Sunday, February 22, 2009

Day 6: The Journey Continues

The course ended today with a potluck lunch celebration. The Art of Living journey continues...

Couple of pictures of Nancie Di:

Day 5: Satsang

The part 1 course session on day 5 was a short 3 hours since there was another group using the chapel after us. Yoga and kriya today were very deep.

The real treat was the evening satsang with Nancie Di, where she told us more stories of her times and travels with Guruji. After the potluck dinner, most people left and only a few die-hard satsangees remained. Young maestro Vishaal played the Chitraveena for us.

Some pictures are below. The first one was a challenge to get, since we were doing satsang by candle-light, and I didn't want to flood the room with light from my flash. This pic was at ISO 3200 at f/2.8 with 1-stop underexposure. Last pic taken by Ganesh.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Day 4: Q&A and Nancie Di's Story

All participants have settled beautifully into the rhythm of the course, especially the yoga and the breathing techniques. Questions are being asked, and knowledge is beginning to flow.

One participant asked a question about consciousness, I think she asked "What is consciousness?" Nancie spoke for a few minutes about this. It is very difficult to capture the gist of what she said... She explained that even when cells are cloned in the lab, there's a little spark of electricity that has to be fed before their metabolism gets going. Consciousness is like that spark, that force by which the union of a single male cell and a single female cell grows into this complete organism with such a diversity of features: eyes, face, hands, etc. that function so beautifully together.

Q: How does consciousness happen?

A: It doesn't happen. It just is.

Perception is very different from existence. Consciousness is already there in all of us. Do you remember that space after kriya when we were not quite asleep, not quite awake? That state is very close to the fully conscious state.

Q: Have you ever been one with pure consciousness?

A: Yes.

Q: What happens then? What do you think about?

A: There is no thinking. Everything goes away.

Q: Can you be there for long? How long?

A: Oh, some people can stay in that state for days, even months. I haven't gone that far yet!

Q: Why do you need to go there?

A: There is no need. It just happens. See, in order to understand the mechanics of the mind, you have to witness the mind. For this you have to go beyond the mind. Do you get it?

I can't believe I'm talking about this on a Part 1 course!

The capacity to go to that place at will and experience it again creates that ability, that clarity of perception, where you can see the mechanics of the mind clearly and rise above it. The vast majority of people have this experience frequently, but they just don't know what it is. And they have no capacity to experience it at will.

Q: How often do you feel the need to go there?

A: After a point, there is no more here or there. It just effortlessly happens. Twenty minutes twice a day of deep meditation is enough. That's what Sri Sri recommends.

When you get done pondering the nature of the mind, then you fall in love. Or some people are so engaged in the mind, they have to fall in love to get past it!

Q: Fall in love with what?

A: Everything. The present moment, the people around you, the bad mood, the policeman giving you a ticket, the nature, the city, everything without exception...

Q: How did you come to the Art of Living?

A: In 1988 Sri Sri visited Santa Barbara, and after He left someone called me and told me about Him. As they were speaking, I was directly getting an experience of Him. I was taken aback. I was having a profound experience just hearing about Him. This person ended the call by asking me, "Can he really be enlightened?" Somehow I said, "I'll do whatever He tells me to do." I shocked myself with that statement. I had no idea why I was saying that.

The next time He was in the US, I got three calls from people telling me to go meet Him. I gave the usual excuses - time, money, etc. And the time after that, it was 8 to 10 calls, saying I should go and meet this man. I thought I was being stalked, and I made up my mind never to go. I was quite resistant.

In the meantime, a very challenging client I was working with stopped coming to me. I felt relieved, since the sessions weren't doing her any good anyway. Six months later, she came back to me, and wow! She was not even the same human being anymore. The change in her was off the charts. She could access and address things about herself that I couldn't have dreamt of. I asked her what had brought about the change, and she said she had done the Art of Living course and traveled to India with Sri Sri.

