Wednesday, May 13, 2015

FROM VIOLENCE TO PEACE, ONE BREATH AT A TIME


April 30th, 2015, I had the honor to attend an intimate gathering of Baltimore, Maryland, community leaders and youth activists in the presence of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It was a powerful,
open-hearted conversation regarding the civil unrest and violence in the city, following Freddie Gray's death. The intention was to understand all perspectives on what was contributing to the escalation in violence, and identify peaceful and sustainable solutions going forward.

The event, organized by the International Association for Human Values (www.iahv.org) with the Art of Living Foundation( www.artofliving.org), was held at the International Center for Peace in Washington, D.C., founded by Sri Sri.


Freddie Gray Jr. had been arrested for what Baltimore police alleged, was an illegal switchblade. He had fallen into a coma from spinal cord injuries proven to be sustained during transportation in a police van. The 25 year old eventually succumbed to his injuries and passed away, April 19th, 2015.

Chaos, violence, looting and the burning of businesses had escalated to a fever pitch the night before Sri Sri arrived in Washington, D.C.  The Governor of Maryland declared a state of emergency, calling in the National Guard and invoking a night curfew to protect the citizens.

The meeting was short yet impactful. Sri Sri listened intently, giving each person in the room an opportunity to share his/her perspective on the current situation.

"The distribution of government resources to start a business is unfair. We need to create equality in how the funds are handled so that young people have a chance as entrepreneurs," said one young social activist and small business owner. 

Patti Montella & Youth Activists
" The anger and violence in Baltimore today isn't because of one person's death; it's the result of 400 years of oppression toward the African American community. We were never taken into account when this country was formed, " said another young social activist and leader.

" The media is sensationalizing the situation. They're  filming in areas that have been abandoned for years to create fear around the curfew.  Yesterday I watched the police harass people who were just trying to walk their kids safely home, " said a young woman, active in the community.


An older woman echoed the same. She implored Sri Sri to help the children overcome the trauma of the civil unrest and violence by sharing the meditation and breathing techniques his foundations teach worldwide.

The dialogue ensued with an honest and practical sharing that focused on how to proceed, in peace, in order to bring about sustainable happiness and peace for everyone in Baltimore, including the police department.

It seemed as though the meeting ended too quickly as the topic was deep and the need great. Sri Sri had yet another flight to catch with thousands in North Carolina awaiting his arrival along with never-ending list of global concerns to manage. He's become quite a magician when it comes to time management on a global scale.
He has a special ability to maximize the time he has with people to clearly see all sides of a situation, identify peaceful solutions and inspire leaders to take skillful action.

As good fortune would have it, I was joining Sri Sri on the flight to North Carolina. I hurried to grab my suitcase, pausing halfway down the stairs to soak up the scene in front of me. Huddled together at a small dining table, the event attendees and organizers were chatting animately about how to bring the Art of Living and IAHV programs to the Baltimore community.

Today, I received the good news, that programs are happening already in tandem with community leadership training.

May 1, 2015 the Baltimore City State Attorney Office filed criminal charges against the six police officers believed to be involved in Mr. Gray's death. May 3rd the night curfew was lifted and protests continued peacefully. The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a full-scale civil rights investigation into Baltimore's police department.

The New York times reported the  Gray family saying that they were satisfied with the charges. “We must seize this opportunity to reform police departments throughout this country,” said the family’s lawyer, William H. Murphy Jr.

Non-violent conflict resolution among people of different backgrounds, cultures and religions is possible in affecting positive social change.  It works.

Ghandi led the way in the past, along with historical figures in the United States including: leaders of the women's movement, Martin Luther King Jr. , Harriet Tubman and the U.S. Labor movement.



Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is leading the way today.

In the past, I've felt like a tiny drop in the ocean when it comes to making a difference in the world. Now it's clear ; all it takes is one person willing to inspire and lead the change we all want to see.


Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, Baltimore Community Leaders,Filiz Odabas-Geldiay


HOW ARE YOU LEADING THE CHANGE TOWARD A NON-VIOLENT SOCIETY ?
I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!


