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Art of living

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Related terms
Background
Practice
Theory/evidence
Author information
Bibliography

Related Terms
  • 5H program, Art of Living (AOL), Art of Living Foundation, Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC), International Association for Human Values (IAHV), Sri Ravi Shankar, UN, United Nations.

Background
  • Based on the belief that "art is the appreciation of what is," the art of living is when people start appreciating life itself, and not the accessories of life. Proponents believe that to live life fully and freely is an art, requiring skill, intuition, creativity, and knowledge. The art of living reinforces human values and brings people from varied social, economic, geographic, cultural and religious backgrounds together in a spirit of service and celebration.
  • The Art of Living Foundation (AOLF) was founded by Sri Ravi Shankar as a nonprofit, international, educational, charitable and humanitarian organization. Born in 1956 in Papanasam, India, Shankar studied with many renowned spiritual masters and became a scholar of Vedic literature (ancient sacred writings of Hinduism written in early Sanskrit). By the age of 17, he obtained an advanced degree in Modern Physics and later received an Honorary Doctorate from Kuvempu University, Karnataka, India.
  • In 1982, Shankar founded the Art of Living Foundation. Through the regeneration of human values, Shankar seeks global peace and development by inspiring individuals towards self-awareness, joyful living, and selfless service. In 1997, he founded the International Association for Human Values (IAHV), which to date has development projects in 25,300 villages, bringing self-reliance and sustainability to millions of people.
  • The foundation offers programs in nearly 150 countries around the world. The AOLF is the largest volunteer based non-governmental organization in the world. The foundation's service projects, programs on yoga, meditation and stress elimination have reached over 20 million people of various religions, cultures and traditions.
  • The AOLF also works with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations (ECOSOC) and participates in various committees and activities that are related to health, education, and development.

Practice
  • In partnership with its sister organization, the International Association for Human Values, AOLF is responsible for the training of over 25,710 youth leaders in India, South Africa, Mexico, Argentina, and others through its Youth Leadership Training Program that has benefited over 25,300 villages. The AOLF is also noted for its work in trauma relief programs.
  • The AOLF offers a variety of programs that support its mission. Many business executives, college students, prisoners, inner-city youth, and rural villagers have claimed benefits from these programs. Examples of some of the programs are listed below.
  • 5H program: This program focuses on home, health, hygiene, harmony in diversity, and human values. It attempts to bring about a social transformation so that the complete potential of each individual may be expressed. According to the AOLF, the current priority of the 5H program is social and community development in rural areas of developing countries.
  • The 5H program has developed a volunteer program that provides an opportunity for volunteers to commit one year to helping victims of war rebuild their lives and begin emotional healing. Volunteers receive intensive training in teaching a carefully designed program that promotes harmony and healing. The volunteers also coordinate service projects to rebuild homes and provide clothing.
  • Advanced course: The art of living advanced course offers rest, relaxation and rejuvenation. Frequently offered as in-residence courses at retreat-like natural settings, the advanced course builds upon the information already learned in the basic course (see below). Silence is often practiced to revive energy and enthusiasm, and provide deep rest for the mind and body.
  • All round training in excellence: This is a course for children that aims to counteract negative tendencies and introduce a balancing effect on children. It focuses on an education that is an enjoyable experience, not a stressful one. The training usually spans four to five days, with focus of physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual teachings. Training may involve: breathing techniques; human values such as cooperation, sharing, service to others, respect for self and others and compassion; stretching; yoga; relaxation techniques; meditation; problem solving strategies; development of social skills; leadership training; and creative projects like art, drama, literature, song, dance and service projects like helping elderly people, planting trees and cleaning the environment.
  • Basic course: Offers techniques to eliminate stress to increase overall well-being. This course lasts 22 hours, usually four evenings and a weekend. Some breathing techniques and meditation are taught. Group discussions are also a part of this course.
  • Corporate course: Corporate courses focus on achieving personal excellence in the workplace. These courses aim to center and balance employees so that a company's economic growth and true potential can be realized.
  • Humanitarian programs: These programs are for those wishing to take on more responsibility and serve society. The humanitarian service programs are based on a simple premise: to be available whenever, wherever, and whatever the need be.
  • Juveniles at risk: Preventive programs offered to youth consist of alternatives to drugs and alcohol, support in seeking solutions to their problems from within themselves and not exploring the avenues of drugs and violence.
  • Prison SMART Foundation, Inc.: This foundation focuses on stress management and rehabilitative training programs designed for inmates, residents of halfway houses, and those on parole and probation, as well as at-risk youth, victims of crime, law enforcement officers and probation staff. Programs have been offered to more than 3,000 participants in the United States. Proposed benefits include increased self-esteem, practical conflict resolution, alternatives to violent behavior, and enhancement of the Twelve-Step recovery program.

Theory / Evidence
  • The Art of Living Foundation offers programs that eliminate stress, create a sense of well being and belonging, restore human values, and encourage people of all backgrounds, religions, and cultural traditions to come together for celebration and service. AOLF seeks to bring these values to society by strengthening individuals and then aspiring them to make changes that benefit the society in which they live.
  • Proponents believe that the first goal of strengthening the individual is reached through self-development. AOLF teaches stress management skills and allows for individuals to learn how to live in the moment. Programs are available for all individuals regardless of age.
  • The second goal of the AOLF is to have these strong individuals take more responsibility and serve society. This is accomplished through humanitarian programs. They are based on the simple idea that they are "available whenever, wherever, and whatever the need be."
  • The art of living follows the beliefs that peace, joy, and love are true states of being, and that stress disturbs the system and produces negative thoughts and emotions, which then get stored as toxins in the body. This leads to disease in the body and a disturbed mental state. Advocates believe that the values that enhance life are confidence, cooperation, compassion, love, enthusiasm, faith, and knowledge. These values are thought to come only through spirit, as material comfort alone is not sufficient or complete. Happiness is a quality of consciousness. It does depend on matter, but to a far greater degree, it depends on attitude and understanding.
  • There are currently no available, well-designed trials investigating the efficacy of "art of living" as a treatment for any condition.

Author information
  • This information has been edited and peer-reviewed by contributors to the Natural Standard Research Collaboration (www.naturalstandard.com).

Bibliography
  1. The Art of Living. 17 June 2006.

Copyright © 2011 Natural Standard (www.naturalstandard.com)


The information in this monograph is intended for informational purposes only, and is meant to help users better understand health concerns. Information is based on review of scientific research data, historical practice patterns, and clinical experience. This information should not be interpreted as specific medical advice. Users should consult with a qualified healthcare provider for specific questions regarding therapies, diagnosis and/or health conditions, prior to making therapeutic decisions.

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