Art of Living - Work Life Integration

Four Key Lessons along the Journey to Work-Life Integration

By Jennifer H.G. Connelly
September 20, 2018

Art of Living - Work Life Integration

 

An eternal student, I have intense curiosity about this life, about my purpose, about what I find to be truly meaningful. 10 years ago, after the birth of my 3rd child, I began a journey of deep inquiry about work life balance and discovered the empowering gift of integration. Integration brings with it the idea of inherent wholeness, a sense of deep interconnectedness, and both the art and science of living well in relationship with self and others.

 

Here are 4 lessons that I continue to practice. From this place, I am tapping into the wisdom of living an integrated life.

 

1 – Open Heart/Mind to Learning

I often carry around a rainbow-colored backpack that my daughter gave me as a reminder of my commitment to ongoing learning. From the place of student, I open my heart and mind to new teachers, to new methodologies, to new training, and to the works of the many souls who have passionately committed themselves to going deeper and discovering what is unknown to them. I delight in the questions, in the discovery, in the Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind of it all. And from that place, I feel a sense of wholeness and interconnectedness to myself and those around me. The spirit of this led me to yoga teacher training, to Birkman Method certification, to coaching certification with Newfield Network and Tiara International. I delight in sharing, with others and my clients, the jewels I’ve learned along the way to see what resonates with them.

 

2 – Elicit the Support of Mentors and Loved Ones

I learned, sometimes through failure and disappointment, that I do not need to go through this journey alone. At times when I fell down or lost hope, what was instrumental in lifting me out of the fog of uncertainty was the compassion, love and wisdom of my support network and my mentors along the way. What I discovered is that it is not a one-sided conversation but a mutual sharing of love and understanding that is exchanged when I spend time with them and reveal my vulnerable heart. This interconnected web of people in my life helps me feel deeply loved and connected to something much larger than myself.

 

3 – Shift from Limiting to an Empowering Mindset

I experienced a huge breakthrough in working with a coach on a limiting mindset of “this is too hard.” From our discussion, I was able to shift the observer within myself to create a new, empowering mindset on completing a project with ease and wonder. When I tap into the place within myself of ease and wonder, life flows without the obstruction of my limiting beliefs. My empowering mindset helped me find new language and create the mantras: I am trusting. I am at ease. I am in the flow. That feeling of flow is a perfect way to describe living an integrated life – no matter what comes my way.

 

4 – Commit to Ongoing Self-Care

For me, I have found the nourishing qualities of self-care to be essential to living in the flow state of integration. Through trial and error, I have found that a weekly mix of the following shapes my self-care regimen.

 
  • Stillness, meditation, mindful breathing, forest bathing, going on a retreat
  • Laughter, silliness, playfulness, lightheartedness, singing and chanting
  • Creative expression in journaling, painting, vision boarding, coloring and dancing
  • Yoga and Pilates practice with a community of fellow students
  • Time spent being truly present to my loved ones and with a grateful heart
 

How is work life integration unfolding in your life? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?

 

Life a more fulfilling life. Understand your unique qualities as a leader, as a communicator, and as a woman. Jennifer H.G. Connelly hosts the Work-Life Integration Retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from November 2-4.

 

Jennifer H.G. Connelly
Possessing a unique blend of corporate, public affairs and nonprofit management experience, Jennifer serves as Principal of her own consultancy and CEO of Triple W Forum. As a leadership coach, yoga and mindfulness teacher, and Birkman Method consultant, she leads retreats, workshops, and provides team and one-to-one leadership development coaching both in the US and internationally.

 

This article is reposed with permission from the author.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

 
TAGS: integration , Jennifer Connelly , wellness , wisdom , work
How I Quit Smoking - Art of Living Retreat Center

Seeing is Believing: How I Quit Smoking

By Jurian Hughes
September 1, 2018

How I Quit Smoking - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

On June 11, 2003 I smoked my last cigarette.

 

When I count the things that I’m most grateful for in my life, “I quit smoking” is almost always number one. Even now, after fourteen years, I’m aware that this one factor changed the quality and course of my life perhaps more than any other decision or achievement I’ve made since.

 

Quitting smoking is one of my proudest accomplishments. I enjoy the clarity around it. Either you smoke or you don’t. There’s no vagueness about it. I was a smoker. Now I’m not. To this day I’m fascinated by how I did it.

 

How I quit smoking

Before I made the decision to quit smoking I projected myself into the future ten years. I saw who I would become if I continued smoking. I could easily imagine what my body would feel and look like, how active I would be (or not). I imagined the quality of my life – chest pain as I walked up subway stairs, the smell of my apartment, clothes and hair.

 

I had a very real and tangible sense of who I would become if I continued down that road. And I knew it was not who I wanted to be. I wanted to be another woman – a physically fit, vital, brighter, more hopeful, more engaged person than I was at that time. And I could see very clearly that if I continued smoking I was not going to get there.

