Visiting meditation guru
brings breath of peace
There's Ravi Shankar, the sitar master, and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, the spiritual guru, for whom the honorific title of Sri Sri was added due to the confusion over their names. But for believers around the globe, there's no confusing the two men. Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the gentle messenger of love-in-action -- as well as the originator of a breathing technique his nonprofit Art of Living Foundation guarantees, according to its pamphlet, will remove "stress and (allow) you to find greater peace, energy and joy ... for a lifetime."
The technique is called Sudarshan Kriya and is what Yoga Journal says "may be the fastest growing spiritual practice on the planet."
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Public talk: 7 p.m. Friday
Place: Japanese Cultural Center Ballroom, 2454 S. Beretania St.
Also: "The Art of Living Course: Yoga of Breath" workshops offered April 23 to 28. Cost is $250, $125 for full-time students and seniors. Call 371-6071.
The foundation's mission statement says it's "dedicated to serving society by strengthening the individual," and its 5-H Program focuses on health, hygiene, homes, harmony in diversity, and human values.
Members of the local chapter of Art of Living, established in 1995, have done their part for the community by helping feed the homeless downtown at the Institute for Human Services and doing trail maintenance for the Hawaii Nature Center.
It's no surprise that members Pauline Sheldon, Ashley Maynard and George Tate are all eagerly awaiting Shankar's public talk Friday. The guru last spoke here in 1998 at Diamond Head's Unity Church.
Sudarshan Kriya -- described as a type of controlled hyperventilation -- is taught by volunteer teachers worldwide. Sheldon, a professor-on-sabbatical from the University of Hawaii's School of Travel Industry Management, is one of those teachers and will help teach the Yoga for Breath workshops scheduled after Shankar's appearance.
"The title of his current world tour is 'Love Moves the World,'" the English-born woman said. "His extemporaneous talk will include addressing who we are as individuals, part of the trinity of 'One God, One Truth, One World.'
"Sudarshan Kriya improves one's overall health, and has been proven medically to alleviate depression, anxiety, as well as help in the cure of cancer and HIV," she claims. "Breath is important in helping to control one's emotions, smoothing the ups and downs of everyday life."
The breathing technique has been put in to practice here in Prison Smart program that is in place with the staff and prisoners at the Halawa medium security facility and Oahu Community Correctional Center.
MAYNARD, an assistant professor of psychology at UH, has been practicing Sudarshan Kriya for five years, after seeing Shankar speak when she was living in Los Angeles in 1999. "Afterward, I put my name down on the list for the weekend course.
"During my Sudarshan Kriya lessons, when I was in the middle of doing my doctoral dissertation, I got stuck on writing the last chapter. But on the third day, I wrote 17 pages in two hours. That was because I was so clear and focused that I got to the point quicker.
"And I continue to 'get the point' -- I retain more when I read and feel less anxious," she said. "When I do my breathing daily for 10 minutes, I found that my life feels more effortless. The Art of Living provides you with tools you can really use to feel better physically, emotionally and spiritually about yourself."
Sheldon, who has practiced other meditation techniques, said "this particular breathing practice immediately removed all of the mental noise going on inside. Emotional ups-and-downs lasted for a shorter period of time. It helps build a stronger inner core."
During the course of the interviews, Shankar called from Canberra, Australia, to speak briefly. Although the combination of his accented voice and a spotty cell-phone connection made it difficult at times to understand him, this statement was clear: "In spite of things like terrorism, people with good intentions can make a difference the world over. We usually think of problems as, at times, too overwhelming to deal with. But doing service activities can help bring people together to work for a common goal."
"We all have the same life experiences," said Tate, "whether you're liberal or conservative, capitalist or communist. Once you get past the differences, we all share a real human need to be loved."
A longtime local resident, originally from Pittsburgh, Tate said he was a lifelong seeker until he met Shankar here. "After my first encounter with him, I was totally at peace and felt that I didn't have to seek any longer.
"I was struck by how much in the present he was. He offers no judgment -- no carrot on a stick to try to lure people in -- and he recognizes the specialness and value of our location, of what Hawaii, with its love and ethnic diversity, can bring to the world."
"And, in India," Sheldon said, "he can draw as many as 250,000 to a public talk. Here, we're very fortunate that at the center's ballroom, with its 200 to 300 seating capacity, it'll make for more of an intimate interaction."
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