Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Pranayama Workshop at New Era Secondary School

One of my goals is to expand my work to reach younger people. The aim behind this goal is that. If youngsters take up the practice of Pranayma , the results would be astounding. A new opportunity came when Selvaraj met me with an invitation to do a workshop for New Era Secondary School (NESS). 
NESS is an outreach higher secondary school  that has adopted CBSE syllabus. Selvaraj is a local person who became an Aurovilian  and is one of the founders of NESS. He attended the Pranayama workshop a couple of times and decided to invite me. One of the unexpected benefits of accepting this invitation was getting to know Selvaraj  (albeit, only a little bit). It is inspiring to hear his journey and how he has transformed his life and created a platform to transform the lives of the village children.
The workshop itself was pleasure to conduct and it was further enhanced by the participation of the teachers.  My experience is that the students liked the practice and I hope that the teachers would practice and help the children to practice it. I am happy and grateful to Selvaraj for giving this opportunity.

Yoga Nidra Session for Auroville Tamilnadu Workshop on the Siddhi Day of Sri Aurobindo

 Tamil heritage Center  and Arul Vazhi Education Centre jointly conduct workshops for participants from the towns in Tamil Nadu . The objective is to give them an experience of Auroville, which includes meditation at Matri Mandir and sessions on Integral Yoga and the teachings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.  The events are organized about once a quarter.
I am fortunate that Shri Varadarajan gives me an opportunity to share at these workshops, even though I don’t speak Tamil.  In this session, I conducted Yoga Nidra session and Shri Rajagopalan translated into Tamil.  What is inspiring to me is that many families as a whole participate in it and it is wonderful that the parents are giving this kind of exposure to their children. Nowadays, it is rare to see children brought up with roots in the cultural heritage and spiritual heritage of India – the country with one of the richest history and heritage.
I am grateful for the opportunity to be part of these wonderful events on a very significant occasion.   

Monday, November 18, 2013

Health and happiness Retreat & Wellbeing Workshop

 I was doing workshops and retreats separately. This was an attempt to combine Wellbeing workshop (7AM to8AM) for 5 days and try to combine it with Health and Happiness Retreat from 2PM to 6PM on the same 5 days. The participants in Health and Happiness Retreat attend the wellbeing sessions in the morning. The rationale was to spread the retreat over more time while giving space and time for the participants to manage their other commitments. The spread over 5 days (instead of the earlier two and a half days) allows the participants also to assimilate what we do in a better way and especially try some of it in their daily lives. For me this format also works better for scheduling my other activities; if it is so I hope that I can increase the frequency of the Health and Healing retreat in Auroville.
My first impression is that the objectives were achieved and the rationale is valid. The feedback from the participants validated my impression and I would proceed in this direction and refine the retreat.
There were several ‘firsts’ in this experiment, part form the format. I included a conversation on conditioning as an important aspect and this becomes the foundation on which we build the super structures related to freedom from stress, emotional overwhelm, baggage of the past and processes for inner healing.  The foundation also supports the new dimension I added to transmute conditioning and a more detailed session on being happier. I also introduced more video clips and all these innovations make the retreat very integrated. I feel elated about the way it turned out.
An important contributing factor in the success of the experiment is the interested group of participants who were committed to create value for themselves out of the retreat. What was delightful was that the average age of the group would be one of the lowest ever in the retreats I facilitated and I was initially a little concerned whether the serious topics would hold their attention over a period of 5 days. I was pleasantly surprised that they maintained the interest and attention and were there even when a cyclone broke out on the last day. I was fortunate to have such a group which included two young couples; all with extraordinary receptivity to the objectives of the retreat and the wonderful international mix of Auroville events.  It is a wonderful experience for me and I am certain that the shape of ideal retreat that I would like to offer is close to manifestation.
This was the first time that I had participants form Uruguay and it was wonderful to get to know them.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Health and Happiness Retreat at Hyderabad

This is the fourth program I have done for my extended family: friends who studied with me in the same college. The first was initiative by DSR Raju and organized by Veerabhadra Rao at IE building. The second was during the annual get together and was also triggered by DSR.DSR and Meduri Subba Rao organized the retreat at Auroville in Jan 2013.  I felt sad that DSR is not involved in the 4th event. I missed his as friend and missed him as the creator and catalyst of the string of programs with my extended family.
The event itself was, by far the best organized in the series. Meduri Subbarao was the initiator this time and Veerabhadra Rao and Chakram took over the mantle of organizing the event. They did an excellent job. The venue is simply superb- the beautiful resort of Tramati Baradari near Golconda at Hyderbad. The sprawling gardens and the Mogul architecture reminded me of Topkapi Place in Istanbul.  While the gardens are quite well maintained, the upkeep of the inner spaces and service are typical (apathetic) government style and if improved, this would be a much sought after resort.
The start of the event was more like a get together for me. Meeting Meduri Subbrao and Mrs Subbrao, Veerabhadra Rao, Chakram, BR Raju, ESR Prasad, Phani Babu, TIMS, UN Raju, Ramana Reddy, Mrs & Mr. T. Venkateswara Rao and all others was a very happy occasion by itself.

