditation under teacher’s guidance. The breathing techniques improve concentration levels and keep student calm and energetic. The students are encouraged to participate in activities such as singing, dancing, and story-telling to boost their confidence.

The education is imparted in the national language Hindi, and English, while preserving the native language Santhali. Apart from the languages, the children learn modern science, history, geography, ecology and other subjects taught in schools all over India.

Nutritious midday meals and milk are provided to the students. A lot of importance is given to practical learning rather than the rote learning approach. For example, calculating the area of a circle is taught with the help of a board used by the kids to play archery. This makes learning subjects like mathematics an interesting exercise.

Ample amount of outdoor activities happen at the schools. Thus, the students go back home happy and stress-free at the end of the day.

LIVELIHOOD TRAINING

Special attention is given to the development plan for the students when they grow up. A vocational training center is set up to allow the students to learn skills that can help them earn their livelihood. The school uniforms are stitched by some of the students and their elders at this center. The students prepare decorative crafts items that are sold by the volunteers.

The team running the project believes that the locally trained teachers are more suitable for the schools as compared to teachers brought from urban areas, due to the fact that local teachers better understand the language and culture of the students.

Therefore the team periodically organizes teacher’s training workshops to generate quality teachers at the local level.

The project coordinators are also working on programs to facilitate the students with skills that will help them to earn a living within their native instead of relocating to urban areas in search of employment.

FROM VISION TO REALITY

His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji says, “Knowledge and spiritual awareness should go hand in hand with social and political system. Only then can justice prevail in the society and there be a sense of belongingness with everyone in the world, irrespective of their religious and cultural background or age group. We need to impart this education – at the levels of schools and colleges.”

After visiting the tribal schools in Jharkhand, one can truly feel that this vision of the founder is becoming a reality in this nation with the dedicated efforts of the volunteers of the Art of Living with his inspiration. The Art of Living has started 209 such schools all over the country, making education a reality for 24,209 students.

For more details about the tribal schools of Jharkand, contact Mr. Brji Chawla, bbc108@yahoo.com

 Author Sandesh Sawant is a faculty of the Art of Living foundation and works as software engineer at Cisco Systems in India. The author enjoys working on social causes and has written the article on the basis of his visit to the tribal schools in Jharkhand.

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Posted by on October 26, 2012 in Art of Living Projects

 

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Assam is on a time bomb


And the clock has been ticking for a long time.

Assam was originally home to a number of indigenous tribes, who had been living there for centuries.  A few years after independence, the government of India, while giving Scheduled Tribe status to these indigenous inhabitants had divided the region in tribal belts and blocks.

That land was marked to be held only by tribals. However, due to occupation of land by the ever increasing stream of immigrants, the number of tribal belts and blocks has reduced to nearly half the original number now. Besides, non-tribals continue to occupy more and more land in these areas. Furthermore, many of these tribes were given unequal ST status, creating divisions among them, even though they have the same cultural background.

The Dimasa people, for instance, who are one of the earliest settlers in the region have been divided into areas that fall under Assam and Nagaland. The administrative classification is such that they are a minority in both states. Moreover, due to use of weapons and threats during elections, they are not politically represented. In some places, their historic monuments were removed by bulldozers and the areas turned into markets.

On the other side, the government has turned a blind eye to decades of unchecked infiltration from Bangladesh. The infiltration has been so unchallenged and undocumented that the muslim refugee camps themselves have been housing over double the total muslim population on record in those areas. The immigrants initially came and started settling with Indian muslims and married into their families.

On one hand, the aborigines were divided by the ST classification while on the other, the Bangladeshi immigrants joined the Indian muslim inhabitants with familial bonds, and began laying claim to rights and privileges.

The Central government turned a blind eye to these developments allowing minority to turn into majority and threatening the identity of these indigenous tribes in their own land. The Assam assembly has about 20 representatives of Bangladeshi origin.

Due to government apathy, the issue, which was originally about land occupation, today has unfortunately assumed a distinctly political and communal colour. And the ripples of this communal conflict are being felt all over India now. It is the short sighted and narrow minded strategy of vote bank politics that is now threatening the security of the whole country. This should be a lesson for all of us not to elect any candidate or party indulging in vote bank politics.