A FEW SUGGESTIONS ON HOW YOU CAN TAKE ACTION TODAY

Ø  As an educator, youth or parent, support programs in school, to provide education on how to safely release stress and nurture human values such as kindness, compassion, sincerity and a sense of belonging. www.iahv.org

Ø  As a veteran, family member or concerned citizen, support programs proven tO alleviate stress and trauma, without the use drugs. www.projectwelcomehometroops.com

Ø  As a global citizen, learn how to meditate and take responsibility for your own mind and emotions in order to foster greater peace and happiness in your self, your family and community.
www.artofliving.org

Ø  As a business leader, get engaged and partner with like-minded organizations to facilitate global dialogue and skillful action, to build wider public trust in business through corporate ethics based in human values and social responsibility.
www.wfeb.org







Wednesday, February 11, 2015

HOW WILL FREEDOM COME TO YOU IN THIS LIFETIME?





Ashtavakra Gita is an ancient spiritual text that has become one my greatest treasures in life.

It's the story of King Janaka, a benevolent and evolved King who seeks to know the path of liberation. He is guided to seek out Sage Ashtavakra, the Sage with 8 bends/deformities, in his body.

At the time that this conversation took place (Sri Sri calls it the most profound conversation to ever take place on the planet), Sage Ashtavakra was the one living person who knew the secrets to living a life free of all bondage from craving and aversion, likes and dislikes, and the disease known as "i-ness", the greatest misery.

King Janaka invites Sage Ashtavakra to the Royal Court. He wants to know how to be free.
He says he understands knowledge intellectually, but he wants to know how to do it practically!
He seems to know that this is the essential skill for a happy life.

Sage Ashtavkara leads King Janaka, step by step to knowing how to recognize when there is a thorn in the rose garden of his mind. Day by day in the royal court, he counsels him on how to skillfully remove that thorn without tearing the cloth (so to speak) so he is will be unstuck from habits, patterns, concepts that create even a shred of unhappiness.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar says that once you take the Ashtavakra Gita course, you are transformed forever.  This is my personal experience and that of thousands of students I've taught worldwide.

Even today, after watching the 33-tape discourse multiple times, reading the book regularly and now teaching the course online (www.srisrielearning.org), the application of Ashtavakra Gita is a daily constant in my life.  I often wonder, without it - where would I be in life?


Expert from Chapter 1 (Discourse with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar)

"If you are against something, know that you have no freedom from it. If you are against someone, you have no freedom from them. If you find fault in someone and your mind is set against them, know that you are stuck with them. Glued with super-glue!  So when somebody is wrong, don't take their wrong, don't be against wrong.  This is a revolutionary idea. I'm not advocating wrong. I'm not saying don't be wrong against wrong. Do you see this? Don't be against wrong.

But what is your nature? Your nature moves toward something that is life-supporting. The nature of life is to evolve more and more.
Whatever is not conducive to evolution, is poison.  


I look forward to sharing the wisdom of Ashtavakra Gita with you starting next month (March)
through Sri Sri e-Learning (www.srisrielearning.org).

You can purchase the book today at www.amazon.com. Through Sri Sri e-Learning we'll enjoy delving deeper into this precious knowledge, together.

Jai Guru Dev (Victory! to the BIG Mind)





Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Power of Wisdom to Heal



Sri Sri & Patti, Boone Ashram 2014
Happy New Year 2015! 

It's been awhile, so I thought it is time share a little update, as we begin the New Year together.

The end of 2014 I found myself quite ill after moving to the Boone, North Carolina Ashram in October.  The move was intense:  1,700 miles across the USA, leaving the majestic mountains of Colorado, the dynamism of Denver, the love of a vast community of friends - to the hills of rural North Carolina and starting over, again, in my 50's.

The severe change of weather pattern quickly and negatively, impacted my system.  Not understanding how ill I was becoming, I  kept working and traveling. I eventually became very ill, and by early December, I was in a true health crisis.

Whenever one moves to an Ashram, big karmas come your way to move through and be rid of, and this move was no exception. On the flip side, by virtue of just being at an Ashram, if any health situation arises - it's a minimized karma, it's very good. You are being protected from something worse than what is happening right now.

