Meditation & The Art of Living

Beautifully explained!
In universities, the Happiness Program is called YES!+ which we have at NUS! 🙂

Shailesh Venkatesh

Why should you meditate?

  1. What is Meditation
  2. The Technique
  3. Outcomes

The natural tendency of the mind is to descend into stress. The mind either hangs on to the past (regret, anger, despair) or projects the future (anxiety, worry or even hope). The mind constantly vacillates between the past and the future and this is stress. Let us look at how people deal with stress. People come up with different defence mechanisms for stress. Some may immerse themselves into work at the expense of everything else that matters in their lives (e.g. Lack of balance leading to poor family lives, or poor health). Some may avoid work to the detriment of their work life. Some indulge in binging (Eating, drinking, holidaying). Some do extreme sports like climbing mountains, running marathons. While some of these activities do have a lot of positives (e.g. sport), the issue is when these are just a form…

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Celebrating Joy & Harmony

Ever since the riot in Little India broke out in Dec 2013, our AOL team has stayed on its toes in organizing different stress relief programs for the immigrant workers living in dormitories spread across the whole of Singapore.

With a positive nod from Ministry of Manpower and Indian High Comission, “Breath Water Sound” Workshops are being held in each dormitory during the weekends to engage the workers in a healthy manner benefiting them. To our delight, a multi ethnic crowd in huge numbers turned up with great enthusiasm to
take part in these programs. The workshop aims to improve over-all physical and mental wellness, enhance focus and learn to deal with negative emotions like anger, depression etc- and most importantly, to highlight the importance of breath in achieving these. Several breathing and meditation techniques are taught in these sessions which have been proven useful in revitalizing and rejuvenating both mind and body.

The first event at Westlite, one of the biggest worker dormitories in Singapore, was a huge hit, with the workers dancing and yoga-ing to the beats of a popular hindi number- “Lungi dance”. Everyone shared different yet beautiful & positive experiences through these sessions of breathing practices and yoga. In order to provide opportunities for every worker to participate, similar workshops are being held at different locations with the help of AOL volunteers
and teachers.

So do join us in spreading happiness and peace, and experience the bliss in being a part of some magical transformations ..!

More information on this can be found here!



Yoga for the Modern World

If A is for Apple, E is for Elephant, and U for Umbrella, don’t be surprised if kids reading alphabets today spell “Y for Yoga”. Indeed, yoga is becoming more and more popular today. While there may be many reasons for this, one who has experienced the powerful benefits of simple yoga practices would hardly be surprised at how the ‘Y’ word has risen to great popularity. Since the only qualification required for yoga is the ‘ability to breathe’, people from all backgrounds, age groups and occupations could choose to take its benefits. How to do that?

To most people, the word ‘Yoga’ means a set of physical exercises or postures (called ‘asanas’ in Sanskrit). It is very interesting to know that these ‘asanas’ or physical exercises are just one of the eight “limbs of Yoga”, as explained by Maharishi Patanjali in the ancient times. Aside from the Asanas, yoga also consists of meditation, breathing techniques such as Pranayams and Kriya Yoga, hygiene and the practice of moral values. As a whole, yoga brings about not just good health to the body, but also to the mind, emotions, energy and personality. In short, it contributes to a wholesome and fulfilling life.

Thousand modern “Yogis” from all over the world perform together at the World Culture Festival @ The Olympiastadion in Berlin: July 2011

A complete and fulfilling life is often missing today, perhaps more than ever before. Longer working hours, reduced physical exercise, greater competition at schools and workplaces, increasing use of chemicals in food and items of daily use are some of the common factors which are leading to unbalanced, unhealthy and stressful lifestyles today. Left unchecked, this can lead to psychological and health issues. Yoga offers protection from these ailments.

