Art of Living hosts spirituality retreat

Michael Bragg

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar speaks to attendees of the Art of Living Retreat Monday evening at the International Center for Meditation and Well Being. The retreat took place last Saturday through Tuesday at Heavenly Mountain. Olivia Wilkes | The AppalachianSpiritual inspiration took over Heavenly Mountain for the Art of Living Retreat, hosted by the International Center for Meditation and Well Being last Saturday through Tuesday.

Throughout the weekend, guests from all over the world took courses in meditation, yoga and stress-relief.

The founder of Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, spoke to the crowds and answered the questions they brought with them to Boone. People traveled from all over the world, particularly from Shankar’s home country of India, to hear the spiritual guru speak.

“You have so many chances in life to sail over bitterness,” Shankar said.

A few students attended the event. Senior technical photography and interdisciplinary studies major Zachary Stirewalt and junior technical photography major Elke Talbott both attended.

“I went because I had various sources telling me about it over the course of a week,” Stirewalt said. “The food was delicious, the music superb and the words of wisdom resonated with my soul.”

As part of the retreat, Shankar responded to a series of questions. The questions ranged from the personal – one woman asked if she should divorce her husband – to the political, when a man asked when the guru thought the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq would be over. 

To most questions, instead of giving a specific answer, Shankar told the crowd a story, often from ancient Indian myths, and related it to the situation at hand.

His words of advice were received with cheers and applause every time, no matter what his response was.
Since its opening last year, this was the second time Shankari has come to the center in Boone to speak, said Kasia Fraser, an instructor at the International Center. Fraser is one of the many people across the world that claim Sri Sri as their guru, or spiritual guide.

“I have been inspired by him,” she said. “I don’t really think of this as a job, it’s like a never-ending vocation.”

According to their website, Art of Living is a non-profit, educational, humanitarian organization that is located in several countries across the world.  Loosely based on Hindu practices and guides, the organization is driven by the philosophy of its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who emphasizes the importance of living stress and violence-free.

“He teaches people how to be happy,” Fraser said.

Art of Living has two locations in Boone, a small building on King Street where free yoga and meditation classes are offered every day, and the larger International Center. The center on King Street attracts several Appalachian students who are interested in yoga and meditation.  Fraser said the center at Heavenly Mountain is the largest Art of Living Center in the United States. 

The next event for Boone’s Art of Living is an open house on Oct. 13 at the International Center.

Story: EMMA SPECKMAN, Intern A&E Reporter
Photo: OLIVIA WILKES, Senior Photographer