I started off visiting my cousins Lindsey and Cyrus in Redwood City, CA a few days before the whole shebang started. This is a view of the sunset from their apartment balcony - beautiful!! I had a great time hiking while my cousins were at work and then eating wonderful cuisine downtown. Much thanks to their wonderful hospitality! :)
The first part of my three-part summer YES! journey began in Lake Tahoe, CA. I attended a YES! Support Meet and then was able to sit in on a Teacher Training Course for the YES! program for people that were already Art of Living teachers. The TTC was absolutely wonderful. Even though I was by far the youngest there at merely 19 years old, I was able to connect with these incredible people and have an awesome time. I sat through knowledge points that are taught on the YES! course, my favorite of which is "Be Buttonproof." Here's a quick synopsis of the point:
You know the saying that people "push your buttons"? You know exactly who or what kind of people I'm talking about, right? Which button do they press? Anger? Jealousy? Sadness? Fear? Everyone has these buttons. For example, if you walk up to a vending machine, put in your money, push the button for the item, you want, and nothing comes out...what do you do? Push the button a few more times? Shake the machine? Kick it, even? If nothing comes out, eventually you give up and walk away. When people come up to you and push your Anger or Jealousy or Sadness or Fear button, who has the control? They do, not you! They push your button because they want that reaction out of you. And what do we usually do? Give it to them, right? Why do we give other people control? You want to be in control of your emotions, right? Yes! So the next time someone comes up to you and pushes your button, be aware of the control you are giving them. That awareness will allow YOU to have control. You'll be able to recognize "Oh, s/he is pushing my Anger button right now" and just smile and walk away. The person may get frustrated and push the button a few more times to get what they want, just like that item from the vending machine that won't come out. But eventually, they'll give up and walk away. Can you do that? Can YOU "Be Buttonproof"?
Awesome, right? I got to learn great tools like that, and learn how to teach them, too. The cool thing about being the intern was that I got to participate in the TTC as well, not just sit and listen. I also took the Art of Meditation course, an advanced Art of Living Course (also called sahaj samadhi in Sanskrit), which is a requirement for YES teachers. I learned a different kind of meditation from the course, and I deeply appreciate how beautiful it is.
At one point, Rekha (pictured below with a red flower), who is kind of a big deal with IAHV (the International Association of Human Values), and I got to sit down together and discuss our dreams. She shared with me her vision for the YES! program, and the amazing things she believes that it can do. I shared with her my desire to make a difference through YES! -- and voíla, an idea was born between us. With my background as a Special Education major, after I become trained in the YES! program, we plan to develop a similar breathing/yoga/knowledge program for special needs children. For example, many children with ASD (Austism Spectrum Disorder) get anxious in certain situations, such as in crowds, or throw tantrums because of an uncomfortable anxious feeling. If these kids have even just the Victory Breath (ujjayi breath in Sanskrit) as a tool, once they start to feel that anxiety, they'll be able to control it and calm down. This would be a huge step in advancing in academics, social skills, and communication. I'm so excited to help design a program like this!
We all bonded over doing seva (service) and making and eating AMAAAZING vegetarian Indian meals. At night we would sing satsang, and a few times we did so on the shore of Lake Tahoe under the moon. It was incredible.
Setting moon on Lake Tahoe
We had some great times on the TTC:
THE WHOLE CREW!
After the Tahoe TTC, Jackie (an AWESOME YES+ girlie I met in Tahoe - we ended up as partners for the whole summer YES! internship journey) and I rode back to SF with Wes, another rockin' dude who drove us from San Francisco to Tahoe and back
. Jackie and I stayed with another Art of Living teacher, Clarke, for a few days as we did seva in the city. Jackie and I transplanted baby exotic plants into new homes at the Presidio National Park. It was a great experience, and really therapeutic. Our day with the plants ended with a trip to the hospital when Jackie got something stuck in her eye from the wind. She was a trooper and pushed through!
From San Francisco, Jackie and I traveled to Carmel Valley, CA for an Art of Silence course. This Art of Living course is another advanced course, the majority of which is spent in silence to quiet the mind and turn the attention inward. An Art of Living teacher-to-be must take a required amount of Art of Silence courses, and this was my first. I won't go into much detail about the course, but being in silence was a beautiful experience for me. We sang satsang every night, which had quickly become a favorite event of mine from my experience in Tahoe. We did yoga and seva, meditated, did some processes, walked in nature, and gained knowledge. The food, of course, was amazing - cooked by an absolutely spectacular cook named Hyson. I came out of the course feeling grounded, settled, and focused.
After the AOS course, I flew back to Chicago to stay with Bill Herman, an incredible force of nature - he is the coodinator for all YES! programs in the U.S. and the mover and shaker of the International Association of Human Values, the Art of Living's sister organization. This was awesome: I got to help teach the first few classes of a YES! program in a brand-new school in Chicago called the Instituto Health Sciences Career Academy (which is now the first school in the U.S. to hire a full-time YES teacher to teach YES! to all of its 180 students - VERY exciting!!). I taught the YES! teachers (Jenna, Clay, Linda, Pear, Kiki, and Bill) how to play Ninja, an awesome and addicting awareness game. Once I taught them, they couldn't stop playing! It was great to bond with them and also see how YES! is taught firsthand.
This entire experience, spanning about three weeks in the summer of 2010, was simply incredible. I came out of it with a whole new appreciation, excitement, and faith in the Youth Empowerment Seminar; a deeper sense of my own being; and a greater connection to nature and the people around me. I was privileged to meet countless amazing souls, hear inspiring stories, and to laugh, love, and learn more than I had before.
The YES! program is spreading wildly across the United States, and the demand for the program in schools is much higher than the amount of teachers currently trained. I believe with all my heart that I can truly make a difference as an Art of Living teacher. As my first post below explains, my dream is to be that teacher that a student will always remember because I was able to help him or her realize who s/he truly is. We all have that special teacher, right? If you wish, you can still donate by clicking the Donate button at the top left corner of the page - the money will go towards my Teacher Training Course, which is about $6,000. Thank you so much to those of you who believed in me and/or donated to my summer internship with YES - the experience truly had a huge impact in helping me decide and finalize my purpose as a teacher.
When you make service the sole purpose in life, it eliminates fear, focuses your mind, and gives you meaning. --Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
You are total. You are full. You have all that you need. Do not underestimate yourself. --Sri Sri Ravi Shankar