The rules of engagement for our security forces on the Bangladesh border are very different from those on the Pakistan border. On noticing any suspicious activity at the Bangladesh border, all that the patrolling soldiers can do is blow a whistle or flash a light, which in turn makes them a vulnerable target. Due to administrative callousness and reduced security, the region is functionally very conducive for anti-India agencies. As a result, a number of terrorist organizations have sprouted in the region. Weapons and anti-India links are found regularly in arrests, encounters and surrender of militants in the region. Let us not forget the 2008 multiple bomb blasts in Guwahati.

There is already talk of Greater Bangladesh, which hopes to include Assam, West Bengal and other north eastern states of India. A large number of immigrants and have even trickled down to Bihar and Orissa. This is a step-by-step repeat of what happened in Kashmir. The demography of the region was changed by driving Kashmiri Hindus out by force and the region made volatile by spreading violence and terror. There is a clear lack of political will even to address grave security issues in our country. Corruption and greed has blinded us to such a degree that we do not mind conceding pieces of our own motherland – the same motherland for which, just a few generations ago, our forefathers sacrificed everything, including lives.

A democracy functions in its true essence when its people are awake and aware. When narrow and selfish mindsets take over, it loses all direction and becomes distorted. We have been a ‘sleeping giant’ for too long. We need to wake ourselves because the explosions we’ve been hearing all around us are not merely alarm bells but battle cries.

– Nakul Dhawan

 
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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in About Art of Living, Art of Living Projects

 

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N E Exodus: Art of Living Ashram turns a safe haven


The mass exodus of thousands of north-eastern people from various parts of India, coming on the heels of Assam riots and consequent displacement of hundreds of thousands of families, is a huge blot on the country.

It is time to rally around our North Eastern brethren and open up our hearts and homes to assure them that they have a million homes in India. They are not alone and don’t have to flee.

This was the message taken by Art of Livingteachers Sanjay Babu, Neelam Kochchar, Deepa Dave and their team of volunteers to the thousands of panic- stricken North Eastern people at Bangalore Raliway station ready to leave in the next train to the North East.

Sanjay Babu explained, “There were many distributing food and water at the railway station to the insecure north eastern crowd. But none could assure security to them. We were sent by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji to assure them that they are safe and there was no need to panic and flee from Bangalore.”

The Art of Living teachers reached out to thousands of fearful north eastern workers and students of Bangalore and persuaded them to stay back instead of fleeing. Those who were fearful of going back to their residences in Bangalore were offered a home in the Art of Living Ashram. Around 200 north eastern people are now safely living in the Ashram premises till they feel safe to go back to their homes. In fact, thanks to the feeling of security given to them by Gurudev, many of them are already feeling confident of returning to their jobs in Bangalore.

Over 33,0000 people are reported to have left Bangalore because of direct and indirect threats to leave the city before August 20. Many also left because they were being called back by family members in Assam so that they could, “protect their house together or die together!”

Sri Sri and a few of the N E people at Ashram

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has encouraged the north eastern students in Bangalore to continue their studies. If they need help, Sri Sri University would come forward to enable their education. The workers have been assured that Art of Living would help them find jobs. Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, has been engaging the people of North East since many years through personal interactions and many service initiatives. 121 children from Nagaland, Meghalaya and Assam are staying & getting education at Art of Living Ashram since six years.

Only a genuine peace maker like Sri Sri can remove the mistrust and fear that has engulfed Assam in recent times.

During his recent visit to Assam (watch video) in the aftermath of ethnic clashes, Sri Sri was heard with eager anticipation by the people from the both sides of the divide.He effortlessly got the Bodos and Muslims to see reason and talk in conciliatory tones thus sowing the seed for reconciliation. But the question remains whether the rulers of the day will be interested in watering the seed?

 

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Three villages shimmer in the gloom of Assam Riots


The recent spate of large-scale riots in Assam, according to conservative estimates, has claimed 58 lives and rendered 400,000 people homeless in various districts of the north eastern state. We, as members of the Art of Living Family, and believers in the principle of One World Family, extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims.

Relief work is the need of the hour after the violence

The primary aim of Art of Living volunteers right now is to provide help and assistance to the displaced people from 400 villages who are staying in relief camps in Assam. The 124 teachers of the Art of Living in Assam along with thousands of volunteers have jumped into relief and rehabilitation work for the lakhs of people taking shelter in 270 refugee camps.

