Archive for October, 2010

The Chaos Theory

by Vikas Chawla

I am sure you are a little puzzled by the title of this blog post.  Don’t worry, I am not going to propound the “butterfly effect” and other mathematical intricacies of this theory. I just want to bring some context about chaos and the Art of Living Foundation.  I would like to qualify that “this blog post” reflects an opinion that is entirely my own.  For Vishnu’s sake do not mention this to Guruji; otherwise I am in deep trouble.

If you have spent any amount of time in Art of Living Foundation, I am sure that you have wondered that Why is there so much chaos in the functioning of the organizationWhy doesn’t Guruji put some order?  If you have not thought about this then there are only two possibilities (ok three), i.e.
a. You have not spent enough time in the organization
b. You are smoking something
c. You are enlightened (Now you know why I initially stated two possibilities)
Some of us, who are so used to working in the corporate world, always think in terms of accountability and designing a hierarchical reporting structure to bring a semblance of order to the Foundation.

Vikas and his wife, Aparna

Let us consider a natural system and think about water vapor. The molecules are very chaotic in any gaseous system.  You cool the water vapor and you get water.  You have less chaos (i.e. more order).  Water has the fluidity to occupy any vessel that it occupies but does not have the ability to expand as much as the vapors. You cool it down further and you get ice.  A lot of order (very little chaos) but along with it comes rigidity.  I will repeat “Ice has the most amount of structure and also the least ability to expand, adapt to its surroundings !!!”

I want you to pause and think about this analogy.  Any Foundation, corporation, organization also is subject to the same laws.  We have seen it all the time in the IT world where a small and nimble startup will overtake a large behemoth (case in point, Google vs. Microsoft, facebook etc.).  Then that small organization gets very organized (for lack of a better term) and fails to innovate and adapt to the Market conditions.

I am arguing that chaos is a necessary condition for rapid expansion.

There is no escaping it.  More structure means more politics (Oops, I meant policies ), more red tape, more bureaucracy and less ability to innovate. Every Art of Living teacher/volunteer is an entrepreneur.  He/she has the ability to take an innovative approach to promoting the courses, coming up with new projects, add his/her flavor in teaching the course and even coming up with new courses as long as it is in line with the mission statement of the Foundation. IMHO, this is the phenomenon that you are seeing in our Foundation and that is what Guruji wants to promote.  He is not imposing a lot of structure since he does not want to stifle the creativity.  The key is to walk the middle path.  Not be like the vapor where everything is “airy fairy” and not be like ice, where you have a lot of rigidity. Be like water and adapt to any surrounding condition. There is no reason for everyone to come up with their own flyer, own website (BTW, Great work Jani and team, You guys  rock !!! ), having a centralized financial model is great. However, as soon as we impose a strict hierarchy or reporting structure in a volunteer organization, we will see a negative spiral. There needs to be room for individual volunteers/teachers/chapters to exhibit their creativity. Out of this chaos will emerge an order which will be long lasting. Processes and policies are good when followed to a limited extent but stifle the organization when taken stringently. From a philosophical perspective chaos has a lot to teach us in being creative, spontaneous, accepting and rolling with the punches. Sometimes you might think that in Art of Living there are too many “chiefs and not many Indians”.  Well what happens when the Indians become the chiefs !!!! 🙂

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To complete an impressive list of senior teachers visiting us this fall season, Sangeeta Jani came to New Jersey last weekend to teach the DSN course. Sangeeta Jani travels all over the world including Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Indonesia, Taiwan, China, Russia, Oman, USA, Africa, Western Europe and India teaching Art of Living courses. She has been teaching for 19 years. We took the opportunity to ask her a few questions.

Q: As a teacher, what are some challenges you face?
Sangeeta Jani: I don’t see anything as a challenge. I see it all as a happening. So whatever is happening in the current moment, I feel, and I have seen this happen, it is leading to something bigger, it is leading to something else. So something that may appear as an obstacle right now, is not really an obstacle. It is just something that is pushing you towards something bigger, towards a bigger plan. I have learnt that and that has made it very smooth and everything flows very easily.

Q: What do you enjoy about being a teacher?