 The retreat itself went very well as the group stayed focused on the theme of Health and Happiness. I am especially grateful for the listening of the group as it is not easy to relate to a fellow student at college as facilitator of retreat. I am lucky to have this and the event happened in the generosity of their listening and kind attention. Given these, I was delighted and did my best to share what all I could in the available time. I am inspired by the thoughts of what is possible in the lives of my friends and their families if they fold the principles and practices into their life-style.
In terms of topics, I could do full justice to Health and Harmony. I wish I had more time to do justice to the topic of happiness. The availability of a projector has helped in using slides and videos to make the retreat more interesting.
I feel blessed to have the opportunity to share the time and space with my extended family. I feel very satisfied and fulfilled when they practice and share the benefits they derived. That day will be the day for true celebration.
I am also delighted that my friends expressed interest in a program at Nainital/Ramgar. This is exciting!
Last but not the least; we were lucky that the political turmoil did not interfere with our retreat.

IDL (Integral Development Lab) for IIMI at Nainital

 This is program that I immensely enjoy each year because of many aspects that I like. The foremost amongst them is the venue of Van Nivas Ashram, set in the sylvan verdure of the foothills of the Himalayas in the beautiful city of Nainital. I love to be with the young group of students and watch them enjoy the program. I cherish the opportunity of working and connecting with a new faculty member who co-conducts the IDL. I also love to reconnect with Shri Nalinji, who is synonymous with the Ashram and also Jayanto and his team who conduct the adventure activities and run the Ashram so well, efficiently and cheerfully. So, all in all, I am happy and grateful to be here for the fourth successive Integral Development Lab for the students of IIM, Indore.
This year, I fine-tuned the program to increase the out-door activities, introduced games as fillers when we wait at the adventure venues, prepared a new talk that links happiness, goals and awareness. The time allocated for the entertainment program from each group is increased to 20 minutes by spreading it over 4 days. It makes the program truly integral with components of Yoga and Pranayaama to kick-start the day, adventure activities like rock climbing, bouldering, scrambling, rappelling, river-crossing, trekking, hill climbing and paragliding, fun activities like sight-seeing and shopping in the beautiful city of Nainital, entertainment like the campfire programs by the students and innovative games, and personal growth sessions. This a 4 credit course and the students form groups of 9-10 and submit a reflection essay and prepare a presentation with pictures and videos. I would like to  keep improving the program to make it more meaningful and enjoyable to the participants and hence more satisfying and fulfilling to me.
Prof. Srinivas Gunta has brought forth a very effective system of planning and this made the program easier to implement – the process of forming groups early, opting for the program group wise, making reservations etc now help in making the program more enjoyable. The students from Mumbai campus also joined the Himalaya program this year. There was one glitch when the Ashram changed the dates without consulting us. This throws the whole program out of gear. Thanks to Tara Didi, this was resolved and the program was brought back on rails.
Bright sun shine greeted us on 20th October. The lush green verdure of Himalayas in golden shine with the bracing mountain air is an experience that uplifts me at all levels of my being. The greenery is even more stunning this year as the rains were abundant. We were very fortunate because the rains abated only on 16th, just in time for our program. Actually, the heart beat in the foothills is determined by the sunshine and we are acutely made aware that we live in the solar system. Sun shine makes life shine in the mountains.
When I arrived at Van Nivas, the scene appeared to be one of utter confusion. About 160 people were having breakfast – a group of 160 teenagers who were all abuzz with excitement as they were leaving within the hour and a study group of about sixty senior citizens who were finding their way amidst the milling mass of the youngsters. And our group of about 110 started arriving. Amidst all this chaotic confusion, Jayanto and his small but extremely efficient team were quietly working – serving breakfast, cleaning the dormitories, arranging the linen and answering questions from everyone. There is a lot to learn from this exemplary team of people and they are one of the main reasons why I love to be here year after year. The scene calmed down once the teenagers left and our batch unpacked and settled down. The faculty member for the Nainital program is Prof. Siddhartha Rastogi. I am very fortunate that I get to work with and make friends with a different faculty member very year. The class representative is one of the most important person as he hold the program together by coordinating amongst the students, faculty and the Ashram team. The class representative plays a key role in organizing the optional programs. Navdeep brought forth excellent organizational capabilities, efficiency and enthusiasm and made this IDL a joyful experience for all. It was a pleasure meeting him and working with him. We discussed the program with Jayanto and made a couple of last minute changes and the introduction session was held promptly as planned , to kick start the program followed by the first IDL session. The group had their first outdoor experience when they trekked to Land’s End in the evening and we were very lucky that the sun peeped out of the clouds for about 10 minutes, filling the green valley with a golden glow. The sky was kaleidoscopic when the sun went behind the clouds. The trek itself was very nice though we had to move slowly due to the slippery nature of the ye-to-dry ground.