Now I was intrigued. It would be irresponsible of me not to take this course and find out what it was. I had so many people I could recommend it to. This was in 1990. Sri Sri at that point decided not to return to the US for the next three years, but fortunately for me He changed his mind and came during Christmas. But a family emergency pulled me away to Europe, and I couldn't meet Him. Throughout 1991 there was no course in Europe or the US that I could take. In 1992 He came back to the US, and the organizers called me. I arranged to take a course with another teacher, but Sri Sri later told that teacher not to teach that course. That's when I knew, He was coming to teach me himself. He came to Canada, and I went there. He taught me my first Art of Living course. I was sitting at His feet just a few feet away. And He hadn't taught a Part 1 course in years! At that point He was only teaching the advanced courses.

That was the beginning of the end of my mind. About a year later I was full time.

After our course session was over, some of us volunteers sat for an hour with her in the hall. Her intuition was able to pull out something about each one of us. The advice that she was able to give us was just... amazing. Words cannot do it justice, so I won't even try.

Day 3: Q&A Snippet

A brief snippet from Q&A with Nancie Di (paraphrased, not verbatim):

Q: How did Sri Sri come up with Sudarshan Kriya?

A: Once in a blue moon Sri Sri talks about it, and even then only a few brief sentences. I've only been around Him twice when He has spoken on the topic. He used to be a meditation teacher, and He realized that some people were not able to meditate, and some who were meditating were in fact not getting the benefits that have been enunciated for meditation. This age is so full of activity for the mind, isn't it? Our daily lives have become so hectic, and the mind is just not able to go deep at all. He realized that something more was needed. So He went into a period of silence for 10 days. During that silence, what came to Him was the kriya. This was in 1982.

He has said that the knowledge of kriya was there on this planet in the past, and it had been lost. So He revived it.

Kriya is not just a precursor to meditation. A lot of deep cleansing happens during kriya. The word kriya itself means "purifying action". A lot of rebalancing happens in all the levels of existence we talked about earlier.

Outside of the course session, Nancie Di also pointed to a specific story in Vasistha's Yoga that enunciates kriya as well as the hollow and empty meditation (taught on the Art of Living Part 2 Course). I do not remember that story at all; time to go back to reading Vasistha! Last week, I watched (again) the fifth tape of Sri Sri's commentary on Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, where Patanjali also talks about kriya. Of course, the experience completely trumps the explanation!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Day 2: Happy Birthday Nancie Di

What a day! Participants in our course got their first experience of sudarshan kriya.

After the session Nancie Di led us in a beautiful Guru Pooja followed by a short meditation. While we were thus engrossed, the rest of the gang was waiting for us at Mozart - where we had arranged a surprise celebration for Nancie Di for her birthday.

Nancie later shared with us that she thought she would have a quiet birthday this time without anyone in Austin knowing. As a traveling Art of Living teacher, she has been in this situation before. She has also had surprise parties before, but her intuition would always tell her it was coming. Not this time! Until we took her to Mozart's, she hadn't a clue.

Happy Birthday Nancie Di!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Day 1 of Art of Living National Week

Yesterday was Day 1 of our Art of Living National Week. All over the US, Art of Living Part 1 courses are being conducted at the same time this week (Feb 17-24).

In Austin we started our course last night, with between 15 and 20 participants (I don't remember the exact count). The class has some apprehensive new faces, some veteran volunteers, and some who are re-discovering the joys of the course by repeating it.

Austin has been fortunate to get Nancie Di as a teacher for this course. She has been with Guruji since the early 1990s, and has taught in many places in many countries. She is very articulate and specific with instructions she gives to students. She has many stories to tell to illustrate the points she makes in class - stories about her own life and her experiences with Guruji. Her style is simple and disarming.

I'm on this course after an 8-month gap without a Part 1 course. And it's my first time with Nancie Di, which is great, since we have something new to learn from every teacher. Before the night was over, I realized how high the prana was in that chapel as we were going into our first pranayamas. During the brief guided meditation, I experienced very deep stillness. It was almost like being on a Part 2 course.

More to come, as we continue the course and learn the sudarshan kriya.

PS: We will have satsang with Nancie Di this Saturday.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Made It In Good Shape!

It's oficial -- I've made it to the big three-oh. My birthday was celebrated with a small party hosted by Madhu.

PS: February post!