It might have seemed like a child's fantasy when H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar told his friends in school, "People are waiting for me all over the world. One day, I am going to visit them." But in reality, he was revealing the real purpose of his life. Today, H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar travels to nearly 40 countries every year, exemplifying his call to globalize wisdom. His travels serve to bridge existing divides among people by reinforcing the ancient Indian ideal of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam or One World Family. Hundreds of thousands are moved by his presence alone, getting a profound experience of love, celebration, silence, and serenity.

Many of his tours have also translated into significant peace-building developments. Take for example his travel to Iraq as a peace ambassador in 2007. It brought to focus the possibilities of combating violence in non-violent ways, even in a war-torn country. H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar travels to strife-torn places not only to heal the wounds of victims, and calm the aggressors, but also to galvanize the local population to work towards peaceful co-existence.

His travels have helped activate many sustainable social, and economic developmental projects. Whether it is helping suicide-prone farmers of India or bringing solace to victims of Hurricane Katrina, H.H Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has always been the first to rush into action to bring peace to every member of the global family.

Know Breath, Know Life

"When you cannot handle the mind directly, it can be handled through breath. The mind is like a kite and breath, the string." - Sri Sri.

It always is mind over matter. The quality of our life is determined by the state of our mind. If the mind is at ease, we are able to perform all our duties whether household, professional or social with ease too. The question is how do we keep the mind happy, when it keeps flitting between regrets about the past and worries about the future, .

There is a built-in mechanism to calm the mind in each person, but seldom one is taught how to use it. And this is what you will learn from the Art of Living Part I program.

The centerpiece of this program is an innovative breathing technique called the Sudarshan Kriya. Breath has a great lesson for us. For every rhythm in the mind, there is a corresponding rhythm in the breath. Just as emotions affect the patterns of breathing, the mental, and behavioural patterns can be changed by altering the rhythm of our breath. A remarkable feature of the course is that participants are able to rediscover the present moment, not as a concept but as a direct experience.

* The Part I program is an 18-20 hour workshop spread over 5-6 days
* Open to everyone above 20 years
* Along with the Sudarshan Kriya, the course includes modules on skills for dealing effectively with challenging emotions, relationships, and situations.
* Includes basic yoga exercises.
* Techniques that are easily practiced.

How will I benefit?

* Practices that heal and harmonize the body, mind, and spirit
* Skills for handling negative emotions, and situations
* Practical wisdom for improving work, and relationships
* Insight into one’s own mind, and emotions
* Stretching and yoga

Demystifying meditation

By His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Mind without agitation is meditation. Mind in the present moment is meditation. Mind that has neither hesitation nor anticipation is meditation. Mind that has come back home, to the source, is meditation. Mind that becomes ‘‘no mind’’ is meditation.

We all know that rest is an important source of energy. But when can you rest? Rest is possible only when you have stopped all other activities. When you stop moving around, working, thinking, talking, seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, when all these activities stop, then you get rest. When all voluntary activities are arrested, then you get rest or sleep. In sleep, you are left with only involuntary activities such as breathing, heartbeat, food digestion, blood circulation, etc. But this is not “total rest”. When the mind settles down, only then “total rest” or meditation happens.

Real freedom is the freedom from the future and freedom from the past. When you are not happy in the present moment, then you desire a bright future. Desire simply means that the present moment is not all right. This causes tension in the mind. Every desire causes feverishness. In this state, meditation is far from happening. You may sit with eyes closed, but desires keep arising, thoughts keep arising; you fool yourself that you are meditating, but actually you are daydreaming!

As long as some desires linger in your mind, you cannot be at total rest. Lord Krishna says in the Bhagavad-Gita, “You cannot get into Yoga (union with self) unless you drop the desires or hankerings in you.” Desires come up without your permission! So, instead of holding on to them or daydreaming, you offer the desires; that is meditation.

With dispassion, you can enjoy the world freely and you can relax ,and get relief from it, freely. Dispassion can bring so much joy in your life. Don't think that dispassion is a state of apathy. Dispassion is full of enthusiasm, brings all joy to your life, and it allows you to rest so well. When you come out of a deep meditation, you become very dynamic, and you will be able to act better. Deeper you are able to rest, more dynamic you will you be in activity. Even though deep rest ,and dynamic activity are opposite values, they are complementary. Meditation brings dynamism in action, and rest in action!

Any joy you experience in life is from the depth of your self. When you let go of all that you hold on to , and settle down, you will be centered in that space. That is called meditation. Actually, meditation is not an act; it is the art of doing nothing! The rest in meditation is deeper than the deepest sleep that you can ever have because in meditation you transcend all desires. This brings such coolness to the brain, and it is like servicing or overhauling the whole body-mind complex.

Meditation is letting go of anger from the past, the events of the past ,and all the planning for the future. Planning can hold you back from diving deep into yourself. Meditation is accepting this moment ,and living every moment totally with depth. Just this understanding, and few days of continuous practice of meditation can change the quality of our life.

The best comparison of the three states of consciousness - waking, sleeping and dreaming - is with the nature. Nature sleeps, wakes up, and dreams! It happens in a magnificent scale in existence and it is happening in a different scale in this human body. Wakefulness , and sleep are like sunrise, and darkness. Dream is like the twilight in between.

