Personal Growth - Learning to live
by Nipun A Jacob
DO WORKSHOPS WORK?"I felt at the end of the Inner Engineering Programme course that I had become a more loving and giving person. There is more laugher and freedom in my thoughts. I am inspired to lead a life full of
Youthful exuberance at a Yes!+ programme organised by AOL Alas, our educational system may set us up for livelihoods but not for life. It does not teach us how to get over a broken heart and bounce back to life. It does not teach us how to transcend failure, combat anger, or handle fear. It does not teach us how to forge fulfilling and lasting bonds with family and friends and how to resolve conflicts amicably. It does not help us understand or know ourselves. Indeed, all of the present educational system would be called avidya by the Indian scriptures – false knowledge. According to them vidya or true knowledge only consists of any system of education that enables one to understand, life, God and oneself – all of which is really the same thing.
Fortunately for the young of our land, several spiritual organisations are attempting to fill the lacunae by offering short and extended courses that can enable them not only to understand and school themselves but also develop a viable value system and to cultivate leadership skills. Youngsters are being supported to divert their energies productively into making a difference to society. Here are some of the leading ones:
The Brahma Kumaris
BK Janki, administrative head of the Brahma Kumaris, says, “Young people are liable to be drawn towards unhealthy company, blind faith, drug addiction and superstitions. Only spirituality and moral education can liberate young adults.” Located in Ahmedabad, the youth wing of the Brahma Kumaris organises programmes in educational institutions in rural as well as urban India. Courses offered include Positive Change, Personality Development, How to Overcome Examination Phobia and Discovery of Self. These programmes aim to improve concentration, increase confidence and help enhance judgment skills. The wing also organises Youth Empowerment and Life Skills Educational Camps. Thousands of volunteers in the youth wing from different backgrounds, religions, communities and ethnicities happily volunteer for these projects despite the pressure of academics or work. “When the youth wake up, the world awakens. Thousands of our principled young brothers and sisters are contributing in the grand work of world transformation,” says BK Janki.
Piklu Paul, one of the participants who attended the youth programme, shares his experience. “I promised myself that I would never read obscene magazines or watch pornographic films. I have also started practising Rajyoga meditation early in the morning,” says Paul. Another participant at the youth camp, Sarbjeet Singh, says, “The evils of drug addiction, violence, self-destruction and loose morals are increasing among the youth. That is why I am so impressed by the inspiring life men and women lead here.”
Art of Living
The YES! + Youth Empowerment and Skills workshop has been conceptualised by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The duration of the programme called YES! + is 18-20 hours, spread over six consecutive days, three hours a day. The modules include group discussions, role-playing to inculcate life-skills, team games to develop public speaking and interpersonal communication skills. Participants also benefit from talks, presentations, and breathing techniques (Sudarshan Kriya) to flush out stress and toxins.
“The workshop also adds the essential and missing element of spirituality in the life of the youth who are looking for simple yet practical tools and techniques to improve their lives. They want clarity in life. Developing concentration is one of the biggest challenges youth face and we help them with simple methods that do just that,” explains Khurshed Batliwala, director, WAYE (World Alliance for Youth Empowerment), Art of Living.
YES! + teachers adopt a friendly, natural and non-judgmental style to teach youth. “The youth see through any pretence or prejudice very quickly. YES! + teachers are in the same age group as the participants. The sessions reflect the Art of Living philosophy, illustrated through real-life events,” says Dinesh Ghodke, director, Art of Living.
His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says, “Risk and challenges can be undertaken only by the spirit. Anything that enhances and enriches the spirit is spirituality. Spirituality encompasses both personal and professional lives. The quality of one’s life depends on the state of one’s mind, and spirituality teaches how to handle the mind. Once you learn that, everything else is easy.”
Youth doing yoga at an Isha Foundation programme Isha Foundation’s Inner Engineering Programme is an intensive module for youth and adults. It consists either of three hours for seven days or a full three-day programme which includes guided meditations and transmission of an ancient sacred yogic process called Shambhavi Mahamudra. “Inner Engineering helps participants add an inner foundation and vision to life. It helps strike the necessary balance between the challenges of a hectic career and the inner longing for peace and well-being. If your body, mind, emotion and life energies begin to happen the way you want them to happen, then you will be joyful, peaceful and blissful by your own nature. That is exactly what every human being is seeking,” explains Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev, the founder of Isha Foundation.
Sadhguru adds, “Youth is humanity in the making; they can shape themselves in whichever way they want. They can construct themselves either into the most beautiful human beings or into ugly ones, into a tremendous possibility or a disaster.”
The process of Inner Engineering goes beyond the need for self-worth and appreciation so that every individual feels complete within. It is provided as a free course in tribal villages, as an exclusive corporate retreat as well as a large-scale programme. Juliet from UK shares the positive transformation wrought in her by the programme: “I was not told to love people, but somehow, my response to life events started to change. Now I am more considerate and less hasty. This change took me by surprise, but is a beautiful one.”
Swami Patanga of Isha Foundation highlights the important elements of the course. “The tools offered in the programme have the potential to enhance one's experience of life on many levels. The practices learnt will surely give an edge to the performance level. The programme offers a wide space for exploring a new way of living, which establishes a positive and open approach to improve interpersonal relationships. Fear, anxiety, and other limitations can easily be transcended with these simple yet powerful methods.”
One World Academy
Krishnaji and Preetaji, founders of the One World Academy conceptualised, A New Beginning, a programme for youth between the age of 13 to 18 and 19 to 35 years. Prahasitha, faculty, One World Academy, says their experience is contrary to the commonly held belief that teaching the youth is not easy. “We have always found youth willing and participative. The transformation that comes about in them through our programme is radical. This is perhaps because our teachings are not advisory but exploratory. Our methodology is one of awareness and inquiry. The sessions are interactive, full of wisdom and reflective as they help us deal with everyday life situations,” she says.
“Who does not want to be happy? Who does not seek inner freedom?,” Prahasitha asks. “Spirituality is about being happy. It is the ability to bring love and happiness into every experience of life. It is to live in the awareness of the interconnectedness of life and act for the well-being of all.”
“We help participants to be free of their trauma by guiding them through a process of self-inquiry, self-respect and love. Our programmes and processes help the youth differentiate between problems and suffering. While one cannot change the past, we can definitely change our experience of the past by bringing about a perceptual shift. Allow youths their natural inquisitiveness and he or she can realise that there is much more to life than the physical sense of fulfillment. We can help them to arrive at a frictionless way of being and living,” she says.
Assembly of Believers Church
The ABC Church organises three-day Summer Youth Camps in Lucknow every year. These programmes help youth grow in God as well as society. Youth pastor Aneesh Masih says, “Spirituality plays an important role in building up a person’s character. In times of distress, spirituality imparts faith, love and hope and in the time of happiness it adds to sharing, caring, compassion and trust. The three-day retreat sees the miraculous power of God manifested in the life of the youth. Youth afflicted with diseases and addictions are often set free during the camp.”
Pastor Aneesh Masih believes that the present generation learns only when teaching is fun. “We incorporate art and singing, skits, special skill competitions and counselling along with instrumental music and praise and worship sessions during our retreats. This unleashes their hidden potential and opens them to the will of God in their life.”
Faculty, Assembly of Believers Church, Pastor Jagdish Das, says “To help the youth lead an exemplary life, we polish their personality by reinforcing basic values: Honour your father and mother that it may go well with you and you may live long on the earth, keep fellowship with good people. We also offer them tips to build strong character. “Let no one despise your youth but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in spirit, in faith, in purity,” says Das, quoting the Bible.
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