 

Resetting my intentions

So I stopped. Immediately. That was it. Once I had seen so clearly where I wanted to go vs. where I was headed, I simply stopped smoking. The intention was not “Quit Smoking.” The intention was robust health, overall well-being, more joy. Quitting smoking became a necessary step toward the person I was determined to become. Though I had tried to quit numerous times before, that final time it was actually…easy. It was simple, inevitable.

 

Getting clear

During that same time I made a lot of other changes. I stopped hanging out with men who were no good for me (and met my beloved partner David shortly thereafter). I left a career that was no longer fulfilling me (and found my way to teaching in the world of yoga, dance, voice and play not long after.)

 

Now when I find myself needing to make a life change, I imagine myself going through the same process that I went through back in 2003. I try to get as clear as I can about who it is that I am passionate to evolve into next. Once I see her clearly — and believe that I have the ability and the right to have her life – I know the steps will reveal themselves.

 

Seeing is believing

“Seeing is believing” says the old adage. If we can see a future self we can begin to imagine what her life feels like, what it’s like to be in her skin, to move through her day, to spend time as she does. The more fully we imagine her, the more real she becomes, and then her evolution becomes…inevitable.

If you imagine your life full of joy and dance and the ability to help others experience more of that, too, join me this Sep 22 – Oct 2 at Art of Living for a ten-day Let Your Yoga Dance Teacher Training Immersion. See it. Believe it. Take the first step.

 

Jurian Hughs, E-RYT 500, MFA, is founder of the Yoga of Voice; co-founder of A Wild Life Sanctuary™; co-creator of The Yoga of Yes; a Let Your Yoga Dance® teacher trainer; voice coach; personal mentor; writer; speaker; and theatre performer known for her passionate, playful, and engaging teaching style. As a senior faculty member of the Kripalu School of Yoga since 2006, Hughes has led thousands of workshops and programs and trained more than 1,000 Kripalu yoga teachers.

 

For more about Jurian, visit jurianhughes.com. Join Jurian for her ten-day Let Your Yoga Dance® Teacher Training at the Art of Living Retreat Center from September 22 – October 2, 2018.


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: jurian hughes , mindfulness , self-care , smoking , visualization , wellness , yoga
Leap of Faith - Art of Living Retreat Center

A Leap of Faith

By Jurian Hughes
August 20, 2018

Leap of Faith - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

A few years ago, I did a terrifying thing: I took off the entire month. Unpaid. Rather last-minute. With no real plan in place. I called it my Sacred Sabbatical, and it came out of a moment of intense clarity in a women’s restroom at the end of what should have been a stellar Red Letter Day but wasn’t, when I realized in a flash that I was urgently in need of an extreme gesture of radical self-care.

 

As someone who likes to have her ducks in a row and her coffers full, the idea of an unplanned and unbudgeted month off and unplugged was pretty radical. Terrifying, in fact. Now, I think everyone should do it. And regularly.

 

Re-wilding

After two weeks spent decompressing through the joys of manual labor and almost daily sunrises and sunsets over Lake Winnipesaukee, I headed to California for two of the most glorious, magical weeks I’ve ever had: re-wilding in glorious Big Sur, alongside a beloved friend. Those were precious days spent reclaiming life, remembering what makes me happy, experiencing “the new”, the “unfamiliar”, taking risks, and feeling the freedom that comes with that. So, of course, I had to skydive.

 

Learning to leap

My advice about skydiving is this: If you have any inclination to skydive whatsoever, DO IT. It had been on my bucket list decades ago, but somehow it had unceremoniously fallen off – “too old, expensive, unnecessary. “ To step so literally into the unknown, at 13,400 feet, strapped to a human being whom you’ve just met, with nothing to save you but a bit of fabric, is an act of such complete and total faith that it has the power to transform on a cellular level. And that was my prayer as I let my body fall out that open door.

 

Choosing faith

My entire Sabbatical – a word which has its roots in ‘sabbath’, ‘sacred’, ‘shabath’; commonly thought of as a period of rest and rejuvenation granted to professors; was practiced in ancient times, when every seven years the soil was left to rest, and debtors and slaves were released. My entire Sabbatical was a practice of “Letting Go”. Choosing Trust. Choosing Faith.

 

The Universe seemed to keep whispering – or at times shouting – this in my ear over those weeks of adventure. And in that culminating act of jumping from a plane, I experienced the most palpable awe, gratitude, and bliss that I’ve ever known in my life. It felt as if in that literal leap of faith, that surrender and resulting flight, my whole being changed. My cells experienced – and I hope they will remember, always – what it feels like to completely let go, to abandon control, to tell God with every atom of my body, “You do it.”

 

Relishing surrender

How ironic that in total relinquishment there can come a feeling of such tremendous power! But the unwillingness to let fear win is an act of courage. The moment in which we choose not to let fear strangle us is a moment in which we choose Life. Those choices, those moments have the potential to re-wild our souls, to awaken our joy, our imagination, and to let us see our world through fresh, open eyes.

