Archive for the ‘life’ Category

I came across an interesting blog citing negative effects of Sudarshan Kriya, a breathing technique, which forms the basic foundation of the Art of Living. I started attending Art of Living courses to de-stress and have more peaceful moments in my life. I find the fact that teachers are volunteers and not paid, very compelling. My teachers had full-time jobs and are regular volunteers at the center.

Is the Art of Living good or bad? Are the long term effects negative? It is too early to tell for me. I do not practice Kriya everyday, but plan to. I attend the one at the center weekly, and it washes away the stresses of the week. Kriya is a type of controlled hyperventilation; research in this blog indicates that any type of hyperventilation is bad – that maybe true. But is it really worse than what we take into our bodies every single day? I don’t smoke, but every time I walk in the city, people smoke and I take in so much second-hand smoke. People even smoke in the park!!! Not to mention air pollution. Is controlled hyperventilation that brings a moment of peace and rest really that bad then?

Doing Art of Silence introduced me to meditation, and I am addicted to it! Everyday I meditate twice – I may not do Kriya, but I make it a point to meditate. Another benefit is that I started having milk and cereal (lol). I hate plain milk in general. The breakfast in this course consisted of “Go Lean Crunch” cereal with milk, and I found a cereal that I can actually like with milk.

Meditation really takes me to a zen place. I learned to block thoughts from my mind, relax every part of my body completely, and attain a level of peace. I meditate every morning and evening after work but before dinner. I enjoy and look forward to it now. Having such brief moments of peace is amazing! It took me a while to learn to dissociate from my thoughts – they come and go. I have been experimenting with various types of meditation such as Reiki and Mindfulness. Reiki is quite good as well, and mindfulness is something I am still trying to learn. Meditation is simple though. All you require is to practice daily till you learn to not get affected by thoughts and relax completely. In Part 2 (Art of Silence), we were made to meditate long hours and practice a lot, so I got the technique. But regular daily practice at the times recommended by the teacher is what brought me to a peaceful state, and I am finding myself becoming more positive and happier about life in general.

Even though there maybe so much negativity surrounding Art of Living, you really have to take the good and leave the bad. This is not a quick-fix, and in every course I took, we were asked to leave our expectations at the door. In Part 2, we were asked to write our problems on a piece of paper and drop it in a common basket with the belief that they will go away. Obviously common sense entails that it is not possible, so I did not write anything. We had to follow a specific technique that I found ridiculously stupid and could not do it. It was a way of getting people outside their comfort zone, and a lot of people in my class found it liberating. I thought it was silly. Any new learning requires using some common sense rather than following it blindly.

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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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As a kid, I loved watching British shows that came on after 9pm in India such as Yes Minister, Mind Your Language, etc. till American shows such as Friends, Seinfeld, Small Wonder, and Wonder Years took over. I loved Friends, but I like the dry tongue-in-cheek British humor much better than in-the-face American. I could never understand Seinfeld till I spent a few years in the US – back then it just seemed stupid that people laughed at obvious stuff.

I recently decided to start watching Brit shows online, and found my fav Mind Your Language on YouTube. It is a show about a British teacher and his class of international students who want to learn English. Barry Evans is very charming as the Brit teacher Mr. Brown. The class has one person from each country – India, Pakistan, Middle East, Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, Africa, France, and China. Each character is very stereotypical but entertaining. And of course the matronly Miss Courtney who runs the school and epitomizes the “stiff upper-lip” British. I enjoyed watching the show again even after so many years.

It is unfortunate that even after being such a good and charming actor, Barry Evans lead a sad life. When he was born, he was left in a box outside children’s house and was brought up in orphanages. He acted in a few shows and was popular, but later on his boyish looks made it challenging to get roles depicting his real age. Apparently he was bisexual. Towards the end of his days, he was broke and worked as a cab driver. At the age of 53, he was found dead – the cause of his death is unknown. An 18 year old kid was arrested because he stole Barry’s car and a few credit cards. But Barry had an overdose of alcohol, and a bottle of pills was found near him although he did not take any pills. The kid was later set free.

I felt very sad reading about his life. It is so sad that untalented women like the Kardashians and Hiltons become popular and  mint money just because of their silly useless reality shows. While really talented actors and actresses have to struggle for years. Same thing for designers – “celebrities” like Lauren Conrad who come up with their own clothing line do well, and take the place of really talented designers who would do better with such opportunities. Why is our culture so celebrity-driven rather than talent-driven? I just feel so bad for all these talented people.

I wish I could learn more about Barry Evans’ life. He has faded into oblivion…

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New job

I recently changed jobs and moved to a different industry in a much larger company. Recession and past experience have made me very skeptical about promises made by hiring managers to bring new people in, and I was a bit concerned about whether promises would be kept. In general, I am skeptical by nature and don’t take things at face value.

