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Region 5 - Youth Retreat, Isle of Man "Art of Living...Art of Life"

Let the adventure begin!

It was a blustery Friday morning pouring with torrential rain, but all across Region 5 from Newcastle to Manchester, Leeds and Bradford, cars filled with sleeping bags, wellies and excited Youth made their way to the Liverpool Docks to board the largest vessel on the Irish Sea, carrying us to our destination and the most remote of locations in Region 5... the Isle of Man.

After a very rocky and challenging three hour ferry ride on the turbulent sea, we were relieved when finally welcomed by warm and smiling familiar faces as the ferry pulled into port. A wonderful Sai Family on the Isle of Man were to be our hosts for the weekend at their beautiful family home in the middle of the countryside, surrounded by fields, farms and with a view of the sea in the distance.

Once settled into our new home for the weekend, we gathered in the living room which was transformed into a Mandir. We awakened Swami in our hearts and focussed our minds on the reason for which we had gathered, with a calming Bhajan session. This was followed by a welcome address by the Region 5 Chairperson, Kailashbhai Venkat. Kailashbhai set the scene by introducing the theme for the Retreat: ‘Art of Living...Art of Life’. This was to be a journey from understanding how to live our lives as ideal human beings in keeping with Swami’s teachings (the Art of Living), to realising that we are Divine beings with a great purpose in Life (the Art of Life). We can live our lives with Divinity if we fill every action with LOVE, and who else to follow as an example of both the perfect human and the perfect manifestation of Divinity than our dearest Sri Sathya Sai Baba.
We were then addressed by our National Youth Coordinator, Shyam Jamnadas, who had travelled from London especially to spend the entire weekend with us. He expressed how excited he was to have the opportunity to be with the Youth in Region 5 and how, nationally, this retreat was an important event - the first Youth Retreat to be held in this region. He emphasised the importance for the Youth to focus and put all of our energy into the retreat, thereby realising the full benefit of the experience.
After a welcome dinner and an evening of fun icebreaker games, the Youth were ready to retire for the night.

Saturday: The Art of Living...

Saturday morning started in true Prashanthi spirit in the early hours of the morning; with 21 Omkars, Suprabhatham and a really inspiring Nagasankirtan, where we sang at the top of our voices around the nearby lanes and fields surrounding the house. This was an experience that many of us had not experienced outside of Prashanthi. After this we had a half hour exercise session outdoors led by our very own Youth and commonwealth Gymnast, Mukunda Measuria, who certainly put us through our paces first thing in the morning! As Youth we should be fit and ready from the moment we wake up, so early morning exercise was an opportunity for us to experience the vigour with which we should start each day.

After breakfast we were ready to start the morning of workshops around the theme of the ‘Art of Living’.

Swami says that we have to be Happy at three levels: Physically, Mentally and Intellectually. This will enable us to be ideal human beings on our path to realising our Divinity.

Be Happy Physically

Mukunda Measuria worked with Sanjaybhai Vaja on this topic in detail for the retreat. With Sanjaybhai addressing the Youth via video link from Manchester, they both explained to us the determination, time & dedication they put in to looking after their bodies, and the importance of the physical body on the spiritual path, enabling them to serve others and serve themselves.

We talked about the importance of taking in Satwic food through all of our senses, and the importance of balance in everything we do. There was a fantastic video which showed Swami relaxing with His students telling them about the importance of the ideal healthy routine. In this video Swami was giving guidance on how often to brush our teeth, how many hours to sleep, when to study etc. He was saying how people get up early for prayers but and do not shower or even brush their teeth. They wake up, come for prayers and sleep on their neighbour, and their neighbour does not even show a good example or tell them to wake up because they are also sleepy. This shows that our passion and devotion is not there. Swami said that we should not do things by FORCE, it should come from the SOURCE! We should be active, vibrant and show youthfulness in our physical bodies which will also benefit us mentally and spiritually.