 

Keep letting go

My practice now is to keep letting go, to look for the habits, thoughts, patterns and choices that are keeping me small and safe. I want to live every day with the memory of that palpable awe, gratitude and bliss, which I experienced when I left that safe plane in favor of the open sky. And I endeavor to remember that awe – and gratitude and bliss – is so worth taking a leap of faith for!

Today, may you do one thing that makes you tremble just a little, and that therefore has the power to rekindle your spirit. May you, too, take a leap of faith toward awe, gratitude and bliss.

Join me this Sep 22 – Oct 2 at Art of Living for ten days that promise to rekindle your spirit.  Because if not now, when?

 

Jurian Hughs, E-RYT 500, MFA, is founder of the Yoga of Voice; co-founder of A Wild Life Sanctuary™; co-creator of The Yoga of Yes; a Let Your Yoga Dance® teacher trainer; voice coach; personal mentor; writer; speaker; and theatre performer known for her passionate, playful, and engaging teaching style. As a senior faculty member of the Kripalu School of Yoga since 2006, Hughes has led thousands of workshops and programs and trained more than 1,000 Kripalu yoga teachers.

 

For more about Jurian, visit jurianhughes.com. Join Jurian for her ten-day Let Your Yoga Dance® Teacher Training at the Art of Living Retreat Center from September 22 – October 2, 2018.


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: fear , jurian hughes , mindfulness , trust , yoga
The Wisdom of Tai Chi - Art of Living Retreat Center

In House: David-Dorian Ross on the Wisdom of Tai Chi

By David-Dorian Ross
August 11, 2018

The Wisdom of Tai Chi - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

This past May, the Art of Living Retreat Center hosted David-Dorian Ross for Power, Freedom, and Flow, a weekend of connection and transformation through the practices of Tai Chi, yoga, guided mediation, and QiGong. Here, he shares his journey with Tai Chi, and how this gentle, holistic practice can change your life too. 

 

Tai Chi is a teacher

I’ve been teaching Tai Chi for about 40 years, and I continue to benefit from it every day–not just what it teaches me about health and longevity, but what it teaches me about about daily life too; about relating to other people, dealing with problems, and most of all, about my relationship with myself.

 

What is Taijifit?

Taijifit is how I give back. I started Taijifit as a part of an ongoing exploration of different methods to share Tai Chi with a wider audience.

 

One of the things that really amazed me was the sharp decline of Tai Chi practitioners after a short period of time. A lot of people are interested in it, but very few stick with it. A lot of teachers tell me how they’ll start with 25 people in their class, and it dwindles over time to two or three. But rather than thinking there was something wrong with the students or teachers, I began to look at the methodology used to teach Tai Chi. How do we keep people engaged long enough for them to really taste the magic of this wonderful practice?

 

Taijifit is a format that meets people where they are. We use beautiful, contemporary music, and focus on learning long, complex routines of movements. In fact, we could do a hundred days of Tai Chi and never use the same routine twice. Every session is different and special, and yet still focused on the central characteristic of Tai Chi — something we call “flow”– which is the connecting energy that binds the body, mind, and spirit together.

 

Tapping into our authentic nature

One of the things that we all want to find is a way to tap into our authentic nature. Our own original, innocent, pure spirit. In our philosophy, we believe that you’re born with this and that it’s inherent within you, but that as we age and become adults, sometimes we stray away from this flow.

 

We have lifestyles that perpetuate separation from our flow. When you wake up in the morning, you’re close to your authentic self, but then you brush your teeth, take your shower, and get dressed, and then all of a sudden you’re in work mode, and you’ve got to put on a different face. After work, you go to the gym and put on a different face there, and then you go home and you have a different face there, too. We even have different costumes and speech patterns within the confines of different social environments. This interruption is the opposite of flow.

 

Learning to reintegrate flow

Just like a stream that hits a dam, your energy, your spirit, and your authentic personhood stops at these different junctions. But what if that wasn’t true? What if you could feel comfortable and unselfconscious while being exactly the same person who got out of bed in the morning? The same person at church, at the bowling alley, at the dinner table? That’s true authenticity. That’s tapping into your true nature.

 

So how do you do that? Well, the first thing to learn to recognize is when you’re interrupting that flow of life. This interruption happens so fast and is so habitual that we don’t recognize when we’re in it. That’s what Tai Chi teaches us. Tai Chi makes this concept physical and observable, so that you can tell when your flow is interrupted. You can sense, feel, and measure the stopping and starting of flow.

 

Tai Chi is an active meditation. The way that we think most often is that we judge, and assess, and analyze constantly. It’s a process that keeps us from being in the moment. Movement, on the other hand, happens in the now and brings you to the now.

 

Tai Chi and aging

Tai Chi is great for the aging process and for helping people retain flexibility in motion. Aging is just a description of the process of what happens when our bodies don’t regenerate. When our bodies fail to keep up with the ravages of the environment, most prominently gravity, which is working on us all the time. It’s just natural to our existence on this planet.

