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Mind Matters: Sharmila Udiavar hopes to help Belfast discover the art of happiness

Participants at a recent Art of Living Paint, Breathe Meditate workshop in Glasgow's Botanic Garden

WE MAY have already spring cleaned our homes and office desk drawers, but have we considered cleansing our body and mind?

Decluttering our minds and getting rid of negative thinking patterns is the key to energising ourselves both physically and mentally, according to internationally renowned biochemist, meditator and artist Sharmila Udiavar.

She is taking part in a number of workshops in Ireland this month as part of The Art of Living happiness campaign. The Art of Living foundation is a not-for profit educational and humanitarian organisation which aims is to create a "violence-free, stress-free world by educating and strengthening the individual" and has a presence in over 150 countries.

Events include Paint Breathe Meditate in Belfast's Crescent Arts Centre on May 19 and Spring into Happiness: Breathe, Meditate to Recharge your Mind in the same venue on May 20.

Through creativity and meditation, the courses will share practical techniques to improve participants' wellbeing by reducing stress, improving self-esteem and giving clarity of mind.

"There are 24 hours in a day and we can't increase that, so we have to learn how to give our bodies more energy. That comes from eating good food, exercising, reducing our stress levels and sleeping well," says San Francisco-based Sharmila.

Through their 'sky breathing' technique, The Art of Living have helped millions of people all over the world.

"Our breath is the best source of energy we have, but the one we ignore the most. From a scientific point of view, deep breathing releases toxins from our body and gets rid of the negativity in our minds," explains Sharmila.

"Almost all big companies in America have a room set aside to encourage their staff to spend time meditating. It's so productive for their ability to work more effectively."

Her advice on how to get started is to simply close your eyes, listen to a guided meditation CD or app and take deep breaths in and out, gradually increasing the time you meditate from five minutes to 20 or 30 minutes a day.

Recalling a recent trip to the Middle East, Sharmila says: "Closing their eyes was particularly difficult for the Lebannese people who lived in constant fear."

And the reason she keeps travelling and helping people to take time out of their busy schedules to help them relax?

"When a young man in Syria told me after meditating that it made him smile for the first time in 14 years, it makes it all worthwhile."

The immediate and ultimate aims of the organisation here are reaching out to schoolchildren and establishing a happiness centre in Belfast, where people can come and spend short periods of time relaxing and meditating.

"We are busy teaching our children numeracy, literacy and science, but we don't teach them how to use their breath to control their anxiety," Sharmila says.

:: For further information and to book tickets visit Facebook.com/artoflivingNI.

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