Why YOU should take the Art of Living course

When stress or emotions cloud any thread of rationality existing within me, breathing brings me down to earth. As Zen Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Feelings come and go like clouds in a windy sky. Conscious breathing is my anchor.”

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar said breath is the link between your body, your spirit and your mind. Take a deep breath now and notice what happens. The outside world disappears. Tension releases. Your mind clears. If you keep it up for a few minutes, you might notice your heart slowing and your muscles loosening up. A slow, conscious breath relaxes your mind and body at the same time, thus refreshing your spirit. Ever performed a speech or a piece of music and felt unbearably nerve-shaken beforehand? Next time, try breathing very slowly. This physically slows down your heart rate, soothing your restless worries. There’s a reason for the classic instructions to stop and take a deep breath when you feel angry. The breath frees the mind from the overpowering clouds of frustration and anger. When we take a moment to breathe, we allow the light of perspective to shine through our clouds of insatiable anger or sadness.

We always breathe – every second of every day, as long as we live, but unlike our body’s other automatic functions (like the heartbeat or stomach digestion), we can control the breath. We can take quick, piercing breaths or slow, full breaths. Or we can let our breath fade into the background and do its own thing. But by attending to the breath and manipulating it, we can utilize it to relax our mental and emotional states of mind.

By delving deep into Yogic breathing techniques – also called pranayama – you can actually start to transform yourself over time. Sudarshan Kriya, also known as the “healing breath,” is a technique taught during part of the Art of Living course offered at Truman. Sudarshan Kriya incorporates specific natural breath rhythms, each one corresponding to a different emotion. Used correctly, you can shed negative mental scars and release huge amounts of stress with this technique. You emerge feeling fresh and renewed. Although it’s hard to believe such extraordinary results can stem from sitting and breathing, I speak from experience when I say it works. I always surface from Kriya feeling as if I have shed a few pounds of worry and stress.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

Lloyd Pflueger, professor of philosophy and religion, offers the Art of Living course every semester, and the next one is Feb. 19 to 22. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, an Indian spiritual leader and activist, founded the Art of Living Foundation in Bangalore in 1981. Shankar has transferred his extensive amount of personal growth knowledge to teachers all across the country who host a variety of transformative courses through the Art of Living foundation. Now, instead of trying to make time to head to an ashram for years to gain knowledge from a guru, you can simply take a weekend out of your life right now and learn some ancient techniques to mentally and physically energize and de-stress while connecting to deep levels of your being. You learn practical knowledge to remove your current stressors and prevent future stress.

The idea is that when you shed stress through the techniques taught in the course, you gain peace and contentment. From my perspective, I found peace and contentment surfaced naturally when I relaxed and let go of my frustrations. This taught me that I don’t always have to stress out ensuring my life circumstances are at optimum happiness potential: impeccably perfect and safe so that, consequently, I could be happy. Happiness is right here, right now, in every moment – if only we slow down and relax long enough to notice it. Contentment doesn’t depend upon the external world. It doesn’t simply expand or contract depending on how much homework you have, how much you think people like you or how broke you are. I quote Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: “Peace and contentment … are our very nature, to be nurtured and encouraged.”

If you are interested in attending the Art of Living course, come to an interest meeting at 7 p.m. today or Feb. 16 in McClain Hall 209. The four sessions in the course are scheduled as follows: 7 to 10 p.m. Feb. 19, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Feb. 20 and 21 and 6 to 10 p.m. Feb. 22. I highly recommend you consider attending. The course offers a unique opportunity to uncover culprits like anxiety, frustration, insecurity and weariness. I can pretty much guarantee that you will emerge feeling renewed, energized and peaceful.

You can register for the course at the website: http://us.artofliving.org. If you need discounts, email Lloyd Pflueger at lloyd@truman.edu.

Truth!

Apologies for the lack of updating…! I am working on something of substance, but it’s taken me quite a while to forumulate. And been busy with this and that. You know.

Meanwhile, I leave you with some spiritual nourishment:

The Invitation (by Oriah)

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

I want to know if you can sit with pain
mine or your own
without moving to hide it
or fade it
or fix it.

I want to know if you can be with joy
mine or your own
if you can dance with wildness
and let the ecstasy fill you to the tips of your fingers and toes
without cautioning us
to be careful
to be realistic
to remember the limitations of being human.

It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me
is true.
I want to know if you can
disappoint another
to be true to yourself.
If you can bear the accusation of betrayal
and not betray your own soul.
If you can be faithless
and therefore trustworthy.

I want to know if you can see Beauty
even when it is not pretty
every day.
And if you can source your own life
from its presence.

I want to know if you can live with failure
yours and mine
and still stand at the edge of the lake
and shout to the silver of the full moon,
Yes.”

It doesn’t interest me
to know where you live or how much money you have.
I want to know if you can get up
after the night of grief and despair
weary and bruised to the bone
and do what needs to be done
to feed the children.

It doesn’t interest me who you know
or how you came to be here.
I want to know if you will stand
in the centre of the fire
with me
and not shrink back.

It doesn’t interest me where or what or with whom
you have studied.
I want to know what sustains you
from the inside
when all else falls away.

I want to know if you can be alone
with yourself
and if you truly like the company you keep
in the empty moments.