Friday, November 26, 2010

Mamta Kailkhura - Art of Living Experience

Since a young age, life and God presented a constant puzzle to me. Nowhere God to be found and the purpose of life seemed hidden. I voraciously devoured all great literary works, biographies of stalwarts, philosophies of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Mahatma Gandhi, Nietzche, etc.  While the intellect delighted in the temporary pleasures of books, life remained empty of meaning and purpose. Soon after finishing my studies in social sciences, I joined India’s top media house and made quick progress in career. Yet I was bothered by the inner urge to find the real purpose of life.

Sudarshan Kriya Experience

As if it was a divine intervention, an elderly Reiki master advised me to join the Art of Living classes. I immediately signed up for the course. Though I started with lots of doubts, I was totally bowled over by the Sudarshan Kriya and the knowledge sutras. I felt very pure and clean from inside.

The course rekindled my faith in the goodness of life. The cynicism born out of harsh experiences of life was replaced by faith that it is possible to live the values of love, sharing, compassion, honesty and selfless service.  Something very deep in me was touched, filling me with a joy and bliss I had never experienced before.  All the questions about life and its purpose disappeared; At last I had found what I was looking for since so many years.

I met Sri Sri in a darshan line on the last day of the course. I was struck by his utter simplicity, beauty and innocence. A week later, when I met the Reiki master she remarked that my aura was unusually clean and bright compared to other people who came to see her. She enquired whether I had done anything new. I told her that I had just finished the Art of Living Course. She said that was the reason for such a remarkable change in me.

Very soon I became a frequent visitor to the Art of Living International Center on the outskirts of Bangalore, waiting eagerly for the days when Sri Sri would be there. He would take questions from the audience and impart deep wisdom so simply. Sitting in his presence, listening to simple words of profound wisdom, my spirits would stay uplifted for days together. His words would ring in the heart with such force that all the bookish knowledge now seemed dry. Sitting in the presence of an enlightened master, my real learning had started. The only regret was that it came so late, at 23!

Very soon, I finished the Art of Living Advanced Courses and was inspired by the service activities of Art of Living foundation. The win-win formula of spiritual practices for oneself and seva (service) for others appealed to me so much that within a year of doing the Art of Living Course I became a full time resident volunteer at the Art of Living Bangalore Ashram.

Art of Living  Healing Experiences

A disturbed childhood had made me very wary of being among people. I had developed a habit of stammering and throwing violent tantrums. While unending sessions with my psychologist and speech therapist weren’t very useful, Sudarshan Kriya and service at the ashram worked like magic. In the loving care of Gurudev, I soon developed more confidence and got rid of stammering. I now frequently address crowds at different fora and receive many compliments for being a good speaker. The credit goes to Sri Sri.
For years, I had been carrying stones in the gall bladder, due to which I had to be careful about my diet. While, my liver and digestive system had improved considerably after doing the Art of Living course, the stones still showed up during ultrasound scanning. Though the stones were not troubling me, my doctor insisted that I undergo a surgery so that liver is not affected.  When I shared this with Sri Sri, he simply patted on my head and said everything will be alright. Two days later, the doctor, who was all set to do the surgery, was surprised to find no stones in the ultrasound report.

Countless times, I have seen Sri Sri downplaying miraculous healings that happen around him. This is contrary to the trend I have seen in faith healers who advertise healings in dramatic way to draw huge crowds.  

Sri Sri - Love, Patience and Service

The more I see Sri Sri, the more I wonder as to how it is possible for a human frame to express such unconditional love, patience and undying spirit of service. He seems equally available to all irrespective of rights and wrongs, titles and positions. I am grateful to Gurudev for radically transforming the quality of my life. Life is now enriched with a deeper joy and beauty and a sense of belonging with whole humanity.

I am a witness not only to the turnaround in my life but also in the lives of many others. In the prison workshops that I have conducted in remote parts of India, I have seen hardened criminals wake up to the human values dormant in them, thankful for the break from their violent and disoriented past.  I have seen the gratitude in the eyes of weary and tired border security personnel after Art of Living teachers and volunteers reached out to them to give them deep rest at physical, mental and emotional level. A group of militant youth from Kashmir shared with me how after meeting Sri Sri they don’t want to pursue the path of violence any longer. I am witness to countless such experiences.
I am convinced that our planet can really become violence free if this wave of love and service started by Sri Sri is taken to every corner of the world.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sangeeta Kapoor's Art of Living Experience

Art of Living Teacher, Dubai, UAE

I was born in Delhi and brought up in different parts of India. Had a very comfortable and secure childhood with loving parents and a younger brother. I was loved and pampered never spoiled. I realized early in life all what I was blessed with and Gratitude to God was a part of my daily prayers. I studied in a convent and hence gained some insight into the Christian faith. Most of my school lunch breaks I would definitely visit and spend time in the church in the school.

