To understand happiness, we have to understand how ‘desires’ work. Our desires are formed with the only intention to bring us joy and happiness.
How can we define desire? A simple mathematical formula can help us understand this better.
Desire(s) = Thought(s) + Feeling(s)
We can have thoughts, but not all of them are desires until we develop feelings towards them. The ultimate aim of a desire is to make us happy, it may not deliver it, but at least the desire promises to bring joy. Based on the above formula, we can see that feelings depend on the outcome of desires, e.g. we feel angry and frustrated when a desire is not met. Buddha said desire is the cause of misery when we identify ourselves with the desire.
This is the irony: desires are formed to make us happy, but they are not long-lasting; they constantly change and frustrate us due to the time taken between coming up with the desire and meeting them. The key is to independently watch the desire come and pass through as waves without attaching or identifying with it. For this to happen, our mind needs to remain calm in all situations. How to remain calm?
I was in Bangalore on October 22 and accidentally ended up in a course/workshop called The Happiness Program. I had three free days with no flights available to advance my return to the UK. I had no idea what to do and ended up in this program. I did not want to be out sightseeing and get stuck in Bangalore’s horrible traffic. Yes, when you talk about Bangalore, you have to mention traffic! Not knowing what to expect from the course was one level of uncertainty, but then another level was to live in an ashram (a monastic place or a religious retreat) for three days to attend the program. While it all looks interesting, staying in an ashram sounded outdated. The only hope was that I was well aware of the concept of short-lived vs long-lasting happiness, so I had a bit of a hypothesis and assumed that the course would deal with the latter.
The ashram is owned by The Art of Living foundation, which was started by Sri Sri Ravishankar, also referred to as Gurudev by his followers. The ashram is built on 550-acre land. It is almost as if one is staying in a forest close to nature. The stay is highly convenient and divine. The food is grown locally, less salty, sugar-free, and nutritious. There are dedicated areas for yoga, meditation, herbal treatment, etc.
When I landed in the ashram on the first day, I was told to stay away from intoxication, including tea, coffee or cigarette. This is to ensure the efficacy of the cleansing process.
The three-day happiness course made the participants experience the seven layers of existence. It taught the five behavioural principles and showed us the art of how to live happily.
The Seven Layers of Existence
In one of the blogs, I mentioned the three areas of our system, mind, body and soul, that are key to our well-being. The Happiness course eventually helped me understand further finer layers of existence within us and how they work.
It is important to understand how these layers work. The body (Layer 1) can control the mind (Layer 3) but only via the breath (Layer 2). The logical decisions are not taken by the mind but by the Intelligence (Layer 4). However, even when there are logical reasons why we should perform or not perform a certain action, our past memory (Layer 5), known as Chitta, takes an executive decision based on our previous good or bad experiences. The memory layer sometimes overrides the decision made by the Intelligence. The final override comes from the Ego (Layer 6); Ego is the unnatural self of our true self, i.e. Soul (Layer 7) and prohibits us from living based on our nature.
We need a balance within all these layers to ensure we stay in harmony with nature and our surroundings. The memory layer can be improved by being with good people, also known as Satsang. If the experiences are good, we will have less confusion within this layer. Intelligence is built based on gaining knowledge; hence, we must have access to the true path, which a guru can guide. There are two key parts, mind and ego. Both can be controlled via tools offered during the Happiness program. When our mind is restless, our breath changes. In the same way, if we change the rhythm of our breath, it is possible to calm the mind. These tools are called Sudarshan Kriya and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation.
Sudarshan Kriya and Sahaj Samadhi Meditation
The main teaching over the three days was how to control the rhythm of the breath. Regular practice of a formatted breathing rhythm, called Sudarshan Kriya (SK), followed by Sahaj Samadhi Meditation (SSM), helps cleanse the entire system and balance the layers of existence. The science is simple, when we are sad, we are looking at the past, and when we are anxious, we are looking at the future. In both of these situations, we are not living in the present.
The key to happiness is to live in the present. The breathing technique, Sudarshan Kriya, and meditation, using Sahaj Samadhi Meditation, remove thoughts related to the past and future and cleanse our mind of negativity.
My Experience At The Ashram
I knew no one in the ashram and went there without any expectations, which helped me absorb anything that came my way. The best part of the cleansing process was experiencing Sudarshan Kriya. There was too much hype created during the course, but when it all started, I did not feel much different. Sitting with folded legs, there were cramps and a tingling feeling near the toes after some time, but that was it.
Almost when the Sudarshan Kriya process was about to end, I tried to adjust my leg to make myself more comfortable. It was only then I realised that the entire body below my chest was numb, and I could not move it. This was followed by lying down on the mat for meditation, which I just managed. This was when the magic happened: my hands below the elbow were off the ground without my control. The fingers were curling outwards with cramps. I panicked as I felt like I was being raised off the ground and about to levitate; I was trying to push myself down on the mat. Then there was a shine, some sort of glow approaching me. I could feel a sudden release of energy and the laying of unnecessary baggage leading me to emptiness. Suddenly, this all became pleasant in a split second, and tears started rolling from my eyes. In that instance, I could see my spiritual guru, Morari Bapu, in front of me, whom I had desperately wanted to meet these three days. I meant to travel to his location within these three days and wondered why I was at this ashram. It was clear then that Sri Sri Ravishankar and my spiritual guru are the same.
This happened on the second day of the course at 7:30 pm. The world seemed different to me after I opened my eyes. I was in the vast emptiness. After reaching the UK, I read the book Gurudev to understand more about the phenomena, the master and the AOL foundation. It all made sense when I came across a quote in the book and compared it to my experience; emptiness is a doorway between the material and spiritual worlds and a place where one can understand the nature of the spirit. From emptiness begins fullness. On the one side of emptiness is misery; on the other side, joy. It is your spiritual guru, the master, who will help you to cross over.
The outcome was absolutely brilliant. For the rest of my stay, I had a velvety feeling inside, as if some lubricant had been added to my body. My mind was calm, I could feel the silence in my words and actions. After returning to the UK, 10 days since I landed, I followed the Sudarshan Kriya routine. I feel calmness deep within. During meditation, I feel as if I am breathing from the back of my spine and all the way to the top of my head. I sleep deeply and for a longer duration. My food intake has increased without impacting my weight, and the best part of it is that I feel happy!
I must say that I had a desire after my experience at the ashram, which was to meet the master, Gurudev. It is to be noted that millions of followers come to the ashram, and it is difficult to see him from a distance and forget about meeting him. However, destiny had decided something different for me. Everything was unplanned and seemed unreal to me, and I will write about the unfolding of events that led me to the ashram someday. I coincidentally met an old friend in the ashram, who tried his best, and somehow turned my desire into a lifelong memory.
In Gurudev’s words, ‘when you follow fun, misery follows you and when you follow knowledge, fun follows you.’
I went to Bangalore for a working visit and thought the visit to the ashram was a perfect offer, with one, get another free. Gurudev has plans to offer bigger deals and says, “when you are all with the one, everybody is free!”.