art of living pt. 2

We woke up bright and early again the next morning for coco and 6:30 and class at 7:00. We started this day much like the previous, with stretching, yoga and a short guided meditation.  After breakfast we watched a video with Sri Sri Ravvi Shankar, the man who designed the Art of Living course, about the 5 arrows of love and then had another half-class before lunch. After lunch Veda talked with us about continuing our education in Art of Living and showed us how to do a mini kriya without the tape.
 I didn’t really want to do another kriya since my last one had been so good but I ended up being glad we did. This time, instead of images, my thoughts were filled with music. As I breathed all of sudden my mind remembered this beautiful recording I have of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing the hymn Peace Like a River, one of my favorites. The song looped in my head while we breathed and as I lay down I heard another hymn that we sing every Sunday at MUUS called Spirit of Life. The lyrics of both of the songs were so fitting for the experience I was having and I awoke again feeling incredibly at peace.

After class we had time to explore the village and my friend Hannah and I got henna done on our hands and watched as some of our friends got their palms read. We headed back for another class session where Veda had planned a samsat. A samsat is a Hindu tradition with singing and dancing. The songs are call and response style and everyone in the group is involved.
Before we began, Veda talked us about the ego. She defined it as the way we are affected by the opinions of others and how we act differently because of it. She encouraged us to remember when we were children and we didn’t care about ego. With that thought in our minds, the musicians came to join us and our samsat began. We sang along with a few songs and on the more upbeat ones some of the women encouraged us to dance. They began to dance and we followed along and pretty soon everyone was just dancing, jumping, clapping and doing their thing. Someone later remarked that it was the first time they had danced sober since middle school and they had forgotten how much fun it could be. We put Veda’s lesson about ego to good use and really had a great time.

After that we had a break between classes and a bunch of us decided to get our palms read. We quickly ate a snack of onion fritters and fresh grape juice (mind blowingly good –tasted like eating a handful of grapes) and we headed over to the palm reader. She only spoke Tamil so Veda was nice enough to come over and translate for us. I sat listening to the fortunes of my friends and they all sounded great. The palm reader told them about their life lines, heart lines, how many kids they would have, when they would marry etc. When it was my turn I was excited but a little nervous as I told the palm reader my age, name, picked a # from 1-12 and picked a flower. I picked 6 and lotus and she scattered a handful of cowl shells. She told me that I was blessed by God and that the charity and good work of my family and ancestors protects me (thanks mom and dad).  She told me 7 was a lucky number and 4 and 6 were not. She said that in a year and half two big events would happen in my family, possibly involving the buying and selling of property. Then she read my palm.

She said that my lifeline was good but that my heart line was not good. She said I would work in education and that I would travel and wouldn’t live in the same place I grew up. She said that I was going to have health problems, not serious ones, but that I would have to see a doctor. She said that I would worry about small things and would make myself sick with headache and heartburn and that when I was confused in my life I should do nothing. She did say I would have a good marriage though, would be successful at my job, would marry between 23 and 26 and have one boy and one girl. At the end I asked her about my mother and her health and she said that my family would also have some health problems.

At first coming away from the reading I was a little shaken. Everyone else’s readings had been so good and really positive for the most part, but mine had been not so great and everyone in the group was a little bummed out by it. I don’t usually feel confused or worried about small stuff and I was a little unsettled about it to be honest. I headed into our last Art of Living class with a lot on my mind.

Upon arriving in class Veda had us split into groups of 5 and told us we were each going to tell a story to our peers. We had a few minutes each to just tell our own life stories to each other. I learned a lot about my group members and it was really cool to learn not only the facts they told, but the things that they felt were important to share about themselves. I was surprised by a guy named Bill who had transferred schools a few times and was trying to figure out what to do next, especially after getting home from the trip. I was really touched by a girl named Molly who admitted to us that after high school she felt really out on her own at college and lost herself. She began to run way too much and just wasn’t healthy. She told us about how supportive her family had been and she began to tear up as she told us about how much they had stood by her and helped her.  All of us talked about how our voyage has already started to change us and the challenge that faces us when we get home and have to reconcile our new perspective with our old surroundings.  At the end of our time we all hugged and headed back to our spots.

We did some other games and exercises and then did one where we sat directly across from another person. Without speaking we looked them in the eyes and tried to convey to them the fact that we appreciated and accepted them. We could hold hands if we wanted to and I sat across from my friends Keith and Hussain. Veda told us that we should look at each person we come in contact with and try to accept them unconditionally for who they are. Imagine that they are God, incarnate as that person. We can’t know everyone’s life stories, where they come from or what important to them, but if we can accept them as they are; you never know who might be able to teach you things.

The last thing we did in the class was a guided meditation. Veda had us imagine ourselves at different ages – 6 months, 2, 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 40, 60 and 80; The first few ages I had such clear pictures of myself; looking up to see my mother, playing in our yard on Birchwood street, being at Chase and UConn and of the people in my life. It made me feel so lucky to reflect on the wonderful life I’ve had so far. As I tried to imagine my future it was both difficult and exciting. I don’t know what my life will be like at 25, 30, 40, etc. I know I want a family, a home, children and grandchildren. I know I want to work but I don’t know where or even doing what really. I realized that I’m curious and excited to see how my life unfolds.

Doing this meditation also put me at ease about my palm reading and helped me to realize a few things. I know I have the potential to make myself sick if I choose to, but I also have the potential to keep myself healthy. I can either take this palm reading and give it weight, or I can let it go and live in the moment. I had just spent the last three days feeling so relaxed and happy and I decided that I’m not going to let something silly like a palm reading cloud the fact that I am whole and healthy and well. As Veda said, this moment is inevitable. If any of those things on my palm do happen, I can only control how I respond to them. I’m deciding to be happy and take things as they come and I believe that thought is far more powerful than anything someone may have seen on my palms.

After our last class was over we thanked Veda, had one last delicious Indian meal, said goodbye to Gobal James, and took our bus back to the ship.

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