Friday, December 03, 2010

The Importance of Breathing Earnest!


September 2002. Mysore.
My friend Priya called up to tell me there was some course happening close by. Followers of this guru were conducting it. She said he was very popular and travelled all over the world most of the time. Whenever he was in Bangalore, people thronged his ashram to see him. That was the first time I heard of art of living and of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
I and brother decided to attended the course. Priya was there too.
It was a six day program with 2 hours a day in the evening.
24.09.2002 – 29.09.2002.
The venue was Geetha school auditorium and we were all under the tutelage of a certain Dr. Jagadeesh. We were taught the Sudarshana Kriya.
I remember what effect it had had upon us then. Fingers and limbs had stiffened and tears were flowing. My brother who had to drive the scooter back home had relaxed for a good while before riding so his fingers had become flexible again.
Interspersed with this were other teachings – one I remember was – expectations reduce the joy of life. And the first thing we were made to do was meet everyone and say “I belong to you”. It was funny and sometimes awkward when you stood facing a person to whom you did not want to belong!

We were asked to practice the Kriya everyday for 1 Mandala – 48 days.
I did it for 20 days or so and stopped.

2 years ago I joined Sumeru, an IT firm whose profits go to Art of Living, whose office is situated in the Ashram campus. Although not a devotee of the guru in the commonly understood sense of the term, I had wanted to do the basic course once again, having experienced the effect of it before. And having always known the effectiveness of breathing techniques.
After 20 months of dilly dallying, I finally enrolled myself for the course.

1st – 3rd October, 2010

I did the art of living basic course in the ashram.

Chandrashekhar and Manjari were our teachers.


The venue was the Buddha hall on the third floor of the Lotus Temple in the ashram. Marble floored, white, elevated, surrounded by windows on all sides allowing plenty of fresh air and light, and most importantly, calm, this atmosphere was most conducive to learning.

We began by meeting each other and saying ‘Sangacchadhwam’ to one another (not I belong to you).

(The teachers asked us to say to one another “Sanga Chhadhwam”. This was incorrect – you cannot split the word. It is one. I am usually disappointed when people don’t have even a basic working knowledge of Sanskrit. I raised my hand and politely explained that the word was derived from the Sanskrit root “Gam” from which come Gachhaami, Gacchaati etc. Gacchadhwaam was in plural form, 1st person and ‘Sangacchadhwam’ meant “May you go together” or “Together, may you go”.
And no sooner had I finished my small speech than the teacher said to us again Say to each other “Sanga Chhadhwam”. I quietly accepted defeat not wanting to hurt their ego, and not wanting to be seen by others as trying to show off)

This time, I made notes while they talked to us.
Most of the concepts were known to me already, an avid reader of books, as I am.
In fact, there is such an abundance of motivational literature, motivational speakers, motivation/transformation programs today, that it is difficult to be blown away by any teaching or any
talk. Most of it seems redundant.

The take away, of course, was the Sudarshana Kriya. This time, it took me more effort than it did 8 years ago. Our teachers were not very experienced as most of the experienced ones were in another course meant for teachers! The result was, most of the talking was done by us, the participants and we got to appear so smart and learned!

One of the participants was a Mr. Khan. While all of us struggled to remain seated in Vajrasana for a few minutes, our teacher remarked that it must be easy for Mr. Khan as he was used to sitting in that posture during Namaz.

The 2nd day of the course happened to be the 2nd of October. Chandrashekhar (one of our teachers) brought the subject of Gandhi and said India got freedom because of him. This triggered an unexpected discussion and one of the ladies began “He made one mistake, because of which yesterday was a Bandh, and also today. (This was the time of Ayodhya Verdict). He said Hindu Muslim bhai bhai and that was such a mistake… and she went on for a while as I looked at Mr. Khan who was sitting quietly in a far corner, wondering whether he was listening, whether he was following her speech.

Today, the 3rd of December marks the completion of 60 days of Kriya! It also marks the completion of 2 years of working in Sumeru. I also got my salary revision letter today. I gave dairy milk chocolates to all at work. Even as I write this, I am biting into a dairy milk! Congrats!

Below is the summary of the teaching, just for the record.
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There are 3 types of listening.
1. Intellectual listening
2. Emotional listening
3. A combination of the two is proper listening
While first two are incomplete listening, the third is complete listening.

I was reminded of the piece of talk on the same subject (listening) given by our teacher in the Landmark Forum basic course. That was more about how we are already judging as we are listening instead of simply listening.
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A proper question is one where a sincere answer is needed. Turn a question into a wonder. A wonder needs no answer. (I wonder what the purpose of human life is!)
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There are seven levels of existence - body, breath, mind, intellect, memory, ego, Self or Being
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What is Prana? Breath.

That’s what is usually said.
But Prana specifically means oxygen. And prani’s are all those that inhale oxygen. Plants breathe too but they breathe carbon dioxide and not oxygen hence they are not pranis. I wanted to share this but stopped myself.
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Humans have four sources of energy - sleep, food, knowledge, breath

Food - what we eat and how much we eat matter.
Eat as much as will fill both hands joined together.
Human body is designed for vegetarian food. Non-veg food takes 72 hours to be fully digested, Veg food, only 4-6 hours. Fruits and vegetables are digested easily.

Further, food can be classified as
Satvik, Tamsik (old food, stale - make you lethargic), Rajasik - fried, sweet, spicy - instant energy – make you overactive. Satvik food is recommended.

Knowledge can be inspirational or negative.
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70% of toxins in our body are released through breath. We use only 30% of our breath.

Breath and mind are connected like string and kite. When we are angry we breathe fast. When we take deep breath, our anger subsides.

