Sunday, December 23, 2012

Wellbeing workshop at Savitri Bhavan

 This would be the last workshop of the year 2012. This workshop was close to 12.12.12 and in Auroville this had a very special significance. 11th,12th and 13th were festive days with many events, celebrations and meetings ...... It was wonderful to just the positive vibrations and just enjoy it. Some people told me that it is very special because it would come only after another 1000 years!
The workshop also saw the much talked about and controversial 21 Dec. In the end, I am not sure whether something really happened or it was another day in the Solar System. This is one of the things about a hyped up event!
A friend told me that we  were in the midst of momentous event , comparable to the meteor strike 65 million years ago, which wiped out the dinosaurs form the earth.  I would prefer to experience every day as a  special day for no specific reason except that it is a unique day by itself and would never comeback. 
Never ever. I would be very joyful if I could do that, every day and every moment.
To come to the workshop. I don't what it was that made this workshop so enjoyable for me but I really enjoyed every moment of it. I cant put my finger on the reason but it is so. We had a relatively small group  and on the first day, I felt disappointed as we put out all the mats and cushions (form the experience of the last workshop). Then I let it go and focused on the joy of offering the workshop and it   was just wonderful after that.
I made some new friends in the workshop and on the last day, Yashwa, a young by of about 6 years came to the session. I enjoyed his presence very much. It was also unfortunate that one of the participants slipped and hurt himself but he joined us back after attending to the minor bleeding. What I would remember this workshop was the gentle flow of it that was like a river meandering through an uninhabited forest.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Introduction to Yoga Nidra

Arulvazhi conducts an annual one day event in Auroville and invite participation form all the Sri Aurobindo centers in Tamilnadu. It is my good fortune that Varadharajan Ji is a good friend and gave me yet another opportunity to be part of this program. The time was  short I tried a brief introduction to Yoga Nidra , followed by a 10 minute practice.  
I am happy to learn from Varadharajan Ji that it was well received.
I lost the pictures of this event too!

Well being workshop at Savitri Bhavan

This event was interesting for me because this had the largest number of participants in any well being workshop that I conducted in Savitri Bhavan. In fact, the space and the number of cushions/mats was just short of the need with the large number of 27 participants. I wonder whether the post of Charles Jothi on Auroville Intranet got more people interested. I made a mental note to thank him when I meet him next.
The workshop was also unique because we had 4 participants from Pondy, one of them the being Shipra Ji, a very senior and highly respected Ashramite. Through her, I also reconnected with Rachana, whom we met in 2006 when we were visiting Auroville with an intent of becoming a New Comer.
I was very happy and grateful for this event with so many people and Savitri Bhavan is a place where I feel some wonedrful vibrations. It is a double privilege for me to offer the workshops in such a wonderful space.
Due to a quirk of fate, I lost the pictures of this great event.

Monday, November 19, 2012


This was an event organized at our college reunion, thanks to DSR Raju, MSD Raju, UN Raju and SVRK Prasad. Given that how I was in the college, I would have found it difficult to attend a talk given by that person. It was the wonderful open-ness and generosity of the organizers that gave me an opportunity to share some of my experiences and a couple of tools and techniques for well being.
I went back to Andhra University after such along time and it was a pleasure to be in the campus and reconnect with old friends.  I lost touch with most of them and experienced an indescribable connectedness and joy of being together with the old friends. I am grateful to all those who came form far and near to attend it and the organizing team for making it happen. It is a special privilege for me to introduce my childhood friends and their family members to some of the tools and techniques that have been so beneficial to me in my life. I feel happy and grateful.
In my opinion, well being has three dimensions at the physiological level - fitness, wellness and robustness. All three dimensions are interrelated but it is quite possible for someone who is fit to be unwell. Yoga nurtures all these three dimensions and positively impacts other levels - vital, mind and beyond. I shared deep relaxation, which is yoga nidra along with chanting of primordial sounds and palming of the eyes. I enjoyed the session and my sense is that it is well received and appreciated.

Some of my friends are coming to Auroville in the first of Jan 2013 for a 3 day retreat. I look forward to it. There is also a proposal to meet annually and a lot of enthusiasm for Auroville as a venue! 

