Thursday, August 22, 2013

My Experience at The Art of Living International Center

I went for a YES+ course in Art of Living Ashram, Bangalore, India in August 2013. It was a 3 days course where in participants were supposed to stay in the ashram and do the course. It was fun and a good experience but it had its own loop holes as well. Its difficult to describe it in just "Good" or "Bad". Hence, I am sharing my experience here with as much details as possible.

I am a 29 year old who is living a content life. I have everything which one needs to live a comfortable life. I am an owner of high self esteem. Like anyone else on this earth, I have my share of problems but I am doing just fine.

Now, one of my friends who is a big fan of Shri Shri Ravi Shankar and has been with Art of Living since last few years suggested that I too take their course. Initially I was reluctant but when I heard about the benefits of it from my friend, I thought I might be interested. I searched about it on internet and read experiences of people who had taken their courses. The reviews were amazing! By reading them, I concluded that people changed their lives by this course. But I didn't have much to complain in my life. I wasn't looking for any change as such. So why should I be doing this course?

Now, my friend suggested me to take up the YES+ course which is meant for people of 18-30 years. It was meant to be a course for stress management, better performance, better concentration, more energy and much more. After giving it a thought for a few days, I decided to give it a go and enrolled for the course in the ashram. After hearing and reading so many things about it, I was super excited about it and was looking forward to it with lots of expectations.

Finally, the big day arrived and I reached the ashram at around 7:00 PM on Thursday as we were supposed to report a day before the course began. I submitted my registration slip, took my id/course card and left for my hostel from the reception. It was a bit scary in the night as it was too dark. The ashram was huge with several buildings and lots of greenery. It had its own peace and aura. It was good to stay there for a couple of days. The hostel was okay and the rooms were comfortable enough. It was a four seater room with attached bathroom. I had 3 great room mates who proved to be very nice companions for the rest of my stay there.

Aparna Hall for girls' stay in Ashram

After changing, we went for dinner in the kitchen. I was asked to serve food and I started serving rice. I served around 200-300 people and it was a really nice feeling. I thought the course has started with a good thing so may be it was a good omen :) .  After serving, I had my dinner. Food served in ashram is satvik without any spices, oil and all. It was a good break from all the junk food in those three days. We went to the room after dinner and as usual the girl-gossiping started and continued till 1 in the night. Next day we were supposed to report at 9:30 AM at the designated place for the session. Just like me, rest of my room mates were also very curious about what we were going to experience the next day. They were also asked by their friends to attend this course and had come on their insistence and had no idea about the content of the course. I don't know why followers of art of living never give any details of the courses and this is something which was mysterious. What was there in this course after all that no one was able to explain it!! With this thought, we forced ourselves to sleep.

Next morning, we had breakfast and reached the Krishna hall for the session. By now, our anxiety was at its peek. Finally the curtain was about to be raised! Two very sweet looking ladies were supposed to be our teachers for this course. The course started and so did my disappointment. We just did some introductory activities and were asked to go to the Vishalakshi Mantap as some pooja was being held there in guruji's (Shir Shri Ravi Shankar) presence. I thought, may be now I will feel something magical in his presence. We went for the pooja, took our seats and I was amazed to see the crowd there. It was huge.

Devi Pooja at Ashram

I saw people so engrossed in the pooja that I felt I was not normal. Why was I not feeling anything when other people were so involved in it! I tried to involve myself but I just could not and finally, I gave up. I waited for it to get over and went to have lunch. Over lunch, we discussed this and it was not only me who was feeling disappointed with the proceedings till now. There were more people who had come with different expectations and were now feeling lost. Finally we thought that only half a day has passed and the real thing is yet to come.

After lunch we went to the Krishna hall again. We again had some activities which taught us that we should not waste time, we should utilize it properly, we should maintain good relations with parents and friends and all. But I already knew this. Was there someone who didn't already know this!! Finally the day was over and we were asked to go and attend the satsang. And we thought, yes, now we will know why we have come here! Satsang was supposed to happen in Vishalakshi Mantap. It looked beautiful when we reached there and it looked even more beautiful when we left it.

Vishalakshi Mantap 

Vishalakshi Mantap at Night

During the satsang

The satsang started, some melodious, religious songs were played and then gururji answered a few questions asked to him. It got over with nothing extra ordinary for us. We went to have the dinner and got back to our rooms. I called up my friend who had suggested me to do this course and told her about my disappointment. She told me that the course has just started and there were two more days for many more things to happen.  I felt relieved and again me and my room mates consoled ourselves that it was still not over and started looking forward to the next day.

Next day wasn't much different. We started at 6:30 AM with some warm up exercises and yoga which was refreshing. Then we did some activities which again taught us something I already knew like we should not procrastinate things, we should cheer people even when they fail, we should do team work, we should not eat non veg food and all.

One thing which I had never done and knew was Sudarshan Kriya. This was something which I really learnt from this course. It looked like a combination of meditation and breathing technique. It was a good experience doing it and I felt refreshed after it. May be because I actually meditated or may be because I slept while doing it . We had hardly slept in the last two nights because of the gossiping of course, so many of us made use of this opportunity to get rid of our sleep-deprived status.

We did Sudarshan Kriya three times in those three days and it was really good. It has lots of health benefits when practiced continuously. This is something I plan to do regularly. Apart from this we did some more yoga and some more activities at the last day.

Our meeting with Guruji was planned twice but got cancelled due to some inevitable reasons. Finally our batch met him on the last day in the evening around 8:00 PM. I could not meet him as I had to leave the ashram at 6:00 PM.

The three days spent in the ashram were relaxing, comfortable, refreshing and fun. I made a lot of friends and had a really great time. Even now, I feel like going back to ashram to spend a few days to enjoy the peace there. We enjoyed the activities we did and the time we spent there. But if you are going with the expectation to learn something you never knew, then you would be disappointed.  But again, it also depends on the person. There were few people who were really disappointed and many who were delighted for different reasons. People who learn things when they are explicitly told about it, would find it beneficial.

I am aware that there are many Art of Living followers out there and I do not intend to hurt anyone's sentiments. This is my personal experience and opinion and you have the right to have a conflict with me :)

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