Sixth Sense SLC: Celebrating Life With Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
“Breathe in with a smile. Breathe out with a smile.” Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar repeated the phrase to a SLC crowd at the Sixth Sense event on meditation practices and inner peace on Wednesday, August 2. Although, as the famous sage later explained, the event may be more correctly named a celebration of life. We collectively celebrated at the A. Ray Olpin Union building in a wide ballroom filled with Gurudev’s dedicated followers and a handful of people like myself: intrigued and excited meditation novices.
Before settling into our seats, I had the honor of speaking individually with the spiritual leader who wore all white and a constant smile. Our interaction was brief, and we spoke long enough for me to learn that Gurudev’s foundation, The Art of Living, was operating in 180 countries and had been active for 42 years. It offers guided meditation, breathing practices and yoga. When I asked Gurudev for his advice for mediation beginners like myself, his words made me aware of my own overcomplication of the matter. “Just go for it,” he said succinctly.
“I want nothing. I do nothing. I am nothing.”
The event began with Gurudev challenging our narrow-minded perspectives and busy lives. With our attention constantly to the future or the past, we commonly fail to appreciate the present. This perhaps is the most important part of meditation, Gurudev taught, to make contact with the sometimes-elusive “now,” to listen to your own body, breath and mind without the clamoring of our to-do lists and stressors. This moment of silence and listening allows us to hear our “sixth sense.” Gurudev told the attentive crowd that there is more to perception than sight, touch, taste, hearing or smell. The sixth sense is quiet and powerful. He defines it simply as a “gut feeling,” that is never wrong. The sixth sense gives you direction, a connection with your own creativity and a reprieve from the pressure of the future or the past. It is the most important sense of the self and of the “now.”
Gurudev visited Salt Lake City 16 years ago. The world has changed significantly since his last visit. Citing a statistic stating that there are now over two mass shootings a day, Gurudev expressed concerns that the world is becoming more violent. He reminded the crowd that we are “one global family.” Meditation, Gurudev explained, is a reminder of our own connectedness and humanity. By focusing and cherishing the present, it becomes impossible to blow things out of proportion or feed unnecessary anger. It is a way to turn fear into wonder, or as he says, “turn the ugly ‘I don’t know’ into the astonished and joyful ‘I don’t know.’” Inner peace and happiness translates, he says, into outer peace and happiness.
As the humanitarian reached the end of his presentation, he asked the crowd if we would like to implement his advice and meditate with him. He waited for an audible affirmation before continuing.
“Breathe in with a smile. Breathe out with a smile,” he said.
Gurudev asked the crowd to temporarily set aside all our identifications, wants and needs. “You can pick them back up when we are done,” he quipped. He asked us to instead embrace the following phrases: “I want nothing. I do nothing. I am nothing.” He explained that the mediation would take only 10 minutes and was a progressive transition from movement to stillness. We would start with our body, move on to our breath and end with our minds. Eyes closed, we shook out our limbs before settling into our seats. Gurudev spoke softly for the duration of the meditative experience. He asked us to listen only passively to his voice to avoid a distraction from our own inner peace.
We relaxed our toes, felt the air move around our bodies, and noticed the tension in our face muscles. We felt our breath fill our lungs and exit in the rhythmic waves we too often ignore. Breathing, he explained, is a miracle of life deserving of a few moments of appreciation. At each breath, he asked us to “welcome the air like an honored guest” and part with it like an “old friend.” Once our minds were quiet, the guru spoke again, “Shanti, shanti, shanti,” meaning “peace, peace, peace.” The invocation signaled the end of my first meditation.
Reluctantly, I blinked my eyes open to the lights of the ballroom. I was reminded of the sheer number of people in the room and made a note of how deeply quiet we had all become during our practice. For a few minutes, a large crowd of all ages and backgrounds was united in a peaceful exploration of the spirit. On the stage, Gurudev left us with another reminder to celebrate life, to treat the unknown with wonder and awe and to live in the present.
Music accompanied him off stage where he walked into the crowd, bowing to everyone and taking pictures with all who asked.
“Breathe in with a smile. Breathe out with a smile.”
As the Sixth Sense came to an end, the room was filled with Gurudev’s contagious smile. The deeply spiritual and the newly spiritual alike were left with a greater understanding of meditation and perhaps a greater appreciation of its individual and communal benefits. For all those with an interest in being guided through a mediation practice, Gurudev’s foundation offers tutorials on connecting with the sixth sense. For all seeking to embark on a spiritual journey, I offer Gurudev’s advice for beginners: “Just go for it.”
To learn more about the Sixth Sense event and tour, visit event.us.artofliving.org/us-en/sixthsensetour.
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