Friday, November 16, 2012

Hat trick - Integral Development Lab (IDL) at Nainital for PGP students of IIM Indore

All in the month of November in consecutive years -2010, 2011 and 2012. This has become an important annual event that I enjoy and look forward to. Because Nainital is pristine, the air is charged with ozone, the birds here know how to sing and IDL is fun. It is also an opportunity to reconnect with Shri Nalin Ji and Mr. Jayanto and the wonderful, dedicated team of the Van Nivas Ashram. They amaze me with their all round proficiency, professionalism and excellence.
The program is improved each year with the experience gained and suggestions from the students. This year, the significant improvement is that on the 5th day, the students can choose from one of the three options – trek to Naina peak, Paragliding at Naukuchia Tal and trip to Mukteshwar. Paragliding is of particular interest to me personally and I have been looking forward to it since a long time.
I met Prof. Srinivas Gunta in 2010 for the first IDL and we became good friends. It was great that we were together for IDL2 also. I missed him this year but made a new friend in Prof Harshal. He almost looks like a student and his enthusiasm was contagious. He played a key role in making IDL3 successful, useful and enjoyable. He also came up with a scientific evaluation system that he meticulously implemented in arriving at the scores of the 11 teams who participated in IDL3. I  don’t know how we could have managed without him.
We were lucky that each day dawned bright, with glorious sun shine. But, most afternoons were cloudy and misty and Nainital was colder this year by 2-4 degrees C. That shifted our experience from ‘pleasant’ to ‘cold’. However, the weather was not a spoil sport for IDL and did not impact the program negatively -  except that there was no day light when we reached Tiffin Top, due to the clouds.  The students were disappointed that they could not take pictures.
We kicked off the program at 11Am on 4th November to appraise the students of the program, the daily routine, the Ashram rules and regulations etc and answered their questions. The fun part was that each team chooses a name for themselves and I am quite impressed with the creativity of the students in naming their groups. A surprise for me this year was “Harakiri” and later the group clarified that this signifies their intention to leave all negativity behind- suicide of negativity. In the afternoon, we had the first session of Good Health and Wellbeing followed by trek to Land’s End. This is a level zero trek of about 4 km round trip. Even though we started for the trek in a fog, we were lucky to see the awesome sight of a golden sun setting into a foothill of the Himalayas. The picnic spot and lake were invisible due to the fog.
The next day began at 7AM with parallel sessions of Yoga and Pranayama; which is a regular event for the reminder of the 6 day program. About half of the students do pranayama and the other half go for yoga session and they switch the next day. This is a wonderful way to start the day and it is hoped that the students could check it out and see if they would like to adopt it in their ‘Life Style’. Soon after breakfast, we scrambled off to ‘Scrambling”  in the narrow pathways and caves in the nearby hills. This is fantastic experience and the students have a first taste of overcoming fear and the exhilaration in overcoming the fears and doubts.  In the afternoon we had the second session of Good Health and Wellbeing followed by the night trek to Tiffin Top. This is a little more difficult trek, with round trip distance of 6.5 Km with some short stretches of steep slope. We go through a dense jungle and reach the Tiffin Top in twilight, just before sun set. Normally, you get a breathtaking view of the Naina lake and the town and it is great to watch the sun light fading and the electric lights popping on and gradually the scene transforms to ‘Tare Jameen Par”. We start back in the dark and take a different and safe route to walk back in the trek. It is wonderful experience to trek in the night and it is amazing that as your eyes get tuned to the darkness, you can see much better than what you think you could. We worked up a  good appetite and the Ashram team gave us a nice dinner with halwa for dessert.
The next adventure activity was bouldering and rock climbing. It gives a sense of power to climb a rock that is taller than you or for even to climb down a rock or a boulder that is bigger than you.  The outdoor adventure events are conducted by Mr. Jayanto and his team, in a very professional way with gentle encouragement and support to overcome the hesitation and sense of “can I do it?’. The students enjoyed this very much and start experiencing confidence to face challenges. The afternoon was set aside for site seeing in Nainital Town. We go downhill trekking into the market area – a nice walk of about two and a half kilometers.  While walking downhill, I was thinking about my last two trips and was mulling over the question whether I should keep coming to the same place, year after year or should decide to do something else. The must-see/ must-do list is topped by the ropeway ride and boating in the beautiful Naina Lake As I have done this a couple of times, I meandered around, taking the relatively small tourist crowd (compared to summer time), looking for a book shop to buy some books as token prizes for the two teams adjudged as the top two. I landed in the same “Modern Book Shop” that I and Srinivas went to last year but this time I had the pleasure of being assisted by Mr. Vimal Kumar, the owner of the shop. He is a man with an affable smile and lively eyes. He wanted to know why I need two sets of 10 copies of the same book. This paved the way to an unforgettable conversation that has changed my outlook. Mr. Vimal Kumar is diagnosed with a tumor and is given 6 months to live, as estimated by the doctor. He said, with his yes alive and dancing  “I am enjoying every breath I am taking and am grateful for being alive” . I read about such incidents ( and even watched Randy Pauch in his famous “Last Lecture”) but this was the first time I met someone who actually was in such a  situation and shared himself so authentically. He appeared to me to be the epitome of peace and equanimity. The simple sentence he shared with me changed my outlook. I became somehow more alert and more alive. The sounds were more vibrant and the colors were more vivid as I picked up the books and came out of the shop. The lake looked somehow more beautiful and I filled my lungs with the cool, life sustaining air. As my lungs filled up, my heart also seemed to be full of the joy of just being alive. I decided to walk back to the Ashram and it  is an unforgettable walk for me.
The seventh of November was set aside for a full day trek to Kamchi, about 18 KM from the Ashram. This is one of the best treks that I ever enjoyed and I went on many a trek not only in India but also Europe, USA and the Far East. I was certainly looking forward to it but many students were not well or not physically fit to do the whole trek. Our first stop was the Snow View Point – about 4km , mostly along the road side. and we were fortunate to have magnificent view of the magical snow peaks of the majestic Himalayas.  Fortunate because the visibility was getting poorer by the hour due to the fog. Fourteen students went back to the Ashram from this point.  The rest of the trek is pure paradise and out of this world. The scene keeps changing with every turn. You see various kinds of alpine vegetation, hills and valleys, paths and second-world-war roads, quaint villages with live stock and vegetable patches. For nearly half of the trek you can hear the music of a stream flowing by your side and the glorious site of an occasional mini-waterfall.  The songs of the birds add to the music. The vegetation is so thick in some places that you can hardly see the sun.  It is an immersive experience with the smells of the hills and the freshness of the airs filling your lungs.  You experience the beauty of the Himalayas and the wonder of the abundance in nature. I feel grateful for how blessed I am to experience this again and again.
We finish the trek at Kanchi Dham and catch a bus back to Nainital – mostly gaining altitude. Those of the students who still feel energetic go shopping or go for round 2 of sightseeing. I and Harshall went to the bookshop and bought some more books but missed meeting Mr Vimal Kumar as he was resting.
The fifth day was the day of optional programs. The choices were – Climb Naina Peak, Paragliding at Naukuchia Tal and trip to Mukteshwar for those who are unable to participate in the adventure programs. I was quite surprised that the Mukteshwar group was the largest. About 28 students ventured to climb Naina Peak and I take my hat off to them as climbing the highest peak even in a town or district fills you with a sense of accomplishment and the thrill of conquering a peak, which is indescribable but invariably exhilarating.
I opted for paragliding as it is something I have not ever done and was itching to fly like a bird. A group of 10 of us (8 men and two adventure queens) went in a Tavera and the drive was a beautiful experience. We passed by the lovely lake of Bhimtal. We had to stop near a hill and climb about 500m, a steep climb to the take off cliff. The view was fantastic from the cliff, with Naukuchital nestled in the valley formed by the mountains. I wondered how the view would be when I am gliding and was to find out soon. I was harnessed to the parachute and there was a chair like seat to ease into after takeoff. The pilot was behind me (as it is a tandem flight) and I was told to run off the edge of the cliff along with him when a signal was given. I felt a little nervous but the command to ‘run’ came quickly and within 30 seconds, I was airborne. We initially gained height and I settled down into the seat and was lost in the experience. I felt the poking of the pilot on my shoulder and he was saying “ I am trying to talk to you”. I woke up as if from a trance and asked him what was up. He asked me whether I was afraid as I was not responding to his suggestion that I can take pictures. I told him that I just want to experience the flight and forget about pictures and talking. I have no words to describe it – it was way , way beyond anything else I experienced in my life – the view, the cool breeze, the sound of silence except for  the occasional gush of wind, the incredible feeling of defying gravity and above all -the indescribable joy of it all. Soon, we started landing and I felt scared when I saw the land rushing towards me and it was over. Just about 6 minutes I was told but the time stood still for me.  I realized that I did not take a single picture and wondered how I can share some of this with my family and friends. There was a photographer and a video-grapher who captured the whole of it. Rahul was the coordinator for paragliding. His planning was perfect and his execution impeccable. He was also a good negotiator and got the pictures and videos for a reasonable price. On our way back, we passed by Sat Tal, The serenity of these lakes is unbelievable and I had a wonderful walk on the far side along with Rohit.