Amid all this bloody carnage, a gleam of hope is emerging from three villages which have become islands of peace in riot-hit Assam. Two of these villages Borlao and Borpara, where Art of Living has been carrying out its community development programs, saw absolutely no incidence of violence. The folks in these villages took the initiative to guard their villages themselves. They did not allow any outside person to enter the village. The three villages are from Chirang and Kokrajhard – the worst riot affected districts. Considering that the village inhabitants are a mix of Bodos, Muslims, Asamese and Bengalis this is an exceptional display of solidarity against forces of division. 164 children from these villages receive free education in the Art of Living tribal schools in Chirang and Kokrajhar.

Tribal schools of The Art of Living in Chirang and Kokrajhar

164 children receive free education in Art of Living Tribal Schools of  Chirang and  Kokrajhar

The surrounding villages, where Art of Living has not yet started its work, succumbed to the fury of violence unleashed by escalating ethnic tensions between indigenous Bodo community and migrant  Muslims  from Bangladesh.

It has been proven repeatedly that spiritual education is the only long-lasting basis for a sustainable, peaceful and responsible living at individual and community level.

Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji, founder of the Art of Living has appealed to all in Assam not to retaliate irrespective of your community and ethnic background. He said, “There are good people in every community. Art of Living will do the work of applying balm to the hearts and minds of traumatized riot victims.”

As fellow human beings and citizens of India it is our duty to reach out to the people of Assam and do our best to bring normalcy in the lives of displaced people. We hope the government takes speedy and definite steps to resolve the fundamental issues that led to the riots before they snowball to uncontrollable dimensions.

 

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Yoga in Islam : A form of ibaadat (prayer)


Rajaque Rahman, a Practising Muslim talks about how blinkered interpretation of what’s permitted and forbidden in Islam is making the Muslim world hesitant to take advantage of universal healers like yoga and meditation.

Even as I was persuading a group of Muslim elders in Itanagar — the capital city of eastern-most Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh — to give yoga, pranayama and similar ancient Indian techniques a try for a healthy and happy living, the group went serene with the azan for the Jumah (Friday congregational prayer ) from the neighbourhood mosque. As I followed them to the mosque, I noticed the gentleman who was the most vocal and orthodox during the discussion was heading in the opposite direction. When I queried why he wasn’t coming to the prayer, I was flabbergasted by his innocent but distorted logic. “I can’t go to the mosque as I have to pass through shops that slaughter and sell meat of swine to reach there. You know, Islam strictly prohibits swine meat. I would rather miss the prayer than commit haram by going near swine meat,” he reasoned.

Though I knew Islam prohibits eating swine meat, I never imagined somebody would ever interpret that prohibition in such a myopic way. When I pondered over it, I realised this type of blinkered interpretation of what’s permitted and forbidden in Islam is what is making the Muslim world hesitant to take advantage of universal healers like yoga and meditation.

Art of Living Course participants in war-affected areas in Middle East

People from war zones in an Art of Living meditation

Like the old man, orthodox Muslims fear the practice of yoga will erode their faith in Allah and Islam. As the Quran and Hadith (Prophet Muhammad’s teachings) have nothing specific that will make practise of yoga haram (forbidden), they based their judgement on their own concocted fear that supposedly ‘Hindu’ elements of yoga would destroy the faith of a Muslim.

As a Muslim who has been practising yoga for over a decade and has experienced the depth of yoga at the physical and spiritual levels, I felt the best way to allay the fear is to look at the Hindu philosophy on yoga and see how and where it contradicts the tenets of Islam. For this, I wouldn’t settle for anything less authentic than Maharishi Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living has given an extensive and lucid commentary on the yoga sutras.

Yoga simply means uniting with the Self. The Yoga Sutras starts by calling itself an enunciation in union. And a self-imposed discipline to attain that union is yoga. Is striving for such a union with the Self against Islam? Definitely not, for Prophet Mohammed has said, “He who knows his own Self knows his Lord.” So anything done in pursuit of knowing the Lord cannot be termed as forbidden in Islam. Instead, it will count as a meritorious act of honouring and following the Prophet. So yoga as a spiritual pursuit is very much permissible in Islam. Dara Shikoh, eldest son of the Mughal Emperor of India, Shah Jahan is known for his Persian translations of the Yoga Vashishta and the Bhagavad Gita.

