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The Sound of Silence



I am just back, rejuvenated and refreshed from my favorite Meditation Retreat at the Art of Living International Center in Bangalore.

The experience of deep silence and stillness is not easy to capture in words, and yet not wanting to give up easily, I am trying to share it here.

As the flute flowed melodiously during the evening satsang, it seemed no different from the human body. Air was being blown through the hollow and empty flute and beautiful music was flowing out. Three things came together to create this music: Knowledge of the music, the mastery over the blowing of air and the knowledge of the apertures to be opened and closed. The manner in which the air is blown, its smoothness, force, transition, intensity, the practice and the knowledge all come together to create the music.

 The human body, made up of the five elements and five senses, is also like a beautiful flute with its five apertures. It is a much more complex system than the flute; however the fundamental principles to create music remain the same. A mastery of the body and mind are needed to bring out the harmonious and melodious music, inherent in us.

Every time I do The Advanced Meditation Course of the Art of Living, I find myself acquiring greater skills to gain this mastery. These skills help us to wade through life’s transient events and give us the experience that in its essence Life is indeed Celebration, Joy and Love.

The same message was echoed as I watched Nature and its hollow and emptiness. Hollow and Empty and yet playing the most beautiful music in the chirping of the birds, the distant sound of the children, the chanting of the Vedas, the flow of the water, the sound of the trees swaying… A silent symphony played by sounds of silence and wonder.

 As I became one with the swaying of the trees, the blueness of the water, the vastness of the sky, the heat of the Sun, the solidity of the Earth underneath my feet, a silence dawned. The moment stood still and I was alive like never before.

A deep impact has been made. There is a playfulness in me that is enlivened, a calmness and an understanding that does not allow the situations to overwhelm me. There is also a new dawn of creativity and an enthusiasm to live every moment in its fullness. Living has become exhilarating after I heard the Sound of Silence.

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Learning Art of Living at Railway Station


Do you remember the first time you went to the railway station?

I still remember the day when I went to a small railway station with a friend who said it was fun to just hang around at a station.

Unbelievable now, but then I was crazy enough to nod my agreement, remembering all the goodies I could munch on while we hung around there!

Crowded station? That surely is the understatement of the century. I wondered how such a small Begumpet Station (a small station in Hyderabad) could hold so many people. All that I could see was a sea of people, without an inch of place. As my friend bought the platform tickets for us, I entered the station, feeling excited with the newness of the whole experience.

We sat on a cemented bench, looking at the train that was standing in front of us, both lost in thoughts. I wonder what she was thinking; but for me it was an eye opener and my thoughts went thus…

Some people getting on the train
Some disembarking
Some laughing as their dear one alighted
Some crying seeing their dear one go

One lost in thoughts….
One looking for adventure
One wanting it all to stop….

What an amazing sight …. Different people, different destinations.

Then with a sudden flash an insight was revealed, “LIFE IS LIKE THIS”

Like a train, while Life is moving towards its destination, some people come into it while others move away; situations come up and dissolve on their own. Everything from love to business is there…taking us up and down like a roller coaster ride, and in all this….We FORGET… where we came from or where we are headed to.

We also forget that this journey will come to an end and we have to get off the train at some point. We think we are here to stay. Everything we own is ours forever.  FOREVER?

During this journey of life what is it that we achieved? How many friends did we make on this train called life? How many people did we help? How many smiles did we share? How many tears did we wipe?

Is there anything we did at all? Did we make a difference???

Or did we just take the free ride on the train…….

All these thoughts were spinning in my head and making me dizzy. My first thought was, “How come I am living such a hollow life? Is it worth living like this? Is there anything I can do to enrich my life?”

This was the start of my journey for seeking the truly worthwhile in Life and I found ‘The Art of Living” or rather The Art of Living landed on my lap. Thanks to the Art of Living, I started doing what I wanted to – Making a difference in my life.

And what a difference I made!

What about you? Are you waiting for something to land in your lap? Well, we can’t be lucky all the time. Just go beyond the outer façade and start living life totally and completely.

~~ Author Mallika Krishna co-ordinates the free schools project of the Art of Living

 

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Art of Living with the Mountain of Love


… I still remember the excitement and flutters I experienced while waiting for the vacations as a child growing up in Abu Dhabi. Vacations meant traveling to India, and India for me meant, hills! Our beautiful ancestral village in Himachal Pradesh…

That was when my love affair with the mountains really started! The whole day I would be lost in between the hills, playing by the river, exploring the caves, just watching the ants, grasshoppers, or the spiders industriously building their webs.