 The last day was the day of rappelling and river crossing, two thrilling events that everybody can do without much effort. These two events look very good, so good that family and friends think that you are a hero. What I enjoy about these events is that it gives you a thrill to go almost vertically down and go horizontal, crawling like graceful monkey.
The evenings of the last two days were also the ‘virtual’ camp fire events and the groups get an opportunity to put up a program to express themselves, entertain their friends and also give feedback on the program. The energy and creativity of the students in this surprised me in the last two IDL and I was even more surprised this year by the quality and innovations in the programs. I just loved it and the parodies were amazing. Nau Jawan was adjudged the best team, followed by Cliff Divers in the second place.
Sayan did an outstanding job as student coordinator and Prof. Srinivas brought forth a lot of proactive thinking and planning. I would not know how this program would have been but for Sayan. Krishanu worked with him during the event but Sayan gave his attention to it form August onwards,
Some of the most inspiring moments for me were provided by Paramveer, Akhil Kumar and  Mrinal Kumar. They displayed an awesome spirit of ‘never-say-die’ and brought forth such enthusiasm and displayed an awe inspiring zest for life. I wondered how Paramveer could do the treks to Land’s End, Tiffin Top, Nainital town and do paragliding which was shunned by many people as risky or difficult. He has shown me that we are unlimited – limited only by our thoughts and feelings. It was a privilege for me to meet these three musketeers and get to know them a little. Many others displayed courage and commitment that was fantastic- Mr. Karthikeyan, Ms. Sashira, Mr. Vijay, Ms. Ankita ---- to name a few.  Not a single student gave up half way through. I am reminded of the saying “Throw your hat over the fence to get to the other side”. You need courage and commitment to do that. ‘Hats off’ to every one of the students for overcoming their fears and reservations and throwing their hat to the other side and doing what it takes to go over the fence.
All in all, this was an unforgettable week for me and I look forward to IDL 4 with renewed enthusiasm – letting go of all intellectual conversations and questions and internal conversations. I look forward to breathing that ozone charged air in the verdure of the Himalayas. Meanwhile, I enjoy every breath I take and feel grateful for being alive to take that breath. I will fold-in the leanings from this program and am committed to make IDL-4 better in every way.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Wellbeing workshop at Savitri Bhavan, Auroville

