Saturday, June 29, 2013

Pranayama Workshop on a boat cruise in the Aegean Sea, Turkey

When I started contemplating the tour of Europe, Turkey was not even in my thoughts. It was Ashish who suggested Istanbul as a venue and connected me with Gunnur Basar, who is the Coordinator or Auroville International in Turkey. It was my good luck that Gunnur, along with her husband Tugay and daughter Ada were visiting Auroville in February 2013. Gunnur is an innovative healer with fusion of homeopathy and psychotherapy. Tigay plays naei (a long flute like instrument) and listening to him takes me to another world. He also conducts workshops in body percussion and gives interactive music performances and concerts.

Bade and Satish gave me an opportunity to offer a PranayamaWorkshop for an international student group. They know Basars well and they also connected me with Gunnur, strengthening the network. I had no idea how the Universe was conspiring to give one of the most delightful experiences of my tour of Europe. Actually, just not this tour, it is an experience of my life.

To cut a long story short, I came to Istanbul despite the concerns related to the protests in Taksim (insert link). The long bus ride from the Airport appeared to be very short as the beauty of this magnificent city is so captivating that you hardly remember anything else. I was thrilled to travel on the bridge that connects the Asian side and European side! The architectural splendor with the fusion of the various styles over centuries and millennia is beyond words. Gunnur was away and Tugay was my host and his hospitality can only be experienced; it is difficult to describe. I had a day to experience the great city. The walk from Galata Tower on the Galata bridge to Sofya, Topkapi Palaces and Cistern was like walking through History and Evolution of mankind. Galata bridge connects Asia and Europe and I was not in this world when I was crossing from one continent to another, in just a 10 minute walk! Every person I met and talked to was courteous and helped me with a pleasant smile. 

The next day I flew to Dalaman and went to Marmaris, where the boat trip starts. I was received by Elif, a friend and collaborator of Gunnur. I had no idea that I would be staying at her home for the evening. It was one of the most pleasant surprises for me to meet, talk and enjoy the hospitality of Elif and Guray. Guray is orthopedic specialist who went to Kerala to train himself in Ayurveda and now runs a healing center where he is blends the ancient (oriental) wisdom with modern (western) science . Elif is a Homepathy practitioner and a yoga teacher, who has gone through intensive training in India.

Gunnur arrived in the evening along with her daughter Ada and I got a sense of the exciting program ahead. Gunnur and Elif (befittingly) named the program Sifa Yoleuluġu (“Healing Journey”). It was planned in a chartered boat for 16 passengers with a crew of 4; with short bursts of sailing in the Aegean Sea and anchoring in a couple of bays per day. The program is a bold and innovative experiment to blend homeopathy treatment based on personality mapping and complemented with psychotherapy, Pranayama and the salubrious climate of the Agean Sea.

How lucky am I to offer a pranayama workshop on board a boat in the beautiful Agean Sea and enjoy a cruise which is out-of-this world. The sessions went off very well on the top deck of the boat; with the ozone charged, cool Mediterranean breeze in the turquoise blue waters with golden sun shine. It was an exhilarating experience in an ambience charged with positive energy.
I continue to be in awe of the commitment of the people I met for their spiritual progress, yoga and wellbeing (they are all One). The boat has yoga mats and cushions because many of their customers want to practice  yoga on the cruise. The participation was awesome! The case of Mr. Teken is interesting. He was suffering from insomnia for several years and was on a dosage of two sleeping pills per night; and finds it difficult to sleep till the early hours of the morning and sleeps for less than a few hours. He slept well with one pill and a simple practice of breath mindfulness. It is not the tool or technique or the teacher – but the participants who produces results with their practice. All others are pointers like the sign boards at the cross roads. To reach the destination, one has to walk the path! To witness that walk and share the exultation of the result is very satisfying and fulfilling to me.