 The first of the adventure events was to do with rocks and boulders and caves. For most of the students, it was first-even experience to try out scrambling, bouldering and rock climbing. They were thrilled with the adventure and were exhilarated when they could transcend their imaginary limits and fears. Playing games while waiting for the turn is a good idea and was well received by the students.  I am also very happy and satisfied that the leanings and the takeaways that the students shared. The next set of activities was even more enjoyable to the students. They loved the thrilling experience of paragliding and the exhilarating experience of conquering Naina peak and get a glimpse of the infiniteness of the snow-clad Himalayan mountain range. Those who could not participate in either of the programs went to Mukteshwar and Prof. Rastogi went along with them. I understand that this was not very enjoyable because many suffered from motion sickness and the time they could spend in Mukteshwar was too short. In any case, there is not much to see in Mukteshwar in a one day trip. I need to think of something else for the next year, preferably closer. We had a 12 km trek to Kanchi on the 4th  day and rappelling and river crossing on the last day. Add to this Yoga and Pranayama in the mornings and three class room sessions that touched upon perception, awareness, happiness, choice, attention and intention, the program morphs into “Integral Development Lab”. Next year, I want to introduce integrity and responsibility as topics to be touched upon in IDL.
One of the things that I started in the first IDL is to give prizes (along with the IIM Faculty)  to the best group and the students who volunteer to coordinate the program. It is in that context that I go to Modern Book Shop to buy books and had a very brief but transformational meeting with Mr Vimal in November 2012. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor but as far as I could see, he was not suffering from it. He said that he was enjoying every breath he was taking and he is grateful for every breath. I was hoping to meet him but felt sad to know that he passed away. Abhimanyu, his son is helping his mother to run the family business. He is an engineering graduate in IT and is planning a start-up as well. The brief meeting with Mr. Vimal made a strong connection with this family. I wish them all the very best.
On my walk to the town, I met a young man. He was swishing around a sling used to carry weights in the mountain region. I asked him for directions to the town and he not only pointed the way but said that he would walk with me. His name is Sinha and he came from Nepal with a truck bringing house hold goods. We chatted for about 15-20 minutes. I enjoyed talking to him and walking with him. Even though his Hindi is generously smeared with Nepalese, it was good enough for us to connect with each other and experience that we are all one and we have the same concerns as humans.
For me, Nalinji is synonymous with Van Nivas. He is a scholar of classical music and is a very erudite person. His eyes are always dancing with good humor and he has a smile like the smile I have seen in the pictures of the Mother. It is a pleasure and privilege to talk to him. Unfortunately, the program this year is so packed that I could have only brief meetings with him but even those brief meetings are highly inspiring. He is 76 now and told me that his eye sight is deteriorating. He mentioned that he takes one hour to walk from the city. When I said I took 45 minutes he said that he is more used to the walk. A simple remark behind which is there is so much kindness and goodwill to make me feel good.
Jayanto and his team never cease to maze and inspire me. It is a team of all-rounders. They conduct the adventure sports events like scrambling, rock climbing, rappelling etc and are quite good at instructing the students, motivating them, ensuring safety etc. They also help in cooking the meals, serving the food, cleaning the kitchen and various places, buying the rations, connecting the audio system - you name it and they do it. They do it with so much attention and enthusiasm. Their work culture and work ethic is very akin to the Japanese. Like the Japanese they are very conscious of “total quality”. Jayanto trains them and manages the team and the Ashram so efficiently. There is a lot to learn from this team. What is surprising to me is that there is a significant turnover but the efficiency remains the same. Jayanto also knows first-aid, acupressure and homeopathy and was very effective in dealing with injuries and episodes of breathlessness etc.
I was using corn caps to get rid of a couple of corns. In theory, the corns are supposed to disappear in 6 days, but it actually took 2months! My walking was disrupted and I gained about 4 kg of weight.  I put on shoes for the first time in Nainital after more than two months. The extra weight and being out of walking regimen made me a tortoise in the long trek.
One of the goals of IDL is to challenge the limits. Transcending the limits is very transformational experience that makes one aware of the inner resources and gives a glimpse of who we are. I see this in the eyes of the participants many a time and witnessing those moments is one of the rewards of IDL for me. The most inspirational sources are people (like Paramveer last year) who have known conditions or physically challenged and they consistently transcend their limits. This IDL had its share of people whom I would remember for being sources of inspiration with their extraordinary participation, indomitable spirit and zest for life..  Deepti, who has multiple medical conditions, is always effervescent and participated in every event.   Mrinal is diagnosed with a slipped disc but he was there in every event. Sneha, who has uneven legs, participated in every event except the 12 km trek to Knachi.  I salute them and feel happy and grateful for the inspiration they provided. Witnessing such never-say-die spirit to transcend limitations is a major reward for me.
This year, I had also the pleasure of getting to know Prof. Siddhartha Rastogi. It was easy to work with him and we could spontaneously mesh as a team and I enjoyed working together. He is multi-faceted personality – he is an avid bird watcher, nature lover, music enthusiast and a poet. I am happy and grateful that a warm friendship has sprung up between us and I am sure that it will grow with time.
The joy of working together with Siddhartha was enhanced by the excellence and meticulous coordination brought forth by Navdeep, the student class representative. He is so meticulous and very effective that we did not need even a single meeting with the groups and group leaders. Navdeep was ably assisted by the specific event coordinators, group leaders and the other two coordinators.  Most of the students participated with enthusiasm and maintained a state of high spiritedness with responsibility, manifesting the aims and goals of IDL through their participation.