This event was memorable for me as more Aurovilians attended the workshop compared to guests. It is a privilege for me to share pranayama and contribute in their well being.
One of the participants, Jyothi Chlarles shared his experience on the Intranet. I am requesting him for permission to copy and paste it in my blog as I felt very encouraged and enthused when I read it.

Thanks to Jothi Charles, here is the article reproduced from

 A secret of health and longevity
 By charles, 12 Oct 2012 / 07:32 am
It makes sense. Nature that could create the human body with the ability to perform multifarious and complex feats in the physical domain that no other species can do would not have failed to equip that with inherent means of renewal and self healing that other species are equipped with. It could not be a part of the design of nature that human body starts declining before the age of 30 when, according to scientific discovery of the modern times, the growth of  body peaks and “then begin a gradual but continuous decline”.*
 The decline of health and onset of diseases which are attributed to stressful life, improper food intake and ineffective habits of rest may have accelerated in the modern times.  About 30% of the population in the developed countries is reportedly obese and the figure is said to be rising in India. Nations and individuals are forced to spend more time, energy and money for regaining their health being lost faster than ever before in the history of human race. Some people subject themselves to self tortuous exercises and others resort to time consuming and expensive medicinal remedies. They gulp capsules to cure themselves ignorant of the ability of the body to cure itself without the necessity of the scientific drama of diagnosis and cure while the secret of health and longevity lay in in conscious use of the vital things that sustain the body – breath, food and rest.