As my good fortune would have it, Sri Sri arrived on Christmas Day, right in the middle of the worst of the illness.  I met with him the next day, informed him of the situation and while handing me prasad (blessed food), he reassured me I'd be just fine and I could expect to teach again in a few weeks. He also cautioned me to "stay positive." The intention and blessings of a Sat Guru can never be underestimated.

Years ago when one of our full-time teachers was very ill, Gurudev (being his amazingly compassionate self) flew to where she was in Arizona.  I found it interesting that he advised her to read the Yoga Vashishta every day during her recovery.  Another time a woman broke her leg at the Canadian Ashram. Gurudev told her to watch Ashtavakra Gita daily while recovering.

Recalling these incidents, when I was at a real low in this illness,  I started listening to the audio of Yoga Vashishta, reading Ashtavarka Gita. Immediately my prana (life energy) visibly improved and I felt like something was doing it for me - lifting my state of mind and prana (life energy.)

I stayed with it until Gurudev arrived replacing this routine with morning darshan (blessings of the Guru's physical presence), afternoon meditations (led by Sri Sri) and evening Satsang (meditation, wisdom and celebration in the company of truth.) I rested in between each session, to conserve enough energy to be at the next session with Sri Sri.

This is the third health crisis in my life where I wasn't sure what the outcome would be.

Each time Gurudev has been there fully with me, and the Grace provided doctors full of karma yoga (one who practices to be of service, expecting nothing in return) and a supportive community to help me heal.  Always, my family, prayers and so much community support is present.

During one of these times, I asked Gurudev about the karma that had brought the health crisis about. He immediately stopped me from asking anything more, so as not to bring about any more karma. He then quietly told me to look at how blessed I was, to have so much support during this time, pointing out that very few people in the world have this level of support. Without saying another word he invited me to help him go through his emails. Every letter he gave me to read was about a health crisis with cancer, in a family. By the third letter I looked up, and meeting his eyes, I silently reaffirmed to him, that I got the point. I was so incredibly blessed.

I clearly remember Gurudev's words to me during the 2nd health crisis in my life. I had endured 3 operations in 3 months, and my prana was taking a downward spiral.  After the 2nd operation he called and said, " I just want you to be Badda Bing Badda Boom (nickname), be cheerful. You will heal faster, better." It wasn't easy at all, but I did it. I knew I wasn't alone, and I healed.

 Unlike one of my grandmothers, who was never ill a day of her life, until she fell in her 90's and passed away, I've had a few scary health situations in an otherwise, very healthy life.  Gurudev once told me that each time it happened to me, I'd find that I was stronger as a result of moving through the health crisis, and I have found this to be true. Every one of us takes on the karma of the physical body we take on, it's just the way it is. I'm grateful that I get to learn through these situations; it helps to know that it makes me stronger spiritually.

One can really sink low when the health is poor, both physically, mentally and emotionally.
This is where listening to knowledge, sanskrit chants and keeping positive and loving company will make all the difference. When our prana is going down, illness can set in - when the prana is going up, the healing begins.  Listening to guided meditations, reading ancient wisdom (sanskrit is a language scientifically designed to lift consciousness), chanting (scientifically proven along with meditation to improve health) all work to uplift prana and improve your state of mind, for you.




2015 Recommendations

Resolve to treat one another with greater compassion, be of greater service to others, just drop the "I, me, what do i get, what do i lose" mind stuff. It keeps us small an our nature is to expand.

Read knowledge daily. Meditate daily. Work in teams.
Challenge yourself to express the beauty of human values such as: compassion, love, non-violence, integrity & enthusiasm for life - in the face of ignorance.

Do things to uplift your prana every day: Pranayamas, Meditation, Sudarshan Kriya, Service to Others, application of knowledge, chanting, expressing gratitude - there are so many options!

When we lift our own prana, keeping faith that a Divine power is taking care of us and loves us so dearly, we're able to experience the Grace of the Divine and life becomes...magical for us & others.


I am so grateful my life brought me my family AD, MM, MC, SP the Boone Ashramites and B along with all my friends and soul sisters and of course...SSRS.

I look forward to seeing you at an Art of Living event somewhere in the world, in 2015!