My grandparents used to spend a lot of time with us at Pune where we were based. My grandmother would pray and do Aarti every evening. Gratitude to knowledge and the Divine was a part of my life from early childhood. There was some element missing which I was still searching for. That search came to a culmination on my meeting with MY GURU.

Meditation and Sudarshan Kriya Experience

I was seeking for something soul fulfilling for a long time before I came into Art Of Living. I was into Yoga, Reiki, Merkaba Meditation, Taichi and A Course in Miracles. I was leaving one of my Reiki meetings when a friend of my asked me to drop her off  home. On the way home, a discussion regarding the Art of Living course came up. Next morning, when I opened the newspaper there was an article on Michael Fischman - an Art of Living teacher visiting Dubai from USA and giving an introductory session. I decided that  nature was sending me a signal and decided to attended it with a few of my friends.

The course was starting the following week and my husband and I decided to go for it. The course went on and I had some beautiful experiences in my meditations and Sudarshan Kriya. One that I cannot forget is when I was lying down after the Sudarshan Kriya, I felt a bearded man with a beautiful smile and long white flowing clothes came to me, smiled at me and blessed me.

I did not know who he was as there were no pictures of the founder displayed throughout the whole course. It was only much later when I came across the book, “Intimate Note to the Sincere Seeker” when I saw His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji’s picture and realized it was his presence I had felt and his picture I had seen. I repeated the course and started volunteering for Art of Living Foundation. That is when I realized LIFE started happening to me. I was just existing before Art of Living and had now started living life.

Teaching Art of Living Courses in schools, colleges and prisons 

In the ten years that I have been with Art of Living I have never felt the need to look anywhere or do any spiritual shopping. I feel everything I have ever wanted to know, needed in my life was present on this path. Knowledge, Love, Celebration, Peace and Joy. I feel so blessed to have discovered Art of Living and Guruji. I cannot even begin to imagine a life without all the precious tools given by him - Sudarshan Kriya, Sahaj Samadhi (Art of Meditation), knowledge. He is a great inspiration in my life as he is not only transforming millions of people but also continues to spread the message of love and peace with his presence. A year and half later, I became an instrument in teaching this knowledge, tools and precious skills to many in prisonsschoolscolleges and different forums in different countries around the world, especially in middle-east.

Teaching Art of Meditation in Abu Dhabi
I have learned to serve, to give by being in close quarters with Guruji and Bhanu Didi (Bhanumati Narasimhan - Sri Sri's younger sister) - the two people who made such a difference to my life and my world. My observations reveal that Guruji  is continuously and selflessly giving all of us more and more with one objective of taking all of us to true liberation. A giver of spiritual knowledge, love and bestowing our lives with gifts which only a sadguru can do. A being who walks the talk and lets us learn by his example, giving each one of us enough time and space to unfold and blossom naturally. Just being in his presence is learning to live life every moment, to give love every moment, to be in a state of awareness every moment. I have learned to LOVE unconditionally which I do not think I would have if it had not been for meditation, Sudarshan Kriya and knowledge opening my heart.

Art of Living Course Participants
I learned the Art of Giving unconditionally from Bhanu Didi (Bhanumati Narasimhan). She broke my small mindedness and got me out of me, mine - without me even realizing it. She has always given me and continues to give me so much love and guidance. In her, I found an older sister (Didi)  which I always wanted.

I am forever indebted to Sri Sri for filling  my life with so much understanding of my mind, Love, Joy and Happiness. I feel his presence with me continuously guiding me like a beacon of light, taking me on my journey of life like a pilot at the helm of his plane. Today I feel that I take his vision of a stress-free, violence-free world to people across the world. I now have the faith and confidence that whatever is necessary to take the work ahead will be bestowed on me to finish it. Whatever is needed will be provided. I believe, in life, to be in the presence of a Sadguru is truly a blessing - a culmination of good deeds of many lifetimes. 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Patti Montella - Art of Living Experience

Senior Full-Time Faculty Member, Denver, Colorado USA

I took the Art of Living Course in 1995 in Boulder, Colorado.  At the time, I was a corporate executive for a major airline.  A client told me about the program.  In ‘95 there was no website, no brochures…just a flyer that said this program was about the breath.  I had recently moved to Colorado to get away from allergy-ridden Texas and to start a new chapter in my life, hoping to leave my career and start my own company.   I had suffered for years from migraine headaches in Texas.  For 2 years, an inner message kept telling me to pay more attention to how I breathe to alleviate the headaches.  So when a flyer about breath work was presented to me I immediately signed up for the course.  Little did I know at the time just how much my life was about to change from this one course.

