Friday, September 5, 2008

The spiritual high

This is the article i wrote recently as a freelance for TOI...

Madhuri Kalyan
Times News Network

Intro: Hyderabad Times explores the new ‘coolness factor’ which the youth brigade flaunts, while getting high on spirituality

“Are you attending that hot party tonight?
“no honey I have early morning yoga lessons”.

It began as a fad, the Shiva printed t-shirts, the rudraksh accessories…for a while we thought it was the hippie era being revisited.
And then Yoga came along with a promise of a healthy lifestyle, with a generous dose of meditation….before we knew it, we were amidst a huge explosion of spirituality, where enrolling into a posh yoga studio and learning vedic chanting beat visiting the newest nightclubs in town. It was the phenomenon of ancient new age silently creeping into the lifestyles of the young and the restless.
Fad or fact?
For students and young professionals who have ‘Been there done that’, any new trend that hits is just a huge ‘yawn’, whether it’s retro, rock’n roll, boho or hippie. But spirituality is now rising into new heights, which takes it beyond being a fad and into a realm where youth discover a whole to dimension of life and living.
Says Devang Vora, a businessman and a teacher of yoga courses for youth, “for lot of youth it starts as fad but when they really go through it sincerely, they realize its significance and practical applications, like how to handle the mind and emotion, this aspect is missing formal education”.
Another aspect which attracts the youth to spirituality is taking a plunge into the unknown dimension of spirituality.
Says Venkatesh V, a game tester, “In an age where alcohol and drugs are synonymous to youth, spirituality comes as a breadth of fresh air. I experience a better high during meditation, that too without hangovers, so it was easy for me to give up drinking and smoking”.
For a healthy work-life balance
“It’s the easiest way to live a healthy lifestyle, and it doesn’t hurt that it’s cool! A decade ago, practicing yoga would have been considered archaic and uncool, not anymore”, says Shalini Singh, a HR professional with an MNC. Her daily routine goes like this- wakes up early at 5:30 am, by 6 am, she heads to her nearest center to do ‘group sadhana, where she does yoga and meditation with the group of youngster, all between the age group 18-30. Later the group discusses ancient knowledge discourses, and the various seva activities planned for the week. She also squeezes in a satsang or two in a week.
Shalini is a part of the growing youth brigade who turned to spirituality as a respite from her hectic pressure filled life.

Breaking religious barriers

Upping the coolness quotient of spirituality is that it deviates from all religious norms.
Spiritual practices cuts across all religious, social and even global barriers.
Says Khurshed Batliwala, the director of Art of living youth workshops, YES!+, “ do we become Americans if we wear jeans and Italians if we eat pizzas?, then why should spirituality be treated with an exception”.

Into the spiritual planes

So what plethora of experience does spirituality offer? Here’s what we found
Sadhana- (Yoga & Meditation) : all spiritual centers offer basic and advanced courses in basic yoga and meditation, each having a different flavors to it. Art of Living offers one of the most unique and specialized programs for young people
Satsang: Is an age old combination of singing and chanting, off late, we’ve witnessed a cool new avatar of traditional satsangs, called ‘Rock satsangs. These are simple bhanjans treated with rock and electronic acoustics.
Seva: “spirituality encourages a broad vision, which in turn inculcates values in young people, as well as empowers them to take responsibility for societal reforms of their choice”, says Khurshed Batliwala quoting an example of the same he says, “in Hyderabad we are conducting an event called ‘Utsav’, from 24th to 27th September 5-9 pm where in a span of four evenings the youth experience Sadhana, seva and satsang. As a part of ‘Utsav’, we are conducting a ‘Global cooling campaign- cool from inside, cool from outside’ by planting 10,000 trees, as a part of the UN ‘stand up and take action project’ in association with the GHMC”. Sounds like its USP -Uth turning towards Spiritual Power.