You can check my schedule or request an event at: www.pattimontella.com

*****************

To enjoy an online course of Ashtavakra  Gita go to: www.srisrielearning.org

To enjoy a guided meditation or wisdom talk visit: www.pattimontella.com








Tuesday, November 4, 2014

HOW SPIRITUAL ARE YOU?




HOW SPIRITUAL ARE YOU? 
A dear friend of mine, who has been teaching the Art of Living for years, started asking his students this one question.  It's a question of enormous depth.

How Spiritual Are You; in the face of utter ignorance directed at you like two rockets intended to destroy, when things do not go as you expected, or as you would like? 

This was the challenge nature presented me with, not once, but twice this week.
The first time, I did not handle the situation skillfully or with equanimity.
Sri Sri was his usual loving and patient self, as  I applied the wisdom and eventually came out of it.
Or so I thought....

A few days later, he sat me down and gave me a life-changing lesson on the value of compassion, the true depth of compassion. He lifted my karma and I was happy and excited to apply the wisdom, especially as it was unlocking a place I'd felt stuck in for years.

Little did I know how quickly the opportunity would present itself.

Within days of returning home, I found myself in the exact same situation.
Nature has a way of turning up the volume, once you are given the knowledge!

In 48 hours, another powerful person was personally attacking me and slandering my good name.
They had taken a position and wanted to prove to others I was wrong.
How many times had I done the same thing to another - without awareness?
Since I also would have been in ignorance in the past, I do not remember.

Just as I had done for years when an injustice is happening, whether it's toward me or another, the warrior in me rose up.  I wanted to right the wrong and put this person in their place.

For 24 hours I tripped a little, as I struggled to let go of past conditioning and live the new gem of knowledge Sri Sri had gifted me with.  His words to me, on what true compassion is, and how to move with equanimity were reverbarating in my head. At the same time,  I was burning with frustration at the injustice unfolding. It was like riding a horse (mind) that has completely gone off course, while the rider (higher level of consciousness) is trying to reign in the wild stallion.

Since the understanding was not coming right away, I began meditating.
Still, the restlessness persisted, so I began reading the ancient spiritual text, the Yoga Vashishta.

Eventually, the wild stallion  mind) stilled itself and I realized...

It was up to me to stretch my hand to bring peace to the situation, to maintain belonging. It didn't matter who said what or did what to me. What mattered was how still was I from within, in the face of adversity? Can I keep my  equanimity, even when fireballs are aimed my way? This is the skill in life, and it is priceless.






BUDDHA AND THE THE MAN WHO SPAT IN HIS FACE

Years ago Sri Sri told me the story of Buddha and the  man who spat in his face.

When we take the first step to communicate from our heart, regardless of how someone is/or isn't treating us - then we are approaching the ups and downs in life from a place of strength and centeredness. This is when the door opens for real communication, for education in human values, and for the Grace, to enter for all.

I better understand the profound lesson on Compassion from Sri Sri at a such a depth, that words can not do justice  One has to experience it, to go through the process fully.





Rishikesh, India 2004
FORBEARANCE IS A WEALTH
I cannot stay I will not trip up again on the path.
But one day, for sure, I will walk on this planet, as my Guru walks.

This is what a Guru comes into our life for.
He is a living example, of how we can move through in life with total peace and equanimity, and to uplift others on the way.
It is the blessing of lifetimes.

It is not up to us to add to the negativity in the world.
We are here to bring forth a stress-free, violence-free world.

Be free from your side and leave the rest to the unseen hand. It knows what it is doing.
It will take care and you will be free.  In fact, you are free, right now.

 
True Compassion is forgiving someone, without them knowing it 
- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar


Friday, September 19, 2014

UN DAY OF PEACE WITH WORLD PEACE MEDITATION SEPTEMBER 21



What does it take to create a Divine Society?
A society where we treat ourselves, one another and all people regardless of age, race, culture or religion with human values?

My experience is that it takes cultivating inner peace in order to share that peace with one another.

Sunday, September 21st is the United Nations Day of Peace.

