The Art of Living Foundation in Cuba

By Regina Cano

HAVANA TIMES – Andres Oscar Lahera Carbo, a cheery, daring young man who is in love with “The Art of Living Foundation”, is this group’s coordinator here in Cuba.

HT: How did “Art of Living” come into your life?

Andres Lahera: It came to Cuba in 2015 with Francisco Moreno from Argentina.

In 2016, one of my aunt’s friends told us about it. As soon as Katherine and Facundo (both Argentinians) from Art of Livng began to speak, it was magnificent, incredible.

I learned about Meditation, Reiki, Rosicrucianism, Theosophy. I already knew about meditation and breathing exercises, but not about anything like this. It’s all the same teachings but because it comes from the Master, it’s different and special. He has traced a different path, he brings all of these things together into one movement.

All of my family has caught onto it, my wife and daughter. Now my family is everyone, we are one big global family.

HT: What is Art of Living?

AL: The Foundation was created by its spiritual leader, Guruji Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in 1981. His rhythmic breathing technique, Sudarshan Kriya (the crux of his practice), came to him after a ten-day period of silence and it has helped many people get rid of their stress and to become better people.

The Master’s message: create a society free of stress and violence.

Improving your personal quality of life is every human being’s right and much-needed for their wellbeing.

Also, to empower women. There are still countries where women are discriminated against and even scorned.

We do voluntary work when there are natural disasters, hurricanes, earthquakes and storms.

Ever since 2016/2017, we have begun to gain a little more momentum here in Cuba.

We clean public spaces, helping (natural) systems, doing volunteer work, Seva, makes you a better person based on the principle of giving.

We were cleaning Tarara Beach (to the east), the Eco-Park (78th and 9th Streets, Playa) and the Small beach on 16th street (Miramar).

We want to collaborate with Caritas-Havana, Homes for the elderly and with children suffering from cancer. We have to go to every corresponding authority and hope that everything flows peacefully and in harmony.

HT: Do Cubans need Art of Living?

AL: Everybody needs it, it doesn’t matter what country you come from, your gender or your age.

We need to awaken this spiritual reality that we need so much. We are more than just our bodies and our minds. Money, a car, the latest trend, clothes and jewelery aren’t everything.

If you have the chance to go beyond this, to access this source of peace and love, it will change your life.

On Wednesdays, we meet and share with people who have passed the course and these gatherings are really great. After the course, they become members of the Foundation and then they are able to attend our meetings after a short while. We talk about the effects of these techniques.

You realize why you are doing this. You see the change in people’s eyes.

HT: What is your work plan?

AL: We work in the space of whoever gives the most, dedicates themselves and inspires others with their giving. We organize everything between ourselves, each of us doing different tasks. From designing the flyer we have to hand out, to the dimensions of the stage we need to set up.

Coordinators: Marisol Perez, Daimy Perez, Saida Salomon, Frank Daniel, Rodolfo Cabrera, Sara Ivis, Maria Elena, Elena, Dayelis Martinez and Katia Peon Valdes, the first Instructor who was trained in Argentina.

In April, Swami Paramtej, a person with great spiritual knowledge, came. He trained meditation instructors, which has helped us grow.

We have opened wellbeing centers.

One at the Mental Clinic (38th and 5th Streets, Playa). A psychiatrist from there belongs to “Art of Living”. She is a meditation instructor and works there with another group. They share techniques with people who go there and they offer them for free.

We also have another one at the Jesus Menendez Sports Compound (92nd Street, Playa), Monday to Friday at 9 AM.

We want to teach people about peace and love. That a better society is possible and that the happiness we seek is available right now and here. You aren’t only going to be happy when you have a partner, a car or a house. No! You can be happy right here and now.

We want to inspire people to do community work. To plant trees and look after the environment. To clean up dirty spaces. Hell! To not wait for Communal Services’ trucks (garbage collection).

We can get infestations from the waste that is thrown on neighborhood corners. People who live there (say): “… this isn’t right…” “… this can’t carry on…”, but nobody does anything. The person responsible is anyone who decides to take on this responsibility and wants to change it.

Doing volunteer clean up work.

We do all of this consulting with “Art of Living”. We follow the International Foundation. We are in contact with branches in Argentina, Colombia and the Dominican Republic. “Art of Living” spaces, in direct contact with the Master.

We are hoping to expand to Cuba’s provinces before the year is up.

HT: And courses?

AL: The “Happiness Program” is basic. It teaches you Sudarshan Kriya, a powerful breathing technique which helps you to also get rid of negative emotions, strengthens the immune system and makes people calm and content again.

Then you have the “Meditation” course (Sahaj Samadhi), the “Silence II Course”, which is a spiritual retreat for four days minimum.

The Basic course changes your life and so does the “Silence” and “Sahaj Samadhi” course. And you begin to feel, “Wow! This is great!”.

The courses are affordable so that this beautiful message can reach more people.

Techniques taught allow us to access this “Being” which is what we are in essence, made of light, peace and love. It isn’t a religion, it isn’t politics. It’s a life philosophy, which anyone can embrace in the way they want to and develop it. 

You can be a Yoruba follower, a Buddhist, Muslim or Jew, it doesn’t matter. “Art of Living” supports every culture.

If we all act from the heart, seeing what we can contribute, how we can help, things would be much better.

HT: Tell us about the “America Meditates” Gathering in Cuba

AL: “Art of Living” has been organizing the “America Meditates” gathering since 2009. It has been held in Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Costa Rica, Panama, Venezuela and was inspired by its founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

Fernando Benevenia, the Argentinian instructor, inspired us: “Why don’t you organize an “America Meditates” gathering here in Cuba.”  He organized it in Argentina for many years.

Everything comes when it’s supposed to. We just let things flow and it happened. We are better organized, and we have an extraordinary team.

We have received support from groups such as “Namaste Cuba”.

We received valuable support from the Indian Ambassador in Cuba, Mrs Madhu Sethi.

We were on Cuban TV: The “Instructor” interviewed Katia Peon Valdes and “Canal Habana” promoted us. Radio stations: CMBF and Taino. We were present on social media.

Word of mouth was very important. Surprisingly so!

We are very grateful for the support we received from teachers Lisette and Conchita Tampa.

To flutist Glenda Lahera and to Uli-ex. To Eleane Amezaga (violinist).

Also to teacher Hari Priya, a professional dancer at the “Odissi” Indian Classical Dance academy.

To Restaurants: “Karma” in Vedado and “Buena Vista” in Old Havana.

We want to thank everyone for all the help we received in making the 2018 “America Meditates” gathering happen.

We took smiles and messages of peace to “America Meditates”.

We could have done more, but you have to start off crawling before you can walk. It’s all part of each and every one of our growth, as well as that of the group.

Yes, we were very happy We were surprised at how much we were able to do.

We know that the next “America Meditates” will be an even bigger event next year and there will be some surprises.

HT: Thanks Andres Lahera Carbo for the interview.

Andres: Thank you Havana Times.

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Regina Cano

Regina Cano: I have lived my entire life in Havana, Cuba – the island from which I’ve still never left, and which I love. I was born on September 9, and my parents chose my name out of superstition, but my mother raised me outside the religion professed by her family. I studied accounting and finance at the University of Havana, a profession that I’m not engaged in for the time being, and that I substituted for doing crafts, some ceramics, and studying a little English and about painting. Ah! – concerning my picture: I identify with Rastafarian principles, but I am not one of them. I wear this cap from time to time, but I assure you I just didn't have a better picture.

One thought on “The Art of Living Foundation in Cuba

  • Planning to visit Cuba. How does on get in touch with this group?

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