Personal Growth Lab for IIM, RAK

The IIM campus at Ras-Al-Khima, UAE was opened in 2011 and I was fortunate to conduct the inaugural program.  I missed out to do the course last year due to a clash with my other commitments. It is great that I could do the Personal Growth Lab (PGL) this year and once again this was the first course the new batch started with. It is always a pleasure to work with the students of a new batch – they appear to me as pristine flowers of consciousness; eager, very willing open and enthusiastic. They are more coach-able compared to the students in the last term. I don’t know whether it is true, but I have the notion that PGL is more valuable at the beginning of the course as they can fold what they learn in PGL into their life style, whilst doing coping with the rigors and demands of the academic program.

In the PGL I did in 2011, I had about 15 sessions to work with the students. This time, it was made into a two credit course of 10 sessions. With new found emphasis on health and happiness, I revamped the program considerably. I enjoyed the process of revamping and conducting the revised program. The batch was small but the participation was great; making the whole experience very satisfying and fulfilling for me. I would love to fine-tune the program and make it optimal for 10 sessions. I look forward to more opportunities to accomplish this.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Health and Happiness Retreat

 I have been doing workshops and retreats with various permutations and combinations of Pranayama, Wellbeing, Inner Healing, Stress Management, Emotional Freedom, Happiness etc in a quest to find an integral approach to wellness. I think that this retreat finally blended the various elements of Integral Wellness into a three day retreat.
The major shift with respect to the earlier retreats is to pull in happiness; inspired by the saying of the Mother “As yet, happiness and good health are not normal conditions in this world. We must protect them very carefully against the intrusion of their opposites.” The results of modern research substantiate what the Mother said a long time ago - happier people are healthier, more successful and more empathic. Seen from the perspective of health and happiness, stress of all forms occludes our natural state of wellbeing. Modern research also shows that all forms of dis-ease is the result of stress. Thus, health and happiness give rise to a unifying, integral framework for wellbeing.
 For a first retreat with this new perspective, I am quite pleased with the results. I liked the participating group immensely. Like all groups in Auroville, the group was heterogeneous in composition with respect to cultures and age. I am also happy and grateful for the probing questions, very interesting discussions and sharing form which I learned a lot and gained many insights. It is a pleasure and privilege to have facilitated this retreat.
It appears to me that my search for the ideal proportions is over and I found it – finally. No doubt, I have a lot of fine-tuning to do but I am certain that this is what I will offer form now onwards. I am considering various ways offering this retreat and how some parts can be offered as stand-alone workshops.
I feel very happy and grateful for the opportunity of exploring and finding the integral framework in “Health and Happiness”. I am sure that fine-tuning this retreat and offering it in various forms  is a very meaningful and pleasurable pathway for my own personal growth.
Syamala was once again an enthusiastic participant in this retreat and I derived a lot of encouragement from her presence. I am fortunate to have her feedback and reassuring and encouraging presence in so many events.