We tend to take for granted those that are closest to us. Breath is closest to us.
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Opposite values complement each other
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In the realm of the mind, there is no trying. Either we do it or we don’t. Try implies no 100% effort.
Can you try to sleep? Can you try to forget??
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If you resist it persists.
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How do we feel about future?

I said – it depends on present and hence our confidence levels. We glorify past, we imagine a perfect future. Very often, we also have imaginary fears too.

The teachers said : If we are too happy we fear we will lose everything

What has happened is inevitable - accept it. Live in the present moment.
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What do we take responsibility for? What do we not take responsibility for? (assignment)

What I said: I take responsibility for everything in this universe. This is universe is a fabric of finely woven threads, if you pull one thread, the fabric is changed/affected. We are responsible for the Iraq war and we are responsible for the glacier melting in Antarctica.
There is a delicate balance between all entities in this world and I cannot think of one thing I can point to and say ‘I am not responsible for this.’

What our teachers said after hearing us all.
We take responsibility for what belongs to us, not for what does belong to us. So responsibility increases belongingness.
When we take responsibility we become powerful, else we complain.
We are responsible for our actions as well as non actions
When things go right, we claim we have done it.
When things go wrong, we blame others.
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kuch janke chalo, kuch manke chalo, sabko gale lagake chalo.
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Do not see intention behind others’ mistake.
Accept people and situations as they are. Forgive yourself and others.
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Love is the only emotion true to our nature. All other emotions are a play of angels.
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The universe is ever changing. But what about the one observing the change? It must be unchanging. Therefore it is able to perceive the change.
That unchanging reference point in this ever changing world is the Atma.
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Direction and control are of the intellect
Emotion is of the mind

Animals have mind but no intellect. Man has both. Intellect controls the mind.
Mind and intellect combination is unique as fingerprint, but Atma is identical to us all.
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The more subtle, the more pervasive; mind more subtle than body, hence more pervasive.
Atma more pervasive than mind and intellect
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Chitta - memory - a record of all our experiences. When there is no memory, we are free.
The nature of memory is to cling to negativity.
But we need memory. For our own security.
Memory is like rare view mirror. Don’t drive a car looking at rare view mirror all the time.
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Meditation is not just to concentrate, but also to deconcentrate.
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Spirituality is the birth right of all.
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Ignorance is bliss - When you don’t know the outcome of the game you are playing.
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Don’t be a football – of other people. (Direct your life yourself)
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In between sessions, we were expected to complete assignments given to us. These were mostly questions we were asked to ponder.

What do I want in life?
Make a list of all things that bother you.
What do I expect from this course?
When will you be happy? What do you want in order to be happy?
Perform a random act of kindness
When did you come to this planet? How long do you intend to stay here? When you are here, what do you want to do?
Where are you? Who what are you? Who are you?
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On the last day, even as some of them were aspiring to meet the guru, someone brought message of the guru’s presence on the floor below ours. When we went down we saw him in the midst of a group of people. He saw us, did not speak to anyone in particular but smiled, waved and departed.
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We were told some guru stories – miracles that took place in the lives of people after they started practicing the Kriya, miraculous healing in cases where doctors had given up hopes etc.
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The various breathing techniques we were taught…

Ujjai breath – characterized by emphasis on throat - slightly closed throat - hissing sound. Takes longer to move in and out. Opens pathways to get more prana into our system.
3 stage Pranayama in Ujjai - hands on hip bone, hands at the armpit, hands on back with elbows pointing to the sky
All 3layers of lungs will be opened when we breathe this way.
Bhastrika - Normal breath (not Ujjai), forceful expulsion.

Omkar is the primordial and universal sound
All religions have it - amen(christianity), ameen(islam), hum(parsi),shalom(jews), aum – Hinduism.
Aum – consists of a, u, m
The three sounds that Aum is composed of correspond to the below:
Brahmasthan (stomuch) - creative energy (stomuch, abdomen)
Vishnusthan (chest) - lungs, heart - feeling, emotion from this area
Shivasthan - head - destroy - intellect destroys innocence, Shiva destroys ignorance

Panchakosha meditation. Aura meditation

Sudarshana Kriya – is rhythmic breathing technique. It’s a purifying action, gives proper vision. We align with the rhythm of the self through the Sudarshana Kriya.

We do the Kriya in normal breath, not in Ujjai.
Setting the rhythm using ‘soham’. Follow the rhythm 100%. Do not resist any sensation, do not sleep, do not meditate and keep your eyes closed.

The 3 stages of pranayama in Vajrasana – breathe in ujjai
Bhastrika in Vajrasana - Normal breath - forceful expulsion
Soham – in Sukhasan - normal breath - effortless breathing and slightly forceful breath out - 3 rounds of Soham

We were made to participate in several processes.

Bowing process - Dishapranaam
East - attachment and entanglement, South - lust, obsession, West - greed jealousy, North - anger, arrogance
Bowing down again to express gratitude to earth, sun, parents and ancestors.

Life story - group activity – narrate your life story to the other person in your group

Looking at one other, accept them completely.
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3 comments:

guru said...

hearty congratulations for completing 2 years of work @ Sumeru and also on your salary hike. :)

but why does Sumeru's profit go to AOL ?

i have completed landmark education course( all 3 levels) last year
and felt like more or less it deals with the same topics ( except the breathing techniques)
that you have mentioned in your blog.

do you recommend AOL basic course ?

Sowmya said...

Yes. I would recommend the AOL basic course.
You dont necessarily have to become follower of the cult for that.
A lot of people dont want to do the course because they dont like the concept of a cult, which is unfortunate becuase they miss learning a breathing technique that has transformed lives.

guru said...

Ok. I will register to the course.

you did not answer my other question ..just curious to know why does Sumeru's profit go to AOL ?