Roaring Lion, Deafening Silence
How circumstances transpired, and universe conspired to bring me there, right then, is beyond my comprehension. But I knew, at some level of awareness, that I was at the right place, doing the right thing….
As I took in the deep dark dusk, setting into the beautiful lush green campus with full moon fully in sight, the words “Roar like a lion” struck a deep chord with me. “We often chicken out of our problems.. chick, chick, chick”, the words of a senior faculty with Art of Living, Prashant Rajore, delivered calmly yet humorously rang in my ears. “Do you want to chicken out or roar like a lion?”, he asked enthusiastically, only to be met with an even more enthusiastic response.
This was the first time I was doing a Silence Retreat with Prashant Rajore ji. Spread over just a weekend, Busy Bee Part 2 as it is called had 50+ participants from Bangalore and other places in India, some even coming from USA. We had assembled for a weekend (3 days) of silence, meditations and introspection at the international Art of Living Ashram at Bangalore.
True to its name, entering the ashram (‘a’ (negation) + ‘shram’ (strain) — A place of rest, a place that lacks strain or distress) always feels like a refreshing breeze that clears the dust and heat of the mind — Setting the stage for spiritual seekers and adventurers to explore and dive deeper into the beauty of the inner self.
The hollow and empty meditations, a trade mark of the Silence course rejuvenates the mind and soul like none else, just like a swim and plunge under a beautiful waterfall leaves the body cool and refreshed.
Even to introspect and reflect on wisdom, that was shared in abundance on the course, the mind needs a certain level of calmness and receptivity. With the variety of deep meditations, a staple food on the course, our perception and level of awareness was heightened.
Consciously staying away from the digital world (Whatsapp, calls, messages) also brought in a beautiful sense of inner freedom, that can’t be put in words. I of course sneaked in some pictures during breaks, so that I may try to put words to my experience. Every sound in the surroundings felt enhanced, every movement was observed, every beautiful flower was captured in the heart on our nature walks, and every word shared by our wise teacher, was absorbed.
In that moment of absorption, I reflected that there are many situations, where I retract, like a tortoise retracting into its shell, especially when the situations go out of my comfort zone. Understanding the comfort zones itself takes some time, the complex patterns and deep impressions (samskaras/vasanas in sanskrit) that form the basis for the subconscious mind are not easily revealed or even beheld. And yet these deep impressions govern and form the basis for our conscious actions, getting us into the same patterns that don’t serve us or do us any good. In silent meditations, as we observe and observe and observe the intricacies of the mind, some of these impressions surface, a deep introspection happens, and one can almost touch the subconscious layer and even release some of these impressions.
“Roar like a lion!” felt so apt. Why do we chicken out of our situations ? Why do we lose awareness and give into raw emotions? How do we keep our awareness high ? Some of the questions posed on the course brought out quite a few witty and terse one-liners. As the one liners hit the mind, it felt like fresh yet ancient waves lapping up the shores of an ocean. Sample this: “How do I deal with worries?”, asked some one. “Worry is always about something that doesn’t exist. Why waste time on it?”, pat came the reply. Indeed, when we worry, we are not doing anything productive — It is a repetitive negative state of the mind, that brings our energy and smiles down. This was so apt for me — The worries that were besieging me were a useless endeavor to engage with, and yet I worried. The last two days of the course allowed me to let go of the mental clutter and bask in the presence of my inner self.
One thing I always enjoy about Art of Living courses is the presence exuded by our teachers. Having taught academic courses (Machine Learning and Mathematics mostly) myself over the course of my Phd and tenure in the professional world, I notice the contrast between academic teaching and spiritual teaching. While in academics, a lot of emphasis goes on the dissection of information, interpretation and big picture at the intellectual level, spiritual courses are driven primarily by the presence, intuition and a deeper, calmer and profound state of being that can only be experienced. Less important is being logically right and holding one’s ground, more important is being open to new perspectives and integrating it into one’s experience in a more direct way. All of this is made easy, when the presence in the room feels strong. What is presence anyway ? Imagine being with your grand mother or some one very wise, how comforted you feel being with them, how easy is it to listen to them — That’s the kind of calm, wise presence they exude. You may not feel the same way with your siblings or friends.
Prashant ji came across as a gentle yet strong, centered and wise presence that brought in a settlement to the room. Listening to him share his stories of growth from his IIT days, starting out as a chemical engineer to now teaching full-time and traveling all over India every week teaching courses, uplifting thousands of youngsters and elders alike, bringing many many smiles to people’s faces was quite an enchanting and inspiring experience for us participants. Many of us aspired to be like him — Leading life selflessly and for the betterment of humanity and human consciousness, it was but natural. Like was shared on the course, all praise to a painting, goes to the painter. In this case, Prashant ji, was deeply inspired to help people uplift their minds and spirits under the guidance of the founder of Art of Living, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar himself.
Roaring Lion, Deafening Silence
As we neared the end of the course, it was a sad parting for all of us. To get back from this pristine, soulful and beautiful experience of being with one self, joyfully and in peace, and get back to the real world of deadlines and tricky situations is never easy. And yet, a rejuvenating and stress-free weekend paves the way for an immense amount of creativity and energy to handle the situations and problems of life. Having touched the deafening silence of meditations, we can step forward into real life, roaring lions, at obstacles and situations and charge forward with renewed enthusiasm and focus!