European youth at heartfulness headquarters
ALESSANDRA VEGLIA is a second year student from the University of Trieste, Italy. She is doing a Master’s Degree in Diplomacy and Development Cooperation, and is currently doing an internship at Kanha Shanti Vanam, the Heartfulness Center near Hyderabad in India, as part of her degree. She has been interacting with other visiting fellows and interns from around the world, who are currently also training and volunteering in various capacities in the campus, and took this opportunity to interview them.
I have always left the job of interviewing to others where possible, because of a sense of uneasiness in intruding upon people’s lives. But here in Kanha it is unthinkable to run away from weakness, so not surprisingly I was asked to interview some of the Europeans staying in the ashram, to explore the impact of Heartfulness on their lives. After accepting the idea, I ended up enjoying the task immensely, for I could frame the interviews in the guise of a lively chat, and together with my questions I shared my own experience and opinions with those in front of me.
I decided to limit my research to youth between the ages of 16 and 28, and the first very willing victims were three girls from France, the eldest being 17. They came to Kanha because of their interest in environmental issues, and after ten days concluded that this is the ideal venue when looking for inspiration. They founded an association to raise awareness on ecology and to address others in their own age group. The creation of their own website is in progress. At Kanha, they did field research, collected data, worked on an environmental curriculum for school students, and they are now ready to create a movie. In their local Heartfulness center in France, they participate in an initiative called Cine Meditation, where a movie is followed by discussion and a meditation session.
Did I mention yet that one of them just started practicing meditation a month ago? So, what else could I do but be deeply impressed and congratulate them. They are so young, eager, full of ideas and ideals, and yet able to shape them into concrete outcomes.
Later, some German artists found time for me. They came to Kanha together because they study in the same art academy in Dresden. Their professor invited them to India to paint a wall – exactly as I have just said. Of course, the professor in question is a long-term meditator and wanted them all to learn meditation while also painting a wall in the Inner Peace Museum that is housed in the huge meditation hall that will be inaugurated in late January 2020. During their time here in Kanha, they have so much flexibility with their work. There is only one thing their professor requires – that they all meditate. Every day. Some of them now practice regularly. They are curious, have big hearts and open minds, and embrace what is offered to them. They do not use their “artist” label to look cool and alternative, but rather to absorb this new world opening to them, and to find a new perspective from which to paint their canvas. They are asking many questions about the Heartfulness practices. Not all of them want to practice meditation; some attend Heartfulness Yoga classes instead. When they first arrived, some of them sometimes wished to be anywhere but here, but it seemed to me while talking with them that they are slowly shifting from a critical approach to a more reflective one. Earlier I had also shared some of the same perplexities they felt, and they seemed to appreciate my interest in their point of view. They sometimes feel thrown into an alien world, where cultural clashes and resistances may occur.
In this melting pot, two colleagues of mine appear. One is from Ireland. She grew up in a Heartfulness family. Quietly she started the Heartfulness practice, in her own rhythm, as often the children of practitioners do. It is also my own experience. She would later study and live in India, for a period long enough to speak a bit of Hindi, eat with her hands without creating a Chagall on her shirt, and generally blend into Indian society as much as a half-Chinese young woman can. She is sitting in front of me at the present moment, exasperated over some task. She is trying to explain to people the necessity of having “a Western mind and an Eastern heart,” in Ram Chandra’s words, to do things properly, which is exactly the fusion that takes place in her, if you ask me.
We are working together for a peaceful and just world,
that we identify in a community that transcends national borders.
We share values, principles and aspirations.
And that’s enough.
The other colleague, Ukrainian, got to know about Heartfulness through a workshop in a Yoga center in Kiev. She had quit her job at the age of 23, as she was not able to sleep at night because of the accumulated stress in her system. She had tried other relaxation and meditation methods, but still had many unanswered doubts. So she started looking for a teacher. She is now trying to extend the practice to her family members. In the meantime, she took a course that qualified her as a Heartfulness Yoga teacher, and is now volunteering in Kanha as a translator from English to Russian, to offer online Yoga courses.
From these scattered stories of young humans, is there any conclusion to be drawn? All I feel to say is: Talking with these young people renews and strengthens in me the faith in my generation’s potential. Above all, I realize that I have a lot in common with them, and with all the people I have met here who have entered the Heartfulness world. I would venture so far as to say that I have more in common with them than with many of my compatriots. In fact, here I know that we are working together for a peaceful and just world, that we identify in a community that transcends national borders. We share values, principles and aspirations. And that’s enough.
Article by ALESSANDRA VEGLIA
December 31, 2019
December 31, 2019
December 31, 2019