And meditation is like the flight to the outer space where there is no sunset, no sunrise, nothing!

Yoga: Sacred secret of a happy life

There is an inherent desire to be happy in every human being. The ancient sages, through inquiry about life, were able to reach a state of consciousness in which the secrets of healthier, happier ,and meaningful living were revealed to them. Sages called that secret, and sacred knowledge ‘yoga’.

The term ‘yoga’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘yuj’, meaning union; the union of the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness. The knowledge of yoga can be found in ancient scriptures dating back over 5,000 years. According to Hindu mythology, this knowledge was first revealed by Lord Shiva to his wife Parvati (also known as Shakti, the cosmic creative energy).

Yoga transcends any religion or culture. Its application is universal. Yoga is not merely a form of exercise for the body, but a path towards total harmony of body, mind, and spirit. It is ancient wisdom for a healthier, happier, and more peaceful way of living that ultimately leads to self-realization, the union with the Self.

The practice of yoga benefits the body, mind, and spirit. Yoga improves flexibility ,and strength,and corrects posture, and alignment of the body. It helps to regulate the digestive, endocrine, and circulatory systems. The internal organs are strengthened, and revitalized, leading to a healthy ,and youthful body. Lose weight, cure asthma, diabetes, heart problems, and many chronic diseases.

Yoga brings the mind to the present moment, improving clarity, and alertness in the mind. The mind becomes peaceful, and is able to deal with day- to-day stress. Decision-making, concentration and intuitive capabilities are enlivened in a calm mind. Greater energy, and enthusiasm are natural by-products of such a mind state. Read about Sri Sri Yoga

Sri Sri on Yoga

“Like a flower bud, human life has the potential to blossom fully. Blossoming of human potential to fullness is yoga. Yogash Chitta Vriti Nirodha. Restraining the thought activity of mind is yoga. A wave uniting with the depth is Yoga.

In this age of technology, we have cared very little for the emotional, and spiritual needs of the people. Neither at home nor in school, have we learned how to release negative emotions. Practice of yoga can release the tensions, negative emotions, and help one to live in the present moment. Either man worries about the future or gets stuck in the past. Yoga can help one get rid of it, and live in the present.”

Sri Sri on the Sudarshan Kriya

“I was already teaching meditation, and yoga. But I felt there was something that was lacking. Though people do their spiritual practices, their life is in a sort of a compartment. They do their prayers, meditation, and spiritual practices but when they come out in life, they are very different people. So, I was thinking how can we bridge this gap - between inner silence, and outer expression of life. During a period of silence, the Sudarshan Kriya came like an inspiration. After I came out of the silence, I started teaching whatever I knew, and people had great experiences."

Power of the Breath

The Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful rhythmic breathing technique that facilitates physical, mental, emotional, and social well-being is an integral part of the Art of Living programs. It is today universally acclaimed for its effectiveness in eliminating stress, and bringing one completely into the present moment. As HH Sri Sri Ravi Shankar puts it, the Sudarshan Kriya came to him like an inspiration to bridge the gap between the worlds of inner silence, and outer expression of life.

Nature is replete with various rhythms, and cycles - day follows night, night follows day, seasons come and go. Similarly, there are biological rhythms to our bodies, minds, and emotions. When these rhythms are in sync, we feel a sense of harmony, and well-being. When stress or illness throws them out of order, we experience discomfort, and discontent and feel upset, and unhappy.

‘Su’ means proper, ‘darshan’ means vision, and ‘Kriya’ is a purifying practice. The Sudarshan Kriya is therefore a purifying practice, whereby one receives a proper vision of one’s true self. This unique breathing practice is a potent energizer. Every cell becomes fully oxygenated, and flooded with new life, bringing a sense of joy in the moment. And when we feel good about ourselves, love flows naturally in all our relationships with others.

The rhythmic breathing pattern of Sudarshan Kriya harmonizes the rhythms of the body, and emotions, and brings them in tune with the rhythms of nature. The breath connects the body, and mind. Just as emotions affect our patterns of breathing, we can bring about changes in our mental, and behavioural patterns by altering the rhythms of our breath. It flushes our anger, anxiety, and worry; leaving the mind completely relaxed, and energized.

The results of Sudarshan Kriya have surprised the medical fraternity across the world.

‘My cancer disappeared'

A doctor from Germany was suffering from metastatic cancer that had spread to her brain and liver when she came to attend her first Art of Living program. She did the course lying down. Two courses later, the cancer had disappeared. Being a doctor, she was requested to explain this. She suggested that possibly, the Sudarshan Kriya and meditation cleared her cells off stresses, leaving the layer of consciousness (or energy) surrounding those cells; which in turn, penetrated deep into her DNA.

Independent medical research has documented the benefits of the technique, including alleviation of depression and heightened awareness and creativity.

* Studies have demonstrated significant falls in cortical levels, known as the ‘stress hormone' among Sudarshan Kriya practitioners, suggesting greater levels of both, relaxation and resilience to stress.
* A study by All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), Delhi, concluded that regular practice of the Sudarshan Kriya invokes positive emotions, replacing anger, frustration and jealousy.
* It's also found that it improves the blood cholesterol profile with significant drops in total cholesterol and LDL (harmful) cholesterol, as well as increases in HDL (beneficial) cholesterol.