There is a system of breathing exercises known to reverse aging and cure diseases that was developed thousands of years ago in India.  Known as Pranayama - prana (life-force) and ayama (mastery by control) meaning “mastery of life-force by breath control” - it now has practitioners all over the world. Pranayama was mentioned in Bhagavad Gita, a spiritual discourse of five thousand years antiquity, and subsequently in Upanishads and Puranas. It was prescribed as one of the eight stages to attain union with the divine consciousness (moksha) in the Patanjali Yoga, a treatise written in 2nd century BC.
 I felt a religious aura about it that turned me off but my reservation began to change - like it did with asana and dhyana - on reading reports of positive and beneficial effect from its practice.  Sri Aurobindo had practised Pranayama early in his sadhana,  a century ago, and observed that his literary output developed and increased manifold.** Finally, after attending a five day Pranayama course by Shri. JV Avadhanulu at Savitri Bhavan last week what potential spending of 4% of the time in a day doing pranayama has to improve wellness of being was crystal clear.  At the end of  each Pranayama session one could feel the body getting into a better state of well being. The exercises invigorate the circulatory, digestive and urinary systems. They calm the mental and vital sheaths notably and bring down a solid peace into the physical. Bramari for example, the exercise of breathing out with humming bee sound, quietens the vital mind swiftly and heightens the hearing sense.  Another one, Kapalabhati, helps to learn rhythmic pulling down of the universal vital energy.
 It is difficult to believe that JV the facilitator of the course is 66 years old from his appearance or movements. He walks with a spring in his steps like a 22 year old and doesn’t use spectacles. Doctors gave him just 7 more years of life when he had a heart attack at 41 (I was the centre of the universe, says he smilingly). Not a man to be defeated, he changed his life style and took to Pranayama and natural healing. He went on to become a living proof of what Pranayama can achieve. Perhaps the destiny too had other plans for him: he should defy death and live as an inspiring example in auroville the “place of youth that never ages.”  He was a decorated officer of the Indian Navy  and, post retirement, worked as one of the top officials of prominent business firms for twenty years. Since joining auroville in 2007, as many know already, he has been a facilitator for personality development courses including Pranayama. As a result of the service offering from Savitri bhavan and JV, people living in and visiting auroville have the privelege of undergoing one of the best possible Pranayama course in terms of quality of instruction, serenity of location, non religious approach and presence of successful practitioner of Pranayama as teacher.

 ** “How is it that at a time when I felt it difficult to produce more than a paragraph of prose from time to time and more than a rare poem, short and laboured, perhaps one in two months, suddenly after concentrating and practising Pranayama daily began to write pages and pages in a single day and kept sufficient faculty to edit a big daily paper and afterwards to write 60 pages of philosophy every month? Kindly reflect a little and don’t talk facile nonsense. Even if a thing can be done in a moment or a few days by Yoga which would ordinarily take a long, “assiduous, sincere and earnest” cultivation, that would of itself show the power of the Yoga force. But here a faculty that did not exist appears quickly and spontaneously or impotence changes into highest potency or an obstructed talent changes with equal rapidity into fluent and facile sovereignty. If you deny that evidence, no evidence will convince you, because you are determined to think otherwise.”
 - Sri Aurobindo

***Click here for JV’s website 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Inner Healing Retreat

 This workshop happened because Shri Kameswara Raju from Sri Aurobindo Ashram took a lot of interest. This is three day retreat and we had a small but very interested group of participants. And, what  a group! Two Ashramites, three senior Aurovilians who have are serous Sadhaks and practitioners of Integral Yoga, two  highly motivated New Comers, a guest who was in search of healing and gentleman from Pondy. I felt a tinge of apprehension to facilitate the retreat for such a great gathering. As we began with pranayama session, it was helpful for me to get into a self-assured  frame.
 The sessions on healing went very well and what a retreat it turned out to be! At the end of the retreat, the participants shared the impact and benefits and I was amazed and blown over by the results.
I am truly blessed and harpy and grateful for the opportunity.
I must do these long format event more often as they are more beneficial to the participants as well as for me.

What could be more satisfying and fulfilling than be the instrument for people to discover that their inner and natural healing powers! 

Good Health and Stress Management Workshops at IIM, Indore

 The two workshops I do at IIMI have become a regular feature in my work. I have been able to fine tune the workshops with teh iterations and I am quite satisfied with bot the workshops this term.
I added a talk on the dimensions of health - fitness, wellness and robustness. It is quite interesting to see how the Good Heath excesses improve health in all these dimensions, provide they are done regularly. That is once a day as we live in the solar system. Being in sync with the solar cycle is the important thing.
 I also added talk on another three dimensions - Health(HQ), Emotions(EQ) and Intelligence(IQ) as part of the Stress Management Workshop and  showed how what we do in this workshops helps one in all these three dimensions. We tried a group work experiment. The group work is to read a short article and produce a result - a specific measurable one  . This went well and I am fulfilled as the objective has been met. How to actually produce results rather than comment on the article. This could be long lever in personal growth.
I am more than satisfied with the reflection essays and the value that the participants created in their life. I am truly blessed to share these tools and techniques with these young students - future leaders of India,

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Boost Your Productivity Workshop at NSCI Mumbai

