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I have been teaching Art Excel and YES! for 10 years and have been very fortunate, since I started teaching, to teach a youth program during Sri Sri Ravi Shankar’s visits. I have watched the 8-year-olds I taught in 2005 move from Art Excel (8-13) to YES! (14-17) and on to the adult programs. The kids who come summer after summer form lasting bonds with each other. They share similar memories to any child attending camp– swimming in the lake, boating, ropes courses and zip lining, campfires, and whispering and sharing secrets under a star-filled night sky.
When they write about their camp experiences they share this as well as the profound realizations from the group activities that come from Art Excel and YES! They write about dropping worries, gaining self-confidence, moving out of their comfort zone, and witnessing themselves living the knowledge points taught on the course. They observe their own responses to challenging situations and realize that they are becoming “button proof” or that laughing and letting go is so much easier that getting frustrated and angry. They also recount examples of seeing adults on campus living these points and being inspired by them.
Teens also enjoy dancing in an environment where no other teen suggests that alcohol is required to have a good time. Spending time with other teens who share and live the values found in the Art of Living courses is another huge benefit. Many of my students have school friends that drink and do drugs, but they remain firm in their commitment to a lifestyle that reflects their values. At the center they bond with people who share these values, which later supports them in making healthy decisions.
Undeniably these programs are a lot of fun, and ultimately win over many who were forced by their parents to come and had no intention of enjoying a minute of it. The first day of the course last year, two of my students decided to walk back to their motel (most likely not realizing this would take them about 2 hours). They were the typical “cool” boys that I encounter every day in my day job teaching high school whose priorities include, music, video games, sports, socializing and girls. These programs are so magical, that the next five days completely turned them around; they began laughing and playing games without any inhibitions. By the end of the course they were promising to come back the next year.
One also cannot underestimate the impact of meeting Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on these courses. I believe this has been pivotal for many of my students. One girl was very stressed because her mother was working three jobs and needed surgery. In a meeting with Sri Sri she told him everything. I spoke to her years later and she described how after that brief moment, she was able to accept the situation without the tension she experienced previously. I also have observed that children who appear hyper active receive a lot of attention from Sri Sri and come back the next year very balanced.
I wish that I had been able to grow up coming to an Art of Living Center summer after summer making friends who are well established in these course points to help me get through life’s ups and downs. The summer programs are a phenomenal opportunity for the family as a whole. Give your child this amazing experience to fully blossom.