Wellbeing (Pranayama) workshops at Savitri Bhavan

I have heard the old adage “Practice makes a man perfect” and have a sense of the truth in this when we look for a doctor with experience. When my sister had to undergo a total knee replacement surgery, we were looking at the number of operations the doctor performed as an important criterion in our choice. But, when it comes to our own daily lives, we tend to look for novelty rather than enjoy the opportunity of walking the path of perfection when we do the same thing again and again.  The Pranayama workshop is one of those opportunities for me to actually connect with the opportunity of walking the path to perfection. These are the 57th and 58th Pranayama workshops in Auroville and I must have done something like 500 sessions of Pranayama. Now I have an experiential sense of the old adage and am able to see how there is an incremental improvement every time I do the workshop. There is a joy in this journey that is difficult to express in words but very exhilarating to me. I also am aware that this walk is a work in progress. It helps me to enjoy the journey.
In the background of this awareness, the two workshops were steps in the journey to perfection. I am so happy and grateful for the opportunity of taking these steps and the generosity of the participants and the Savitri Bhavan team in making these steps. One of the workshops was exclusively for the Savitri Study group form Gujarat. This was a ‘first’ because I did not do the well being workshop for a study group earlier. I am grateful to Shraddhavan for giving me this opportunity.
I am also grateful to Varadarajan and Syamala for their continuous encouragement and participation.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Stress Managment and Wellbeing workshops at IIM, Indore

I missed going to IIM, Indore campus in the VI Semester (Jan-Mar 2013). It is more than a  year since I visited this beautiful campus, which appears to have grown more beautiful in the last one year. Indore had a good monsoon this year, in fact it was better than good - one of the best ever- so much so that I had to buy an umbrella. The rains  made the campus lush and green and it was a fest to the eyes. A major renovation of the academic block is underway. This was originally built with Jaipur stone cladding that I admired so much. But, the stones are falling and it became an unmanageable hazard. 

 There is an unbelievable transformation in this campus within the 4 years I started coming here. The student strenghth has more than  doubled and so idd the strength of the faculty. So many new courses have been introduced and new hostels, new sports complex, new auditorium. new quarters for faculty, staff and   married students with facilities for medical care, shopping and good living in the campus. I am told that this is the fastest growing campus in India! To cap it all, IIMI also started a campuses in UAE and Mumbai.

 The workshops themselves were very special for me in many ways. Prof. Srinivas attended all the sessions of the Good Health and Well being. This was not only encouraging to me but also helped me to get  valuable feedback. There appears to be more people who are genuinely interested in what the workshops and creating value for themselves. This is very heartening because I love to work with people who are interested in Good Health, Well being and making their lives free of stress. We  had students form the Mumbai campus in both the workshops.
I made some significant changes in the way I present the information on diet and work habits. It was fun working on it.I also did a major overhauls of the presentation on Emotional Freedom and included more video clips in the  workshop on Stress Management. The video clips make the sessions more interesting and gives me a chance to catch my breath and step-back.
The visit was interesting as it through up the possibility of offering "Being happier" workshop in the VI Sem. There was also interest from the faculty do a Pranayama Workshop, during my next visit to the campus. I also enjoyed the meeting we had about the Himalaya program in October..
So, it was another enjoyable visit to IIMI, enjoying the workshops, the ambiance of the campus, meeting some old friends and making some new friends.  I feel happy and grateful.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Wellbeing workshop at Savitri Bhavan

I got back to Auroville after the longest absence ever - 105 days! There were good early showers and Auroville is fabulously green and beautiful. It is great to get back and do another of the Wellbeing workshops at Savitri Bhavan.
One of the trends that I observed and am celebrating is that more Aurovilians are attending the workshops and I am particularly delighted that many of them are come back for refresher or to re-start the practice after some break. This is particularly heartening for me as I am sure that this will have a positive impact on the collective well being.
Every workshop is special in some way and some times I may not be able to notice all the 'special' aspects of the workshop. One of the things that I am very happy is that Kripa attended this workshop along with her two sons - Ilango and Ishan and her sister, Kali. We stayed in Shranag Guest House in our second visit to Auroville and had the pleasure of meeting Kripa and her two young children. Mirablle, Kripa's sister was a major inspiration in our experience during that visit. It was also the time that we decided to join Auroville.

I will also remember this workshop for the kind coaching of Patricia in my English pronunciation. I studied in Telugu medium in rural Andhra and had no training in pronunciation ever.  When I went to the college, the important thing was to learn written English and follow the class. Many others in the college were in the same boat and we learnt mispronunciation from each other. So, it was wonderful to learn this at this advanced age. Patricia is patient and phenomenal as a coach - so gentle and effective. I am grateful and hopeful that I will be better understood in the future workshops.
The workshop was great and it was great to have the continued encouragement form Syamala, Jido and Varadarajan. I cherish their presence in the wrokshops and am happy and grateful.

