REFLEXIONS 
By Robert Ross 
The Art of Living . . . The Art of Breathing 

 

Breathing and Mystical Experiences 
About two decades ago I had an experience that to this day, I’ve been reluctant to talk about. Profound — mystical — weird — spiritual — take your pick, these words could all be used to describe the event that has stayed with me for the past twenty years. The experience was a result of breathing, breathing while in a relaxed state. Since that incident, I’ve been attracted to books and workshops which focus on breathing — breathing techniques, breathing for relaxation, breathing to reduce stress and breathing as a form of meditation.

So it wasn’t just happenstance that drew me to the workshop on breathing being offered by the Art of Living Foundation. The promotional article, which was featured in the San Diego Union-Tribune explained that the workshop was about breathing and the profound effect it can have, resulting in greater relaxation and greater joy. Of course, I was curious as to what this was all about. A couple of phone calls later . . .. I was looking forward to the class.

 I was taking the “Basic Course,” which was to be offered over a six-day period. In my case it covered a Tuesday and Wednesday evening (6:45 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.), one weekend (Saturday and Sunday - 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.), and the following Tuesday and Wednesday evenings. The purpose of the Basic Course was to learn the fundamentals, which were three breathing methods and a bit of the eastern philosophy. The workshop was structured to build toward the last technique which was the centerpiece of the course and the most beneficial of the three. 

Held in the home of one of the instructors (we had two instructors), this in-home workshop gave a comfortable feel to the entire experience. In my particular group we had six students, so we were soon on a first-name basis. 

The Art of Living Foundation 
The Art of Living Foundation was the creation of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar (not the musician, by the name of Ravi Shankar). 

Sri Sri was born in southern India in 1956. As a child he was precocious, reportedly being able to recite the Bhagavad-Gita, a Hindu sacred text, by the age of four. By the age of 17, he had completed college with a degree in science. In 1982 he emerged from a period of silence and seclusion with his new teaching — the Sudarshan Kriya technique, a powerful ancient procedure which Sri Sri reintroduced to the world. 

Today, The Art of Living Foundation has chapters in 59 countries (at last count) and offers programs such as the Basic Course, the Advanced Course, the ART Excell program (All Round Training for Excellence), a personal development program for children and teens, the Prison SMART Program (Stress Management And Rehabilitative Training), and special courses for those with life-threatening illnesses. 

There are also auxiliary activities in which one can participate, such as the Dollar-A-Day program, which helps to sponsor an underprivileged child in southern India. 

The Basic Course 
Inhale two . . . three . . . four, hold two . . . three . . . four, exhale . . . and so it went with our first evening in the Basic Course. We were learning a technique that would help us achieve a relaxing and beneficial sleep later that night. Apparently it worked because the following morning I awoke refreshed, realizing that I did sleep better. In fact, if I take anything from the course, it is that awareness of the importance of going to bed relaxed, in a peaceful, calm meditative state. The technique taught that first night gave me the skills to achieve that state of mind. 

As the course progressed, we added another breathing technique — one that would energize us. This one required some arm movements, and again, it achieved its intended goal. 

During the last three sessions of the Basic Course we added a third technique to our repertoire — the Sudarshan Kriya, which is the center piece of Sri Sri’s teachings. The Sudarshan Kriya releases deep stresses and rejuvenates the body on a cellular level. And, it definitely works. The only consideration is the time required. When you combine some light yoga stretching with all three breathing methods, which is recommended, one needs to set aside about thirty to forty-five minutes a day. 

At the end of our six sessions, we all brought little gifts (items from our house) and exchanged them in a grab bag kind of way. I ended up with a print of Krishna. A fitting gift, since my next trip will probably be to India. 

The Art of Living Foundation is committed to making life a celebration on this planet. It is fitting that a description of the Foundation (on their web page) ends with: 

Sing - Dance - Laugh - Meditate 

If you’re drawn toward breathing as meditation — as a stress-reduction technique or you’re just interested and you live in the San Diego area, call Cyndie Pendelton at (858) 274-7899. For those who live in the Los Angeles area, call (310) 820-9429. Orange County residents can get information by calling (714) 671-3081. You can also visit The Art of Living’s web page at http://ArtofLiving.org/  

Robert Ross can be reached by e-mail at: SanDiegoRoss@Yahoo.com   

Copyright 2000 by Robert Ross, all rights reserved


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