I deliberated long and hard about a few things related to the position and potential uncertainty, and kept second-guessing everything. AM told me one thing – in the past you have been 100% certain about some opportunities and yet they have not turned out per your expectations, take a leap of faith here and maybe this will be the right decision. I am so glad I took his advice.

It has been just one week into my job, and I feel free — yes, free — to do whatever I want, as I want. Larger companies require a bit of specialization, and you have more people doing the work that you alone did in a smaller company. More brands to manage, more product launches, more meetings to attend. I can pick and choose which meetings to attend, what to learn, and which people to interact with in other teams. I have not been so free in the last two years.

As in my previous job, some retail companies have a crazy environment – micro-management occurs at some levels because every last penny has to be well-spent. I was kept away from meetings so that I did not waste time in meetings and spent more time working. I felt as if all I did was sit in an office and work in a silo. I wanted to interact with more people and give strategic input. The last minute changes and decisions made the work environment very crazy. Smaller budgets made it challenging to do more. However, I learned a lot, much more than I would have ever learned in a larger company, and the experience I gained is priceless. I got to do so many things and learned to operate at a very efficient level and think about the business from all perspectives – technology, customer service, website, merchandising, and marketing.

I don’t see the craziness in my current role. There are challenges, no doubt,  but so far I feel a renewed enthusiasm for going to work everyday and making a strong contribution. I cannot believe how free I am and how free I feel just by being there. No micro-management, no craziness. We even have a cafeteria, and work is walking distance from my apartment. It takes me only 5 minutes to cross the three streets and be at work. I leave at 8:55 and am there by 9. I know that once I get more into the job there will be challenges, but so far I really like everything I see. Another benefit of working in a large global company is that I can move to different teams and learn different things.

Its funny because I joined on the same day with someone who worked for the biggest competitor of my previous company. She had the exact same work environment as I did, and we both sat chatting on Friday expressing how free we felt just by being here. She feels the same level of enthusiasm and we both started contributing on day 2. We knew and had worked with the same vendors – in fact, when vendors heard that I had moved, they mentioned her name and asked if I knew her. Its such a small world!

I am happy, truly truly happy that AM pushed me to make the right decision for me. I feel relaxed, enthusiastic, and FREE!

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I met my couple friends today for lunch, and had a wonderful time. They have two adorable kids – the older is very intelligent, and the younger too adorable for words. They are my fav couple – sophisticated & intelligent, and we have a lot in common except for the kids. Anyway, the situation called for disciplining the older kid who is almost 7 and wanted to eat sushi that very day at that exact time. Both of them dealt with the situation very patiently, and took a hard stand regardless of what the kid said and did. I liked their way of dealing, and was surprised at how patient they were.

We started discussing how we were raised – our parents beat us, as did teachers in school, and we turned out fine. Should we do the same to our kids so that they turn out fine? But beating kids is kind of illegal in the US. They were telling me how the kid behaves the opposite when they yell and gets more defensive, so yelling and beating is not the way to go — taking a hard stand patiently is the way to go. The more tantrums the kids throw, the less likely they are to get what they want and they forgo more perks such as TV and Internet. Its so hard to be a parent! The kid’s life depends on you, and sometimes your best efforts are misjudged and lead to nothing.

I used to get a lot of beatings at school. The nuns hit us with a wooden ruler on the calves which stung! Sometimes they went for knuckles which was brutal — I could take the calves any day over knuckles. Once my Mom came to visit us in our boarding school/hostel, and I was out so I saw her. She wanted to see my sister. It was after hours and the nun told me not to call my sis. Anyway, mom really wanted to just see her from far and see if she is okay, and kept telling me if I could just bring her out so she could see her, so I went to my sis’ dorm and called her out. My sis broke out sobbing — she wanted to meet my mom up close. So I took her and broke the rule. The nun beat me a lot for it, but whatever — they had made me immune to it. Once I left my books in the rain, so everyone who left their books out were beaten. I got a beating even after 10th grade from my mom (once). So yeah it didn’t bother me much. After what my parents have been through this year, I don’t think I ever want to be a parent, and its a scary thought to even be responsible for someone who may not give a damn about me and my efforts.

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UES is boring

I moved to the Upper East side 2 weeks back, and its boring as hell. Few people, nothing to do… lacks the hustle and bustle of the west side. It is much quieter, and I kind of like not having to wade through tourists, but its too quiet. I ordered in Thai, Sushi, and Indian, and they all fall short. The west side has way better restaurants and food. I have never thrown out so much food before. I am going to spend the rest of my Sunday on the west side and catch Whip it. I am dying to go to Max Brenner and taste their awesome hot chocolate. A great place to just sit quietly over hot chocolate and brainstorm ideas for my apartment. Thank God my stay is temporary.

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