Pranayama,Well Being and Human Unity

How can I capture an incredible, multi-dimensional experience of over 90 days in a brief blog post? Let me try to (briefly) share my  experiences in facilitating Integral Being workshops, connecting with the people who helped me and the places I visited in USA and Europe. We had a great family get-together at Wapato Point on Lake Chilon, Washington, USA to celebrate the first birthday of my granddaughter. Being a grandparent is wonderful!. It is one of the greatest perks of being a senior citizen (a nice word for an old person). From Seattle, I went to New Jersey and the workshops started on the east coast.The first of the workshop was a Good Heath and Well Being workshop at Durga Temple,  Fairfax, Va, USA,  My old friends Jacob and Susan created the opportunity to do a workshop here in 2012 and Jay became a new friend. It was great to go back to this beautiful venue and reconnect with them. The rest of the events in this trip happened mostly through Auroville International  (AVI). AVI is a worldwide network set up with the aim of supporting the Auroville International Township in India. Founded in 1983, Auroville International today has member associations, and liaison groups in 30 countries around the world. I had no idea of the extent of this network till I started exploring the possibilities of workshops.
Julian gave me the opportunity to do two workshops (Pranayama workshop  and Freedom From Stress workshop)  at Matagiri, Woodstock, NY, USA. It was a pleasure  to stay with  Julian and Wendy and enjoy their warm hospitality. Julian is an inspiring, walking encyclopedia of Integral Yoga Network, with infinite energy. He introduced me to Vivek, who organized a Pranayama session at the Sri Aurobindo Yoga Foundation of North America (SAYFNA) at Morganville, NJ. This was the first glimpse of the extended family of Integral Yoga (IY) of the Mother and Sri Aurobndo and realizing that  IY is also the network of Human Unity. I did not even know that such  network existed and I was already part of it.  While I was in NJ, I also made a presentation (via skype) to the annual meeting of AVI on the project to set up a network and data center at Auroville to reduce carbon footprint and electromagnetic smog from mobile phones. I am happy that this was well received and seen as an important initiative to make Auroville border-less.
Even though I visited USA many times earlier, it is only now that  I saw a people who are basically united despite diversity in their origins.
The first event in Europe was an Integral being Workshop at Dransfeld, Germany, arranged by Kristine. Kristine visited Auroville in 1971 and has been walking the spiritual path since her teens. She is also a QiGong teacher and translator par-excellence. I enjoyed a brief visit to the lovely city Munster, thanks to  Raphael,  a doctor transformed into  a disciple of The Mother and Sri Aurobindo and founded “Field-Dynamics” after studying "Life Divine". Ilka invited me to Rodenberg, Germany to do a  Pranayama for well being  workshop.   Ilka touches many lives through her  week-end retreats  and individual counseling. The last stop in Germany was the historic city of Berlin, where I did Freedom from Stress and   Pranayama workshops at the Sri Aurobindo Center,  Berlin, thanks to Isa.  Isa started her spiritual journey when she was 8 years young and persevered while in Foreign Service! The visit to to Checkpoint Charlie was like a pilgrimage in Human Unity! It is amazing to see Germany as it is today and it is  an eye-opener for me to meet so many people who have been walking the spiritual path for decades.