 

One of the reasons why the body sometimes fails to keep up with those environmental problems is that it’s out of balance. A body that is in harmony, that is balanced and in equilibrium, has the best chance of using its inherent nature to heal itself. The body that is out of balance, on the other hand, is less able to keep up with environmental ravages.

 

When we’re observing the aging process, what we’re really observing is a body-out-of-balance who’s struggling to keep up with the inevitable. What Tai Chi does is train you–it continuously brings you back into a balanced and harmonious state. The postures are based upon the physics of equilibrium so that even the martial aspect, the fighting aspect of Tai Chi, is about finding harmony.

 

A practice of love

The thing is, Tai Chi has the reputation of being boring. People are afraid they don’t have the balance, that they’re going to fall or look silly or feel self-conscious. But with Taijifit, we inject a little fun back into it. We create a community in which we work very hard. We create all kinds of conversations and events and environments in which we know that there will be no judgement. In which we know that there’s only love.

 

A philosophy and physical practice together

Tai Chi literally changed my life. I’ve got terrible genes in my family–emphysema, COPD, cancer, heart disease–and I’m so obnoxiously healthy it’s not even funny. Of course, I’m not immune to social pressures and the gravity of the world’s current situation, but Tai Chi is my guiding path, a philosophy and physical practice blended together. My work is my spiritual practice. There is nothing higher for me than getting up and doing it every morning. That is my prayer. That is my meditation.

 

Grandmaster David-Dorian Ross has introduced more students to Tai Chi than any other teacher in America. Master Ross has written, produced and starred in more than 150 educational dvds and television programs. He is the founder and CEO of TaijiFit, the creator of the TaijiFit mind-body exercise program, and is the director of the first online Tai Chi academy. Trained in China by championship martial arts coaches, Master Ross has had an illustrious career in competitive Tai Chi, winning eight U.S. gold medals, a world silver medal and two world bronze medals —the highest awards ever given to an American for international Tai Chi performance.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

 
TAGS: holistic wellness , meditation , tai chi , wellness , wisdom
Suffering - Art of Living Retreat Center

Supposed To: My Day of Suffering

By Heather Bilotta
August 11, 2018

Suffering - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

“We suffer because we are projecting the myth of permanence upon a situation that is actually conditioned, selfless, and constantly changing. Everything is interrelated and interdependent. There is nothing substantial and separate that we can lean upon. Samsara, ‘the cycle of suffering,’ is a direct result of our desire for permanence.”
From “The Myth of Permanence” by Sakyong Mipham

 

How you create suffering

I don’t know about you but when I read philosophy I can have a hard time grasping the concepts in a meaningful, how does this apply to day to day life, kind of way. In other words, I’m always curious about how I can LIVE an idea not just think it. For instance, take the topic of suffering. Sure, in my head, I’ve been bouncing around the idea for a while now… we can’t control the world around us yet most humans try… this habit creates suffering. When we walk around with a lot of expectations about how the present moment and its inhabitants should be, we are contributing to our pain rather than easing it. Today my understanding of how I create my own suffering hit home in a new way. I create suffering… I do that every day, for many minutes of the day.

 

The lie of “supposed to”

For this New England girl, it all starts with the phrase “supposed to.” As in today I was supposed to get a lot of work done on my computer; as in my internet was supposed to be working properly. As in I was supposed to be done by my afternoon full of clients so tonight I could rest with my family. See, none of the things on my list are guaranteed to work, and yet it didn’t stop my mind from grasping at the thought that everything should go according to my plan. The truth is that nothing is fixed and yet every day I rely on things to go MY WAY and when they don’t I repeat the refrain SUPPOSED TO and then I suffer.

 

A concept comes to life

As you read above I had a big list of things I wanted to accomplish today…when the writing was on the wall that my internet was too slow for some tasks due to the weather, I decided to go to the drugstore across the street for some new earbuds while a file was uploading to my computer.

 

I approached the crosswalk at a dangerous intersection and heard my internal grumbling “I hate these people… they are driving too fast… this is a crazy intersection… what are they thinking? They are supposed to drive carefully through here… they are supposed to stop for pedestrians….” I stopped my thinking and reviewed that phrase supposed to. As I finished my walk to the drugstore I realized that I had been torturing myself all day with that phrase. Suddenly I could connect personally to the Buddhist concept of suffering. I had my real-life scenario of how I was reacting to the day as an example of the concept.

 

Desire is suffering

As I watched my mind grasping at how today should be to fit my rigid view of reality, I recognized that I was contributing to my own frustration and experience of having a crappy day. You you can’t totally stop pain. It’s impossible. Pain is part of life and being human. I couldn’t stop the ice from falling from the sky, but I could stop lamenting spring. I could make a choice to re-route my course of action rather than bang my head against the wall. I made my predicament worse by refusing to accept life as is. My desire for a different reality was making me feel terrible! So how to live it differently?

