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Archive for February, 2011

Yesterday I watched two movies – True Grit and Udaan. True Grit was okay, and more about Jeff Bridges than the story. A girl’s father is killed by a guy named Tom Cheney, and she hires Jeff Bridges (who is a bum but has “true grit”) to find the killer so she can kill him. Matt Damon, a Texas Ranger, goes along as well. Mid-way they lose track of Tom, and give up on the case. At the same time, the girl runs into Tom and is kidnapped. In the end the bad guys die. Jeff Bridges is an amazing actor and really gets into character. His manner of talking and expressions were amazing. Overall the movie was okay. I am not into Western movies, and they follow the typical route of sweaty tanned men on horses, in hats, and with guns sometimes getting wasted in bars.

Udaan (meaning flight) was an amazing heart-felt movie. I still cannot get it out of my mind – it really pulled at my heart strings. The story is about a boy (Rohan), now 17, who was sent to a boarding school by his very strict father, played by Ronit Roy. In 8 years the father did not visit his son once, and the son spent his vacation as a driver for allowance. He and his friends were naughty, and were once caught watching a movie when they were supposed to be in the hostel sleeping. They get expelled from school.

Rohan goes home to find a little step-brother, Arjun, only 6 years old. His father had remarried and it did not work out. Rohan did not warm up to the little kid and kept aloof. He had a few altercations with his father, and the latter beat him. Both sons could not even called their father “Papa” – they had to call him “Sir”. Rohan meets his uncle and his wife, who are trying for a kid to no avail, and show love to both sons. Once, Rohan comes home to find his father rushing to the hospital with Arjun. His father has to go out of town for work, so Rohan stays with Arjun in the hospital and finds out that his father beat Arjun with a belt which caused Arjun to become unconscious.

The entire scene was just heart-breaking. Arjun is such a cute adorable boy, brimming with innocence, clearly starved for love and probably malnourished. He mentions previously that his father beats him. He refuses to change clothes in front of onlookers in the hospital, and when you see the scars, the pain of the boy is felt. He doesn’t smile in the hospital and seemed depressed. My heart just broke every time I saw him. I could feel the shame and embarrassment at the possibility of showing scars to a second person, at probably feeling that somehow he was at fault for his father to beat him like this. Rohan takes care of him in his own way, and both brothers bond. I kept thinking of my brother because the age difference between Rohan and Arjun (11 years) is similar. I missed my brother deeply.

Rohan slowly starts standing up to his father. He does not want to go to engineering college and wants to become a writer, but his father is staunchly against it and compels him to join an engineering college. Rohan does not study and fails. Another cause for abuse from his father. This time Rohan stands up to him and confronts him about his beating Arjun. The father decides to get Rohan into working in his factory and leaving college since he did not study anyway. He decides to send Arjun to a boarding school and get married himself since he was so lonely. He apparently had a woman in mind who had a young daughter.

Once when the woman and her family are at Rohan’s place, he packs his bags and decides to leave the house. The father stops him, but Rohan runs and leaves his father far behind. He stays the night at his uncle’s, and decides to go to Bombay where his other expelled buddies (3 of them) are running a restaurant and making good money. He decides to take Arjun with him. The scene was immensely adorable, with Rohan holding Arjun’s hand and Arjun talking to him excitedly. He leaves a note for his father, asking him to stay away else he would turn him in to the cops for beating Arjun.

There were a lot of subtle situations as well. It was sad and upsetting, but ended on a positive note. I had so many questions like why did the father not leave Arjun with the uncle after school? Instead Arjun was home by himself and really needed someone to take care of him. Was the father so egoistic? How could he beat such a young kid – how could he. He justified it by saying that he apologized, but what can such a young kid do? The movie was beautiful and heart-wrenching, and swept many Indian awards. It is totally Oscar-worthy. I cannot get the film out of my mind, and still feel the pain of the innocent little boy.

