Indian spiritual leader and wellness advocate Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who flew into Dubai last weekend, believes that those living in the post COVID-19 era are going through an unusual crisis where extreme temperaments rule.

“Our youth seems to be swinging between aggression and depression. On one side, they get so depressed, even suicidal and on the other hand, there’s aggression at the drop of a hat,” said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in an exclusive interview with Gulf News.

The ‘Art Of Living’ founder, who came up with his own set of breathing techniques and life skills to cope with stress, said those words in his trademark soft, soothing voice and without breaking eye contact. He is dressed in all white and exudes the calmest of personas.

We are at an expansive presidential suite of a plush hotel in Dubai, which has been converted into an oasis of peace. A giant basket of fresh fruits and swatches of white fabric draped over chairs for his loyalists were a part of his makeshift haven.

“I wonder how people could live with so much stress all the time. As a child, when you got stressed, you could get out of it very easily. But as adults, we need to learn how to get out of stress – especially after post COVID… And neither at home nor in school, nobody teaches us how to get out of this,” he added.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who has been working on coming up with tools and techniques like breathing exercises to cope with stress for over four decades, believes that a generation who thrives on hustling shouldn’t ignore the red flags.

“Mental health is a significant issue in today’s world. Unless we take care of this, we can’t have a better society,” said Sri Sri Ravi Shanker. COVID-19, the pandemic that ravaged the world and broke its rhythm, was a grim reminder of the unpredictability of life and our time on it.

“COVID-19 showed people that your whole life could be very uncertain. You had to fight an enemy that you had never seen before. You didn’t know where it came from and what to do with the virus. Nobody was familiar with it. So, in those situations, what you needed was mental strength… Our teachers, doctors, and nurses needed that the most as they took care of the society,” said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Sri Sri Ravi Shanker
Indian spiritual leader, humanitarian, and wellness advocate Sri Sri Ravi Shankar in Dubai last weekend

According to him, being equipped with the know-how to deal with stress, even if life throws challenges and curveballs, is crucial.

But how do you differentiate between peace and instant gratification and temporary solace?

“The joy that you get by buying things or getting presents on your birthday is not everlasting. Remember, there’s a great joy that comes from giving. If you are contributing to the environment – say planting a million trees or taking care of a pond in your town or village, that’s likely to give you the greatest joy,” said Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. He even has a name for attaining such incredible and lasting joy.

“I would always say this is ‘mature joy’, the joy of a grandmother. Imagine how your grandmother cooks so many dishes when her children and grandchildren visit… the key is to shift from the joy of getting or grabbing to the joy of giving. Art Of Living is all about that.”

The key to navigating through life and its challenges is also to cultivate a “sense of humour”.

“Suppose someone insults you, you don’t worry, and that sense of humour that you have cultivated when young will help you sail through the unpleasant moments in life.”

After his UAE visit where he will attend the NAS Summit for content creators and a meditation session with his followers in this region, he will head to the United States.

“We are having this World Cultural Festival – think of it like a Culture Olympics. People from several countries will come and showcase their cultural extravaganza … Remember our cultural roots will keep us united. In such a polarised society, the glue is culture.”

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