I would usually bring a few specimen home for later study! My mother would often check my pockets for frogs, sometimes birds or any interesting creepy crawly that I could get my hands on! She never discouraged or reprimanded me for being my naughty self!  Being my first guru, she taught me how amazingly Beautiful this nature was.  It’s funny, sometimes while people around would be busy discussing important worldly matters, both of us would be busier watching a sparrow feeding its little ones or collecting wild berries nearby.

With the passage of time, I found my love and reverence towards the mountains growing. I would travel to far and inaccessible reaches, wondering what I’m looking for. May be, it was a search for a meaning to my existence. The mountain breeze gently healing the soul, giving deep answers    and creating new questions! The glacial waters in the vast expanse of Nature with miles and miles of solitude seemed to be quenching lifetimes of thirst. 

In the mountains, far away from civilization and worldly comforts, every step you climb is like stepping into the unknown and the unforeseen. And yet a deep sense of trust and acceptance prevails. The mighty mother Nature seems to embrace you into her arms, as an eager mother awaits her child.

Years later, when I met my spiritual Master HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, at our Art of Living Bangalore Ashram for the first time I knew what I was looking for. I can never forget HIS gaze and the intensity of love I was welcomed with. As an eager mother awaits her child, HE said,  “Welcome Home!” ….and I knew at that moment… I’m home…..!

  ~  akasha  ~
Submitted by senior Art of Living Teacher Akash ji, follow him on twitter https://twitter.com/aakashavani and facebook http://www.facebook.com/aolakash

 
 

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Art of Living victory for Indian Army Colonel


A decade and half ago, I suffered from an ailment very common to the soldiering community ‑‑ a torn knee ligament.  Having been a frontline sportsman with excellent skills at arms and field craft, life could not have been more bothersome in the wake of the injury.

More than the jerked knee, the pain lay in the heart, for not being able to be in the midst of soccer matches, the heat of basketball games and scoring at handball fixtures; for not being able to lead the charge of men and getting soaked in blood, guts and the glory which follows.

Life hit its lowest ebb when I was confined to superficial duties of data collation and info interpretations rather than being in the thick of a patrol, to lead the finest soldier in the world, the Indian Infantryman, amidst the Insurgent infested forest, amidst the snow clad mountain and in the hot desert of Thar.  The gung-ho of past glories seem to fade away  into oblivion of disgust with oneself.

Life seemed jacked up. There seemed no hope and confidence in sync with my aspirations.  Even the body started to give away and bloat without exercise which was staple few years back. Every well wisher gave suggestions according to their experience ranging from Pillets, Weight Loss Belts, Reiki to Pranic Healing. But, as any Commanding Officer across armies would tell you, young lieutenants are least likely to listen to any one.

During a holiday in one of the hill stations, a poster announced ‘Come and Meet Yourself’ with details of address, time and contact for ‘The Art of Living’ workshop. Taking a note and quickly reminiscing the other spiritual shopping list including reading and fully consuming ‘The Autobiography of a Yogi’, I walked towards the resort hosting the workshop. A large poster of a unshaven Guru who may not have had a hair cut since birth hung on the wall, smiling with twinkling, broad eyes. My ‘McCulay’s Education System Bred Mind’ asked me to beware. For anything which did not pass the ‘Western Test’ was to be suspicious about.

It was not possible for anything except ‘rarest of the rare’ to hold the young colt in me for six days. The workshop was interesting, with lot of interesting games, spiritual processes and interactive sessions thrown in, with no insinuations of ‘GyanGiri’ by the instructor. It was a perfect blend of Eastern Spirituality, Human Values and Western Scientific Thought and delivered with American Professionalism.

On the second day, we went through the ‘Sudarshan Kriya’, a unique rhythmic breathing technique that filled me with so much calmness and serenity that the whole being deeply rested in a perfect meditative state. After the day’s closure of the workshop, the whole body-mind complex felt attended to and in perfect harmony with itself, the surroundings and Nature. It all seemed beautiful, like never before.

The Instructor listed out the ‘Home Going Notes’ on the last day. Art of Living provides Follow Ups on weekends and holidays through Qualified Instructors. I realised that a life-long free support was available through the organisation’s extensive network of centres and instructors in 156 countries including our over-friendly neighbourhood of Pakistan. The practices taught in The Art of Living Workshops are free from any rituals, and can be performed easily once learnt under the guidance of a qualified instructor. Very soon, constant practice of the yogic breaths starts to positively uplift all the levels of human existence. The body becomes supple, the mind attains the ability to
remain in the present moment, the intellect starts to sharpen and the memory retention improves by leaps and bounds.