 

Acceptance is the key

I can’t make my internet work. I can’t stop the rain. I can’t force my computer to move faster. What I can do is let myself see what’s happening and respond to it with flexibility rather than with an iron grasp on having my way. I lost an hour of work today because I kept waiting for the internet to speed up. Rather than accept the one bar of cell service my phone was showing me I kept waiting for it to get better. This is what contributed to my frustration. Had I really taken in what I was seeing, I could have taken my walk to the drugstore sooner, maybe even scrapped the project completely for today. When I finally accepted what was happening and shifted to a new plan I felt better!

 

Freedom from suffering

And that’s how I wrote this blog rather than doing the 10 other things I had on my Monday to-do list. I accepted my fate and recognized that this story might be a way for others to consider how they contribute to their own suffering… and could help us all take a step into shifting away from trying to control things and into meeting the day, each other, and ourselves as is.

 

Blessings to you on your journey towards freedom from suffering!

 

Heather Bilotta is a passionate believer in the healing power of self-expression and the importance of connection to community. Her Shake Your Soul®, Kripalu YogaDance, Kripalu R&R classes, one-one SomaSoul® and Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra® healing sessions are infused with heart and creativity and are an opportunity to bring light and acceptance to your whole, unfiltered self. She truly provides a supportive no-judgment zone. Heather teaches at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Cranwell Golf Resort, and beyond. She is continuing her studies in Body-Centered, Subtle Energy Healing in the Professional Training Program at Hartford Family Institute.

Join Heather at the Art of Living Retreat Center from September 28th to 30th, 2018, for Move. Feel. Heal., a SomaSoul® Somatic Therapy retreat to help you unwind, slow down, and soothe your nervous system.

 

This article first appeared on heatherbe.com. 


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: advice , Buddhism , Heather Bilotta , real life , suffering , wisdom
Bozo on the Bus - Art of Living

In House: Rachel Fleischman on being Bozos on the Bus

By Rachel Fleischman
August 6, 2018

Bozo on the Bus - Art of Living

 

We’re all bozos on the bus,
So we might as well sit back
And enjoy the ride
-Wavy Gravy

 

Like many women in the 21st century, I feel like I need eight arms, like a Hindu goddess, to keep up with myself.

 

I’m a body-oriented psychotherapist, workshop facilitator, yoga student, wife, friend, daughter, ninja flea market shopper. I try to have my shirt buttoned and my skirt ironed up before I sit with a client to give her the best of myself.

 

Bozos on the bus

But in my private life, like you, I am also human: I get mad at my husband, I worry that my friends don’t like me, and almost weekly I wonder if I should get a butt lift like Kim Kardashian.

Elizabeth Lesser, friend and author of the book Broken Open, tells us, “I believe that we’re all bozos on the bus, contrary to the self-assured image we work so hard to present to each other on a daily basis. We are all half-baked experiments—mistake prone beings, born without an instruction book into a complex world.”

   

This is what I sometimes feel like in my darker moments: a bozo camouflaged under decorative diplomas, excellent training and a loving demeanor. I show my best self, hoping people don’t see my vulnerabilities, insecurities and fears. But as a psychotherapist, I know that as we navigate through the landscapes of life, we are called to integrate our shadow parts, our rage, terror, jealousy and other difficult emotions.

Another bozo dance

The other night I led a Dance Your Bliss workshop while hurting from a conflict with a close friend. Our fight had triggered my deepest fear, Am I unlovable? I walked into the workshop I was leading and put on the music for my students. As the sound of African drums filled the room, I began to feel strength and power moving though my hips. In fact, I felt more grounded and alive than I had in months. Instead of a weight dragging me down, my grief and fear had become fuel that I could use for the dance.

I went to bed that night easy in the realization that what has happened between my friend and myself was just a bozo dance that we would be able to set right. In the past, I would have obsessed about the incident, worried about it like a dog with a bone until it festered and oozed, and it would have taken months to clear up.

Invite your pain to dance with you

But I’ve learned a few things. For one, I accepted that I was in the grip of my dark emotions. I didn’t try to put them aside when I went out on the dance floor. Instead I invited the pain to dance with me and through me until it danced itself away.

In the Tibetan tradition, this is called taking tea with your demons. We don’t deny our humanness; instead, we embrace it and then we are free to accept its gifts. I believe that so many of us have a narrative of ourselves that is far less than who we really are.

I want to offer you a loving challenge: can you take your bozo to tea and laugh together at your perfectly human imperfections?

 

Rachel Fleischman, CSW, REAT, helps people move out of their heads and into their bodies to heal. A seasoned psychotherapist, educator, speaker and writer, she is the founder of the Dance Your Bliss™ healing system and the Being Bliss meditation CDs. Rachel has pioneered the combination of psychology with movement, neuroscience, expressive-arts and spirituality.