The best explanation of why yoga is not just a permissible, but also a desirable act for Muslims is to be found in the second sutra of the Yoga Sutras. “Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodhah.” It means yoga is stopping all the modulations of the mind. Ceasing all the outward activities of the mind and reposing in Allah is the ultimate goal of Islam. So any act done to reach such a state cannot be un-Islamic.

People in Iraq learning yoga and meditation through The Art of Living

Iraqis get solace in yoga and meditation

In fact, it represents the highest form of ibaadat (prayer). Prophet Mohammed said, “I have a time with God to which even Gabriel, who is pure spirit, is not admitted.” Hence, the soul of prayer is a complete absorption, a state without room for any outward thoughts which is also the ultimate purpose of yoga. So doing yoga asanas with the sole intention of attaining a thoughtless state so that one can connect with Allah wouldn’t make one a bad Muslim.
This leaves only one ground for orthodox mullahs to frown at yoga: that yoga stems from polytheist beliefs of Hinduism. But when yoga means union, how can it be linked to polytheist beliefs? In fact, yoga takes one away from polytheism and leads to Advaita, which is in perfect agreement with the Islamic doctrine of tauhid (oneness of God).

Just because something has its roots in Hinduism, it doesn’t become forbidden for Muslims. If it were so, many arts, languages, foods and cultural practices with roots in other religions, would also be forbidden to Muslims. So, when we can accept foods and music from other cultures, why not the wisdom to unite with the Self?

 

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The Art of Living : Keeping the Faith


Sharing a part of my lifestory… written a couple of years ago on my personal blog…. 🙂

I was 12 or 13 years old when I was gifted a book called ‘ The Art of Living’ on Vipassana Meditation by William Hart. I had already done the Transcendental Meditation course and as children my age would do, never practiced it again, though I still remember the mantra I was given!! 🙂

I must say, that all through this journey called life, spiritual books have found their way into my life.. 🙂 All this talk these days, about attracting things into life, going by that philosophy, maybe I must have wanted them in some previous birth 🙂 I have a story for each one entering my life in very interesting and sometimes, not so happy, circumstances. Always making me realize the presence of the divine around, taking care of me! 🙂

Coming back to the book ‘The Art of Living’! It’s a beautiful book on Vipassana Meditation with an outline of the basics of Buddhism, short stories and an ‘Intellectual Commentary on Experiential Wisdom.’ I loved reading that book, especially the short stories, every now and then. Must have read it 30-40 times but I never understood parts of the ‘Intellectual Commentary,’ and I wished I could find someone who would explain the meaning of quite a few things the book mentions. In vain!! I found no one near me who could understand it, or for that matter, was willing to read ‘SUCH BOOKS’ at my age :))) Definitely none of my friends, classmates or even elders.

Though I enjoyed the book immensely, I could not relate to all the experiences narrated in the book. However, I did not associate that with any form of disbelief on the writer, or Vipassana or Buddhism, nor did I ever doubt any of the experiences. I always felt there was truth behind those words. I knew that somewhere something in my own experience was lacking that prevented me from understanding the book completely. I always thought I would go to a Vipassana centre someday to experience it myself…

However, instead of Vipassana, something else happened!!! “The BEST thing that could have ever happened”!! The Art of Living Part 1 Course.. then YES!+ Navratri Advance Course at Ashram with Gurudev H H Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji ..then Sahaj.. DSN…

After I began practicing meditation regularly, that ‘Intellectual Commentary’ has become an ‘Experiential Reality.’ (An everyday affair) Transformed my life, attitude, thinking and continues to do so.. And now when I read that book, or other books on spiritual experiences, I comprehend a lot more of what they imply.

The Limitation of Words
Words sometimes (or maybe most of the times) fail to reflect experiences. (Try explaining the pain in your head, to someone who has never experienced any pain. Can you find words to express it…..We all want easy answers, but nothing can ever satisfy our highest quest, if it is genuine, except our own experiences. To add, Meditation is not a one day affair, although I have seen and continue to see hundreds of first time phenomena and miracles all around me.

