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From war-zone to Art of Living's tranquility

Last updated on: August 11, 2009 

'I feel so safe and beautiful from within'

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A group of 35-odd people from various Islamic nations are seeking a different kind of IT in India's information technology capital Bengaluru. They have come all the way to write a programme of 'Inner Transformation' -- for themselves and for the people back home.

The members of the motley group, including nationals from Morocco, Palestine, Iraq and Pakistan, are currently undergoing training at the Art of Living International Centre in the city, to become AOL instructors.

"The war and the ongoing violence took me to a point where I felt that I will collapse any minute. I often had suicidal thoughts. I had become heartless; no relation mattered to me. Then I was introduced to the Art of Living by a friend in 2000. Thanks to it, now I feel more optimistic, balanced and ready for anything in life. It has made me go deep within my faith and now I feel so safe and beautiful from within," says Yusuf Majid, a 50-year-old from Lebanon.

"Now I want to take this skill of managing life to my people; make them experience what I did and give them a chance to make this beautiful change -- in their own lives and that of others," he adds.


Image: The group at the Art of Living training session
Photographs: Vicky Nanjappa
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'Most beautiful month of my life'

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Yusuf isn't alone.  Each participant's tryst with AOL was a powerful and life-changing one.

"I came to the ashram for the first time in 2006 and that was the most beautiful month of my life. The Art of Living has taught me how to take care of myself as well as others. We are so unaware of the importance of our own breath and how it can help us reach a stage where there is absolute clarity and focus," says Mariam, a Member of the Iraqi Parliament and an ex-advisor to the Iraqi prime minister.

It was sheer curiosity about His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's 'Health through Breath' programme that attracted her to the AOL porgramme. Today, she is involved in it "hook, line and sinker". After completing the introductory programme, she followed it up with advanced courses and the teacher's training programme.


Image: Ali Sadan from Iraq
Photographs: Video: Vicky Nanjappa
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It is all a 'We'

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"I was so fired up by the experience and Sri Sri's vision of a violence-free and stress-free world that I started teaching the Art of Living programme to top politicians in Iraq, and it  was a huge success," she recalls.

Her story moved Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki so much that he invited Sri Sri to visit Iraq in 2007.

Interestingly, all the participants from the Middle East believe that the inner transformation they are experiencing can be a remedy for many of the maladies that ail the world.  "Only when I am in harmony, will I be able to create harmony around myself. The Art of Living has helped me to experientially understand the feeling of harmony. Sri Sri has made us understand that there is no 'You' and 'Me'. It is all a 'We'," says Farida from Pakistan. 


Image: The group at the Art of Living training session
Photographs: Vicky Nanjappa
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'Huge responsibility to humanity'

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"We need more people who understand this and come together to work towards creating a harmonious society. Now, I aim to reach out to the thousands who are in dire need of this wisdom," she adds.

In addition to preparing themselves for what they term a 'huge responsibility to humanity', these AOL participants are also making the most of their stay in the ashram.

"It was a big surprise when Guruji called us on stage and asked us to sing. And the applause from the crowd, who cheered loudly, was an even bigger surprise. We felt welcomed and one with the people," reveals Wafa from Oman.


Image: Karima from Iraq
Photographs: Video: Vicky Nanjappa
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'This is IT'

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"I like the atmosphere and the energy of this place. There are people from diverse backgrounds, yet there is a spirit of belongingness and so much positivity," says Farida.

"I gel well with everyone. It is like one big family for me," she explains.

"I just love this place. It is my home. This experience has been so refreshing and rejuvenating. Inshallah, we will definitely come back with more people soon," promises Yusuf. 

"For, this is IT," he adds with a twinkle in his eye.


Image: The group at the Art of Living training session
Photographs: Vicky Nanjappa
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