Monday, June 6, 2011

The Power of Youth - Leila Houshmand

            When I first got the information about the Youth in Social Innovation Symposium in D.C. I was excited at the prospect to spread the word about Global Brigades ( - after all, the mission of Global Brigades is one that I love to share, as it has really helped me to realize what I want to do with my career.  As a busy college student, like so many of us are, I’ve attended quite a few conferences and had gotten used to the monotony of listening to countless presentations for hours each day, and then taking the information back with me.  However, upon arriving at the Sri Sri Center for Peace and Meditation in Washington D.C., where the conference was being held, I could tell that this one was going to be a little different. Immediately upon meeting the organizers it was an exchange of hugs and we all removed our shoes, the atmosphere was definitely more welcoming and relaxed than any other conference I had ever attended.
             This relaxed atmosphere continued throughout the entire conference as we ended up leaving with a connection of not only colleagues, but also friends.  The four-day symposium explored the topics of youth and employment, youth and violence, and youth as agents for societal transformation. Throughout the conference various NGOs, professional organizations, and students were able to discuss the approaches that they have been a part of in order to engage youth in global initiatives, and where to go from the current standing.  It was refreshing to be a part of a symposium where the student opinion was truly listened to and valued, and even put on the same platform as those running the conference.  We discussed what a powerful role the youth of the world can play when they are armed with the tools to make positive change and how organizations can encourage these changes.  Not only was the conference filled with great discussion about the roles that NGOs are playing in global development, but there was also a self-improvement workshop put on by the Art of Living Foundation. 
            The Art of Living Program focused on breathing, yoga, and meditation as a means for personal empowerment.  Never having done yoga or meditation before, I definitely came into it not knowing what to expect, and came out of it so thankful that I ended up giving it a chance.  The program was one of the most calming and yet invigorating experiences that I have ever been a part of, and I was able to see first hand how this technique has been used in areas with conflict in order to diminish youth violence and encourage effective conflict resolution. 
           I was very thankful that I had attended the symposium, as not only did I get to spread the word about Global Brigades and the work that college students around the world are doing to promote holistic, sustainable change, but I also got a great chance to meet others in the field who are working towards these very same resolutions.  After only four days the conference stimulated me to continue my involvement with Global Brigades and the global initiatives that it is a part of, but I also made some really great relationships, and cannot wait for the one next year! 

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Lakshmi Jagad - Art of Living experience

Art of Living YES Teacher, Software Engineer 

I was born and raised in Bombay. Of course, the name of the city has now been changed to Mumbai but for me (and for many others in my generation too,  I am sure), it will be Bombay. The city of memories, family, school and college, friends and fun.

I had a liberal upbringing. My parents are possibly two of the most generous and open-minded individuals I have ever met. They placed no restrictions whatsoever on either of us (I have a younger sister). We got pretty much everything we asked for.  My sister and I were good students. We learned classical music and dance, performed at various events, and were fairly good daughters, if you discount the occasional tantrum, fuss or outburst. As I completed high school and joined junior college (in India, you join college at age 16), I found a great bunch of friends. We shared a common love for music, films, art and humor. Boring college lectures, surprise birthday parties, New Year celebrations, art films and rock music, walks along the beach, night-long conversations on philosophy and life, dreams and ambitions - these were the highlights of my junior college years. Soon after, I joined an engineering college. New friends, bigger parties, overnight treks... and life went on. Then I graduated from college and started working as a software developer. Everything continued as before.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar - The Inspiration

It was all wonderful and exciting and adventurous and yet at the age of 25, I felt like I had come to a full stop. Until then, life had been a series of events, people, places and experiences for me but suddenly it seemed that there had to be a deeper idea to it. Certain incidents in the past couple of years made me wonder if I really knew myself. I felt at conflict with my own self and with certain others in my life. I found myself thinking - Is there any purpose to all this? Who am I? Is there a meaning to these incidents and situations and people?

Suffices to say that The Art of Living Course came at the right time to me. I attended an Art of Living Course, then a couple of Art of Silence Courses, and then The Art of Meditation Course.