Sangeeta Jani at Art of Living center, Metuchen, NJ

Sangeeta Jani: I just enjoy teaching, Because when I teach, first and foremost I feel so grateful that I have an opportunity to be an instrument to the Divine and do some work to make a difference. I feel I may have spent so many lifetimes just coming and going, coming and going,  taking from this planet. This lifetime also I may have done a lot of that but, you know, when I have an opportunity to give, I feel so grateful, and so indebted to be able to give to the world. I feel blessed to be chosen to do something like this, to have the ability to do something like this.

What I feel I enjoy most about teaching is the learning. I feel with every course that I teach, I along with the participants, I am also growing. I am also learning so much more with them. Every course that I teach, I feel I have learnt. It has opened something more. It has made the knowledge more authentic in my life, in my experience. It is more integrated into me. It is woven into me. That is what is so beautiful about it. You share and you grow at the same time.

Q: You have traveled all over the world teaching. What is your experience and how have people benefited?
Sangeeta Jani: I have been teaching the Art of living course for the past 19 years and my teachings have taken me to different parts of the world and I have had an opportunity to interact with people from various cultures. I have of course taught in India, I have taught in countries where people predominantly follow the Christian religion. I have taught in countries where they follow Islam.

What I have noticed is that there is a slight difference in culture everywhere. But the cultural aspect is what? The cultural aspect is the way they eat, the way they talk, the way they sleep, the way they pray, the manner in which they pray, their symbols. There is a slight difference when it comes to all that. But again what I have noticed is that the core values in every human being are the same. There is no difference. When they take the course they all identify with these core values.

Again there is another thing that is common amongst each and every human being, wherever the person is, and that is the breath. And what we focus on is the breath. What we teach mainly in the basic course, the Art of Living course, is the Sudharshan Kriya which is a breathing technique. It is a rhythmic breathing technique. What happens is that, like everything in nature, you know how nature has its own rhythm. In the same way, our nervous system also has its own rhythm. But due to the daily stresses that we accumulate we throw this nervous system off a little bit. What we do is in Sudarshan Kriya is we use the breath to eliminate these stresses and restore the nervous system to its natural rhythm. That is basically what we are doing.

So regardless of what faith one follows this is something that is very useful. It is a tool that helps you deal with stresses on a day-to-day basis. It helps you deal with the mind. Its very hard to deal with the mind from the level of the mind. So if you cannot do that then you use the breath. It is very easy to do it like that. It is very smooth, very gentle, anyone can do it.

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by Vikas Chawla
One of the five pillars of knowledge that is taught in the Art of Living Course is “Acceptance”, i.e. “Accept people and situations as they are”. Over the years that I have taught the course I have encountered various arguments about how it is very tough and more easily said than done. I want the readers to think about this a little differently. This whole path is about self realization, so let us remove “others” from this equation of Acceptance. Let us turn the question inwards and rephrase it as “Accept ourselves as we are”. Does it become any easier?

in Switzerland

I think Guruji does not talk about this on the “Art of Living Course” since it is the more difficult thing to do. We know each and every minute detail about ourselves and there is no escaping any of it. No matter how hard we try, we cannot run away from our own self. We are great at finding faults with others and even more proficient at constantly judging our own deficiencies. Our mind is filled with regrets with the things we should have done or should not have done. This is where knowledge is such a blessing. Guruji has so beautifully stated that “Think about the past as destiny and the future as free will “. If we can apply this simple mantra it will help us to drop the regrets and focus 100% on the future.

Meditation is an inward journey, moving towards the source, closer to the self. How can we move towards something that we do not like? If you want to venture in the sphere of meditation and want to become a proficient meditator, the key mantra is “Accept yourself as you are”.

In the “Art of Silence” Course we are taught on how the emotions are linked to sensations in the body. The negative emotions that are specified are lack of interest, lust, greed, jealousy, fear, hate and anger. How about “guilt”? Where does guilt fit into the picture?

Guilt consumes the whole system and thus there is no sensation in any particular portion of the body. It has been used by all religions very proficiently (some more than others) to manipulate the followers of the religion. Guilt is the single most powerful emotion that takes us away from own self and is the greatest impediment to meditation.

Oh Come On! Let us not start feeling guilty about experiencing guilt. If you have listened to Ashtavakra Gita, there are a few great tapes, “You are not the doer”, “Storm of emotions” and others that can help. Guilt is all about something that has happened in the past and you did not intend to do. If we can learn from our mistakes, see it as a happening and surrender. That is all we can do.

If you are a seeker and want to dive deep inside yourself, surrender the past and embrace yourself with love, care and acceptance. It is a beautiful journey 🙂

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