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I just returned from Art of Silence, which is a part 2 course of The Art of Living. I did part 1 in Jan, and part 2 ended today. I feel so disoriented returning to this world and NYC.

I actually wanted to do DSN which is Part 3 since it was being offered in NYC and I heard great things about it. But I needed to do Part 2 before DSN. The only Part 2 course in the tri-state area was in Metuchen, NJ, which I signed up for. It started Thur evening and ended Mon evening. We had to keep silence from Fri afternoon till Mon noon. I am the single talker in my house, so keeping quiet was a challenge.

The schedule went like this.

6:30-8:30am – Light yoga stretching and Sudarshan Kriya which we learned in Part 1. I LOVE Kriya – its an amazing experience!

8:30-10am – Breakfast and seva. We were assigned to different groups, and each group had to do some work (seva) such as serving meals, cleaning meditation area, cleaning up after meals, etc.

10-12pm – Meditation. We did hollow and empty meditation guided by Sri Sri Ravi Shanker’s (fondly called Guruji) recorded voice. It is called “hollow and empty” because he tells you to imagine that certain body parts are hollow and empty. The process is a way to unlearn and become empty of thoughts and emotions. Its funny because as kids we hear our parents and teachers tell us “do this do that” “don’t do this don’t do that”, and we spend our adult life unlearning all of that so we can truly become ourselves!!!

12-2pm – Lunch. Everyday lunch was very light to lower lethargy and tendency to sleep after lunch.

2-5pm – Meditation and something new and probably interactive.

5-7pm – Dinner.

7-8pm – Satsang where we sang religious songs.

8-9:30pm – Our teacher answered our questions and showed us knowledge videos of Guruji.

15 hours everyday spent here. The purpose of keeping people around for so long was to increase commitment. In our teacher’s words, “Come what may I will sit through this process. Even if I think this is silly, I will at least sit through it since I have nothing to lose”.

The most amazing thing about Art of Living is that it is completely run by volunteers – people in all walks of life volunteer their time to teach others the art of living. This makes it even more inspiring because the courses must have so much power that people feel like volunteering their time to share it.

Back to Art of Silence. I learned the difference between meditation and breathing. Meditation is a relaxed technique of breathing which helps the mind attain a level of peace and calm which normal breathing does not. Every kriya and meditation experience was different for me. It helped to get away from daily life. I did part 1 in the evenings after work, so sometimes I was not able to focus because I had thoughts of work and other problems. Art of Silence helped get away for a while from all those problems since it was an all-day event.

The first day I found it very difficult to follow meditation. I was not sure what to do, how to breathe right, and dozed off during meditation. After lunch we did something called death and birth meditation. Other people found the birth meditation very liberating – my skeptical side found it so silly and I had half a mind to walk away. I could not go through the act assigned, and kept trying but just could not do it. In addition, I kept thinking that if all I do all day is rest, I could do that at home as well. Why am I here? But I stuck around. Evenings were harder because I kept wanting to go home and was tired. I kept looking at my watch, but I stayed.

The second day, I liked the meditation. I was able to take very deep breaths, all the way down to my stomach. I have been having digestion and acid reflux problems for a while, and after that meditation all of those problems were washed away. At the end of it, I also felt “hollow and empty” like I was supposed to. I kept dozing off though and had to keep bringing myself back. We also had a drawing exercise which was fun.

The third day I fell ill because windows were slightly open to let fresh air in during meditation, and it was very cold. I am very sensitive to cold air. I also had not slept well at night. During meditation I kept dozing off and could barely meditate. Its strange because each time we were asked to lie down and rest after meditation and Kriya, I could not sleep, but sitting down I was so cozy and dozed off. Some people around me snored while I was the only one who sat and could not sleep. This day was difficult to get through and I felt like leaving early, but I stuck through till 9:30pm. We did a new technique called Meditation in Motion which was more difficult than I expected, but other people made it fun.