Be Happy Mentally

Reena Jamnadas, a Youth from London who is a professional Consultant Business Psychologist and currently studying for her PhD on the topic of ‘Wise Leadership in Organisations’, facilitated the session on how to be happy mentally. We first looked at what makes a wise and great leader according to the teachings Swami gave to His MBA students which is recorded in the book ‘Man Management’. We explored how we can be ideal leaders of our lives at home, at work, in the Sai Organisation, but also ourselves, according to Swami’s guidelines.
"I want you to be leaders to protect the world. Leaders like lions, self-reliant, courageous, majestic and just. Lion is the king of animals and I want you to be king among men."
~ Sathya Sai Baba

We contemplated on the strengths which we have and how it is our duty to use our strengths as a gift from God.

"Consider how much talent the Lord has given to people. With that endowment, move forward on the path to the Lord, adhering strictly to the demands of truth. That is the use to which the talent has to be put; that is the purpose of the gift".
~ Dharma Vahini, Chapter 8.

From there we looked at how we can use our true Self-confidence as Divine Beings, and how we can be ideal leaders with positive thinking and by using all of our talents, skills and strengths. As we go through the different phases the Youth go through, we had some practical scenarios about how we can use our Self-confidence as a student, in the workplace and as a householder.

How to be Happy Mentally:
“To get joy and peace, you must develop a pure mind, unsullied by egoism and its children - lust, greed, envy, anger, hatred and the rest. This will be easy when you seek satsang (good company) and perform good deeds, entertain noble thoughts and read inspiring books. More important than all of these is to put into practise, at least one good thought. If you don’t practise, the blemishes in the mirror of your heart will not be wiped off and the Lord cannot be reflected therein. Constant practise with full faith will transmute nara (human) to Narayana (Divinity), for you are in essence Divine.”
~ Sri Sathya Sai Baba, Thought for the Day in Prasanthi Nilayam, 14th June 2012

Be Happy Intellectually

We first discussed the difference between the Mind and the Intellect. The mind itself is pure, however when it follows the senses without any control, it becomes tainted and leads us to do the wrong action. When the mind is influenced by the Intellect, we know we are doing the right action. Before we do anything we should use our Intellect and power of discrimination. We can do this by asking simple questions:

• Is this thought or action conducive to my spiritual progress?
• Will this thought, word or action hurt me or others?
• What is my intention?
• What are the consequences of my actions? Are they good or bad?

“The Intellect is our reasoning faculty. Using our Intellect means we are using our ability to think about the consequences of our actions. We can do this through the power of discrimination”.
~ Sathya Sai Baba

The majority of this session was spent practising how to actually use our Intellect by discriminating between what is right and wrong, temporary and permanent, good and bad, and real and unreal in some real-life dilemmas. The dilemmas focussed on choosing the right company which can also extend to how to choose whom to marry, how to manage our finances, the attitude to have in a competitive environment at the workplace or university and our Dharma as team members and employees in the workplace.

"One should not hastily rush into action based on the whimsical dictates of the mind. It is only after considering whether the action is good or bad, right or wrong that a person with a disciplined mind acts."
~ Sathya Sai Baba

To have a disciplined mind means we should focus the mind away from bad things and towards good. We can do this by keeping good company, sense control, ceiling on desires, reading and listening to spiritual things and taking Satwic things through all of our senses. This will make it easier for us to use our Discrimination and be happy using our Intellect.

Sai Apprentice

We spent the afternoon outdoors in the nearby forest. There were two teams: Team A had to use the five elements from nature to make a Lion which represents the Leader, and Team B had to make a Swan which represents the Intellect.

There were sub-challenges which involved races, blind-folded river walking, simple team challenges which required cooperation, patience and determination, all of which enabled the winner to win additional resources to make their lion or swan. Throughout, each team was being observed on how they worked as a team and how individuals contributed to the task.

It was so much fun and was really great to be outdoors in the forest. We came back and had a final pop quiz with five categories: The Sathya Sai Organisation, Swami’s Childhood, Swami’s teachings Swami’s Life and what we had learnt in the three workshops earlier that day.

Saturday ended in high spirits with a spontaneous three hour Bhajan session into the night with everyone involved, including Sai families from the Isle of Man.

Sunday: ...The Art of Life

The Art of Living on Saturday enabled us to explore how to be ideal human beings. The Art of Life was an exploration of how Swami lived His life as an ideal Human being, but also how He taught us to live as Divine beings with Selfless Love.

