A spiritual message in San Jose for a stress- and violence-free society

Posted on: Monday, March 25, 2013

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SAN JOSE -- Holy men seem to pack San Jose's convention center like nobody else. The Dalai Lama drew a capacity crowd two years ago. On Sunday afternoon, a guru from India drew several thousand people from around the Bay Area to hear his vision of a world made free of stress and violence through meditation, compassion and individual love.
Just before addressing a crowd of about 8,000, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, an international humanitarian and spiritual leader, told a group of journalists and VIPs that the Newtown, Conn., massacre underscored the importance of his mission.
"It really tore me apart," he said. "I saw that we can't keep quiet anymore. We have to promote this idea of establishing a violence- and stress-free society in a big way."
Not to be confused with the late sitar player who inspired the Beatles, this Sri Sri Ravi Shankar travels the world delivering a nondenominational message and techniques that incorporates meditation, yoga and breathing exercises to reduce stress. If individuals, schools, social groups and even prisons can help reduce stress and anxiety on a mass scale, violence and crime would drop dramatically just about anywhere.
A 'different' energy
A son of an auto executive, the young Sri Sri took a spiritual path, followed the Marharishi Mahesh Yogi and developed a rhythmic breathing exercise to help relievepersonal suffering. A middle-aged man with a big smile to match his long, black beard, he founded the nonprofit Art of Living Foundation in 1982 to conduct programs for people of all religions and cultures.
His appearance Sunday buttressed one of those efforts, the Campaign for a Stress-Free Violence-Free Community. Some 1,200 volunteers trained in Art of Living techniques heard Shankar urge them on in a separate speech earlier in the day.
"With him, the energy is different," said Nandini Rao, an Indo-American woman from San Jose, who was cheerfully helping people find their way inside the large McEnery Convention Center.
She and another volunteer, Mridusmida Talukdar, of Cupertino, said they plan on teaching Sri Sri's stress-reduction techniques in public schools to put the clamp on bullying and early signs of worse behavior.
"I think we can start there," Talukdar said, "Help the kids get over their stress."
While the vast majority of volunteers and attendees appeared to be Indo-Americans, there was a sprinkling of other ethnic groups, enough to maybe indicate that Shankar's nondenominational philosophy and approach is catching on.
Spreading the word
Casti Cimpian, a Romanian immigrant who lives in San Francisco, said she was in a highly stressful situation in her job at a bank when a friend referred her to an Art of Living workshop.
"I had hit bottom," she said. That was 10 years ago. Cimpian said she learned how to see the good and bad in fellow employees and focus on the positive. "Everything is better, my relationship with my boss, co-workers and my career." She now teaches workshops for Art of Living.
So does Wendy Sanchez, an immigrant from Honduras, who teaches the technique to Latino immigrants, a group she described as hard to crack.
"They have so many challenges -- with the language, working two jobs, figuring out the schools," she said. Another challenge, Sanchez said, is the perception that Art of Living teachers are trying to convert Latino Catholics to Hinduism.
"I'm a Catholic," Sanchez said. "And I'm still a Catholic. Reducing stress allows you to find silence and spirituality. It only deepens your faith."

Source: Mercurynews

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