By Punya Srivastava November 2013 The Life Positive Expo held in the beautiful Parmarth Niketan at Rishikesh, was a powerful blend of insights, experiences, and high adventure, says Punya Srivastava Starting early on the morning of September 19, a motley crew of Life Positive staff and Expo delegates gathered at New Delhi railway station to embark upon a journey within. We reached our destination, the sprawling Parmarth Niketan by lunchtime, and after a delicious satavik lunch we took stock of the fact that we had the rest of the day free, to do with as we pleased. Some took long walks along the ghats while others browsed through the local market. The evening culminated with the renowned Ganga aarti on the ghat opposite Parmarth. The weariness of the day dissipated with every chant of the young rishi kumars and every beat of the tabla. What could be more sublime than watching the sun disappear in a splash of colours on the evening sky, with the effervescent chants in the background and the Ganga in the foreground? Day 1Yoga session The day started with an early morning yoga session in one of the many halls dedicated to yoga practice in the verdant Parmarth Niketan. These sessions are a part of the daily ashram activities that residents eagerly take part in. The ashram extended its yoga sessions to the Expo delegates for all three days of their stay. Pranayam exercises like kapal bhati and anulom vilom were practised to strengthen the breath. And out on the terrace under the open sky, it was a divine experience to salute the rising sun with surya namaskars, followed by chants of Om and shlokas dedicated to Patanjali. Inaugural ceremony The Expo officially started off with Life Positive Chairman and Managing Trustee, Aditya Ahluwalia’s address to the audience. In answering the resounding question ‘Why did God forsake his devotees?’ in the backdrop of the Uttarakhand tragedy, he explained that what we interpret as calamity is actually God’s grace that enables us to come closer to enlightenment. Mr. Ahluwalia’s address was followed by Shruti Podar’s invocation to Shiva and Shakti. The room resounded with the soulful chanting of Om Namah Shivayah. She then proceeded to invoke the Divine Feminine by the chanting of the shakti stotra of Ya devi sarvabuteshu. She closed with the profound and beautiful Adi Shankaracharya hymn, Chidananda roopam shivoham shivoham which she invited the audience to sing along. This advaitic hymn tells us that we are God itself, and everything else is an illusion. This set the stage for the discourse that followed.Swami Chidanand Saraswati, spiritual head of Parmarth Niketan, was unfortunately for us, called away at the last moment to participate in the launch of a UN-supported water initiative introduced by leading spiritual figures and spearheaded by him. However, we were blessed to have Swami Santatmananda from the Dayanand Saraswati Ashram, deliver a discourse riveting in its clarity and precision. Swamiji explained that the birth and death cycle is rooted in ignorance and that the only way out was through knowledge. He talked about how ignorance led to desire and action, which resulted in good and bad karma, thereby entrenching us in samsara. Swamiji stressed upon the importance of being a karma yogi. He explained its essence as offering all actions to God (Iswara arpana buddhi) and receiving the consequences as His prasad (Ishwara prasada buddhi). Dispelling the prevalent notion of equating meditation with thoughtlessness, Swamiji quoted Patanjali – yoga chitta vridhi nirodha – as mastering thoughts, and not negating them. Freedom from fear and guilt by Chitra Jha The popular LP writer, Chitra Jha, proved that she was equally adept in the field of facilitation. Her workshop on liberating oneself from fear and guilt kept up a blistering momentum, thanks to the number of exercises she wove into the workshop’s design. She began with dividing the participants into groups which had to identify different sources of fear and guilt, before asking each participant to share with another about their particular fears and guilts. If there were some fears and guilts they could not share with anyone, they were invited to write them down in a paper and put them into a container where they were burned.This was followed by an exercise where participants were asked to envisage a box, its size, material and appearance, get into the box, experiences one’s thoughts and feelings and then come out. This exercise helped us to recognise the nature of the many boxes that compress our lives. The third exercise helped us to heal the patterns that we had discovered in the earlier two exercises. It was a deep meditation inviting us to go into a space beyond fear and guilt, where we had experienced true happiness, and to identify the feelings