Yoga, Meditation Empower Rural Youth
Chattisgarh: Over 20,000 people meditated for peace in the Naxal-hit Durg district, Chattisgarh on May 13. The rare sight of thousands meditating initiated a new wave of harmony in this region. This region is fraught by violence and conflict caused by the ongoing deadlock between the government and Naxals, a group of militant insurgents. Yet there was no sign of violence or fear as residents held a candle-light vigil and reiterated their commitment to peace.
This May 13 event was held to honor Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar as part of his 54th birthday celebrations. Gurudev, founder of the Art of Living, has been instrumental in transforming the lives of each of those gathered for the meditation. Thousands in the state of Chattisgarh have discovered inner peace and a new direction in life through Art of Living’s Youth Leadership Training Program (YLTP).
“The YLTP is extraordinary and awakens leadership qualities and self-confidence in everybody,” said Lata Usendi, Minister for Women and Child Empowerment, Chattisgarh, who was also the chief guest at the event. “It is because of the YLTP program that I blossomed, starting out as a yuvacharya and then becoming a state minister.” Ms.Usendi is an example of empowerment and transformation through yoga, meditation and stress-elimination breathing techniques. These ancient techniques and a non-violent and peaceful philosophy are slowly changing the landscape of Chattisgarh, one of the Indian states worst-hit by Naxal violence.
Despite ongoing bursts of violence, YLTP graduates have been conducting trauma relief workshops and engaging in service initiatives in the region since 2002.With the aim of integrating Naxalites into mainstream society and channeling their energy in a positive direction, special courses have been offered for Naxalites. Gurudev often says: “The Naxal youths are good and committed people, just disillusioned by the corruption, apathy from those in power. They are not to be treated as outcastes, rather they need some love and tender care.” After undergoing these courses, many Naxalites have left violence and are working for their communities using non-violent, democratic means.
The Art of Living also reaches out to those affected by the Naxal violence. Residents have been able to release the trauma of witnessing and experiencing violence.21-year-old Seema of Abhujmad saw her brother being abducted by the Naxalites and released only after days of harassment. She underwent the trauma-relief workshop and began practicing breathing exercises and meditation. She shares, “I feel as if all the pain and stress in my body and mind has been washed away.”
Sudruram Netam, a native of Niram Abhujmad, was a worker in the Sangham Dal – a committee that organizes meetings and arranges the food supply for the Naxal movement. “I was under constant stress and fear when I was working with those people. Now I am free and after doing the Pranayams, the meditation, the chanting and satsang, I feel relaxed,” he conveys.
After trauma relief workshops, YLTPs are held to help rural youth develop leadership qualities and empower their communities. The YLTP is an intensive workshop that empowers rural youth through education in yoga, meditation, breathing techniques, community organizing and leadership skills. Strengthening participants from within, it enables them to take responsibility in their communities. Through uplifting rural youth, the program aims to drive sustainable development.
“I used to polish shoes on the roadside. After doing the YLTP, I learnt how to be a leader,” shares Ravi Meher. “I started practicing meditation and felt a huge change in me. I felt I must do something for society. I completed my graduation and also studied law. Recently, I was elected the Mayor of Sakriya Nagar, Bilaspur, the very same town where I used to earn my living through shoe-polishing.”
The Art of Living is committed to spreading peace and harmony in Chhatisgarh. If you would like to join in the peace initiative, contact the YLTP National office: 080-28432102