Next was Amsterdam, the eco-conscious city that breaths freedom., where I met Mundo, who is an epitome of 'being' , even though he is barely 30 and enjoyed his hospitality. he welcomed me to his home even though he never met me and we did not even know each other till Anna introduced us when I was exploring places to stay in Amsterdam. He quit his role as a founder of a company and is the founder of Hart Werkers.  Jose, whose enthusiasm and energy are infectious, organized Pranayama and  Freedom From Stress & Happiness Workshops at her Center for Being. Onwards to Nijmegen to enjoy the warm hospitality of Johan and Gonnie, who also made a  Pranayama Workshop possible . I was delighted that Wim of AVI,  The Netherlands   cycled from across the German Border to attend the workshop. Johan is one of the most multi-skilled technical person I ever met!
I could visit the incredible city of Istanbul, thanks to Gunnur and Tugay of AVI, Turkey . Tugay radaites peace like a Sufi Saint and Gunnur  always has a beatific  smile (except when she is laughing). She created a unique healing retreat on a boat that went around the Aegean Sea. Here I got to know Elif and Guray and had the fortune to do Well being and healing retreat. I enjoyed staying at the home of Guray and Elif along with the children and Elif's mother at Marmaris. The people of Turkey were uniting to express their love for freedom and I was privileged to have a glimpse of it.
I moved on to UK to do a week-end  Integral Being Retreat  in the lovely, converted oast house of Sonia at Robertsbridge for the committee members of  AVI, UK, thanks to Martin. Sonia is a Savitri scholar, who  first visited Auroville in 1979! It was a pleasure to stay with the sage-like Martin and Dany and enjoy their sweet hospitality in the the idyllic English country side.  Martin was weaned on the teachings of Sri Aurobindo since his childhood by his mother. For me, Martin is Integral Yoga, personified.  He introduced me to ConciuosLab, London, where I gave a talk on Emotional Wellness. I prefer workshops as they could be experiential, but (successfully) experimented to make it an  experiential event. The biggest surprise for me is that not only Claudia, Shilpa, Roshni, Harsh but almost everyone that I met at the event have been touched by the Integral Yoga of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. Knowing that I only saw the tip of the ice-berg, I marvel at the power and  magic of the IY Network of Human Unity! I was fortunate that Helen showed me round London. Alan Vickers invited me to his cozy home in the lovely suburbs of London. I had a wonderful visit with Alan and Sara. Alan was in Auroville in the very early years and the Mother gave him the name of "Vikas". Vikas took me to Cambridge and the highlight was visiting King's College, where Sri Aurobindo studied.  London must be having the highest diversity of races and regions. England gave the world English, the most commonly spoken language that has been helping in weaving the fabric of Human Unity.
 My last stop was Budapest, made possible by Bogi of AVI, Hungary. Bogi is a bundle of energy, like a human dynamo and amidst all her other commitments, created an opportunity for me to offer all the three parts of the Integral Being program - Good Health and Wellbeing, Freedom from stress, Happiness & beyond workshops, a grand finale to this magical trip. Making freinds with Barny, their 6 year old son is one of the biggest bonuses for me. 
We had a full day event on Saturday, 13th July and half day event on 14th . As Bogi and her family were traveling to Serbia in the afternoon of 14 July, they shifted me to their city flat on 13th morning. My wallet with passport, considerable amount of money and credit /debit cards  was stolen around 10pm, while I was walking from the venue of “Happiness and Beyond” workshop to the flat.  I don’t know Hungarian, voice calls were not going through in my mobile, there was no internet in the flat and I was to leave to Frankfurt in the evening of 16th to catch my flight to Bangalore. Quite a situation to be in! While I did not like it at all (to say the least), it had its value. The first is that I needed to be ‘present’ and be in the moment in order to practice the tools techniques I know. The second is that the tools and techniques were put to a a good test and my own conviction in the veracity of these is redoubled. I reached the flat around 1:45AM after the police complaint and could have nice restful sleep of 2 hours, woke up at 4AM, did my own yoga practice, went to an internet café, talked to my wife and on skype, blocked all cards and was at the venue in time for the workshop and had a great workshop. The third and most important aspect was that I was peaceful in the company of illegal immigrants on 16th afternoon when I could recollect the jail term of Sri Aurobindo. I was happy and grateful that I am blessed to be in a situation not to illegally cross borders in order to eke out a lively hood and felt compassion for them. That was a magical moment. I found a new key to acceptance through connecting with the lives of Masters!

Europe is certainly showing the way to heal old wounds and go forward. It is a miracle that today Europe is border-less - barely 70 years from the mutually inflicted wounds of World War II. If these can heal, why not the wounds of the first millennium? Something to learn from Europe; to forgive and reconnect with each other because we are all already One.

Right from the first thought of going to Europe, there was an effortless flow, a synchronicity, that made the whole experience uniquely and incredibly enjoyable. I am blessed to experience the natural beauty and the rainbow of the culture of Europe and be shown around by such loving, caring and inspiring people who made the experience very vivid and transformational for me through their lives inter-twined with the space and time in history.   Ashesh, Jaya and Vani helped me to contact the many people I did not know earlier. I received a lot of love, affection, support and help from everyone that I contacted with and was welcomed with open arms in every place I visited. My heart is filled and overflowing with gratitude and happiness. 
Indra is the King of Gods. Indra’s "Mani Hara" (net of jewels) is a metaphor used to describe how the fabric of the Universe is woven together. Imagine a spider web of jewels extending in all dimensions. Each jewel reflects every other jewel in the infinite web of jewels. Indra’s net of jewels is a holographic representation that every jewel contains the whole Universe. The AVI network, the extended network of Integral Yoga and the web of Humanity are  physical instances of the metaphor and helped me to perceive the manifesting Human Unity. We are all already One, breathing the same 'prana' , woven as Inter-beings by the ethereal web of the Divine energy field. We may not be aware that we are all the jewels of Indra's "Mani Hara" but we are. 