Join me along with millions of people worldwide on Sunday, September 21st for a #World Peace Meditation at 10am ET. 
Click here to learn more & find a time in your country to join.

http://www.worldpeacemeditation.org

Society begins with an individual, extends to the family and then to community.
We are a reflection of what is negative in society, and society is a reflection of what is negative within  each of us.  When each of us reflects human values such as: compassion, kindness, non-violence (in thought, word and action), love, enthusiasm, sincerity, honesty and an attitude of service with others - then we will all enjoy a Divine Society.

Peace in society - really does begin with each of us.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

WHAT IS THE GURU PRINCIPLE? IT'S THE NECTAR OF LIFE





I remember a story about Brahmananda Sarsaswati, the Shankaracharya [spiritual head] of Jyotir Math, in India. There is a story ( i don't recall the exact words) where a seeker wanted to know what the Guru  thought about the seeker's mind.  Gurudev replied that he was too busy to watch his thoughts, because he was spending all his time observing his own mind! It's a profound lesson.

Most of us spend so much time observing and judging others, creating concepts in the mind, or misperceptions of what is truth - that we miss the goal of this life.  When you observe your mind and emotions, you will discover that what is negative dissolves, what is positive expands. Your realize it was only your small mind that had you in bondage - it was an illusion - and you become free.

In just a couple of weeks, I am moving from the majestic Rocky Mountains of Colorado,
to the much smaller (by 10,000 feet!) yet still beautiful, Smoky Mountains of North Carolina.
http://www.artofliving.org/intl-meditation-center-usa.  Moving is one of the top stresses in life, and this is not just a simple move. Personally, it's a big leap of faith, into a brand new way of life.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, my Guru, invited me to make the move to the Art of Living Foundation's spiritual retreat center in Boone, North Carolina.  He suggested I "leave my stuff there," and travel the world continuing to teach the ancient Vedic wisdom.  I'm honored, excited, admittedly anxious about jumping into the abyss, and thrilled - all at the same time!

Consequently, I'm spending alot of time observing my mind and experiencing the truth that what is negative (fear, anxiety,) dissolves and what is positive, ( truth, happiness, resolve) expands.

It takes courage for anyone to jump into the unknown, and at the same time, it's the journey of making the jump - not the destination - that builds our character and strength.

Staying stuck in the comfort zone brings boredom, unhappiness. 
Our nature is to expand.
That's why we want more love, more money, more peace-  more.
When we stay stuck in the same gear, we don't go anywhere.
We tell ourselves it's ok, because it's safe, but is it?

 It's fear that keeps us from taking a big step in life. Fear holds us back, yet we might start blaming  people, situations and things - rather than taking responsibility for our own state of mind. It's a miserable cycle.

What is Fear? It's simply a sensation based on past impressions. It's an illusion.
Sri Sri teaches that fear is Love upside down.

Years ago,  I had a similar situation to the one I find myself in today.  The situation required me to move forward in life with faith.  I was struggling and one evening, with tears streaming down my face, I packed up my belongings & prepared to leave. I didn't think I could do it. I was
afraid of the unknown and at the same time,I was miserable with the thought of being stuck with the familiar. (sound familiar?)
I was in a divided mind, which is just pure misery. I was nowhere.
That evening, at our German Ashram Sri Sri gave a powerful talk on the power of prayer, and the wealth of faith. 


He said, "The stairs to heaven are slippery and soapy. Hold on tight to the knowledge and say, this time, come what may - I will make it!" 

I went back to my room. Unpacked my things and stayed the course. That was 1998 & I'm still here!
Faith in the Divine, is our  greatest wealth.

I've learned, under Sri Sri's guidance, to have a broad vision and to move toward it with commitment - not to move on feelings. Feelings come and go; there is no value in basing your life on something so wobbly!  It's not always easy; however, in the end it makes life dynamic, expansive - fulfilling. The universal truth is - everything IS changing.  Trying to control what is happening, is just painful.

After 20 years with Sri Sri, I  have learned to trust nature with its infinite intelligence and I trust the Divine, who works through this Guru so beautifully, with nothing but unconditional love for our highest good & happiness.  Because of this trust, (which I didn't start out with 20 years ago) life gets better and better, with more and more dynamism and love. It's possible for me, for you - for all.