Sudarshan Kriya Experience

The first night of the course I clearly thought I was in the wrong place.  The friend who brought me even offered to return my money because she also thought it was the wrong course for us both.  But we had paid so I said, let’s just finish it out and see what happens.  Of course the experience of the Sudarshan Kriya as it does for everyone.  It was amazing to witness how much emotional residue is left in our “self” in spite of thinking we have moved on.  A week later I was watching the Patanjali Yoga Sutras and falling in love with the knowledge.

A few months  before I met Guruji  I had a prophetic dream The theme of the dream was  unconditional love.  When  I awoke, I knew my best friend was coming and all I had to do was wait a bit more and he would reveal himself.  That morning I wrote in my journal about the dream and as I put the pen down, I felt confident and secure that secure that my best friend, the person I would dedicate my life to was going to show up…finally! It was clear that he would be a source of the unconditional love I’d been seeking and knew had to exist (but couldn’t find it) throughout my life.  The thing is…I had no idea that this person would arrive in the form of a Guru!

Patanjali Yoga Sutra
Jesus, Krishna and Saints

A few months later I received Guruji  at the  Denver airport, meeting him for the very first time.  He walked right over to me, looked into my eyes for what felt like a very long time without either  of us saying a word. A few minutes later when we were in the car driving him to the course  venue it hit me.  He was the one in the dream! He was the best friend I had waited my whole life to find again. Summing up my courage I told him this.  He threw his head back and laughed. That night I dropped my worries about who to pray to…Jesus, Krishna, the Catholic saints I had read about all my life…I just dropped all conflict in my mind and surrendered to the Divine.  When I told Guruji this the next day he smiled and said, “don’t worry, we compare notes!”.

One year later I met Guruji in Denver, Colorado and within 24hours of meeting he told me I would be a full-time teacher for the Art of Living Foundation.  The next year (1997) I traveled to India for the first time, spent more time with Guruji and in Rishikesh he told me that yes, it was time for me to become a full time teacher.  The following year I walked out of a 20 year corporate career and into life as a spiritual teacher for His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.  I was with Guruji  the very day I left my old life for my new life.  That was in 1998 and my life has been an extraordinary and dynamic stream of experiences under the protection, grace and direct teaching at a personal level from Guruji ever since.

It wasn’t easy at first for me, for the people around me or for the Guru in the early years. I didn’t know a thing about our tradition, Guru’s, India or what I had gotten myself into and I clearly wasn’t anchored in the knowledge just yet!  I wasn’t a regular meditator and was full of  restlessness to “be someone, to do something, to experience a result” as are most of us who are from the world of business especially.

When I first met Guruji and walked out of life as I knew it – my actions were all based purely on a gut feeling that I knew him, I trusted him and that he was here to protect me and teach me as a dear friend and guide.  I’ve been a full time Art of Living teacher now for 13+ years and  never once has he let me down.  When I have been full of doubt, fear, anxiety or uncertainty – this knowledge has helped me to go back to my “self” to see what the truth is for me – and Guruji has always been there to support me in whatever it is I wanted.

Teaching Art of Living - Breath, Meditation, Knowledge and Service

Through Guruji’s ever present grace, protection, love and teachings….over time the hard edges softened, the knowledge took root and the heart blossomed.  Through years of teaching people the world over and sharing this knowledge, breathing, meditating and serving – life has truly become a celebration of dynamic activity combined with infinite patience…which I understand is a recipe for enlightenment!

The next  year I walked out of my  corporate career and into the Art of Living German Ashram as the first USA President of the International Association for Human Values and as an Art of Living teacher.  In fact I had only just finished teacher training a few months before.  The year  was 1998 and still today I travel the world teaching the Art of Living Course, helping to start up new cities, I continue to lead numerous projects of all kinds, meet with thousands and thousands of people from all walks of life in all kinds of environments– and this  extraordinary journey called my life… continues.