The Part I course, like the preamble of any constitution, was to prove merely a preamble, and I found myself wanting more of this relief; This succor, which touched the very soul, is easily available through Sudarshan Kriya at the comfort of home. Soon, I enrolled for a Part-2 course, and the four days of deep meditations, spiritual processes and silence changed the entire set of notions I had towards spiritual organisations and Living Masters. A slew of other ‘Post Graduate Workshops’ like to Sri Sri Yoga, DSN and Blessings Course followed and it brought to the fore a quotient of happiness from deep within, hitherto, totally unknown and unrealized, but hereafter blossomed, with tender thoughts, connection with the whole humanity, leaving the small mind thousands of miles away. Very soon, I was a regular at Weekly Follow Ups and Singing Sessions, and humanitarian efforts of The Foundation.

Then, during His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s tour in Kashmir to oversee local humanitarian efforts, I had a chance to meet Him in person. By then, having read most of his books, undergone most of His workshops, His Wisdom and spiritual practices were only second nature. I found being in the company of our new age ‘Guru of Joy’ to be simply joyous. A serene, joyous and calm atmosphere surrounds him. He meets everyone with the same intensity and listened to them with same rapt attention. In a cycle of 24 hours, he meets more people than a regular human being would meet in 6 months, and this cycle repeated itself every next city. His simplicity, His ability to retain the energy levels to look after each one of His devotees and skeptics alike, is something which every leader across fields should learn about.

He travels across continents, one day everyone in Africa is tweeting about His Love and Compassion, the next day more than 1.5 Lacs are participating in #ElPlanetaMedita programme in Argentina. In the US, the initiatives are operated out of a church building. The Europeans celebrate the 30th Anniversary of The Foundation as ‘World Culture Festival. ’The Iraqi Government  invites The Art of Living teachers to partner spiritual reconstruction in the war torn states.  Argentina and Mongolia have honoured His Holiness with the Highest Civilian Award of their respective countries.

The US Army finds the workshops extremely effective to combat Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The workshop is delivered to war veterans returning from the Combat Zones. The Russian Military also found it useful for reintegration of its troops in the infamous School Seize.

I continue to return the challenges and dangers of serving in Rashtriya Rifles, an outfit containing the neighbor sponsored insurgency in J&K. Obviously, there are resource-crunches, adverse situations, dangers lurk at every corner, the terrain expects tough physical standards, and the leadership skills are tested every second. Combat stress builds up every day in the rank and file. But the spiritual practice and meditation helps to remain calm in tense situations. There exists a superb recharging mechanism in the practice of ‘Sudarshan Kriya’.

From a ‘Skeptic’ of yesterday, I just moved to enjoy ‘Fulfilling Existence’,  to be ‘Sampoorna’. Your Holiness, thank you for being the Lighthouse to the current generation of humanity. Ahoy, ‘The Guru of Joy’ is here!

 

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God listens and takes care


As a child, I remember my mother teaching us to sing this Gujarati prayer every evening, “Sau nu karo kalyan, Dayalu Prabhu, Sau nu karo kalyan”, which means, “Oh kind God! Bless everyone for their welfare, wellness!” Right from the time I started to learn this prayer we said this every single evening, along with some other Sanskrit Mantras.

I must have been around 10 years old, when I asked her, “Mom, why do we have to tell God to do good to everyone? Isn’t God kind and compassionate enough? I thought God loves us all.” My mother laughed and said, “Prayer is talking to God my dear.  God knows everything, we remind ourselves of this while praying, that God is always there to take care of all…” This question stayed in the mind for some time. I grew up and forgot about it, while still saying all prayers every evening.

Recently, I was teaching an Art of Living’s course for children(Art EXCEL) in a small village in Assam, in the middle of heavy rains and floods. We had 200 kids on this course and some of them would cycle 10kms one way, to reach the course venue. During this course, I would feel so lucky to teach such committed children. One of the days, while the children were meditating, it started raining very heavily. The meditation got over and all kids shared miraculous experiences. It was evening and time for closing the day. It kept raining.

Due to the heavy rains, none of the parents could come to pick up the children. Here I was, stuck inside a hall, jam-packed with 200 kids. It was now getting dark and rain started flooding the outside area, to an extent that if had continued for even 10mins more, there would have been water in the hall.

At this point a little girl walked up to me and asked, “Why are you not smiling, any tension?” I said to her, “It’s raining so much, how will you all go home, I am concerned?”

This kid smiled back and told me not to worry. I saw her running to the window. She stood there, looked at the sky, closed her eyes for a minute. Then this little angel ran back to me and with so much conviction she said, “Now you please smile, the rain will stop because I have prayed to the clouds to stop the rain.”  Within five minutes the rain reduced and eventually stopped in 10 minutes.

This is when I remembered my mothers’ words, “Prayer is talking to God!”  I always heard this and somewhere knew it as well. There is some Divine force that runs everything, knows everything and is always there with all of us. My journey with Art of Living has me very certain of this benevolent Divinity through many  beautiful experiences.

