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His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar to Inaugurate World Class International Center for Peace and Well-Being

See magazine article by Ben Wofford below

The founder, His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar watches over the smaller congregation hall. This was the first building completed and is currently in use for small group retreats and events for the Foundation. Photo by Samantha Floyd

June 28, 2012. On June 30, 2012, the International Center for Peace and Well-Being will celebrate the inauguration of its new 381-acre Center at Heavenly Mountain near Boone. The Center will be inaugurated by prominent humanitarian His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, who is also the founder of the Art of Living Foundation and the International Association for Human Values. Congressional leaders, state and local officials, and spiritual and business leaders from around the world are expected to attend the event. The cultural segment of the ceremony will also feature a unique music performance directed by Grammy-nominated Chandrika Tandon, and featuring the local Blue Ridge Mountain musicians.

The Center marks the commencement of one of the nation’s largest community and individual empowerment initiatives. It will offer stress-management and individual empowerment programs for all ages, including self-development workshops for adults, corporate retreats, leadership development for young adults, and summer camps for children. Importantly, the venue will provide specialized trauma-relief and stress-management programs for returning veterans. Additionally, the Center will act as a cultural hub through the periodic showcasing of international cultural events. In addition to these core offerings, the Center will be home to a unique Naturopathy Wellness Spa, which will help restore balance and reawaken the body’s natural healing mechanisms through a tailored yoga and meditation program.

The International Center is working under the aegis of Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth (Institute for Vedic Sciences) and was purchased on October 14, 2011.

“This Center offers world class programs for physical, mental, and spiritual rejuvenation. We proudly welcome everyone to join us as we celebrate this auspicious beginning,” said Mr. Nilendu Srivastava, director, Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth. “We believe that our programs will add quality to the lives of the participants and help them grow in their personal and professional lives. We are committed to offering the best and will partner with the local community to grow the region.”

His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a renowned spiritual leader and multi-faceted humanitarian whose mission of uplifting human values and creating a stress-free, violence-free world has inspired millions of people around the world over the past 30 years. Sri Sri’s message of religious harmony, non-violence, equality, tolerance, and peace transcends class, race, religion, and nationality, and promotes ecumenical and universal human values. Named one of the five most powerful people in India by Forbes Magazine in 2009, Sri Sri has inspired a global phenomenon of compassion and service through his campaign to create a violence-free, stress-free world. Sri Sri’s teachings and programs have touched the lives of more than 30 million people from all cultures and religions worldwide. His initiatives include conflict resolution, disaster relief, business and social responsibility, prisoner rehabilitation programs, youth leadership, women’s empowerment, education and campaigns against female feticide and child labor.

To attend the inaugural event on June 30, visit: http://goo.gl/27wVh.

To register for a program June 28 – July 3, visit http://www.artofliving.org/intl-meditation-center-usa/gp2012-courses.

Press release from PRWeb.com.

Also, check out our magazine article on Heavenly Mountain and the Art of Living Foundation from the June High Country Magazine.

The Past, Present and Future of Heavenly Mountain: Boone’s Hidden Wonder Finally Finds Restoration and Respect

By Ben Wofford

On a full day of security patrol Tom Redmond walks four and a half miles, a trek that takes him across the entirety of Heavenly Mountain-three buildings on east campus, 44 occupied homes in the residential neighborhood and 26 buildings on west campus.

Redmond knows all of the buildings he patrols as well or better than he knows each homeowner in the neighborhood. As the head of TME Enterprises, Redmond manages properties all over Boone and the surrounding community but said working at Heavenly Mountain makes every day feel like Friday. Between witnessing the property’s construction in the late ‘90s and his current security duties, Redmond has the rare privilege of watching Heavenly Mountain thrive then falter, and now abandon its derelict days all over again as it returns to a bustling community. “I’ve heard people for years refer to this area as being related to a cult. Well [the Art of Living Foundation] is as far from a cult as anything could be,” Redmond said. “They’ll walk all the way across the parking lot just to talk to you … Watauga County is a friendly county and [AOLF] is a friendly organization. I’m glad to have them here.”