Through all of this, Guruji was the only one I knew and trusted and I counted on him to show me the way. When I came to Art of Living.  I didn’t know anything about Guru’s, India, ancient traditions, nor had I even heard of the term enlightenment. I was successful in my career yet it wasn’t fulfilling. I traveled the world in first class and played a lot – but it was short-lived pleasure and over time unfulfilling.  I had done service work most of my life but it was transitory. I wondered if this was all there was to life…make more money, travel more, work hard and then die.  For years I had secretly prayed to God to help me to become the best human being I could be, to show me the way.  When I came to Sri Sri what I knew to be true was simply that the Sudarshan Kriya had transformed my life , that I belonged to Guruji, that he was the “real deal” and that this path was an opportunity to transform myself to finally become that best human being on earth that I could be.  It was an answer to a prayer and so what if it came in the form of a Guru from India? This made the experience all the richer! So I  closed my eyes and jumped into this life and while it has had its advantages and disadvantages over the years like anything does  - it has offered me the most fulfilling, interesting, dynamic and purposeful path one could every wish for – all the time filled with love and peace with the protection of Guruji  who cares for each and everyone one of us 1,000x more than  we could ever imagine.

Guruji  is so very wise,  funny, regal, playful, brilliant, mystical, compassionate, caring, available to everyone, inclusive to all and oh so universal.  He walks his talk and leads with grace, vision peace and enthusiastic dynamism full of creativity and caring for each and every person who comes his way.  He is a role model for how to a full, purposeful and passionate life of selfless service based in divinity and human values.

Through his love and guidance I wove my way through this new world as a spiritual teacher, and I continue to today to keep my commitment to uplifting the world, to rising above life’s challenges and to apply  the wisdom of his teachings in each and every moment so as to let go of any negativity or action that does not support a sense of belonging, love and peace with myself and others.

I have been blessed to be trained and coached directly under Sri Sri all these years and like they say, “he is the gift that keeps on giving”.  I have seen Guruji be of service to others with infinite patience, love and concern countless times putting aside his own personal needs. He is the rare individual who authentically cares for the world.  He has given up any sense of a personal  life or anything  at all that falls under the category of “I” – so as to be used fully and completely for the upliftment of humanity. Sri Sri is an amazing mentor, teacher, Guru and friend !

It is my absolute blessing in life to follow in his footstep.  Sometimes I trip,  sometimes I fall, but always - - through his love, friendship and support and the incredible wisdom and techniques he has given us so freely– I always get up stronger, more confident, more empowered, wiser and happier.

It is because of Guruji ‘s love and patience as a teacher…watching and learning from him, that I  have  been able to continue to dedicate my life to this path of divinity and the upliftment of humanity as he does day in and out.   My sincere hope and all that I continue to strive for is to share this knowledge with millions and millions of more people the world over so that they too can experience life with the  ultimate freedom I have been blessed with….through Guruji’s unending love and support.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Manish Tandon - Art of Living Experience

Marketing Professional in the Entertainment Industry

I’m currently the head of Digital Strategic Marketing for a TV division of NBC Universal in New York City and have been in the Entertainment industry for the past 13 years.  I grew up in southern California and came to NY in 2002 to get my M.B.A from Columbia University.

Art of Living Health Benefits

It’s really difficult to sum up the profound changes I’ve experienced since I took my first Art of Living Course in 1999.  In essence, so many aspects of my life have been enhanced including my health, performance at work, relationships and overall sense of purpose.

Here’s one example around health.  Before I took Art of Living, I had been suffering from acute fibromyalgia for nearly 10 years.  I was in pain throughout the day, had insomnia and was not able to do the types of activities I loved to do including skiing, surfing and playing sports.  By 1998, it had had become so bad that I was constantly in pain and could not even lift something that was 5 pounds without it triggering the pain throughout my back.  I was taking prescription pain-killers, muscle relaxants and sleeping pills every day just to get by and had tried everything you could think of, including physical therapy, acupuncture, massage therapy, injections and so on.  Nothing was fixing the problem and it was taking me into a state of depression.  To make matters worse, in 1998 I was told that my cholesterol was really high for my age and they wanted me to start cholesterol-lowering medication at age 23!  It was at this low-point that I discovered the Art of Living Course.

I don’t know how it happened but after I took the course and started doing the practices every day, I saw a profound shift in my health and well-being almost instantly.  Within a few weeks the pain in my back seemed to diminish.  Within a month of doing the practices regularly, I was completely off all pain killers, was sleeping like a baby—and I’m proud to say that I have not had to touch a pain-killer even once since then—12 years ago.  Just when I thought this was too good to be true, I got my cholesterol checked after that same month of doing the practices and my total cholesterol had reduced by 60 points – which is unheard of in such a short time!

Although this mini-miracle around my health was so powerful, I have to say that it’s small compared to how the Art of Living has transformed so many other aspects of my life.