and also the colours that showed up. The meditation sent many into a healing space. At the end of the workshop one participant confessed that he had always wanted to speak publicly and also to learn to dance but had held back because of his age. He was now determined to power beyond these fears and realise his dreams! Mukti Sutra by Dr Bimol Rakshit “The moment you are with your jeevatma, you are connected with Parmatma,” explained Dr. Rakshit in his workshop. He further explained the importance of awareness at three levels – body, mind and spirit. Titled Mukti Sutra, the aim of the workshop was to hand over customised solutions to everyday problems. Imparting techniques for travelling to the inner recesses of one’s being, Dr. Rakshit stressed on the importance of disciplining the mind with practice to drop all that is unwanted and to manifest all that is wanted. He taught a technique to bring the mind to ‘level’ – a state of deep relaxation – where one could begin to manifest one’s dreams and desires through positive affirmations. The most significant aspect of these techniques was their handy nature. A person can reach the level within moments by applying them. Manifestations through Dream Control and Mirror on the Wall were a few other useful techniques.“I am most impressed by the facilitators. The way they impart knowledge through interactive sessions is commendable,” said Mr. D.S. Ganwani, Mumbai. Yoga Nidra Sadhvi Abha Saraswati of Parmarth facilitated the Yoga Nidra session. Yoga Nidra is an exercise to achieve a state of deep relaxation. The session began with chanting Om and proceeded straight to shavasana. As the participants laid down in the asana, Sadhvi exhorted them to become aware of their breathing. She then asked everyone to make a resolve that could be fulfilled in the near future. This was one way of bringing change in your life. She then began to rotate consciousness through various parts of the body, starting with the left side first, which was followed by visualising the asked imagery at an emotional, mental as well as spiritual level. According to Sadhvi, if a person is able to visualise at all three levels, he has reached the deep relaxation state. It was one of the most relaxing sessions of the Expo. Day 2 Choose Bliss, Not Stress by Anil Bhatnagar “There cannot be just healing without spiritual growth or vice versa. Every person has emotional as well as growth needs. Our main work is to help people get into the state of ‘presence’,”says Nilima. “Spirituality lies in the most ordinary things; it lies in a state of complete non-hankering,” said Anil Bhatanagar in his workshop on the second day of the Expo. “Knowledge is powerless if it doesn’t find an implementation. Not knowledge but consistent actions make a change in life,” he further added. Explaining the difference between a successful person and an unsuccessful one, he stressed that the former does not give himself the option of failure, by making an excuse and wavering from his commitments. He expounded on the significance of consistency and practice over accumulation of knowledge. Drawing various examples and anecdotes, Bhatnagar drove home the point of needing to have enough love and respect for the self to honour its commitments. He briefly touched upon the theory of stress and its causes, while dedicating most of the time to handing out solutions to resolve stress and anger. Attaining health and happiness through Ayurveda by Dr Pratap Chauhan In an unceasing flow of knowledge, Dr Pratap Chauhan brilliantly captured the essence of ayurveda, and explained many key concepts. The root cause of disaease, he explained, was Pragya apradha – the miuse of intelligence by eating or doing what is against one’s best interests. For instance, drinking tea when suffering from acidity. Dr Chauhan explained that ayurveda has a very comprehensive and holistic definition of health. The first parameter is sama dosha which would mean the balance of the original ratio of the three doshas – vata, pitta and kapha – one is born with. The second is sama dhatu. Dhatu refers to the body’s vital fluids and constituents such as the lymph, blood, muscles, fat, bones, marrow and reproductive fluids. These need to be in balance too. The third is samagni or balance of the fires. The fourth parameter is mala kriya or the proper functioning of our excretory organs. The second line of the sloka emphasises the importance of well-being of the mind and soul. Thus when the mind, soul and body are happy, we may be said to be healthy. Dr Chauhan gave simple home remedies for a variety of minor ailments such as constipation, acidity, gas and insomnia. He also taught the daily routine prescribed by ayurveda, which includes washing the eyes, no
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