WHO is your god?”
“Whom do you talk to in meditation?”
“Are you a prophet?”
We bombarded Sri Sri Ravi Shankar with the sort of questions we would have asked Mahatma Gandhi if he were alive today. Sri Sri is not a god, nor he has a god, but he leads a 370-million-odd movement, The Art of Living, which sees people around the world channeling through a different kind of yoga their obsession with healthy living.
The humanitarian leader, spiritual teacher and ambassador of peace visited Manila recently to share the secrets to his inner strength and happiness at the Philippine International Convention Center, where he brought everyone to a lightbulb moment on how our lives are so unexamined.
“We spend half of our health obtaining wealth, and then we spend half of our wealth gaining back our health,” Sri Sri said.
Breathe in, breathe out, slow down, he egged us on, with the mantra being that the art of living is the art of breathing—both figuratively and as a natural process.
Sudarshan Kriya, the art of breathing Sri Sri developed as a discipline, is the centerpiece of The Art of Living and has helped millions of people destress and connect with their borderless, boundless, ad infinitum inner reservoirs of energy, quiet and peace.
In Sudarshan Kriya, breathing is the panacea of ills and the chain that holds together the body, mind and spirit. According to Sri Sri, when the mind is free of fear, guilt and anger, and is more centered, then it can heal the system of any ailment and facilitate physical, mental, emotional and social well-being.
For every pattern or emotion we experience in the mind, there is a corresponding rhythm and intensity in breathing, Sri Sri said. “If our minds can affect our breathe, so, too, our breathe can affect our minds.”
Sri Sri Yoga delivers all the promises of yoga and more, a complete yoga discipline harmonizing the seven levels of existence—body, mind, breathe, memory, intellect, ego and self—rather than just the body and self levels.
The knowledge, meditation, pranayamas and processes of Sri Sri Yoga extend beyond and go deeper than the normal disciplines and techniques associated with most other yogic practices.
Through this yogic discipline on which its host of programs is hinged, The Art of Living conducts several self-development and stress-elimination programs that empower individuals through renewed confidence and purpose.
The 3,000-member Art of Living Philippine chapter, which includes Rustan’s Donnie Tantoco, Asian Development Bank’s Rajat Nag and Edgy Veggies’s Denise Celdran, begot testimonies on how these yogic programs have been both recalibrating and medicinal.
Donnie, for instance, shares that the positive effects have been both immediate and significant. “Physically, the breathing that I now do for 25 minutes per day has cured my insomnia. The last time I slept this easily and deeply was when I was a baby.”
And, indeed, as if calmness was contagious, we experienced the divinity of it all—if you will, the godlikeness of it all—for the briefest of hours we were with Sri Sri. Everything was so light, as if we were in a trance, as if every square particle in that small strip of a sanctum where silence says it all was reduced to everyone’s inner sound of a reverberating “Ohmmm.”
And, for a while there, Sri Sri was fundamentally peaceful, redefining the meaning of happiness and stillness, so much so that, in the end, all we could ever ask him was: “Do you ever get mad?”