On my way back, Guray picked me up at a small village along with Esra and Cağdaş; a couple who are his friends. On the way to Marmaris, we stopped at a quaint sea side village where Esra and Cağdaş were looking at a property for buying to switch to an entrepreneurial mode to provide high quality, affordable hospitality. This was a very interesting and novel experience for me.
When we reached Marmaris, I met Salma, Elif’s mother and Hayal, Elif’s daughter and Ada. I must have put on a lot of weight in the short time, thanks to the excellent Turkish and Mediterranean food that Salma served us with so much loving care and gracious hospitality. It was a boon to me that I could be part of this blessed home for a couple of days and I enjoyed every moment of it. We went to the beach and water world and it was fabulous to be with this wonderful family.
On the last evening, Esra and Cağdaş came over after dinner. It seems to me that Turkey made exemplary progress in all dimensions under the leadership of Ataturk. The most rapid and spectacular was the dimension of liberal life style that left the choices to the individual without restrictions based religion. My sense is that Turkey today is very similar to Amsterdam and is a model for others to emulate. This liberal aspect is coming under pressure and the people appear to dislike it and are protesting against the move to go back to restrictions. To participate in the protests, people either make a noise from their homes for about 5 minutes or go to the Town Square and stand in silence, holding placards. We went to the town square and it was an experience for me to stand there for a few moments and also observe the impromptu meeting after 10PM. It is an important event that I became part of and I am sure that the people of Turkey would win in their goal of freedom and peaceful life with individual choice. Starting from Moses, history has proved it again and again that the aspiration for freedom always wins. As Gandhi said “The dictators and oppressive leaders appear to gain control for some time. But they all fall”. I felt privileged to witness the aspiration for more freedom. Freedom is the foundation of Human Unity and my days in Turkey revealed to me that Human Unity is manifesting.
What I experienced is that the people of Turkey are fun loving, easy going and very pleasant and hospitable.  Now, I have been expanding my circle from the day I started this journey to stay with my family members in USA. It expanded to Auroville International and then to people of Amsterdam and now to the people of Turkey. I belong to mankind and we are all ONE. I take this experiential wisdom as I leave Turkey, with a heart filled with gratitude, peace, love and a sense that ‘I belong’. Thank you, Turkey. Thank you, the people of Turkey. My special gratitude to Tugay, who is peace personified; Gunnur, who smiles more than any other person I know and radiates such joy and happiness; Guray, who seems to be living in the moment, flowing with the stream of life; and Elif, who is a bundle of energy and a radiant presence that makes everyone to be at ease in her presence. I am lucky to have them in my life and their “Being” has greatly influenced my Being.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Pranayama Workshop at Nijmegen, The Netherlands

 Synchronicity.  Pure and total. That’s what my travel to Nijmegen is. I requested Wim, AVI coordinator of The Netherlands for support for my program in Amsterdam. Wim is a true Aurovilian who does not live in Auroville but contributed so much in the progress of Auroville.  Wim suggested that I visit  Nijmegen and Johan will help me. I met Johan in Auroville in early 2013 and I was impressed with his hands-on technical capabilities in many fields. The rest just happened with so much ease and grace that there is no other way to describe it other than synchronicity. Johan responded positively and just one week before my arrival I requested whether I can offer a Pranayama workshop. Johan just made it happen. In fact, Johan occurs to me as an embodiment of “Just do it”. He owns the most number of tools I have ever seen with and has so much material and tools that he had to hire a shack to keep them. He is currently installing solar power panels for exporting to the grid and is involved in every community activity you can think of.

Nijmen is a not a big town. But, it is beautiful. So beautiful, green and lovely. Johan and Gonnie live in a community that is very charming and I stayed in the common guest room. They took me out for dinner by walk and the 30 minute walk was very enjoyable. I loved every bit of the town we walked through. On our way back, we sauntered through the park and it was gorgeous, with a golden sun setting on the western horizon, the sky lit up with psychedelic hues of red, blue, orange and many colours that I can’t name, the shimmering Wal river reflecting the beautiful sky and altering the reflection in an intriguing  way, the cool breeze….
After a lovely and sumptuous breakfast put together by Gonnie, Johan took me for a ride to another community that is linked by their shared L3 ring network (he took the day off to show me around)There, I met Paul, another very interesting person. Paul so kindly took time out to take me around and show me the infrastructure as well give me a feel for the social aspects of their community. Then Johan drove me over the 7 hills to another community housed a beautiful castle like old building that also shares the L3 ring, and for a walk along the river followed by a great lunch in a cute, old restaurant close to the river. We got back in time for the Pranayama workshop. Thanks to the efforts put in by Johan, we had a nice gathering. I was pleasantly surprised yet another time by the participation of people in Germany and Holland. I enjoyed the session so much and looked forward to the next session.
The day dawned bright and gorgeous.  I took a lazy walk to the town and ambled along the beautiful streets, parks, market square and the Cathedral, basking in the warm sunshine. By about 1PM the sun became quite warm, almost like the winter sun of Auroville. I was so happy that Wim cycled across the German border and we had yet another fabulous Pranayama session. Gonnie and Johan made this very unique by inviting people for a simple but very nutritious and enjoyable dinner after the session. The meal consisted of honey dew melon, peanut, leek and vegetable soup followed by apricot and yogurt dessert. Johan and Gonnie are very active in their community and they know everybody and speared lot of goodwill with the tome and attention they give to community consciousness, work and initiatives.
On the day of my departure, Gonnie drove me to the train station and literally put me in the train to Schipol.
What can  I say about such a delightful experience? Johan is aspiring to live in Auroville.  I look forward to their visit in Jan 2014 and wish that they would live in Auroville. They would be valuable additions to the International City of Human Unity. Because Johan is a bundle of energy with hands-on-skills skills in electronics, communications, electrical systems, solar power, mechanical engineering, wood work…… and Gonnie is a healer.   My conviction that Unity is happening was deepened here, thanks to the inspiring communities I visited and meeting Gonnie and Johan here. I am fortunate to meet this wonderful couple and receive so much of their love and caring attention they gave so generously. I feel so happy, grateful and blessed.
It would be fun-tastic to come here again.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Pranayama and Freedom From Stress Workshops at Amsterdam