 I had an invitation to speak at the conference “Cell Phone/Tower Radiation Hazards and Solutions” at IIT, Mumbai. I decided to accept it and present my work on “Auroville pilot project for research in minimizing health and environmental hazards of mobile communications”. As I was to be in Mumbai anyway, I thought it would be great to explore the possibility of doing a workshop or two. I spoke to my good friend JS who had earlier organized two workshops in Mumbai. He is amidst a lot of demands on his time and priorities but was willing to explore how a workshop could be organized.
I was in the midst of the Auroville project review by the Chairman of Town Development Council and had to rush for a week to Vizag.  I was more or less willing to drop the workshop but JS was like the ‘Rock of Gibraltar’. He connected with Writers of Bombay, networked with Tania and worked out a plan to offer it as an exclusive event for the members of Writers. He also located an excellent venue and made all the arrangements to conduct the workshop at The National Sports Club of India, Mumbai

The day of the workshop found my preparation below my normal level or even below par. It was the first time I was attempting this topic and I normally do one or two workshops on some of the tools and techniques I intended to share in this workshop.  And, this workshop has been scheduled for just 90 minutes! I felt apprehensive and anxious, especially due to the inadequate preparation. The only time that I could actually use for preparation was the taxi ride and fortunately I arrived at the venue in time to mediate for about 25 minutes. This is one of the critical aspects of my preparation and felt my confidence slowly building up.
Thanks to Tania and JS, we nearly had a full house of a wonderful set of participants with a rich experience in diverse fields in locations spanning many continents of the globe. There was a family along with their two teen aged children and a couple. I feel especially happy when I have families participate in the workshop as it normally leads to a mutual partnership amongst the in taking and creating value.
The vent went very well and I am grateful for the extraordinary participation and the very interesting questions. I had very good feedback from the participants and feel grateful for their listening and receptivity.  Earlier, I was reluctant to do short workshops but this event suddenly opened up the doors to a new set of short workshops! What a great outcome.
I am awed by the distinction of ‘seed’. The seed for this event lies in early twenties when I and JS became acquainted professionally. The seed germinated and blossomed into a wonderful friendship, culminating in the fruit of his participation in the “Being Well” workshops ay Auroville. In this workshop, we have sown more seeds for the flowering of the mission to spread awareness in individuals, communities, organizations and societies. I am sure that these seeds would in turn germinate, bloom and bear fruit in their own time. I feel grateful and fulfilled.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Well Being (Pranayama) Workshop at Savitri Bhavan.

 I started conducting the workshops in Jan 2008. Ever since then, there was not a single month in which I did not conduct a workshop. In fact, I do two or more workshops in a month – the average has been a little above three. May 2012 was unique for not having any workshop. It was also a very important and wonderful month for me as we were blessed with Nina, our first grandchild. I was in Seattle enjoying the exalted status of grandfather in the company of Nina. It was one of the most inner growth experiences for me. Holding Nina in my hands and looking into her eyes is a new (and blissful) meditation that I found. I would not have believed it but I do miss her.
Hungry as I was for resuming the workshops, I organized to start a Wellbeing workshop on 6th June at Savitri Bhavan in Auroville. Auroville is hot and humid and more so this year as we lost a lot of trees during the cyclone in Dec 2011. Normally, attendance in workshops during the summer months is low. I was pleasantly surprised that the hall was more than full and there were more Aurovilians than guests and visitors. A couple came from Pondicherry every day. Viji and Valli who work in Town Hall also participated and Rakesh, who sits in the workspace next to me, was present for the last session (which he missed last time). It is also a matter of celebration that Mr. Bala Baskar, the new Secretary of Auroville participated in this workshop. Syamala and Varadharajan are always a source of encouragement for me. Many senior Aurovilians Jocelyn, who kept telling me that they want to be in the ‘next workshop’ finally made it to this workshop. All in all, I really enjoyed this workshop and what a blessed privilege it is to share Pranayama with this great gathering!
This is my first workshop as a grandfather. This workshop is great start for me as a grandfather. I am  happy and grateful.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Stress Management & Pranayama workshop at Durga Place, Virginia, USA