 

Are you ready for an exuberant, deeply restorative, and life-changing experience? Join Rachel for the Dance Your Bliss™ retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from October 19th to October 21st.

This article first appeared on Elephant Journal. 


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: dance , emotions , friendship , in house , learning , pain , Rachel Fleischman , wisdom

Exploring Wisdom: Slow Down and Be Here Now

By Rachel Fleischman
July 26, 2018

 
Today is a gift. That’s why we call it the present. -Babatunde Olatunji

Studies have shown that Americans are more miserable now than ever. With the challenges that we face economically, it can feel as though we are just hanging on by a thread. This is not so. We all underestimate our need to slow down. If we are not careful, we live as if our schedules are our lives. At the end of the day, we haven’t necessarily been present to our own experience. Mary Pipher, psychologist, says “I have never seen people as rushed and distracted as we are now. We have become a nation of multitaskers.”

 

The habit of rushing

I am incredibly fortunate to work with my counseling clients. Seeing such a rich and intimate side of people has helped me identify what elements are essential to slowing down and being here now. I feel incredibly privileged to have such a profound connection with people. However the occasions when we genuinely need to rush are really a lot less frequent than we convince ourselves. The simple truth is that rushing has become a habit for many of us. And it has a negative effect on our mental, spiritual and physical health.

 

Happiness, the body, and the brain

Scientists have studied emotions and their effect on cognition and brain function. When we are in good spirits, our cognitive repertoire is broadened. That means we are more able to problem solve, complete tasks and fulfill goals (Seligman M. E. P., 1991). Happiness has even been proven to increase pain tolerance. Negative emotion narrows our thought-action repertoire; tasks not only seem more arduous, they actually are.

 

When you are rushing the body literally is in panic mode. The physical systems feel as if they are constantly being stressed to meet imaginary deadlines. An occasional shot of adrenaline might be good for you but a continuous stream of it will wear down the body and its immune system. You will tend to get sick more often, feel more fatigued, enervated and listless.

 

When you are rushing mentally, your mind is always ‘on’. Thoughts of things you need to get done and things you have not yet gotten done keep streaming through your mind making you feel out of sorts and unaccomplished. You may even feel panicked and have trouble sleeping and relaxing.

 

One experience at a time

We need to become aware of our daily habits and thoughts. Most of the time when we are rushing, we do not even realize it because it is such an automatic response. By slowing down, and sticking to one experience at a time, we are able to experience more joy. We need to learn to do one thing at a time.

 

Mary Pipher, psychologist, and author of bestselling Reviving Ophelia, says “one of the reasons pets are so popular is that when we are with them, we share their pleasure in being here now. Pets do not live in clock time, and they allow us to rest from chronological time. We join them in older, animal rhythms.” (Seeking Peace, 2009)

 

I have dished up a list of some things you can do today to easily slow down, enjoy one activity at a time, and live with more joy. Get ready to Be Here, Now.

 

Slow your attention

Slowing down helps give our full-attention to what we are doing. Like full-attention Zen, slowing down can put us in the zone, or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow (“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”). Try walking more slowly. Pause before responding to questions. Speak more slowly.

Practice meditating

The first years of the twenty-first century have brought about new and surprising findings about how Buddhist contemplative training can affect the brain. The findings include unprecedented levels of brain activation in certain regions of the brain during meditation, evidence that meditation affects brain areas associated with to positive emotions, as well as strong evidence the brain can be changed through prolonged and disciplined mental training. (J. Davidson, et al., Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation, Psychosomatic medicine 65.4 (2003): 564-70.)

Initiate a slowing-down contest

Fnd a friend and email each other some joyful things that you do each day. Your entry can include the simplest of joys; baking, watching a sunset, reading to a child

Check out The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron

Many folks have found this ground-breaking book very helpful in goal setting and connecting with their creative genius. I believe that we all our geniuses. We just need the time and space to let our amazing selves shine.

 

Keep a gratitude journal

Keep a gratitude journal. This is my absolute favorite new pastime. I love it especially when I am sulking in a moment of gloom and doom. I go to my gratitude journal and put in all the things that happened that I am grateful for, like having a seat on the bus, or getting a card in the mail, or enjoying a lovely meal. (nothing is too small). Start your gratitude journal today, and you will notice that you will attract more good things into your world.

 

Check out these smell-the-roses sites

Slow Down Now

43 Things

Mindful Eating

Slow Food

End the day slowly

Having an evening ritual is a balm to the nervous system. Before you go to sleep make sure that there is nothing stressful going on. Dimming the lights several hours before bedtime relaxes the mind, and intensifies the output of tryptophan, the sleep-inducing hormone. It’s very hard to enjoy a good-night’s sleep after watching the news. Find a slowness ritual that works for you; reading a book, talking to your partner or a friend, drawing, or journaling.