 Amsterdam. When I was here in 2007, this city made an impression on me. Somehow it was distinct. It was enigmatic, interesting and expensive. I wanted to come back here to experience it. When I was contemplating the trip to Europe, I asked Lisbeth, one of my friends in  Auroville for help as she has been very supportive of my workshops . Lisbeth responded warmly to my intention to be in Amsterdam and do workshops. She reconnected me with Anna van Remundt, who lives in The Hague and suggested that I also contact Marlenka, another Aurovilian.
Marlenka introduced me to Josie, who runs Center for Being in Amsterdam.
Josie has agreed to allow me to do all the three workshops I proposed in the lovely space she created in “Center for Being”. Anna connected me with Mundo, who has so generously offered me to stay with him in his flat, which is quite close to Center for Being. These are miracles as I never met either of them and when I did meet them, I could see in them, a reflection of the spirit of Amsterdam. Love for freedom and adventure, open and willing to explore, trust everyone to bring forth a better and harmonious world.
 Josie  quit her professional work to start this wonderful institution called Center for Being. “This life is just a refresher course. Life is a temporary school where we learn and discover who we really are”. Center for Being’s mission is to support this journey through life, in a way that we share presence and enlightening tools that are both fun and inspiring. It was wonderful meeting her and she has that radiant smile with infectious enthusiasm. She not only agreed for the workshops but also offered to promote it on the web and her network. I was more than delighted before I met her and was grateful to get know her as she participated in all the 5 Pranayama sessions  and I enjoyed a wonderful afternoon of interesting and inspiring conversation when she invited me to tea.
One of the unforgettable experiences for me is to meet Mundo and I was so fortunate to enjoy his generous, caring and mindful hospitality for a week.  The best way I can introduce him is to point you to his blog post on his recent trip to Namibia. /It reminded me of Paulo Coelho’s “Pilgrimage”. He is just 30 but he has a wealth of experience in his explorations and journey of transformation that is so very inspiring to me. He let go of a company he started and is the Co-founder and Creative co-director of Hartwerkers.  - Heart Workers, whose motto is “Work is love made visible!”. This has the possibility to transform the way world is relating to work as separate from life and as means to make money in order to ……… When a critical mass of people do what they love, this world will be filled with Love and rediscover who we are.
I was blown away when I saw his welcome note in his flat that began with – “Dear JV, Welcome to Amsterdam. This house is yours for the duration of your stay……”. The flat itself is small but comfortable, beautiful, with lots of character and interesting artifacts in every nook and corner. A miniature reflection of Amsterdam. Mundo is not only a vegetarian but also very conscious of the ecology and nature. He is the first person I met who has a personal compost system in his flat and he meticulously puts all the organic waste into it. He is also a wonderful cook and the welcome meal he gave me, the bread he baked, the salads are divinely delicious. He makes an anti-oxidant packed power breakfast that is closest to Ambrosia that I have ever eaten. He also encouraged me to cook and I discovered the joy of cooking with his gentle guidance. He arranged a cycle for me to ride and I was able to enjoy this cycle-friendly city. He also introduced me to the Vondel park, which is wonderful and rather unique in its pristine appearance due to the absence of the sign boards. The park serves as lung space, recreational space and is also some kind of hum for cyclists with zero motorized vehicles. I went there every day. Josie suggested and Mundo helped me to cycle to Amsterdam Bos(Forest) – an incredibly beautiful place. It is in this part that the penny dropped for me. I can Be care-free and flow with unfolding life. Just Be. It was a gift for me that he attended the Pranayama workshop and made “Freedom form Stress” workshop happen by attending and bringing 3 of his friends! he also took the initiative to organize an impromptu practice session at his home on Sunday- the first such ever session for me.
The workshops themselves were very special for me with Josie and Mundo participating in them -my precious connections in Amsterdam and two people I like and admire so much. I continue to be surprised by the fabulous participation of people in Europe. I feel very satisfied, fulfilled and grateful for the privilege of sharing the time and space with them. I will always remember Julia for her bubbly effervescence and the way she created value for herself and for her life is awesome. Roland, a Yoga Teacher in Amsterdam, invited me to come back and he would help in reaching more people to participate in the workshops! Josie and Mundo are inviting me to come back. Will I come back? Yes, you bet I will.
  I want to share my experience of Amsterdam. Amsterdam for me occurred to be a symbol of the emerging new world. Freedom loving and eco-conscious with respect to others. Acceptance of the multi-cultural and multi-racial humanity and creating a harmonious community. You take a one hour walk in Amsterdam and I am sure you will see my point. More cycles than in any other city and everybody is riding cycle. Children, young, elderly and everybody else.  The cyclists and trams and the few motor vehicles (including heavy vehicles)share the common resource of roads with so much ease, grace and no hiccups. It looks to me that they are collaborating in Life, sharing the space, giving each other space, with respect. You don’t see road rage and traffic snarls here. My guess is that the obesity percentage and per capita foot print would be the least in the developed world. I left Amsterdam full of hope and was inspired by the manifesting Human Unity – the ideal of Auroville.
In Germany, I discovered the extended family of Auroville and Integral Yoga. In Amsterdam, I discovered the Universal Family of Human Beings. I have a sense of exhilaration to learn that I belong there and would be welcome with open arms anywhere and everywhere, thanks to the awakening consciousness of Human  Unity in so many people
I would love to back here, again and again.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Pranayama and Freedom form Stress Workshops at Sri Aurobindo Center, Berlin