The 381-acre west campus of Heavenly Mountain, previously known as Forest Summit, was auctioned Sept. 16, 2011. The highest bidder, Marvin Sault purchased the tract for $11.2 million on behalf of the One in Christ Church, an organization associated with the Ohio International Alliance Missions Trust and Norwalk Bible College. Blue Ridge Preservation Inc. (BRPI) purchased the property through Chartwell Auctions for $6.35 million after Sault failed to meet proper monetary deadlines, according to a High Country Press article last fall. BRPI is a subsidiary of Ved Vignan Mahavidyapeeth (VVM) which is a sister organization of AOLF.

With this purchase, the area has become The International Center for Meditation and Well-Being (ICMWB) and the American headquarters for the Foundation.

An October 2011 press release from the AOLF said:

“The ICMWB will work in collaboration with the AOLF, the International Association for Human Values, and VVM to offer programs for all ages including self-development programs for adults, corporate retreats, leadership development for young adults, summer camps for children as well as specialized programs for returning veterans and international cultural events at its new facility. 

The Future of West Campus:

The International Center for Meditation and Well-Being has seen drastic improvements since major construction and repairs began last October. The winding roads of west campus see construction equipment of all sizes every day. A small army of area contractors and AOLF volunteers are working steadily toward a late-June completion of renovations and major repairs. The inauguration ceremonies for the Center will take place June 30, with many more programs following through July 3. Venkat Srinivasan, manager of operations for the ICMWB, said the inauguration ceremony will feature cultural performances, recognition of local leaders and an official inauguration of the facility by the founder of AOLF, his holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Srinivasan said the AOLF expects more than 1,500 people to attend the inauguration of the Center, most of which will be traveling from multiple parts of the world. This sizeable guest list will be managed efficiently by the foundation, as there are plans to shuttle guests in and out of the facility to keep area residents from being affected by excess traffic. This level of planning and community awareness is what will help this global organization make their desired connection with the High Country.

The Art of Living Foundation was founded in 1981 as a non-profit, educational and humanitarian non-governmental organization. Srinivasan said the foundation’s mission focuses on creating a stress-free and violence-free world. “If an individual is peaceful from within, then they can create peace outside through their family and immediate surroundings which in turn can have an affect on countries and the entire world,” Srinivasan said. The headquarters are located in Bangalore, India and the organization boasts one of the largest volunteer bases in the world. 

The AOLF’s operations extend across more than 150 countries, with retreat centers operating as headquarters in Germany, Canada, Poland and America upon the completion of the ICMWB. AOLF provides introductory programs for children, youth and adults that focus on breathing techniques, yoga and guided meditation.

Most of these techniques are being practiced in some of the renovated smaller congregation halls or the BRPI office. The foundation offers free yoga and guided meditation to tenants leasing from BRPI. 

A typical class for tenants is very relaxed and normally has less than 10 people. The instructors guide the class according to the average skill level of the group. About an hour of yoga is enough to get a mild sweat and a smile. The guided meditation that follows is nothing more than 30 minutes of an instructor talking through calming relaxation techniques that help focus the mind and relax the soul.

Philip Fraser, an AOLF senior meditation instructor, said, “Once people take the course and get a practice they can do at home, such as some breathing exercises…they find the postive effects are much more long lasting.”

The same techniques are also applied to programs for returning veterans and the rehabilitation of prisoners. These programs, workshops, retreats and more have a High Country home as the foundation and its Center grows into its new surroundings. 

The Past and Present of West Campus:

The sprawling Heavenly Mountain property was formerly home to the Spiritual Center of America. This 7,000-acre property is comprised of a west campus and an east campus with a neighborhood of unaffiliated, private residences in between. The west campus is located at Whispering Hills and Rock Cliff roads and was once home to the Parusha program, which is a transcendental meditation program for single men. The Parusha and its sister program, Mother Divine, were based in the transcendental meditation teachings of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. The Maharishi founded his organization in India in 1958 and continues to operate worldwide.

