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 cafĂ©, 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.

Talk on Emotional Wellness at ConsciousLab, London

 This event was seeded by Martin by introducing me to Rohini  of ConsciousLab. Rohini did a lot of spade work to shape this event and Claudia, Director of ConsciousLab put the finishing touches. It was unfortunate that Claudia couldn’t be present on the day of the event as she was traveling but Shilpa, co-founder of ConsciousLab fulfilled the role of the hostess very effectively and gracefully. Harsh was to help with the video and related arrangements. I have not met any members of the ConsciousLab Team earlier.
 One of the aspects that bothered me about this event is that I prefer workshop mode. My preference is based on my opinion that participants can be left with an experience that opens up new ways of being, doing and having. Talks, in general, get to be more oriented towards giving more information and knowledge. (Of course, there are exceptions like Ekhart Tolle). So, it was a dilemma for me on how to create an experiential event in about 90 minutes. Finally, I decided on an experiment to use video clips, slides and demonstration leading to a guided meditation. From the feedback I received, I am happy and grateful that the experiment was well received.
  I must share the incident about how I met Harsh. I was finding it difficult to locate the building in which the event was to be hosted and went up and down. Finally, I saw an Indian and thought I would take his help and approached him. He immediately recognized me form the picture and introduced himself. That is synchronicity! After the event, he invited me for dinner and it was a pleasure to meet such a young person who is in a spiritual quest.
 An interesting aspect was I discovered another layer of Indra’s Mani Haara (web of jewels) not only in the ConsciousLab team but also among the participants. Rohini was in Auroville earlier and will be going to Auroville again for six months as a volunteer. Shilpa comes to Pondicherry every year on her birthday to meditate in the room of Sri Aurobindo in the morning and at Matri Mandir in the evening. Claudia and Harsh visited Auroville multiple times. Claudia and Divya are planning to bring a group to Auroville later this year. I got to know Helen, when she was in Auroville twice as a volunteer. She came to attend the event with three of her friends. There were another 4 people who met me after the talk and told me that they were at Auroville. So, the network of Integral Yoga is actually manifesting Human Unity.
 Helen has so kindly offered to take me around and show London. I really enjoyed the day in her company. I was very fortunate to have her guidance in experiencing this great and historic city. We walked a lot, talked a lot, went on a Thames cruise, had a picnic lunch at St. James Park and attended the Evensong service at Westminster Abbey.  This is the best way to experience a city like London.
 London must be the most multi-cultural and multi-racial metros in the world and I am very happy that I had an opportunity to be in this city and have a sense of how England is contributing to the actual manifestation of Human Unity.
I am grateful to Martin, Rohini, Clauadia, Shilpa, Harsh and Helen for this extraordinary week-end in London. I am grateful to Martin for making this connection!