The more I travel in Germany, the more I am realizing how false the commonly held notion is – the notion that Indians are spiritual. The underlying notion is that “others are not spiritual’.  Isa, who runs the Sri Aurobindo Center at Berlin, worked in the Foreign Affairs Ministry and served in Russia, Portugal, Brazil and Luxemburg.  From that kind of background, I feel surprised and inspired to have glimpse of who she is . She started  the Center and is now devoting herself to facilitate people learning the message of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo.  She began her spiritual journey when she was 8!. I experience Peace and Love radiating from her.
She showed me around Berlin on two days . What a privilege it was to learn about this extraordinary city from Isa. It was an immersive experience - the culture, history, architecture, people, green environment, discipline, beauty, civic sense and the spirit of freedom and Unity. There is vibrancy in this city with an underlying spirit of freedom with responsibility. And all the while, I had the gentle and affectionate guide who kept educating me on the aspects of Berlin that are not visible and not discernible to a casual observer.

Georg works in the Foreign office and stays in the same building that the Center is located in. Isa and Georg are like two pillars brought together by the Mother to spread IY in Germany. Georg has been catapulted into the spiritual world by a chance incident that put him in touch with “Secret of the Veda”. It is amazing to see how much energy he gives to the Center. He is young but he is also a scholar of the teachings of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo. I was overwhelmed by the affection and loving attention I got from him and he took me to “Check Point Charlie” – a symbol of the manifesting Human Unity.
The Center is a vibrant place with at least three programs per week: Study Circle, Savitri Reading and other programs.  Dirk comes from 70 Km to participate in them! It is very heartening to see the flowering of the consciousness of Integral Yoga. Almost everyone I met here has been to Pondicherry  at least once and they are very rooted in the practice of Integral Yoga with a sincerity and aspiration that is splendorous!

 Originally, we planned Freedom from Stress workshop only but just a couple of days before my arrival here, Isa created an opportunity for me to share Pranayama as well. I thoroughly enjoyed both workshops and delighted to get to know the extraordinary people in Berlin. Their participation was fabulous and they gave 100% of their attention and listening so generously. I am on Cloud Nine.
I am feeling sad to leave Berlin and look forward to the next opportunity to be here. I am so grateful to Isa and Georg for the love and caring they gave me so abundantly. I am just beginning to experience the power and magic of AVI and the Family of Integral Yoga. It is a privilege to be part of this and I am lucky to be welcomed with open arms and abundant love.