The site was completed in 1998, according to a press release from Chartwell Auctions.

Among its sprawling, mountainous 381 acres are more than 418 apartments in seventeen different buildings, as well as, two fully equipped dining halls, two congregational structures and a private water and sewer treatment facility. BRPI currently leases apartments in the west campus to students and community members. Before BRPI, Holton Mountain Rentals was the leaseholder. David Kaplan provided a foundation for Heavenly Mountain in 1993 by investing $8 million. In 2004, Kaplan and his brother, Earl, were named in lawsuits by Heavenly Mountain homeowners. Most of these were dismissed in civil court.

The practitioners of Parusha were evicted in February 2005 after David Kaplan became disenchanted with the transcendental meditation practices. TME Enterprises’ largest obstacle to securing the property was the sheer number of college students who would flock to the abandoned buildings after hearing word-of-mouth whispers or seeing online listings. In July 2010, Tom Redmond started his security detail at the property with the removal of area skateboarders. “[The meditation hall] was listed on the Internet as being the biggest indoor skateboard park in Boone,” Redmond said. “When I got here that building was nothing but skateboard ramps.” The owners removed the ramps and secured the building to prevent further vandalism and property damage. And so, the temple once again stood vacant.

The Past and Present of East Campus:

The East Campus is at the base of the Heavenly Mountain property and is accessed by Heavenly Mountain Road. This road is gated to protect the homeowners of the connected neighborhood and the abandoned buildings that were once home to the group, Mother Divine. Mother Divine is a female transcendental meditation program, a sister organization of the Parusha program that took place on the west campus. Mother Divine was evicted from Heavenly Mountain in 2005, leaving the east campus empty. After Mother Divine’s departure, a motel operated for a short period of time. Craig Werner, president of the Heavenly Mountain residential association, said he is aware that a broker has been engaged to find parties interested in purchasing east campus. Venkat Srinivasan said that AOLF is not currently planning to buy east campus. 

The Past and Present of the Neighborhood:

The lavish homes in the Heavenly Mountain neighborhood are a healthy jumble of private residences and rental properties. According to Werner there are 29 homes and 15 condominiums spread out over 880 acres. While the residential area is quiet and remote, the homeowners don’t let their homes box them in.

There are 89 voting members on the residential association. Werner said that two-thirds of the homeowners still practice transcendental meditation privately and as a community. Werner stressed that the residential development has no social agenda.

“We don’t have any particular mission other than being friendly neighbors,” Werner said. 

Before long, the constant construction will die down and the Center will become as serene as it was meant to be. Until then, the energy of preparation for June and beyond continues to dominate the Center. The purchase and transformation of this tranquil 381-acre tract of land could quickly turn Boone into a node of diversity as international guests filter through the revived mountain property. Homeowners will continue to relish the joys of their quiet mountain roost.

And the east campus’ fate has yet to be decided. One thing is certain though, Tom Redmond will continue to take the security of the land very seriously and enjoy himself in the process. 

As a self-proclaimed good ol’ boy and retired member of the Boone Fire and Police departments, Redmond would never desert his watch—especially as excitement grows for the future of the property. “For Watauga County, [AOLF] is a different culture but the culture is a positive one,” Redmond said.

The International Center for Meditation and Well-Being is located at 136 Virgil Day Rd, Boone, NC 28607.

For more information on the International Center for Meditation and Well-Being, click to meditationcenterusa.org, or call 800-392-6870.

For leasing information from Blue Ridge Preservation Inc. click to blueridgepreservation.com or call 828-264-6040.

For more information on the Art of Living Foundation, click to artofliving.org.

For more information on the Heavenly Mountain properties, click to heavenlymountain.net

For more information on the previous owners and practitioners of Transcendental Meditation, click to maharishi.org or tm.org.