For UT alumnus Sanjeev Mathur, a community outreach volunteer at The Art of Living Center in Austin, meditation is about having fun.
“Seriousness is dangerous,” Mathur said. “Treat the mind like a child. You must be playful with it.”
The Art of Living, where Mathur volunteers, is a nonprofit organization that teaches yoga, mediation and breathing. The organization has centers in more than 150 countries.
When he’s not volunteering with The Art of Living, he’s working with Austin business owners on startups.
Through weekly workshops on campus, Mathur teaches stress management skills with the tangible goal of guiding students to live life in the present and keep a positive mindset.
He has volunteered on campus since 2008 with Art of Living UT. The student organization, an extension of the international nonprofit organization, hosts free yoga, mediation and breathing workshops for students.
Mathur found meditation in 2006 while he was earning an MBA from UT in general management. Around that same time, he heard of the breathing techniques The Art of Living taught in India. He attended a workshop in Austin, and, before long, he was practicing everyday.
During this time, he realized the importance of finding motivation in practicing activities he loved rather than in external rewards.
Mathur has volunteered with Art of Living UT from its beginning. He said he is excited to share the benefits he believes will make for a more positive college experience.
Nutrition senior Shreya Kulkarni, current president of Art of Living UT, said the yoga and mediation practices over the past three years have had an incredible impact on her life and her ability to maintain a positive state of mind.
“Every emotion we experience is tied to a breathing pattern,” Kulkarni said. “Instead of letting our emotions control our breath, we can use our breath to regulate our emotions.”
Mathur said it is common for students to suffer from internal conflict that often exists between personal ambition and the stress endured to achieve that ambition. The solution he offers to his students is to take risks, to not be afraid of making mistakes and to constantly foster peace of mind through breathing and meditation.
“When a person is not pursuing something they are passionate about, then the mind wanders all over the place and picks up stress from here or there because there is confusion,” Mathur said.
The Art of Living offers several happiness workshops, such as Yes!+, a workshop series tailored to university students. The workshops offer students the tools and a setting that allow them to slow down from the constant demands of life and practice relaxation skills.
Mathur said pursuing activities on a daily basis that release stress helps students to be present and focused.
“Stress can be defined as the mind vacillating from the past to the future — life is in the present,” Mathur said. “When one is reeling in regret from the past and anxiety for the future, it becomes difficult to make decisions for the present.”
He emphasized focusing the mind within and not to search for external rewards. He said it is only these activities that can sustain the spirit for the long run.
“The inside focus is on the feeling,” Mathur said. “How the activity is making the person feel rather than thoughts of the activity. The spirit is the source to enthusiasm.”