I am not going to sugar coat it, and say that this is easy. It is not. You have to ask yourself, how do I want to move through life? Like a scared chicken or a powerful tiger?
The answer is obvious.
--------------------------------------



When you feel weak I am with you as your strength,
 you are not alone. 
- Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

This is the Guru Tattva, the Guru Principle. 

Guru Tattva is faith in the unconditional love and infinite intelligence of the Divine, it's connecting to that Grace, that is always with you, when you have a Sat Guru. It t allows you to lead a happy, fulfilled and divine life & to share it with others.  It is pure Love. 

Click here to read what Sri Sri says about the power of Guru Tattva.
http://www.artofliving.org/power-guru-tatva.

It is this indescribable love and grace of the Guru Tattva  that held me up this week and gave me peace of mind - which was most
needed. It is what allows me to move forward in my life and to
let go of fear and do what I am meant to do for myself & others.


Words cannot express the gratitude I have for coming in touch with the Guru Tattva, through Sri Sri (www.srisri.org).

I don't know why anyone, who has the enormous karma to be with a Sat Guru would choose to life life any other way.

Gurudev says, you  have misery or you can have a Guru.
You can't have both.

I choose the Guru. 


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The Art of Communication, 1,2,3 then Bham!

Patti &Dhwani, DSN Course Philadelphia

When you look at this photo...do you smile?
It is "Soul to Soul " communication.

No words are necessary.
It is the best form of communication, however, one of several.
There is also...


Head to Head communication = Conflict
Head to Heart communication = Manipulation
Heart to Heart communication = Understanding


This morning I read the knowledge below, by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and felt compelled to share it.
I have read it and practiced it many times. It has taught me patience and the skill of communication.
This knowledge has served me so well in my personal and professional life.

There is no value using our words to hit someone over the head with a hammer.
Even if you're right - you'll stand alone, feelings are hurt, and belongingness is destroyed.

There is also no value in not speaking at all to someone you are close to, when their behavior is negatively impacting themselves or others. I've found the best way to communicate is authentically, and from a space of love. It's important to choose the right time, i.e. when you feel that person is ready to receive what you have to share. Do not scold or guilt - who responds positively to that? That is simply layering negativity upon negativity, to get what you want.

Share from a space of love, with the aim of creating awareness of how their behavior is negatively impacting themselves or others.

If someone still chooses not to wake up to reality - then Sri Sri suggests, take a stick. Let them know how you will change your behavior toward them, as they are choosing to continue on the same negative track. This will maintain belongingness along with your peace of mind.

Let me know how it goes as you apply this ancient wisdom in modern times....


The Art of Communicnation
 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

These are four ways of persuasion:

When someone does something wrong or misbehaves with us, what do we do? First, we gently make them understand how they are wrong. Many people unknowingly commit a mistake, so once they understand that they are making a mistake, they do not repeat it the next time – this approach is called Saama (meaning to explain by persuasion).

You cannot blame someone for a mistake that they have made unknowingly. So Saamameans to explain to the other person the mistake he has committed and to make him aware of it.
Now, even after explaining the mistake, if they still go on repeating it, then what should you do? Then you should forgive them by saying, 'See, you realize that this is wrong, is it not? I forgive you, now do not do it again'. This is Daama.
So, at first, you make them aware without making them feel like a culprit. If they repeated it, then you make them feel responsible for the mistake, and forgive them.
You should never make a person feel like a culprit in the very first time of committing a mistake unknowingly. See, if you create guilt within them by blaming them at the very first instance, then they will never improve their ways. They will never be able to gain awareness and overcome their wrong ways.

So after Saama comes Daama.
Suppose even after doing all this, they continue to repeat their mistakes, then you need to adopt the approach of Danda (punishment). And if punishment also does not work, then one needs to adopt the way of Bheda (meaning to change one’s behaviour towards the other person).
Then you tell them, 'Okay, since you continue to repeat this mistake even after my telling you so many times, I am not going to behave the same way with you anymore'.
This will make them feel a pinch of guilt about what they have done, and they will understand the pain of their mistake.
Danda is the last measure one needs to adopt. When someone does not listen even after doing everything else, then you need to pick up a stick to make them understand. Someone who does not understand and improve their ways even after explaining and persuasion, will only understand through punishment (Danda).