Author Hetal Mehta is a versatile and dynamic Art of Living Teacher

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2012 in Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Wisdom

 

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Skydive into the Present


I had read somewhere that ‘if you believe you can fly, you will’ and this is exactly what I experienced at Skydive Long Island, New York.  For a lark, I saw myself signing up, where the first thing you are told is that when you Sky Dive, there is a probability that you may die or get maimed for life.  Despite these not so comforting words, I had to put on a cheerful expression looking at the excited faces of my friends, .

Before I go any further, let  me share with you that I have a fear of heights, and terrible motion sickness. Why was I doing this? I like birds, airplanes and the sky and  these to my mind are the perfect reason to jump off an airplane.

So, we troop into a small plane with two rows of benches. We sit astride with no seat belts, facing the tail. I see a cameraman sitting on the floor. He closes the door which is really a flap like shutter and we take off.  As we noisily lurch skywards, I am inescapably committed to jump off the airplane or tag myself a coward. I choose the former, reminding myself that the worst case scenario is death and that I have attended enough Advanced Meditation Courses with the Art Of Living so the death-processshould not be unfamiliar; that I have died before in many previous lifetimes and can do it again.


I decide on mudra-pranayam to calm myself. Breathe in…blue sky…breathe out…blue water below… I feel a jab on my back, it is my instructor.

“Are you meditating”

“Yes”

“How do you meditate?”

I’m confused.

A part of me wants to give an Art of Living intro-talk and another wants to whack him because now I’m jittery again!! Thankfully, he wants to talk, telling me about his workplace: the sky.

Soon, it is time. We have climbed to 14000 feet and the door is open. I go over the instructions once again, pull on the eye glass and wiggle on the floor till my feet are dangling out of the plane. It feels similar to dangling one’s feet out of a truck; only, this one is in the sky!!

There is no turning back now. Breathe in ...and JUMP!!! And I am free-falling towards the Earth. I see the beautiful Atlantic Ocean, green and brown Earth with a river. Strangest of all is that the Earth appears convex, nothing like what we see out of an airplane window. Though we free-fall for about 10 thousand feet, there is no perception of speed or the height ! It is something I have never experienced before.

Free Fall is the most magical experience one can ever have.  It is a totally new experience for the body and mind. As the body starts taking inputs through the senses and before the mind can add labels and form concepts…you experience the PRESENT MOMENT, one hundred percent, un-adulterated, pure moment !!!  As you fall, in that moment there is…no fear, no judgement, no like or dislike, no thoughts…not even thoughts of life/death/ loved ones. It is awareness minus the labels!!

Once back on the terra firma, I realized this is how babies must be experiencing life. For us, it is extremely difficult to live without labelling everything. We label our experiences into likes and dislikes, we form concepts of right, wrong, good or bad which compel us to repeat or avoid experiences. Every single sensory input that we experience is immediately labelled and stored and we become a sum total of our concepts; but when we are babies, the world and its experiences are so new that all we ever have is the present moment…

It took me a leap of faith to understand the depth of present moment.  My sky Dive into present  moment set me free.

 

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The Monk who sold his discotheque


It lasted 15 years – Parties, music, cigarettes, and alcohol. At 35, I owned a discotheque, Coyote, the most happening disco in Paraguay. All this had been fun during my 20s. But in the 30s, I was looking for a way out but I didn’t know what the new way would be or and how to find it.

Discotheque "Coyote" in Paraguay

A close friend of mine told me about the Art of Living program. It had just arrived in my country, Paraguay. Many people were talking about the benefits of the Sudarshan Kriya. Not knowing what to expect, I took a few friends along and we all got into the Part 1 course together.

The six-day program put my life decisions into a new perspective. I found myself asking fundamental life questions.  Did I still enjoy all-night partying, drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes? It wasn’t a healthy habit, and my body was facing the consequences. Was owning and operating a discotheque my real calling? Did I really want this to be my life? All this didn’t really seem that important after all.

I wanted something else and it was becoming increasingly clear now.

After my involvement with the Art of Living, I became a vegetarian, sold my discotheque and gave up smoking. Becoming a vegetarian helped me feel good and energized. I realized that non- vegetarianism was a form of violence. For the first time, my Life had become more important than my habits. I was ready for more.

I became involved with social projects and became a social entrepreneur. There was a greater sense of responsibility for myself, the people around me and for the wellbeing of my country and its people. I just didn’t want to waste all my life chasing little personal desires and indulgences.

It has been more than two years since I made these decisions and I continue to be thankful everyday for the deep happiness that meditation and a balanced lifestyle have brought into my life.

At 25, all-night parties seemed to be the most important thing in life. But luckily at 35, I realized that true happiness can be found in more simple things of life.

Abrazo,
Fidu

 
 

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