It is 6 am. Inside a brightly-lit convention hall in Kochi, Art of Living trainer Saleena Musthafa waits patiently, a hijab covering her head. Businessmen, teachers doctors, engineers, IT professionals trickle in as she looks on. She begins simply: “Life is a gift and is to be celebrated. We should be happy. That is what I am going to teach you.” Saleena pauses and asks, “What is the first thing a newborn does?” A couple of members say, “Cry.” One tentative voice says, “Breathe.”
The teacher smiles, “Exactly. The baby takes a breath before it cries. And when a person dies, it is the breath that stops. Breath is at the core of life. Unfortunately, we pay little attention to it. But we get a deeper understanding of its importance when we use the Sudarshan Kriya breathing technique, as taught by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.” Does her religion hamper her practice of Art of Living? “Guruji wants Christians, Hindus and Muslims to remain as they are. Some of my relatives ask me why I am following a swami.
You have the Quran, they tell me. But I tell them that I have not given up my religion. I am still a devout Muslim.” What brings solace to Saleena is that her husband Muhammad Musthafa, her two children, and her 70-year-old businessman father EK Kunju Mohammad support her. In fact, Saleena says her father encouraged her to look beyond her religion. When she was in Class V, he gave her books by Swami Vivekananda, Osho and Guru Nitya Chaitanya Yati to read. Saleena’s life changed in 2001 when a close relative died.
She went into an emotional turmoil and her father’s close friend, CRP Mohammed, asked her to attend an Art of Living course. “He had done one and liked it a lot,” says she. So she attended her first course at Payyoli, Kozhikode, in May 2001. Saleena says she felt an immediate change. “I developed a positive attitude,” she says. She attended two more courses in quick succession. She followed it up with more courses at the International Centre of Art of Living in Bengaluru. But what really egged her on to do a Teacher Training Course was a meeting with Sri Sri himself. After a year’s effort, she became a qualified teacher.
“The fact that a Muslim is conducting such classes is a confirmation that India’s syncretic culture, which has lasted for thousands of years, is still going strong,” says Saleena, who also takes classes for children, youth as well as corporates. Tokyo-based Swami Sadyojatah, International Director, Art of Living, says, “Saleena constantly updates herself on all aspects of the teaching. She has been able to motivate hundreds to lead a happy, healthy and stress-free life. Her dedication and enthusiasm have been a constant inspiration for other trainers.”