Posts Tagged ‘meditation’


I could not help but read more comments on the blog I found against Art of Living, and found them very amusing. People who became AOL teachers had a bad experience physically by doing the Sudarshan Kriya. That maybe true. However, most of the people who complain come across as morons. Here is why. AOL claims that Kriya can cure AIDS, Sri Sri Ravi Shanker (the founder of AOL) is actually God and that he has healing powers, Sri Sri can fix anything, etc. Why in the hell would one believe these claims? Are people so naive and desperate to believe?

In one of my AOL sessions, we watched a video of Q&A with Sri Sri. One of the questions was by an American woman who was religious and a Christian. She asked Sri Sri whether it is okay to believe in him as God since she has seen him and he brought her peace. If so, would that make her a bad Christian. I found that question to be so stupid. As I said in my previous write-up about AOL, you have to take the good and leave the bad. I have found the beauty of meditation, and every morning I start my day peacefully because of it.

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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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