What can I say about an event that is so difficult to describe as this one? It is a magical dream that was real.  And the reality manifested with such ease and grace that I think it is just synchronicity!
It all began with  the intention to meet Jacob Abraham, my good old friend form my Navy days.  We were planning a trip to New Jersey and we felt that it was good idea to meet Jacob and also see Washington, DC. Jacob stays in VA, quite close to DC. The warmth with which he invited us was just fantastic and I thought that ‘This is what , friends are for’. The next thing he said was where the dream about my work begins. He said: “Ava, why don’t you do a workshop while you are here. I will speak to Jay who runs regular Yoga classes and I attend often”.  Jay Kalathil is the Yoga Coordinator  at Durga Temple  at 8400 Durga Place, Fairfax Station, VA 22039. Jay has an extraordinary passion for Yoga and he has been conducting Yoga classes every Saturday and Sunday, while working and attending to his household responsibilities. For me, this is an example of integral yoga in its spirit. Jacob attended a session conducted by me at the first Get Together of 1970 Navy batch at Lonawala in 2010. He talked to Jay and told me that Jay was very receptive and positive. We started a discussion by email and Jay suggested that I do two workshops on April 14th and 15th. I would love to do as many workshops as I can in my lifetime but on this occasions, , it was not feasible to fit into my schedule and other commitments that I already made. So, we decided to go ahead with a workshop on 15th April, Sunday.
It turned out to be the first workshop I did as a combination of Pranayama and Stress Management. I attempted this only in Integral Health workshops at Auroville, the retreats I did at the Ashrams in Nianital and Ramnagar  and the PGL courses at IIM Indore and RAK, Dubai. In these events, the contact time had more than 25-30 hours!  The very idea of combining the two into a workshop of three hours would have been just out of question but for the foundation Jay has laid over the many Yoga sessions he has been conducting over the years. Thus, the participant group was highly Yoga aware and this has enabled me to offer a primer on Yoga based stress management.
The Yoga hall was just fantastic and it was a pleasure and privilege to meet Jay and the participant group was just fantastic.  My experience of the event was wonderful and in my opinion, one of the best. They participation, questions and comments were very satisfying and encouraging to me and made the event very special. It was made even more special by the presence of not only Jacob and Susan Abraham but also another Navy friend TM Subramium. He was visiting his daughter in VA and came to the workshop along with Deepa and Prasanna (his daughter and son-in-law).
The closing prayer by Jay put a perfect finishing touch to this event that is so memorable to me. I am grateful to Jacob and Jay for this extraordinary opportunity. I am thrilled by Jay’s invitation to do a full day workshop next when I am visiting the east coast. I look froward to the summer of 2013 to be in this wonderful space and meet Jay and Jacob again and have the opportunity to do the next workshop.  

Pranayama Session at Matagiri, USA

 This post needs to begin with my impressions of Matagiri.
 Matagiri is a spiritual center dedicated to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s vision. It located in Wittenberg, Mt. Tremper, NY very close to the picturesque Woodstock, where more than half a million people came together - united in a message of peace, openness and cultural expression.  Seeing the alignment with Human Unity, I was excited going there.  The drive was very picturesque and enjoyable. The scenery kept getting better and better as we approached Matagiri. Matagiri itself is something indescribable.  So sylvan,  so simple,  so rustic and down to earth,  so naturally beautiful and serene. I felt a kind of peace and tranquility here that I have rarely experienced.
 Julian welcomed us very warmly and introduced Wendy and Eric. Eric is the co-founder of Matagiri along with Sam and what a privilege it is to meet the founder of such a place! He shared some of the history leading to setting up of Matagiri and Mother’s direct blessing and guidance right from the inception. I think being blessed is the source of the serenity.  Wendy gave us a delicious lunch and it was a pleasant surprise that she gave us such tasty dal (lentils cooked Indian style) and rice. After lunch, Julian took us around showed us around. The highlight is the mediation centre which appeared to me as the epicenter of peace and serenity.
Now something about how the event happened. Julian  attended the Pranayama workshop in February. We had breakfast together and my planned trip to NJ in April came up in the conversation. Julian is one of the Trustees of Matagiri  and invited me to Matagiri and I was more than eager to offer a workshop! What a blessing it is to offer a workshop at a Sri Aurobindo Center in USA! He suggested 22nd April as Matagiri was celebrating Darshan. However, 22nd did not work for us because we booked an early morning flight form NY to Seattle on 23rd. So, it was 21st April.

The event itself was wonderful and the small hall was filled up so much that Julian had to squeeze himself into a corner. This was the first time I did a Pranayama session within short time after lunch and adapted to it by making the exercises shorter duration with less intensity. Julian has been practicing ever since he did the workshop in February and Wendy also joined him in the practice. The event is a kickoff for Julian and Wendy to offer the sessions on a regular basis at Matagiri and I was given the privilege to conduct it.  The event went well and I am fulfilled to learn that the participants liked it and the regular sessions are being offered by Wendy and Julian. This is the message I take form this event: for wider manifestation for good health and wellbeing, we need more Julians and Wendys  to offer follow up sessions.  I seek Her guidance to lead me in finding more Julians and Wendys .
For me one of the unforgettable moments was the very short drizzle of Grace just as we completed the workshop and were moving out. Matagiri looked even more beautiful and Divine.

