The Get Happy Project!
This interview could not have been better timed! The morning of my interview with the The Art of Living Foundation (AOLF), I was stressed. Even though I knew I was stressed, I did not know what to do about it. The second I started talking with Devyani Sharma, a volunteer with AOLF, I felt better. I was interviewing her about their 'Get Happy Program.' The 'Get Happy Program' is a mix of yoga, breathing exercises, meditation and practical wisdom.
The AOLF is dedicated to creating a stress-free, violence-free society. Operating in 152 countries, AOLF is a non-profit, educational and humanitarian organization founded in 1981 by the world-renown philanthropist and spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. All of AOLF’s programs are guided by Sri Sri’s philosophy: “Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace.” The AOLF community is diverse and attracts people from all walks of life backgrounds and religious orientations.
AF: Devyani, how did you come to be involved with the 'Get Happy Program'?
DS: I completed my program many years ago. I had a stressful job, I wasn’t content with where I was in my life and felt like something was missing, but I didn’t know what. I stumbled into The Art of Living program, experienced the Sudarshan Kriya technique, and never looked back. This technique ended up completely transforming me physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I felt whole and happy.
The Sudarshan Kriya (Su - proper, Darshan - vision, Kriya - purifying action) is a purifying practice, whereby one receives a proper vision of one's true self. This unique breathing practice is a potent energizer. The rhythmic breathing pattern of Sudarshan Kriya harmonizes the rhythms of the body and emotions and brings them in tune with the rhythms of nature.
AF: Can you tell me more about the Get Happy Project and the Art of Living organization?
DS: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, also known as The Guru of Joy, is the founder (no, not the sitar player!), humanitarian leader, spiritual teacher and ambassador of Peace. His vision of a stress-free, violence-free society has united millions of people around the world through The Art of Living programs. Even as a little child, there was something different about him. By the age of 4, he could recite parts of the Bhagavad Gita and was often found in deep meditation. In 1981, Sri Sri went into a period of silence for 10 days. During that time, he came up with the Sudarshan Kriya and that is how the AOLF was founded.
AF: So, is our natural state one of Happiness?
DS: At the core of every person is Happiness. Just look at babies. With Sudarshan Kriya, we are going back to that state of happiness, a state in which we are relaxed yet alert. The Sudarshan Kriya harnesses the power of the breath and harmonizes the body, mind, emotional states and this leads us to that state of happiness.
AF: Does the 'Get Happy Program' include Yoga asana?
DS: The Get Happy program includes Sudarshan Kriya, breathing techniques, meditation and light yoga. We feel it’s something you have to experience once in your life. It is a complete practice. It does not stop at the asana, it goes beyond it to include relationships, conscious living and much more.
AF: Who are these teachings for?
DS: Everyone! The AOLF in collaboration with its partner organization, the International Association of Human Values, offers programs for Adults, young adults (14-18 years) and children (8-13 years). In addition there are specialized programs for veterans, corporations, prisons and health challenged individuals. All of these programs have been taught and are active in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over 25,000 adults have participated in the Art of Living programs over the last 10 years in the Bay Area.
AF: Why do you think this works?
DS: I believe that if everyone had a stress free mind, we would not have violence and terror in the world. When we are stress-free, we are able to feel comfortable with ourselves, our surroundings, and situations. When this happens, we feel a great sense of belonging to everything around us. The more we feel connected to our surroundings, community, country and the world. When we feel connected, we also want to take responsibility to our environment (commuity, nature, etc.). Sri Sri says, “I have a crazy idea...a world without violence. This may appear to be hoping for Utopia but we need to dream and we will get there.”
AF: In the Bay Area we are so busy! Where do you think this fits into a busy person's practice?
DS: If you’re breathing right now, you have to try this technique! And, it may sound surprising, but if you have a busy lifestyle, this will ADD more time to your day.
AF: Do you have any suggestions on how I should deal with my frustration behind Donald Trump?
DS: By practicing Sudarshan Kriya, meditation and yoga you build a great sense of calm and happiness that no one can shake from you. A measure of success is whether or not you can smile through the lowest lows, when everything is topsy-turvy. It’s a profoundly empowering experience. When you feel this way, you get strength and it is from this space that you can make a big difference in society. The world needs us now more than ever before.
AF: What is the ultimate goal and vision of the 'Get Happy Program'?
DS: To put a smile on every face, eliminate stress, violence, boundaries and create a 'One World Family'. And it's happening! We had 3.75 million for World Culture Festival in New Delhi in March 2016. There were politicians, royalty, corporate leaders and many others who attended this event – all for peace and happiness for our world.
AF: Where can I find this program in San Francisco?
DS: Sri Sri is on a US tour now and on July 2nd he will be in SF. Click here to reserve your space or to learn more.
If you want to learn more about the 'Get Happy Program', click here to visit their website.
To learn more about Author Autumn, you can visit her website.
Sri Sri is now an ambassador of Peace, he has been involved with Peace talks and conflict resolution worldwide; he was instrumental in facilitating the Peace talks with the FARC in Cuba, inspired 500,000 in Africa to meditate, brought to public attention the fate of the Yazidi people in Iraq, conducted workshops to reform 241 militants, met with Governor of São Paulo, Brazil to discuss alternatives for peace education and importance of human values, to name a few. To learn more about Sri Sri, you can visit his website.