 

Play in nature

This is a lovely way to help you slow down. To enjoy nature you have to be patient. Go to the beach, look at the sea and listen to the waves. Visit the countyside, look at the greenery, and listen to the birds chirping on the trees. Admire the blooming flowers in your garden and study the snail crawling on the ground. These are some of the delightful things that you can do to take it easy.

 

Plant something

Nourishing, feeding, and harvesting a plant can lower blood pressure, strengthen the heart and increase the production of serotonin, the happy chemical. And flowers are beautiful.

 

Have faith

Studies have shown that spirituality affects health. In a study of 1,700 older adults, those attending church were half as likely to have elevated levels of IL-6 (hormones associated with increased incidence of disease)

Men, for the sake of getting a living, forget to live. -Margaret Fuller.

Rachel Fleischman, CSW, REAT, helps people move out of their heads and into their bodies to heal. A seasoned psychotherapist, educator, speaker and writer, she is the founder of the Dance Your Bliss™ healing system and the Being Bliss meditation CDs. Rachel has pioneered the combination of psychology with movement, neuroscience, expressive-arts and spirituality.

 

Are you ready for an exuberant, deeply restorative, and life-changing experience? Join Rachel for the Dance Your Bliss™ retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from October 19th to October 21st.

This article first appeared on DancingYourBliss.com. 


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: exploring wisdom , mindfulness , Rachel Fleischman , slow down , wisdom
Morning Pages - Art of Living Retreat Center

Creativity, Spirituality, and Morning Pages

By Julia Cameron
July 20, 2018

Morning Pages - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

The main message of my work is that creativity and spirituality are intertwined. They each support the growth of the other.

 

The basic tool of a creative recovery is something that I call morning pages. You’re probably familiar with them–they’re three pages of longhand morning writing that you do first thing upon awakening. They brush all of your mental dust to the center, where you can sweep it out through writing.

 

How to do morning pages

There’s really no wrong way to do morning pages. You write with a stream of consciousness, and your only goal is to fill those pages. What you’re really doing, in effect, is minimizing your censor, the one that tells you you’re not smart or good enough. I call my censor Nigel. With morning pages, you have the ability to just say, “Nigel, thank you for sharing your opinion. But I’m going to keep right on writing.” This ability to move past your censor is a portable skill that you can bring with you every time you move into creativity.

 

The creativity myth

I think people are afraid of being “too big for their britches”. We have a spirituality-creativity myth that is sort of punitive–it’s a nice day in paradise, Eve reaches for the apple, she hands it to Adam (who is a hopeless codependent). He takes a bite and the clouds spring open, and a mighty voice says, “You two won’t even get along anymore. You’ll bear your children in pain and suffering.” From this story, we learn that if we try to reach for something that seems a little beyond our reach, if we try to expand ourselves, we are in danger of being punished.

 

But what if we had a different creativity myth? What if, when Eve reached for the apple, the voice from the clouds said, “Far out! I made that apple red for a reason!”

 

If we had a creativity myth that said we would be rewarded and supported for reaching, it would be a lot different. So what we try to do with the Artist’s Way tools is to learn to be in touch with a benevolent higher force.

 

Courage in creativity

The fruits of creative endeavor are many: a sense of well being, a sense of guidance, and the act of creativity in itself is a wonderful healing balm. There is no magic wand we can wave to become suddenly fearlessly creative, but the tools I teach, over time, create courage.

 

Three creative tools

There are three simple tools that, when used in conjunction, create a powerful spiritual awakening: morning pages, an artist date, which is a once-weekly solo expedition to do something that enchants or interests you, and walking. Morning pages are sending, artist dates are receiving. It’s like you’re building a radio kit. When you walk, you integrate the insights from the other two tools.

 

People actually struggle with the idea of artist dates. We have no problem with work–we’re in America! We have a work ethic! But we have a problem with play. Don’t confuse spirituality with seriousness. The tools I teach are playful and joyful.

 

Opening yourself to wonder

When we do morning pages, we’re ventilating to the universe. We’re saying, “This is what I like, this is what I don’t like. This is what I want more of, this is what I want less of.” We learn to tap into our true feelings and become more authentic.

 

As you write, you are setting yourself up for wonder. I recommend picking up a pen and starting with morning pages, no matter where you are in your current growth.

 

Julia Cameron the Artist's Way

Julia Cameron has been an active artist for over four decades. She is the author of more than forty books, including such bestselling works on the creative process as The Artist’s Way, Walking in This World and Finding Water. Also a novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet, she has multiple credits in theater, film and television. 2017 marked the 25th anniversary of The Artist’s Way, with over five million copies sold.

 

Join Julia at the Art of Living Retreat Center from November 9th-11th, 2018, for her retreat, The Artist’s Way: Blasting Through Blocks. 


Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: creativity , emotions , Julia Cameron , mindfulness , morning pages , the artist's way , writing
Life is Easy - Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: Why Life is Easy

By David-Dorian Ross
July 12, 2018

Life is Easy - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

Life is easy.

Don’t get me wrong – I know full well that this is not the experience that people are having. I get that. But the mechanics of life, essentially, are easy.