I am grateful to Julian, Wendy, Eric, Sam and The Mother for the opportunity of experiencing a place like Matagiri.

When we  were leaving, I told Julian that, in future, I will talk to him before arranging my travel plans so that I have the opportunity to be more in this blessed place.

Wellbeing (Pranayama) Workshop at Auroville

This Wellbeing (Pranayama) Workshop at Savitri Bhavan is my 50th Pranayama Workshop. The more I do this workshop and say the instructions and share the benefits, the more the words of The Mother are sinking into me –
“Good health is an outer expression of inner harmony”
 “It is in good health that the path to transformation is found”
I started understanding that take care of our health and being mindful and responsible about our wellbeing is a basic step and integral to all spiritual growth. This is a new perspective for me. When I began offering the workshops in 2008, I did not have this insight.
 I am particularly happy that Mr. Mohan Kurivilla and Mrs Elizabeth came over from Bangalore to   participate in this event!
 During March, my good friend Varadharajan gave me an opportunity to conduct a session on transcending the inner duality as part of a larger event.
I feel grateful and satisfied to be in Auroville,  finding  the purpose of my life and the opportunity to express it.

Stress Management and Good Health & Wellbeing Workshops at IIM, Indore

 I had the opportunity to conduct two workshops (Stress Management and Good Health & Wellbeing) in the 4th trimester of PGP course. IIM Indore now has a batch size of 450 students in the PGP course and I was given the opportunity to repeat the workshops in the 6th trimester. These were scheduled at the very end of the course. In fact, all other subjects were completed and all students left to their homes except those who opted for the workshops. I said to myself “Wow! This is great! These students are really interested and they can give lot of time and attention. It is wonderful”.  It did not turn out to be so. In fact, I was more satisfied with the 4th trimester workshops. May be the workshops can be made more intensive and I need to plan and adopt to this better. Finally, there were some participants who were pulling the workshops to themselves and were doing great. I need to focus on them and not be distracted by other issues. Even if one person is benefited, my mission is being accomplished and that person becomes a seed for propagation of health, happiness and harmony.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Wellbeing (Pranayama) Workshop at Savitribhavan

 The Pranayama workshop in Auroville during the last week of February has special significance for me, being soon after Darshan Day and actually held during the birthday of Auroville (28 Feb). I especially look forward to this time as there is festive atmosphere in Auroville, with so much goodwill and high spirits. I think that this is the Yuletide time of Auroville. The Pranayama (wellbeing) workshop is the foundation of my work and when offered during this week, I feel very happy, grateful and privileged. This year, the venue is Savitri Bhavan and that made it even more wonderful for me. For those of you who don’t know about  Savitri Bhavan, it  is the center dedicated to fostering a living sense of Human Unity through spiritual education based on the vision and teachings of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother . For more details, please see
The participation is also normally high during this period because a large number of friends of Auroville visit during this period. This workshop was made even more special for me with the presence and participation of Julian. Julian is a member of the International Advisory Committee of Auroville and I felt very encouraged and happy that he found time to be part of this workshop. It is also great that Ben, an intern from Nantes, France also was part of this workshop because Ben and I started working together on a Knowledge Management Project for Savitri Bhavan.
This is my 49th Pranayama workshop and the next one would be 50th!  Time flies and I feel happier  counting workshops rather than years.
In gratitude to the Mother and Spirit of Auroville,

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Stress Management Workshop for GPCL, Chennai

When I agreed to do this workshop in a Power Factory, I was expecting a lot of noise and not an exemplary campus. What I saw was stunning. The campus was just beautiful and given that it is the second largest diesel power plant in the world, the noise was surprisingly low. In fact, when all the doors of the generator room are closed, you hear the water flow form cooling tower. The plant does not consume any water - it purifies sewage water and use it for cooling. The sight of the engines was awesome - biggest engines I ever saw.
The vent was fantastic. The participation was great! The measurable result at the end of the workshop is a stunning 98.8%. Most of the participants have done the Isha Foundation workshop and may be the foundation was very good.
In the excitement , I forgot to take the pictures of this extraordinary event.

Wellbeing workshop

This was a very strange event for me. There was no one , yes no one for the first session. No one.

I felt a huge disappointment  and then let it go. There was some debate about this amongst my friends in Auroville and the general opinion is that people were still grappling with the aftermath of the cyclone.  You can see the picture of my room, the same morning I started the workshop.

Well, the next day a couple of my friends showed up and slowly more people joined. In the end, I enjoyed the event as much as any other event.

It was a good learning experience for me. One of those practical lessons to learn that "It is not over till it is over"