The old proverb ‘Prevention is better than cure’ applies perfectly well to the practice of Yoga. Apart from preventing the emotional trauma suffered by the ill and their families, one can also avoid the rising costs of medication as well as the harmful side-effects that invariably accompany allopathic medicines. But the stand-out advantage of a ‘Sadhak’ (one who practices Yoga) over others is the tremendous strength and qualities he or she gets in personality, such as the ability to focus and yet be relaxed at the same time, overcoming failure and rejection, high self-confidence and clarity of thought. His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has said: “Look at the benefits of spirituality. 1) It brings enthusiasm. 2) There is more time in your life. You can do with only 5-6 hours of sleep. It will keep you energized. 3) Will enhance your Creativity 4) Increase your Energy levels. All these lead to prosperity.”

Yoga practices have also touched the lives of the celebrated and the popular. Bollywood stars Lara Dutta and Kunal Kapoor are active supporters and teachers of Yoga. The Sri Lankan Government arranged a yoga workshop for its national cricket team following an assassination attempt on the team while on tour in Pakistan in 2009. The Sri Lankan captain was quoted as saying that “he had felt relaxed and calm” after practicing the breathing techniques. Among other famous personalities who have practiced Yoga are Arnold Schwarzenegger, Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Mahesh Bhupathi.

Modern technology has also made yoga very convenient to practice. Locating yoga classes and regular practice groups has never been easier, thanks to the internet and telephone. Even meditation can be done on the internet with the help of audio tracks which guide the user through instructions. Thanks to music players on mobile phones and other portable instruments, meditation is possible anywhere, anytime using audio tracks – during lunch breaks, while commuting, in busy offices or in serene lawns.

A Yoga group experiencing the benefits of Yoga at a park in the US

Indeed, it is now possible to practice yoga around hectic schedules and tight deadlines without much effort. The more relevant truth is that today’s fast-paced world makes it necessary to practice yoga to keep good health, joy and a sense of balance in life. It is easy to do. And fun! So, roll out your mat and begin!

Kriya and Creativity

– by Winnie Soh

Creativity flows from someplace deep inside that none of us can name. All those who write, paint,draw,sing, dance or do something creative know that their ideas flow from a space deep within that can be best described as nothingness. There is no thinking involved here, just reaching down into the depths of your heart and soul and there it is- the flow of the writing, song, dance or painting or the creation and once tapped into, it just continues with ease. There is no effort involved here and while engaged in the making, there are no thoughts either. If one observes oneself during such a time, one feels peaceful- in harmony with the world, there is just you and your creation.

Having said that, when one starts to do Kriya, one starts touching base with that innermost self, bit-by-bit. There is a drastic reduction in the levels of the stress hormone ‘cortisol’, therefore there is more peace with fewer thoughts. Also the grasping power of the mind, one’s focus, concentration and efficiency at the task at hand improves as one starts becoming more and more aware of oneself. This is because breath is what connects the body and mind. And if one becomes aware of the breath, one becomes aware of one’s mind. As one starts to know the intricacies of the mind, one’s true nature starts manifesting. And that is the space from where creation happens. Think about it! When one creates, one accesses the very depths of oneself without knowing, the proof is the authenticity that comes from creating doesn’t it? It feels so original.

And there is proof of this too, A.R.Rahman has said in almost every interview that his success is all due to his spiritual practices. And look at the kind of originality and richness in his work.  The same is valid for Rabindranath Tagore. His creations are so simple yet so eloquent. This goes against the notions that spirituality is boring and that one must renounce life with its dynamism to lead a spiritual life. Krishna was the very embodiment of spirituality. Did he not live life? He was full of life in the endless tales that talk of his world-changing actions. And none could match the magic his flute wove.

Spirituality is dynamism. H.H.Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the founder of the Art of Living and the Sudarshan Kriya observes that this world created by the Divine is so vast, magnanimous, dynamic and diverse. There are so many types of creations. There is no one type of fruit or one plant or only one species of animal. In fact, every single human being on this planet is unique. So if spirituality is getting in touch with this divinity that is present in oneself, then imagine the kind of creativity that would flow from oneself. The Sudarshan Kriya itself, is a technique that aims to make the practitioner tap into and realize this divinity in himself.

In corollary, the numerous other benefits aforementioned begin manifesting. So there lies the relation between creativity and the Kriya. The creator-the divinity that created this world is what we are made of. Therefore, we ourselves have the very same divinity present in us, just as every poem reflects the poet and every painting reflects the painter and every wave is only the ocean.