In the front of a house painted green in Punta Carretas there is a sign: The Art of Living. In addition, there are three girls of not more than 30 years, stops on the sidewalk: look at the time, they look at the house, greet each other shyly. There is, without a doubt. It is only necessary to enter, pass through a hallway that connects to the courtyard and a large living room that is in the background. To enter there, it is necessary to take off your shoes. The floor is green, and in one corner there is a kind of stage and on the stage there is a chair to the ground. There are, also, many boxes of scarves, a tambourine, and on a table, a tablecloth, a photo of the indian master Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and flowers. Little by little the salon was filled with chairs that are similar and people can imagine that are coming to the meditation workshop.
The Art of Living is an organization founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, leader and humanitarian who dedicated their lives to enhancing the values that are conducive to a better social life and personal well-being”, explains the instructor Veronica Abella. As well, offer programs of elimination of the stress, yoga and meditation.
It is No coincidence that on a Saturday at four in the afternoon, about 15 people choose to go to meditate or to discover “what it is that meditation”. Or, in reality, it is not a coincidence that the workshops and meditation courses, regardless of their origin or of their technique, they are filled. In this way, all the people questioned for the Sunday match in the search for a spiritual path in Uruguay is a trend of increasingly strong, “especially”, says the coach of Mindfulness, Silvio Raij, “in women between the ages of 30 and 50 years.” Joseph Majo, instructor of The Art of Living, will coincide in terms of the women but will say that their courses reach “of all ages”. And the denominator is common: to stop, disconnect and get away from the stress of daily life. “People do not know how to support the head in the pillow and stop thinking”, also tell Silvio. “And with meditation it can be achieved”.
What is to meditate.
“Why are you here?”, question the instructor. “Stress,” answers a girl. “Because I wanted to meditate, and one can’t,” says another. “Why don’t you?”, he asks and she says she does not know, you can’t just leave your mind blank. However, explains Majo, in the conception of The Art of Living, meditation is not “not thinking of anything. It is to be here, in this one hundred percent, but without doing anything, and if thoughts come, they come, accept them and let them pass”.
To turn Raij, instructor of Mindfulness in Uruguay — discipline that has its roots buddhist— says that, whatever the meditative practice that is practiced, the ultimate goal always is “to keep silence and begin to listen to your inner world to understand it.” In this way, he argues that meditation is a way of educating the mind to learn how to manage the “inner world”, which is made up by thoughts, feelings and emotions. “Something they don’t teach us from little ones is to manage our inner world, and as it is subtle and invisible to the one you don’t think you can, but meditation is exactly the tool to be able to handle all of that,” says Raij.
In the same line of Abella, of The Art of Living, says: “We were taught to do everything except to wash our mind”. Meditation allows the mind “conscious settle and deepen in itself, while also providing a deep, restful”. It is thus that, according to Abella, twenty minutes of meditation is equivalent to four hours of sleep: “it Allows the mind to calm down and relax on deep levels of relaxation”.
“Today we are going to meditate,” says Majo to more than fifteen people who listen to it. “But before we learn the technique of breathing of the bellows, which allows you to raise the energy and improve concentration”. And then, everything goes quiet and the sound of breathing —”deep breaths”— it makes you feel.
Approaches and techniques.
Although the techniques of meditation are classified in several ways, according to Raij can be summarized in two approaches: “generally speaking, a current used by the power of god, as each understands it, and the other are the practices of contemplation and handling of your mind, but it does not use the image of god”, she explains. And clarifies that the relationship with god is “simply a connection with a source that is more powerful and that can help me to improve”.
Within these approaches, in addition, there are currents meditative of all kinds: some that focus on breathing and use it as a tool to access the interior and calm the mind, others that use the mantra, that is to say, the repetition of a word or phrase; there are others that have to do with devotion, praying to a god or goddess in particular and there are also contemplative practices, which are based on contemplating the workings of the mind and accept everything that happens in it. However, whatever the approach or the meditation practice that is frequent, stillness and calm seem to be a common factor to all.
“In Uruguay there must be more than 20 current and teachers of meditation,” says Raij. However, some are trend at the global level, such as Mindfulness or raja yoga, a kind of yoga for the mind.
In the case of Gabriel (42), who meditates for five years, combines two techniques: Vipassana, which is one of the most ancient of meditation in india and that means, roughly, to see things as they really are, and Anapana, which “simply means attention to the breathing”, he says.
Thus, explains Gabriel, Vipassana, involves focusing attention on the “whole physical frame, with its bodily sensations and in the whole mental activity of the time in which you meditate”. In this way, in an immobility physical, is to turn the attention to ourselves, “by using objective and fair-minded of her, carefully observing the physical and mental realities from moment to moment, trying not to disperse”.
—As to pay attention to yourself…
—Yes, of course. This is where you start to see that “yourself” it flows constantly, just like the body sensations, then you begin to see objectively what you can be “yourself”, that is to say, begins an introspective process that flows day-to-day and year-to-year to be more objective with your reality.
To practice this technique it is necessary to be in a place of calm and quiet, still, sitting in a comfortable position and with eyes closed. However, clarifies Gabriel, once the practice becomes constant, it can be applied to daily life.
For its part, the Mindfulness, one of the techniques that is trend today, is a discipline that does not aim at any specific objective, but to contemplate what exists in the inner in every moment: “Is your inner self and be able to accept it,” says Raij.