Note: The hyperlinks point to the blog posts of the events I had the good fortune to conduct,the people and institutions that made the events possible.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Integral being workshops at Budapest, Hungary

 Integral being is a set of three workshops – Good health, Freedom from Stress and Happiness & Beyond. It is fitting finale to offer all the three workshops, thank to Bogi, the AVIt coordinator of Hungary. It is  very inspiring to see Bogi balancing her many roles : Mother young Barnie, wife of Zsolti, Yoga instructor and workshop facilitator, translator and Coordinator of AVI, HU….. She does all these things with a sense of humor and nonchalantly; dividing her time between Auroville and Budapest. I was fortunate that she organized the workshops, filled as the translator and she and Zsolti took care of me in with such affection. Making friends with Barnie was one of the highlights of my visit to Budapest.
The events went very well and whatever trepidation I had  about translation turned out to be purely a figment of imagination, thanks to the extraordinary skills that Bogi has as translator.
I stayed in their charming community home in an eco-friendly collective on river Danube for the first couple of days and shifted to their flat in Budapest on the evening of Saturday as they were to leave to Serbia on Sunday afternoon (after the workshop) to conduct the first ever  AVI event in Serbia. On Saturday night, I lost my passport, along with some cash and credit & debit cards, while walking from the venue to the flat around 10 PM. This is one of those events that triggers stress, especially in a country where I don’t speak the native language. After the initial panic and letting it go, I experienced calmness and just being present in the moment. My doing and having were given by that being calm and collected. A bar-tender helped me by calling 112 to find out the address of the Police Station where I was to report the loss. One of his customers (who turned out to be a professor of mathematics) took me to the nearest metro station, bought my ticket and explained how to reach the Police Station. The Police Officer was very courteous and helpful and gave the address and phone numbers of the Indian Embassy and advised me to go back in a taxi from safety point of view.

  By the time I reached the flat, it was 1:30 PM and I rushed to a next door bar with Wi-Fi. But, they were closed. By the time I went to bed, it was 2PM and I slept almost immediately and slept well, thanks to one of the techniques that worked very well for me. I had to get up at 4AM to report the loss of the credit & debit cards and block them, apart from doing my morning Pranayama routine and preparation for the workshop. I handled all that, talked to my wife and walked to the venue in time to begin the workshop at the scheduled time of 9AM.  One of the reasons I love to do workshops is that it is like a game or performing art, with a heightened sense of presence. The experience was equally satisfying and fulfilling that day and my sense is that the workshop went just great!
 I thought I will go back to the flat, rest and organize myself. But, Bogi had other ideas. She gave me a nice lunch and drove me to the Indian Embassy, where we met Mr. Maji, the First Secretary. He was very courteous and helped me by giving the forms and told me what I need to bring for the issue of SVP (short validity passport). Then we went to the Immigration Department of Hungary and I was issued with temporary Identity card and was advised to come over the next day. Bogi also took me to the Kaleti Railway Station, where I was to take a train to Frankfurt the day after. Finally, she left me around 5PM to go to her family and leave to Serbia.

Like Bogi, everybody whom I met helped me and in a couple of days I was all set with a new passport, travel permit and a ticket to Bangalore directly from Budapest( I had to let go of my train ticket and Frankfurt-Bangalore flight ticket). The experience in the “Aliens” section of the Immigration Department was quite transformational for me. I was waiting in this small room along with illegal immigrants under detention. Some of them were apparently drunk and one of them was picking up quarrels. I did send a note to the officer requesting that I may be given an appropriate place to wait – for which I had no response.

Obviously, I was resisting what was and tried some of the acceptance processes, without much success. Then I remembered the Uttarapara speech of Sri Aurobindo. When he was in jail, he started seeing Vasudeva (God) in the jailer, the inmates of the jail and the iron rods of the gate of the jail. Just recollecting this inspirational story shifted something in my ‘being’ and I was calm and peaceful after that and could actually connect to the fellow occupants of the room as Human Beings. I could see the people behind the label “illegal immigrants´.  I had one day in Budapest for sightseeing and what beautiful city it is!  I was told that Hungarians were of Asian origin.  Soon after they settled down in this region, they were divested by Huns – killing more than 50% of the people, burning down whatever could be burnt and plundering the whole country. The king then invited Germans, Austrians and French to rebuild Hungary. This was perhaps the origin of why Hungarians look more European. Even after that Hungary had war torn past – conquered by Turks and liberated by Austrians who decided to stay, run over by Nazis and liberated by Soviets, who decided to make it into a communist country. The current Hungary is a fledgling nation of 20 years of freedom and is a testimony to the indomitable spirit of man and the burning light of freedom, equality and fraternity. I was very happy that Angie, a 25 year old young lady told me “we have no bitterness or animosity to any of them. In fact, I am grateful that the Turks gave us baths that led to tourism industry, the Austrians integrated us inot the Architecture and culture of Europe, The Germans gave us engineering capabilities and the Soviets helped to rebuild a war ravaged Hungary”. Wow, that is looking at the brighter side of things. It is source is the Divinity within us.
The experience in the Immigration Department and what Angie told me are the icing on the cake of my sojourn into the manifesting Human Unity. The icing was bitter at first bite but I am sure that there is a learning for me that helped me to grow.