The Cure for Restlessness
Most people say they are unable to close their eyes and relax even for a few moments. The absence of a person or thing that we love or want can definitely make us restless and feel lonely, but imagine, if that’s the restlessness in and around us, where we cannot sit with ourselves for some time, why would people want to be with restless people like us?
We are all energy transmitters, so it’s very important to see what kind of energy we are emitting.. 🙂

Not to say, that there are no restless moments, but mindfulness, the very awareness that we are restless, works to bring us out of it. The very moment we become aware of it, we begin to break the cycle and understand that ‘being alone’ and ‘being lonely’ are two completely different perspectives. In simple words, just a conversion!! The ability to experience the difference, may come after a period of practicing mindfulness or meditation, or can happen in a fraction of a second. 🙂

All is ‘Energy’
The quantum physicist and the saint say the same thing – All is ‘Energy.’ The former talks from a scientific and experimental perspective and the latter from an experiential perspective! Feeling the vibrations, electricity and energy in and around him! While there is no change in the temperament of the quantum physicist when he makes this proclamation, a true saint’s mere presence reflects the bliss, radiance and resplendence that comes from experiencing reality as it is!

Remembering Celine Dion’s song –
‘….When you wanted the most, there’s no easy way out,
When you’re ready to go, and your heart’s left in doubt,
Don’t give up on your faith,
Love (I call it the highest possible manifestation of energy) comes to those who believe it,
And ‘That’s the way it is’!! 🙂

 

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Dance to your Tune


There was this person, who was so fed up with life, trying to be a perfect parent, perfect friend, perfect everything. Making it a first person account – The problem was in trying to live my life on someone else’s terms and making a mess of what I was, masking my strengths and gradually forgetting my true self.

Yoga Rabbit

Dancing Rabbit

Why live life on terms as defined by others. Other’s perception of perfection should not and does not indicate true perfection. Perfection is a very personal characteristic based on our own abilities and thoughts – so why lose sleep over our inability to match to standards prescribed and set by others. It is better to dance to our own tunes and not to other’s. Concept beautifully demonstrated with the following story and read on…

The little rabbit stood alone, watching the other rabbits around hop and skip in the forest. They were playing her favourite rabbit game. Try as she might, each time she attempted to join in, she tripped about awkwardly. When this happened, the other rabbits laughed at her and called her “Riya” (Graceful in Sanskrit).

Soon even she forgot her real name. In moments when Riya was alone, she danced around the trees with ease. She was as smooth and graceful as any ballerina. An old owl sat high above one night, watching her intently. The moonlight streamed through the treetops like a soft spotlight and he sat and watched as little Riya moved in and out of the moonbeans.

Finally he said, “Riya, you are more graceful than any creature I’ve ever seen.” Riya was startled that someone had been watching her; but listened carefully to the wise owl’s words as he continued. “You have carried this beauty within you all this time, but locked it inside when you tried too hard.”

Often we are too intent on proving ourselves and pleasing others. The harder we try the more impossible the task becomes. We begin to lose our identity and all sense of who we really are and what we can do.

Then comes the power of robbers who through negative talk, remarks and jibes would rather have us believe that we cannot. Some of us may be fortunate to run into those like the old owl, the power enablers and facilitators, who bring back to us a sense of who we really are and what we are really meant to be. They help us see the beauty that is locked away inside, the potential that we all have. Others finally realize that they have two who can always be counted on. The first themselves and the second-nature, which never call us names or whispers behind our backs. We come to a point when we begin to be honest with ourselves.

We see the truth that we are all creatures of our times, that imperfections and faults are part of every being’s life tapestry and that all elements are woven into our lives, some frozen in time and others still open to inside work and shaping out. Then in a moment of great discovery we embrace all that is part of ourselves.

Like Riya we learn to dance and celebrate our wholeness. We become less obessed with the scorn that can be heaped on us by others. The negative is drowned by positive images. We realize like Riya that nature is our friend. Nature waits patiently. There is no pressure to be anyone else than who we already are. We relearn the dance of life. All the while we have just tried too hard.

Grace is not some sophisticated word used only for artists or models on a catwalk. It is the ability to live life on one’s own terms, the ability to kindle true life in others, the strength and courage to overcome those who would control and manipulate us. Sometimes grace in living comes after repeated failures. The rabbit Riya picked herself up when she came to a sense of her true self.

Many walk through your life, but few leave footprints on your heart. Take long spells of rest in nature. Become like Riya the rabbit who found that she had an identity of her own, so precious, that she had to first discover it by herself. And then when you discover your true identity and your own voice, become a power broker in this world, for gentleness and understanding.

Yes this is what His Holiness Pujya Gurudev Sri Sri Ravishankar and The Art of Living did to me – transform me into Riya, the ever graceful.

 

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