My Life is My Message

The session was started with a beautiful video created for the Region 5 Youth by the Region 1 Youth, which showed Swami’s life and all the wonderful service projects Swami has inaugurated, the schools He has established, and the beautiful Darshans He gave each day. This session was an exercise to learn how to not only OBSERVE but to REFLECT on Swami’s life.

We did this by listening and reading stories of experiences Swami’s Students have had in the Divine Presence as well as observations we have made of Swami’s routine and life ourselves. When making these observations we should REFLECT by asking ourselves ‘WHY?’ Why did Swami do certain things, and how can we learn from this and practise it in our lives?

We looked at Swami’s life by the different roles that He had on a human level, just as we do in our lives, for example, how was Swami the ideal leader? How was He the ideal guest? How was He the ideal host, parent and friend? How did He interact with people (the same people we also interact with)? How was He loyal? How did He control His senses? There are many examples of How Swami lived just as we do day to day on a human level, which we can learn from in order to behave perfectly, as He did.

We often look at Swami and say, ‘He was Divine that is why He can do all these amazing things, we can’t do that, we’re only human.’ But Swami says that it is just convenient and lazy for us to think this way, everything He did, we are capable of doing as perfect human beings, but also because we too are DIVINE. We can unlock our DIVINITY when we do things with LOVE. That is the essence of Divinity. How is it that Swami can have an abundance of energy without eating or sleeping at all? It is the same as when a mother can keep going without thinking of her own sleep or hunger or needs when her child needs her. It is unconditional and SELFLESS LOVE. We do it on a human level for our children, so this is how Swami also does it on a human level.

It is only when we reflect like this and ask HOW and WHY Swami said and did things that we can really learn from His Life. First we must OBSERVE, then we must UNDERSTAND, after understanding we must REFLECT and finally we must really CONTEMPLATE on His Life. This is the meaning of ‘My Life is My Message’.

Talk by Sri Lathaben Yemmanur

Sri Lathaben, an Alumnus from the Sri Sathya Sai University, Anantapur travelled from London with her family to spend the entire weekend with us. She gave the most incredible talk filled with personal and humorous recollections of her days as a student. Each story was beautiful in narration, and had a profound life lesson. This talk was the exact example of how to reflect on an experience to understand the lesson Swami was teaching, just as we had been doing in the session previously.
She spoke about how Swami was the perfect mother during her days as a student, concerned if she was eating enough and well looked after; how he was a strict father, reminding her of her role as a woman and how to behave accordingly. She recalled a humorous story about how she was a flute player in the band and with all the other grand instruments; she would never be noticed or heard. She couldn’t even hear herself play! She would joke that being the flute player was the consolation prize. One day, Swami called her name in front of everyone and gifted her with a beautiful watch. As a parent, He knew her needs without her having to ask...this was a console-ation prize. Even after graduating, Swami was there for her like a father and kept His promise of getting her married by sending her a beautiful sari for her wedding.

The stories were rich with love and flowed like a stream from her heart to ours. It was an honour and pleasure to hear them.

Our Life is His Message

We had the blessed opportunity to have not one but two Anantapur Students with us throughout the weekend. Sri Lathaben Yemmanur and her class mate Praveenaben Srikantan from Newcastle.
They conducted a workshop on how we can become His message when we really use the five human values, practise ceiling on desires and have firm faith in God.

“Only when we can imbibe the qualities of Bhagawan and put them into practice and illumine...(basically reflection of inner being)....Only then we become His message”.

We should also have gratitude towards our parents, teachers and God. All of these want what is best for us and by following their guidance we can truly be exemplary people, and begin to experience making Our life His message.

This first Region 5 Youth Retreat was an amazing opportunity for the Youth in the region to spend quality time with good company, to unite with each other and learn how to practise Swami’s teachings on a practical level.

This weekend was the most fulfilling journey to understand the 'Art of Living...Art of Life'. We learnt how to be perfect human beings on a physical, mental and intellectual level and to live as Swami has taught us through His life and Message.
Thank you to Swami for giving us all this opportunity. We pray we can work towards a common goal such as this and make the most of this crucial stage in our life.

Jai Sai Ram
Nishal Govindji
Region 5 Youth Coordinator