An Experience For Life: Art Of Living
Posted on March 18, 2011 by socratezonline on his blog
Knowledge is power; what you know more than others makes you valuable, and gives you a measure of power. It is the basis of many power structures, where the lower your position in the pyramid is, the less you know.
Secrecy inspires obedience and loyalty. There are many organizations out there who use secrecy as a tool for that matter. Your curious nature drives your desire to get higher up the ranks, and deeper down the rabbit hole. When you are told a secret, you feel acknowledged and trusted. You’re part of the group, and you won’t betray their confidence in you easily.
Basically this is a picture perfect describtion of a sect. Most organizations have sectarian charactaristics, because there are very few among them who are transparent about their business. Some of the worst are the ones who portray themselves as charitable, because there’s a reason why they put so much effort into building an image. If your business doesn’t stink at all, then there’s nothing to hide.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the Art of Living foundation. It’s an NGO that conducts self empowerment seminars throughout the world, from a spiritual point of view. During my time as a volunteer I’ve made a lot of friends there, and I can truly say that it’s been an enrichening life experience. I went through a lot of training and processes to become a teacher for those seminars, making the knowledge a part of me, and leaving the bullshit as it is. I’m not going to go into details, because that would be missing the point, which is that you have to keep a certain amount of healthy scepticism about what’s going on.
Because apart from valuable lessons and experiences, there was also a lot of indoctrination going on. They demand your unconditional commitment, want you to surrender to the ‘enlightened master’ of the organization, and tell you it’s all part of some divine plan. Anyone who doesn’t fit the desired profile is left out. Teachers create superstitious beliefs by anchoring miraculous stories to strong emotions when things get very close and personal. And to deny the man in charge as your guru is to ask for a moment of awkward silence; shame on you.
Like at one point during the training, right before we were send into the real world to organize some courses, one of our trainers shared a personal story about her experience during the Mumbai terrorist attack, because she was there at the time. She survived the attack miraculously, and of course that was all due to the guru’s grace. I thought to myself: What about all those other people who did get killed? The guru doesn’t care for them? It’s all bullshit and propaganda, meant to make you believe that your life is in his hands – fuck that.
I’m not writing this article for the sake of harming any image, but I’m just telling the truth in an effort to make people aware of the reality inside some organizations. I’ve been there myself, and even though I have quite a down to earth mentality by nature, I felt at times that even I started to fall for it. The reason why is because I really do believe that the seminars add genuine value to the lives of participants, and that the organization is definitely a positive influence in the world.
What I don’t like is the fact that the Art of Living foundation is portrayed as a charitable organization, when it’s simply just a business dealing in spirituality. And it’s a big business, because it stretches across the world, being active in almost every country. They even have a special status within the United Nations, but as far as I know this is just another way of portraying a desired image; that of being a charitable organization. Besides, AoL doesn’t openly publicize any kind of annual financial report. I believe that if you claim something, then you should be able to back it up with facts.
Image is everything, and the importance of keeping the illusion alive can be understood from the following anecdote. While I was in the AoL training program to become a teacher, there was an ayurvedic doctor from India in the building who was consulting people. Me and a friend found out that he was sexually harassing girls, after one of the victims told us about her experience. We were infuriated and wanted to make an issue out of it. A lot of internal commotion followed (keep in mind we were in the middle of nowhere somewhere in the Black Forest, Germany), and eventually my friend threatened them to report it to the authorities. They gave him 500 euros to keep his mouth shut and he left the program. If you think I should expose this story to the big media, then please leave a comment.
The question is how deep you should get involved with organizations such as AoL. At many times I’ve had my doubts when I looked at people and wondered if this really made them stronger individuals, or if this was just an escape from the real world so they didn’t have to face their own problems. For me that was definitely part of the reason why I joined in the first place, and that’s also part of the reason why I left again. I was offered to become a full time teacher, but that is not my mission on Earth.
I believe that for some people this is definitely the place to be; I think the majority of the people that I’ve met while working for AOL are still active as volunteers or full time teachers, and it really helped them to find a purpose in their lives. That can only be a good thing. But there are also some who experienced AOL as a sect of crazy people who lost their common sense. In fact I’ve read blogs in which former teachers and volunteers were sharing about their bad experiences with the organization, which can be quite disturbing. You can find it at http://www.artoflivingfree.blogspot.com and aolfree.wordpress.com.
However I do think it’s important to always look at both sides of the coin. To be only positive about it is to be naive, but to be all negative about it is to be cynical, which is just as bad. This counts for many things, and therefore I refrain from judging too quickly, because it’s all relative. If you love it, stick with it. If you hate it, then leave it as it is and look at it as a valuable life experience from which you can learn something.
For me it was an amazing experience, if only for the sake of expanding my network and consciousness, and meeting a lot of people from many different cultures. I made a lot of friends, and even met my girlfriend! But I also got confronted with myself during this time, like everyone else. I remember that I felt so confident that I started acting cocky just to see how far I could go; I made the most incorrect remarks at the most sensitive times. Now I realize that I was seeking conflict for the sake of feeling myself, by expanding my ego, waiting for someone to say: Enough!
And that moment came eventually and inevitably, in which I felt the shock effect that I had brought upon others, reflected back at myself ten times. What goes around comes around, but it forged the basis of the connection with that particular person who gave me a lot of valuable insights about myself, and how other people experience me. So I can only be grateful for what happened, because it was an eye opener.
I believe everything happens for a reason, because it is what you attract that can tell you a lot about yourself. Your world is a reflection of who you are, and any negative experiences are those from which you haven’t been able to take lessons from. Every experience becomes valuable when you decide to learn something from it, and you can learn from everything that happens to you and everyone you meet.
Now I continue my path in my own fashion, yet still going in the same direction; making the world a better place by developing myself and inspiring others. Arrogance spoils everything.