A year after my first course, I met Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of Art of Living Foundation. Even before I met him, I had seen many videos of his. To me, he always came across as someone familiar, someone who I had known since a very long time. And when I finally met him, it felt like a true homecoming.

I had had no experience with Gurus or spiritual masters while growing up. Yet, it was a matter of few months before I came to see Sri Sri as my personal Guru. There was zero deliberation or thinking involved. It's interesting how some of the major decisions in my life were not decisions at all; they just came to be in the most natural way possible. Some things you simply know without having even a single thought. 

Youth Empowerment Seminar(YES!)

I conduct the Youth Empowerment Seminar (YES!) for teenagers, and on one course, I remember talking about Sri Sri to the young participants. I said, "To me, Sri Sri or Guruji is a person who makes me feel like I can do anything. In his presence, I feel strong, complete, powerful. I feel like there is no limit to what I can achieve and accomplish. When I am around him, all my doubts and concerns disappear."

There is so much more I can say about Guruji and how he has truly brought out the best in me on so many levels. Intellectual maturity, a broader sense of perspective about the self and the world, a desire to learn and share... and most of all, a sense of abundance and fullness. Today, I feel like I lack nothing and I want nothing. Moment to moment, my life is full and complete. To Guruji, I owe this precious realization and many many others. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Sunanda Gadagottu - Art of Living Experience

Art of Living Teacher, California, USA

A year before I first attended the Art of Living course over nine years ago, I was blazing through an Interior Design Program after having dropped being an engineer for good. I had a lot of fun and the design projects were things of absolute delight. As a final project in Principles of Design, I chose to build a model of a “spiritual retreat”. It represented the journey of a man. Looking back, I realize it was a reflection of where I was headed. Even before knowledge blossomed in my life and many veils were lifted from my mind, I was projecting what I was to realize very soon.
My design was purely conceptual and abstract—you couldn’t build it into a real building. It began with a large chaotic region with negative spaces, dead ends, and mazes.  It progresses into (you mathematicians will get this) spaces of definite shape and openness like a Dodecahedron and finally evolving into a sphere whose boundaries are almost non-existent. This journey is connected by a path designed with a proportion called a “Divine Proportion” in mathematics. You may be beginning to see where I am going with this, or may be not. What happened with that program, you may ask - have you graduated?….No, I was yanked out of it to speed on the real divine highway.
Everything on this path brings amazement to me. The journey of my imagination had been made real by a touch of magic, shifting and transforming every moment. I don't know when this journey started, but I was made fully aware of where I was going when I first attended the Art of Living course. Suddenly it was as if someone held up a lamp and lighted my path. Here I am now taking a look in the rear view mirror and seeing all the mountains I scaled, the canyons I crossed, the fires I walked through…… sometimes trudging on, sometimes leaping from treetop to treetop like in a Chinese movie and I look forward and see nothing different, but I have become someone else. The future brings very little fear, the past has very few strings- this path has made me full and empty.
By the way, the path of divine proportions that I designed then and the path of divinity I am now walking on is the Path of Yoga. This path where mice become lions, beasts show their beauty, flowers find their fragrance, people walk like kings….. this path where one is free and yet wholly connected to everyone, this path I gladly traverse.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Art of Living Health and Lifestyle Benefits

Stress, Tension, Fear to Vibrant, Enthusiastic , Energetic Life

I used to have a lot of problems in life. All these had added stress and tensions and ended up in fear for everything and finally nervous disorder and high blood pressure. The doctor gave me medicine like Alprazolam .I could not meet my dead lines in office and too many fearful thoughts disturbed me. After doing Art of Living Course and Art of Silence courses, I started looking young and vibrant,enthusiastic for everything and full of energy. Life is different now. - Ajay Bhall, Panchkula, India

Contentment and Peace in Life

I did my first Art of Living Course in Feb 1994.Stress at home and work place had resulted in undergoing  a by pass surgery in 1996. I had sleepless nights feeling irritated and fear of the future. I retired from work in 1998  and decided to become an Art of Living teacher.  It has been 16 years since I did my first Art of Living Course. During this time, my fears have reduced, contentment and peace has set in my life. - U.S Prakasam, Gujarat, India