His holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, a spiritual teacher from Tamil Nadu, takes the stage to explain the importance of breathing. “The first thing we do is breathe in and start crying. The last thing we do is breathe out, which makes others cry. If not, we have not lived a very good life.”
His teacher, he tells us, was a man who had been a warrior in the Indo-Pakistan War. After the war, he was a different person, someone who learned to care about and listen to his breath. “It turned a warrior into a spiritual man.” His teacher was known in the community as someone who could answer questions for local authorities – find a man who’d stolen something, or locate lost items.
Shankar is pleased that Indian policemen are now learning the breathing techniques he began studying years ago. “They lower alcoholism, help with depression, reduce suicidal tendencies.” He’s now leading mass breathing workshops, hosted at airfields in India where thousands of students are learning at the same time. “Breath can clease our presence.”
(I’m not sure that talks about the benefit of breathing are particularly interesting on stage. Perhaps the workshops he’s offering the next two mornings are going to be easier for the crowd to connect with.)
I don’t how Kaki King’s breathing is, but her guitar playing is pretty kick ass. She closes the afternoon with a set of guitar compositions performed on an amplified acoustic, furious and beautiful flurries of stapping on the neck and body of the instrument. Rolling Stone named her a guitar god in 2006, and that seems like an apt description – her playing is expressive, beautiful and unlike almost everything else I’ve ever heard.