An Art of Living teacher who has spent the last 19 years teaching meditation to people across South Africa & Africa - Meet Vani Pavadai. A pioneer Art of Living teacher in Africa, and inspired by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s vision of a stress-free, violence-free world. Vani, initiated a global peace initiative for Africa in 2013, under the auspices of the Art of living Foundation Africa.
In its 6 year, with an incredible team of Art of living volunteers across Africa, the peace campaign has reached over 2.3 million people, and united 22 African countries. In conversation, Vani, shares her passion for meditation, peace and Africa.
I Meditate Africa – An Art of living Peace Campaign
2013 - 10 000 Participants
23 African Countries 31 African Cities 54 Countries Internationally
2014 - 100 000 Participants
24 African Countries 31 African Cities 52 Countries Internationally
2015 - 500 000 Participants
25 African Countries 34 African Cities 53 Countries Internationally
2016 - 750 000 Participants
23 African Countries, 32 African Cities 54 Countries Internationally
2017 – I Million+ Participants
24 African Countries, 33 African Cities 53 Countries Internationally
2018 – Watch the space
20 African countries, 32 African Cities 112 Countries Internationally
1. What is "I Meditate Africa" about?
It’s a very simple campaign promoting peace in Africa, encouraging the use of meditation as a mainstream peace building block. I was actually inspired by a story on "African leadership & meditation". A few years ago I went to teach an Art of Living course in Mozambique; on the course was the Mozambique former minister of Foreign Affairs who served under Former President Joachim Chissano cabinet. I learnt that meditation was not new to people in Mozambique. I quickly discovered the story of the Meditating President.
The Former President of Mozambique, Joachim Chissano, was a leader who came to power as a president after a devastating civil war. He learnt meditation in 1992, and quickly came to understand the vast benefits of meditating every day. He encouraged his family, his cabinet ministers, and his wider government to meditate. He further encouraged, under his presidency, military and police personnel to meditate daily for 20 minutes. HE Chissano credits meditation as being one of the contributing factors for peace and prosperity in his country. This has been so inspiring to me, as someone born in Africa, and passionate about both meditation and Africa.
2. How does "I Meditate Africa" differ from other Peace Building efforts?
As a teacher of the Art of Living, I know too well the power that the subtle tools of meditation, yoga, and breathing techniques has over one’s mind, thoughts, and life. I have been always been inspired by how, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, my spiritual Master and Guru, has taken meditation, yoga, and breathing techniques out of the spiritual path, corporate wellness sector and shared it at the table of peace building & reconciliation. Gurudev visits conflict areas, war torn countries, and his simple message of a stress-free and violence-free world, has always left an indelible impression on me.
There are close to 500 studies from over 200 Universities in 33 countries that scientifically validate, both, the beneficial effects of meditation and how mass meditation improves the quality of life for everyone.
So then in tackling the challenges Africa is facing today - from issues around violence, crime, corruption, trafficking - I believe that the benefits of meditation should definitely be given more serious consideration, as part of peace building. Building inner safety and security is imperative before you can address outer peace. Meditation is not the answer to everything, and it is not going to solve the problems of the world, but it provides one with basic inner strength, and stability of mind. Ones behaviour, attitude, decision making, team work all stem from inner strength and clarity of mind; in this regard meditation becomes a useful tool in peacekeeping strategies & general peace building.
3. What is the vision of the campaign in its second year?
Transformation of a country begins first with individual transformation. The process of individual transformation begins when we turn inwards.
When we look at what’s happening across the continent in terms of violence, unrest, terrorism, corruption, social fragmentation, we felt the need to focus on getting more people to meditate, and through this, experience peace, stillness and that thread that unites us all. This is the level at which we as ordinary citizens can effect a positive change in some way.
The campaign has 2 parts;
1. We dedicate the entire month of May, Africa Month to educational institutes, corporates, police stations, Prisons, homes, shelters etc. inspiring everyone to meditate for 10 minutes anytime during the month of May for peace for Africa. We have a special African peace meditation & Guided Peace Prayer that we use for the campaign for schools, colleges and universities. It is such a beautiful meditation by Gurudev, with such a simple, yet powerful blessing for Africa. As we all know, collective meditation has a much deeper impact in the environment and cosmos.
How can that not have an impact on the continent! When so many minds are meditating and focusing on blessing Africa, it cannot but reach out at a deeper level, to the nooks and corners of the continent where it is needed the most. Gurudev’s words resonate at this time, “Even if one percent of the population meditates, it benefits the rest 99 percent”.
If one drop of poison can kill a person, then surely one drop of ambrosia can heal a person and thousands of minds meditating for peace and love for a continent, cannot but shift that continent.
2. Part 2 of the campaign, is that On Africa Day each year, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, takes time of his schedule to be part of the Peace Campaign, by leading over 20 African countries in a guided peace meditation for Africa. Using technology of the webcast, Facebook and Youtube, all Africans are able to connect to meditate for peace, in a guided global peace meditation.
4. On Africa Day, 25th May, would mother Africa be smiling?
South Africa, Ivory Coast, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Botswana, Uganda, Senegal, Rwanda, Nigeria, Angola, Ghana, Togo, DRC, Tanzania, Tunisia, Egypt, Malawi, Mauritius, Namibia, Morocco have all through the spirit of volunteers joined hands, hearts and minds to organize peace meditations.
We have volunteers from all these countries inspiring and leading the campaign on the ground. Its actually quite remarkable that ordinary citizens when they come together in a spirit of solidarity and oneness, can make such a positive difference, I think "mama Africa" must be smiling.
5 What do you credit the success and popularity of the campaign to?
Teamwork from the AOL volunteers. We have the most amazing, dedicated, and visionary team, leading the project in South Africa and the rest of Africa. They truly encompass the spirit of leadership, action & respect. They are workers behind the scene who just from their hearts are doing. Our African team leads are so incredible as well; we all have not met personally, but chat over email, Facebook, Skype, & Whatsup. We have language barriers, like in the Ivory Coast & Togo, however despite that, volunteers have been so willing to be part of the campaign, in whatever way they can, big or small, and pulling together as one African team in achieving something bigger.
The father of our nation, Nelson Mandela, who was a meditator himself once said, "I dream of an Africa, which is in peace with itself". I think that is a dream that all Africans carry in their hearts, and "I Meditate Africa", allows the ordinary person to play a very small part in making that dream a reality in some way.