Change You Want to See
By Julie Hotchkiss
Over twenty years ago a group of university students came together to discuss their dreams and aspirations for creating a better world. Today, their dream has become a reality and the five founding members have seen their vision expand beyond their wildest expectations. It is a story that actually began many years ago in India when a young Indian man named Chaganbai Patel became inspired to work with the great Mahatma Gandhi. As a result of this, his life became a dedication to upholding the principles by which Gandhi lived.
It was through Chaganbai that the original group of university friends were able to crystalize their ideas and vision. Drawing upon his own experience working with a man who never for one moment doubted he could achieve his highest goals, Chaganbai was able to weave a magic that brought their dream alive in such a way that helped them believe they too could achieve their greatest ambitions.
He and his wife Echaben were two of the Life Foundation’s founding members, along with their son, Mansukh Patel. They had been trained in yoga from a long line of teachers in India, the knowledge of which has been passed from teacher to student for thousands of years. It is this knowledge combined with the universal principles of truth, compassion, simplicity and non-violence as practiced by Gandhi, that has become the anchor and heartbeat for the work of the LIFE Foundation.
And so the dream began to unfold. Over the years the group has expanded and is now comprised of more than eighty people, each dedicated to making a difference in the world. Their work has spread throughout Europe and extended as far as Canada, Australia, the USA and Africa.
One of the group’s original visions was to follow Gandhi’s example of walking from place to place connecting with people at a grassroots level. It was from this vision that one of the most extraordinary humanitarian aid projects, EuroWalk 2000, has emerged. Over the past six years the EuroWalk 2000 team established the work of the LFST in the Netherlands and USA, and has traveled into some of the most volatile war zones. They have taken their detraumatization skills through Bosnia into the back-streets of Sarajevo and Mostar where they have worked with orphaned children who have spent months living in cellars with the threat of death every moment.
Andrew Wells is one of the Foundation’s leading therapists:
“Time and time again I ask myself what is this strength that triumphs within the human heart when faced with immense suffering, hardship or danger? Through-out our travels in the war zones of South Sudan, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and the North Caucuses, we have worked closely with people who have experienced incredible trauma and who have witnessed atrocities beyond imagination. Yet from the pain emerges the silent spirit of courage and the determination to survive.”
“Yes, we have the tools and techniques to help transform emotional trauma and yes, they are extremely powerful and effective, but when you come face to face with a woman who has watched her children and husband die in front of her, all you have left to give is the power of love and the light of hope that says life is worth living. I have discovered that the force of love is the greatest gift we can give.”
However, it is not just in war zones that the work of the Foundation is welcomed. Every one of us at some point in our life experiences emotional trauma and often this internal war can be very destructive. The Dru Yoga techniques that Life Foundation tutors teach provide the means for successful living at any level. Dru Yoga has the unfailing ability to empower every individual’s personal esteem and vitality. By balancing and strengthening body, mind and emotions, it particularly works by opening the heart using a combination of movement, breath and visualization to transform painful and negative emotions into a positive creative force for personal evolvement.
What made Gandhi so great was his ability to put his spirituality into practice, and practicality is one of the main philosophies of the LIFE Foundation whose mission statement is to “Transform the world by giving people the tools to transform themselves.”
Each year hundreds of people from across Europe travel to their Snowdon Lodge Retreat Centre which is situated in the heart of the Welsh Mountains, to experience, learn and apply the techniques. The Life Foundation offers a range of weekend and one-week retreats which teach the beautiful, flowing heart-based movements of Dru Yoga. Their annual conference hosts up to eight hundred people who gather to hear speakers from across the world share their vision for the future and to take part in some of the 30 workshops offered.
They also take groups on retreat to Bardsey Island, a remote and dramatically beautiful island which is steeped in ancient Welsh history. It is a valuable experience for anyone wishing to leave the world of chaos and enter into one of total peace and calmness.
So, as Gandhi’s spirit lives on, the Life Foundation team, fired by a vision to create peace in the world, continue to carry the torch of love and hope into the lives of thousands of people. The results of their work are far reaching and go to prove that your individual positive actions do make a difference to the world.
If you would like to know more about LIFE Foundation retreats, seminars and training courses in California, call Life Foundation USA, (714) 642-0408, e-mail LifeCalifornia@aol.com and see the website www.Lifefoundation.org.uk
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