Art of Living Experiences, Art of Living Projects.

Few seconds before the earthquake hit, we had just closed our eyes for meditation in the Art of Living centre in Kathmandu. Having experienced it 2-3 times earlier, I immediately realised that it was back! We gathered everyone and ran outside in the open.  Some devotees took time to comprehend what they were feeling. They even thought it was probably a deep swaying experience of meditation that they we experiencing. As soon as we found sanity and realised what was happening, we sat down and started chanting for relief from the massive tremors. Never before had I experienced tremor after tremor. Every now and then that the land would shake we would look at each other gesturing – ‘Oh! It’s here again’. But somehow I didn’t realise it was such a big hit. After some time some of us decided to resume the session, but others said ‘No we are very scared and won’t be able to grasp anything ‘. So we cancelled the class. Some young boys decided to leave for the hospital and help the victims. And some of us walked back home, as there was no way we could take out our vehicles with tremors coming every few minutes, with roads and buildings damaged & crumbled.

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My family was on the first floor at home when the earth shook. I could not get to them. Their phones were ringing but no one answered. Evacuating the building and making sure no one was left behind, must have been too stressful for them. No communication with them kept me little worried. They later told me that the staircase of the building was almost falling apart, when they were getting down. Petrified, my mom for some moments stood still in the middle of the staircase. My brother went and got her down. The chandelier was moving profusely. It felt as if the whole house is going to collapse. Everybody in house – my two sister in laws with their kids ( 7 yr and 4  months)  were traumatised and literally in tears.

That night we slept on the ground floor but most of the people slept outside in the open in public places for days to come. When in the middle of the night, anyone of us felt the earth shaking we would jump out of the bed, wake everyone and run out. It happened a number of times on the first night. We cooked food the next day and went out to help people who’d probably lost their everything in the tremors.  We heard that there would be another major quake at 12 pm. So 2 people who had come to help pulled back saying they needed to return home before that. That left 7 of us only. My mother, sister in law, my driver, myself and 3 others (a couple and their 13 years old child). We went ahead to distribute the food in a big ground in the city were many had taken shelter. AS soon as we reached their and sat in a corner with whatever food we had brought for distribution, many started coming forward for food. Some said that since there was no place in the hospital they were waiting there for their turn. On our way back home, another tremor hit the lad and we could see boundary walls shake & roads tear. It was a scary sight. We didn’t know what to expect next, or what was going to be the repercussion. Luckily we were safe and reached home.

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Next day again we cooked food and went to a hospital to serve food to the needy. Many patients and their families were waiting outside the hospital, who had come from nearby districts. After serving them food we sat down in the hospital lawns and started our satsang with chanting & bhajans. Suddenly there was pin-drop silence and everybody’s attention was on us,  and they were amazed to see this phenomenon –  where only youth, around 20 of us were chanting joyfully. This gave them lot of peace and strength. And they looked at us with gratitude and appreciation. We felt deep satisfaction, as at such a challenging time in the country we could share what we have – materially and spiritually, due to inspiration from our Master – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar ji.

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As the days went by we started getting used to the tremors. At night all the family members slept together on the ground floor but we weren’t any more popping up and rush out at the slightest shake until it was more than few seconds and we felt it was dangerous. But I loved the fact that all of us were together since we spent more time this way than we could earlier. With time our Relief activities were increasing and we were reaching out to far off districts, where there were no pitched roads too. We also started our trauma relief activities full-fledged. At one remote village I recall one youth came up to us and mentioned that after long he had taken God’s name and felt happy that we came all the way to his remote village and conducted the trauma relief sessions for them. So hope and faith in God was being reinstalled, where perhaps many had lost it.

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At yet another place an old woman shared that her chest pain had reduced drastically after meditation, breathing techniques and chanting of mantras that we conducted for them, and she felt so happy that she and her friends came up and asked us with so much of love if we could stay there itself in the school grounds with them where they had taken refuge. This showed the profound effect the trauma relief activities were having on everyone.

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One day a person called me up who had done the Art of Living course saying that he lost his 7 year old son during the earthquake and he would like some help from us for his community. Hearing the tragedy, at once I resolved to help his community, at-least. He took us to 3-4 affected areas where we distributed tents, food, water and conducted trauma relief sessions. He also showed us his 4 floored new building which he was getting constructed. It had tilted due to the earthquake and could fall any time. There was immense damage everywhere. We saw so many houses had just collapsed. He shared that instead of drowning in grief staying indoors, he preferred to come out and serve his community. I silently admired the strength he portrayed.

This situation in the country got everyone to think- ‘How can I contribute for my Country?’ Instead of ‘getting’ people started to think of ‘giving’.  Lots shared that they hadn’t interacted with their neighbours much, but the new challenges got them closer, and some others forgot their fights and reunited with their closed ones in this predicament.

Bitter experiences make one spiritually stronger. Through our Trauma Relief activities people have started grasping the essence of breath, meditation and the effect of mantras in having a positive impact on our minds, and understanding that the quality of our life, depends upon the state of our minds, irrespective of the situation we are in.

In service ,

Jai Gurudev

Ritika Lohia

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