Beauty is not just outside, it is within too. A statement so true and one person who lives by this phrase is Raul Ortemberg. A designer in Argentina, his clothes are intended to make people look beautiful. But Raul doesn’t stop at just that. He also adds beauty to people’s lives by teaching them meditation. Especially Argentina which is in dire need of social transformation, Raul feels that meditation can make it happen. Excerpts from his interview:
Q - What are the pressing issues in Argentina these days? And how do you think meditation can help find solutions to some of them?
In Argentina, we now have a lot of conflicts and social problems, too much stress in the people, and violence. This violence brings problems in the family; it’s breaking the families down. Children suffer because their parents are not able to manage their emotions.
But when people meditate, they are able to manage stress and so they are calmer. They are able to take proper decisions and the mind is clearer to work better.
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar mentions that the best way to peace is meditation. It all starts with internal peace and leads to external peace.
If you see, because people are stressed, war happens, conflicts happen. When we are stressed out, we need to throw out that stress and so we fight. But if we are not stressed and are calm, there is no reason to fight.
Moreover, meditation connects us with other beings, we become more sensitive to everyone, we see God in everyone. And automatically, we feel the connection with everyone so we do not feel like harming others. Sometimes wars happen because people do not look at the God that resides in other people’s hearts.
Some other issues in the country are poverty and unemployment. Often, people who are poor have low self-esteem, so meditation really helps them build it. Also, they spend a lot of their money on drugs, alcohol, etc. Meditation helps them drop their addiction and this way, these people end up saving a lot of money which earlier they were spending on buying alcohol.
Q – Talking about drugs and alcohol, we have read that this is a big issue, especially in the slums there. So, is there any work happening to teach meditation to the people in the slums too?
Yes, we are teaching meditation there too and people have benefited. Addictions have gone down, violence has reduced and communities have started participating in some service programs too.
One of the persons who had learnt meditation in the slums shared that he dropped alcohol. He used to drink and was unemployed. After he started practicing meditation regularly, gradually he dropped alcohol. He got a boost to start working. Now he is working. His family is also benefited, not only emotionally but also economically.
Q - The Planeta Medita that happened in September 2012 was a huge success, with an outreach to people from all walks of life. How do you think so many Argentineans got interested in meditation?
I think people are just realizing the importance of meditation.
Q – Often, people regard meditation as having a religious play walk. Yet, in Argentina, which is primarily a Christian country, so many people are taking up meditation. So, how is meditation regarded in Argentina?
There are many people who do not come to meditate as they think there is some religion behind it but there are also people who understand that meditation is not really related to religion. So they come and are benefited. Sometimes, people have to be made aware of this fact that they can meditate and yet follow their religion, and so that’s what we do - talk to people, make them aware and motivate them to learn meditation.
During Planeta Medita, people came to meditate for world peace and then later, they went to the church as well. So, for most people who came for Planeta Medita, there was no conflict between meditation and religion.
Q - In Planeta Medita, there were so many youth who came in; how are youth getting attracted towards meditation?
Normally, the youth feels that only drugs, alcohol and parties are the source of relaxation but now, a lot of youngsters are realizing that it’s also possible with meditation and without any harm. That’s when they come to learn meditation. Again, some time you have to reach the youth so we go to universities, to schools, we do Yes+ courses (an Art of Living program) and meditation programs, a lot of intro talks, we organize parties such as Yoga Rave. Every day, we all go for cycling, we go to the river, before starting any activity, we meditate for 20 minutes and we see that we are able to do those activities with more focus and much more fun.
Q - You just mentioned about Yoga Rave. I have heard that there you do some singing and dancing but the whole idea of having a Yoga Rave is to dive deep into meditation in the end. Can you share more about this? What is the concept and how does it help?
Yes, when you meditate, you get a lot of energy and when you go for parties in clubs or discotheques, you drop out a lot of your energy and people get this hangover and they feel tired the next morning.
So, in Yoga Rave, the youth sing and dance and then meditate. Meditation refreshes them and gives them energy so the tiredness vanishes. Many youngsters love Yoga Rave and bring a lot of their friends too when we have such concerts.
Q - If you were meant to bring three changes in Argentina through meditation, what would they be?
Well, one would be to make more people aware about the food, about what they are eating, especially non-vegetarian food because people in Argentina eat a lot of meat. So I would like to bring more people towards healthier food and vegetarian food. I feel this could happen through meditation.
Second, I think that we have to work without violence. I am very sure violence could be erased off through meditation.
Third, I feel through meditation, we can help people with their depression. People go to psychiatrists and go for drugs. Meditation is an excellent way to come out of depression.
By Divya Sachdev