If you look south while passing Hoover on the 10 freeway, you can easily see the huge dome of the Art of Living’s Los Angeles headquarters in the near distance.
Located at Adams and Hoover this impressive building once housed the Second Church of Christ, Scientist. Built from 1907 to 1910 and designed by Alfred Rosenheim in the Neo Classical style with a mix of Beaux Arts, the building was hailed in a 1910 LA Times article, as “the most beautiful and costly in the West” and was designated as Los Angeles Historic Cultural Monument No. 57 in 1968. The building’s dome is an outstanding feature among many impressive and beautiful design elements. Weighing in at 1400 tons, the dome stands 130 feet tall with a 75-foot diameter, and covers the huge sanctuary, which seats 1,200 people and houses a large (and still functioning) pipe organ. As these things go, by 2009, the congregation had dwindled to about 20 members and selling the property became inevitable. As luck would have it, The Art of Living Foundation, an international spiritual organization whose programs have impacted 30 million people, was looking for a Los Angeles headquarters and bought the building with the intention to restore it.
Founded in 1981 by spiritual leader and humanitarian Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, The Art of Living Foundation is a nonprofit, educational and humanitarian organization and a United Nations non-governmental organization engaged in stress-management and service initiatives. The organization operates globally in 151 countries and is guided by Sri Sri’s philosophy of peace: “Unless we have a stress-free mind and a violence-free society, we cannot achieve world peace.” The primary purpose of the Foundation is simple. Help individuals get rid of stress and experience inner peace and joy through the use of breathing techniques, meditation and yoga. These programs have helped millions around the world to overcome stress, depression and violent tendencies. Several thousand people have participated in the Art of Living personal-development programs in Southern California over the years. They have also provided specialized programs for inner-city and other high school students, college students, programs for inmates and juveniles in detention, HIV/AIDS programs, and programs for corporations. They have provided service in war-torn Iraq, and to survivors of the Haiti earthquake, the South Asian tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, and the September 11 attacks, with many participants reporting that it was the first time they were able to smile.
In 2006 approximately 30,000 volunteers, including many at risk youth put together a three-day celebration of the Art of Living’s 25th anniversary in a 243-acre airfield in Bangalore, India. The organization drew more than 2 million people and included prime ministers, presidents, royalty, members of Parliament and 700 spiritual leaders sitting next to each other and participating in the largest group meditation in history.
This reporter recently attended a weekend course in breathing techniques and assorted exercises and talks with Swami Pragyapad a teacher from India (although most of the teachers are not “swami’s’). His gentle, self-effacing manner, directness and sense of humor created an easy atmosphere of trust and affection. He shared that he had been involved in the technical corporate world and that getting angry throughout the day was a typical experience before he found his way into the Art of Living Courses. He claimed that he had now found enough internal balance to have only experienced true anger six times in the last 7 years. Doesn’t sound like much fun for anger junkies but for those in the room ready to relinquish that addiction, ears were wide open. During three days, we learned breathing techniques and I wrote down quotes like, “ Happiness is staying out of past and future events and giving 100% attention to what is in the present.” We shared answers to questions like “What are you responsible for and not responsible for?” and “What do we want to be happy and when will we be happy?” and “Who am I, what am I and where am I?” We talked about the difference between being reactive and being responsibly responsive. The underlying theme was simple. Once you have chosen happiness as the default experience, how do you let it be? We were encouraged to stop ‘trying’, want nothing and stop fueling an identity other than….I am. And of course…remember to breathe. Consciously. We were taught a special breathing technique called Sudarshan Kriya which was the heart of this experiential workshop and something we could take home. Since that weekend I have to admit a shift of sorts. When I am reactive I focus attention on my breath and amazingly it gets me back to balance. Best of all I’ve been allowing myself to simply feel good. Allow myself to default to “happy” and strangely I’ve found happiness....breeds more happiness. It’s addictive.
Special thanks to Jeffery Ainis for assisting with the article.
For more information on programs, events and the building visit
www.artoflivingla.org or call 310.820.9429 or email
Photo’s courtesy of Art of Living