The important thing is to be in the present moment, “because in the future there is anxiety, there is anxiety and in the past there may be depression or sadness, the only instant, real peace, is the present.” And to achieve that is, according to the instructor, “embarrassingly simple”: it tries to use any function of the body as an anchor in the present, breathing, or heartbeat for example. Of course, that is not a technique that you learn from one day to another, but, once acquired, people could apply it in their everyday life and “meditate while doing the queue at the supermarket checkout”.
In The Art of Living, in both, to meditate using the Sudarshan Kriya, a rhythmic breathing technique created by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar that “incorporates specific rhythms of natural breathing, harmonizing the body, mind and emotions,” says Abella. So, teach, and use breathing techniques that help to reach the state of meditation, that is to say, total relaxation.
Laura (41) was diagnosed with breast cancer in April of last year. “In December they told me that it was well, that he had no more cancer,” he says. Although he had begun to meditate in 2009, it was during his illness when he felt that meditation was the key. “During chemotherapy there are a number of physical symptoms. You can feel very well mentally, but the physical starts to interfere in the mind and in your state of mind so very strong if you do not you manage to keep that on a physical plane,” Laura says, smiling. And so it will remain for all the talk.
—Why was it so important to meditation at that time?
—Because I am a body, a mind, a spirit and a set of emotions, then I could not allow the body to dominate my whole being. I knew that if it was allowed, I was going to go extremely poorly. What I mean by this is that for me meditation was the key because when the levels of physical discomfort increased, instead of complaining all day, I lied down and meditated.
“Meditation is not magic but it works very well,” says Raij. “It helps not to get angry so often, to not stress, to soothe anxiety levels, to people with insomnia.” Mindfulness also teaches us how to handle the pain: “it Helps to level of mental and physical, because everything that happens in the body begins in the mind,” adds the instructor.
In addition, Abella says that meditation helps to eliminate negative emotions “such as anger, frustration and depression, giving you calm and focus the mind, and energy and complete relaxation to the body.”
In the case of Gabriel, the meditation is not only a way to relax, but that is a way of life: “beyond all the difficulties that can arise in a culture in which this type of practice is not common, I have adopted as a way of life, especially because I saw the results.” That’s why, every day he spends an hour in the morning and an hour in the afternoon. “With that amount of time is sufficient”, he says, because it constitutes an experience that can be very demanding physically and mentally.
During the meditation, two things happen, says Gabriel: “and Immediately receive answers, or you realize with the objectivity of things that you are going through and that you have to do and, on the other hand, you know that by meditating you will find all the tranquility you need. It seems incredible but it is so”.
Raij says that changes in the personas you begin to meditate are very fast: “Begin to be more happy.” Meditation, then, helps to choose what to think and how to think. “If you choose how to think, you are choosing how to feel,” he says.
And Laura did it. Cancer, far from being a problem, was “a blessing”: “To me all this helped me to see that everything is perfect, although it does not seem like it, everything is perfect just as it is and this, from the mind, it is impossible to see”, he says. His mind repeated to him all the time that you could die, that his illness was serious and that he had grown a lot in a short time. “But meditating and connecting with my being, I knew that I wasn’t going to die from it. Better said, I felt that the cancer had come down to go fast”. And that, besides his smile, was his only certainty.
Companies flock to the meditation.
Silvio Raij was formed in India, doing a course of yoga for the mind in the Spiritual University Brahma Kumaris. “The course gave me back the head, gave me so much happiness and so much peace that I knew I wanted that for my life.” After he studied in that university and training in a variety of ways. Currently, in addition to dictating courses of stress reduction group and individual, has a consultant who works doing trainings for different companies, national or multinational, in which he gives courses in stress reduction, or workshops for leadership and change management. In addition, it provides talks for organizations and businesses that call it.
“It is unbelievable that they call me from a bank to help their employees to relax,” he says. In addition, he teaches courses in schools for teachers and teachers and is training to teach meditation to children.
Trend that expands.
When Silvio Raij began to meditate, 18 years ago, not imagined that in the West the spiritual path could take a position as “strong”. When he began, he says, saw him as “a hippie weird”. However, currently, more and more people looking for tranquility in meditation.
Even, in The Art of Living, they have a special course, the Prison Smart, which consists in dictating the Happines Program to the inmates and do a follow-up from week to week. “Can’t we do it in all prisons on a point of order, and because it requires a long-term follow up,” explains Camila, instructor of the organization. The workshops are provided by persons trained specifically for work in prisons. “There is a before and after for the people who take the course of Art of Living who are deprived of their freedom”, says in a video Ismael Maestrini, coordinator of the program. And Camila assures that “the response from the guys is amazing.”
Some of the options to get started in the practice in Uruguay.
Silvio Raij proposes a course of stress reduction based on Mindfulness, which lasts eight weeks, that is to say, eight classes, which explains the meditation as a way of living in the world more present and more aware. The course was created by Jon Kabat Zin, a doctor and university professor from Massachusetts; his great merit was to unite science with spirituality: “Joined the scientific studies of neuroscience to a spiritual practice”, explained Raij. After the course, people should be able to adapt discipline to their everyday life.
In The Art of Living, today, is taught the Happines Program, a four-day course in which they teach breathing and meditation techniques, including the Sudarshan Kriya, created by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. “Each emotion is associated to a rhythm in our breathing; to learn techniques of breathing, we begin to observe how our emotions can also be changing, how we have a better rest, how do we increase our energy level and improve our quality of life,” explains Abella.
In Vipassana, there are 170 centres around the world that provide courses. However, the closest center to Uruguay is in Buenos Aires, Argentina, or Brazil. At the local level, the courses are financed by the same people, account Gabriel, and usually are conducted in rented premises. The permanent center of world’s largest is in India, there is a room for 10,000 people, has a research centre and a library.