The fourth and last day was better. I woke up late because I was not well, and missed yoga and Kriya. This was the only day that I did not doze off a single time during meditation. I had a bad headache, but was able to dissociate my headache during meditation and prevent it from overpowering me. I also learned how to relax my eyelids and forehead, and it made a world of difference. I felt an immense sense of peace.

Part 1 was about forming connections and learning that at the basic level all people are the same. Everyone faces similar challenges in life. There were many thought-provoking open-ended questions with the intention of opening up to others. Part 2 was all about self. If in part 1 people shared “you are what your thoughts are”, part 2 was about learning how to accept the thoughts but not let them overpower you so much that you become them. Part 2 was about accepting and surrendering, becoming “for the world but not of the world” by not letting work, thoughts, worries, etc. overpower the person who doesn’t need to be a by-product of all these things.

Watching Guruji’s videos was very eye-opening. He shared pearls of wisdom that you know in everyday life, but his manner of explaining them was so logical that something just clicked inside of me and made it easier to apply in daily life. One example he gave was of the structure of an atom. The core of an atom is the nucleus which consists of proton and neutron, while the electron rotates around the nucleus. Electron is negative while proton is positive. If we are centered in ourselves and have positive energy, we are at the core and do not need to be negative like an electron that rotates around the core. It sounds silly, but the way Guruji explained it made complete sense. The point was to bring about positive thinking and energy in one’s life to stay centered.

I have been told that I need to keep practicing Kriya and meditation to continue the course’s impact in my life. One hour everyday in the morning for Kriya and meditation, and 20-30 minutes every evening after work in meditation. I am feeling disoriented right now because after spending 15 hours everyday, I am back to life and need to go to work tomorrow. I want silence and peace, and don’t feel ready for work yet. I don’t feel like watching TV – I just like the silence and peace. I had no idea such peace was possible, and I hope to continue with the practice. If I stop practicing, I will forget how to control my mind and bring about peace. It was an amazing experience, and every morning when I felt lazy about waking up so early, three words “come what may” sprang to my mind and brought about energy to wake up and go to the course. I miss it.

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I did the Art of Living course 3 years back, and it was extremely helpful in managing stress and emotions. I have been feeling very homesick of late, missing and worrying about my parents constantly, and decided to do it again. It was an amazing experience, much better than the first time.

Art of Living is a volunteer-run organization and started by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in 1981. Sri Sri travels 150-170 days a year to 70-80 countries giving talks on the art of living. The Manhattan center is on 286 5th Avenue. The beginner level course is for 5 days. When I first did the course, there were 40-50 people, and I barely remember anyone’s name. This time we were a group of 11, and I remembered everyone’s name and learned something about everybody. It was a much more intimate setting, and much more fun.

The course was designed in series of talks and meditation. Everyday the teachers gave us a number of open-ended thought-provoking questions to discuss in groups, share insights with the entire group, and then do some breathing exercises. The most amazing part of this course is Sudarshan Kriya. This is a breathing technique done for almost an hour in series of fast and slow breaths. It is an intense technique, and every experience is different. It helps bring out all positive and negative thoughts, and at the end of it you feel an immense peace of mind and deep sense of calmness. Everyday the session is for 3 hours, and on weekends for 5 hours. We had a potluck on Sunday and it was a lot of fun.

I realized how much in common I had with others, and that we all had similar challenges in life. In one session where we had to answer “Who are you”, I felt as though my team member was uttering the exact same challenges and that I was facing. I was also surprised to know intimate details about people, things that you could never even imagine about them by just seeing them the first couple of times.

I came away with a deep sense of calm, more awareness about self, an awesome group of friends, and a realization that we have more in common with others than we realize.

I got a take-home short Kriya that I can do everyday, but the long Kriya is more powerful and should not be done more than once a week. The long Kriya is not available anywhere on the Internet or as a CD. Only Art of Living centers do it. The Manhattan center has it once a week, and I intend to go every weekend.

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