 

We’re great at making easy things hard

Relationships are basic. We’re human beings, and therefore we must engage in relationships. These relationships become better, deeper, more fruitful, and more powerful as we become more intimate, and that this intimacy requires a certain degree of vulnerability, and vulnerability requires a certain kind of self-confidence. So self-confidence is the key to good relationships. That’s very basic. That’s very straightforward.

 

Health is also very basic. Our bodies run on a couple of different fundamental systems. In Chinese medicine, we call the energy of life “Chi,” and it circulates around the body and is made up of specific components: air, which you receive through breath; food, that you choose to ingest; environment, or the colours, structures, and living things that you surround yourself with. This is basic stuff.

 

Stop resisting your flow

Unfortunately, our lifestyles make all of this basic simplicity hard, because our lifestyles are designed to resist our natural flow. We resist the easy things on an almost unconscious level and for very personal reasons. We each have our own personal history of physical, mental, emotional, and energetic traumas, and those traumas set up stopping points or interruptions fo us. But here’s the thing–when we can identify what those self-interruptions are, we can begin to do something about it.

 

For example, I take it back to the physical with my Tai Chi practice. How does the body resist easy movement? We become confused, we tell ourselves that we can’t perform certain actions. What we’ve got here is not magic. It’s not a mystery. It’s a pattern of resistance.

 

Misdirection and moving from the center

One of the common patterns of resistance is something we call “misdirection”. Misdirection is the tendency to pay more attention to the things that you favour–whatever’s on the surface or periphery of things, and at the same time, avoiding whatever’s at the center of something.

 

In Tai Chi, for example, we have a whole set of principles around moving from the center, finding the center, establishing the center, and remaining in the center. And then we look at people moving, and we see that the focus is not on the center at all, but on the movements that are supposed to be rooted in the center.

 

Focus on what’s important

This is a common pattern. We seem to place our focus on what is less important, and not on what is most important. There’s a reason that we get stuck in this misdirection. It’s because we’re getting rewarded for it on some level. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or energetically, there’s a reward that you’re receiving for this misdirection, over and over.

 

This reward is instant gratification. Instant gratification is the thing that is keeping us from making progress on our spiritual path, from approaching that place of happiness and contentment and community. Every one of these resistances gives us instant gratification instead of authentic growth.

 

How to be happy

So next time you find yourself lamenting about the difficulty of life, I encourage you to search for your center, and try to identify what instant gratification you’re reaching for. Choose discomfort and centeredness over movement and gratification, in your physical, spiritual, and emotional lives, and watch happiness become more attainable.

 

Grandmaster David-Dorian Ross has introduced more students to Tai Chi than any other teacher in America. Master Ross has written, produced and starred in more than 150 educational dvds and television programs. He is the founder and CEO of TaijiFit, the creator of the TaijiFit mind-body exercise program, and is the director of the first online Tai Chi academy. Trained in China by championship martial arts coaches, Master Ross has had an illustrious career in competitive Tai Chi, winning eight U.S. gold medals, a world silver medal and two world bronze medals —the highest awards ever given to an American for international Tai Chi performance.

 

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: fulfillment , happiness , meditation , mindfulness , tai chi , wellness , wisdom , yoga
Meditation Expectations - Art of Living Retreat Center

Letting Go of Meditation Expectations

By Sarah McLean
July 12, 2018

Meditation Expectations - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

If you grow roses, you’ll know that sometimes one just won’t open up. You might want to pull it apart, thinking that you’re helping it bloom, but it just ends up looking like a mess. This is exactly the case with our spiritual growth, too. When you put too much effort into the natural awakening or evolution of your consciousness, you might end up with a mess on your hands–headaches, anxiety, self-judgement.

 

Releasing expectations

The way you can begin to become comfortable with letting yourself naturally progress is to let go of your expectations. Stop monitoring your experiences so closely, and let go of the results that you want. You need to be really kind to yourself.

 

To have a human birth is very fortunate. And to have a human birth where you also have the kernel of desire for enlightenment is very rare. Your path in this life is difficult, unique, and designed especially for you.  When you let go of your expectations about what enlightenment looks like, you open yourself up instead to relieve the exact medicine you need.

 

Non-judgmental attention

Your focus will start to expand as you settle into this non-judgmental attention. You move from an active mind to a receptive one, and sink into a field of love. That’s the source of attention. We are all an expression of love, and this non-judgmental attention helps you let go of your expectations further and surrender to an expansion of consciousness.

 

A state of transcendence

This is the space where the benefits of meditation arise–you purify your nervous system and dive deep into who you really are, which is a present, unique, expansive, infinite, timeless being. In that state of transcendence, you don’t know what time it is, because you’re in this timeless world. You’re in a world of healing, wholeness, and purity.

 

This state doesn’t happen because you wish it into being. It happens because you set yourself up to succeed by letting go of your attachment to the outcome.

 

Meditation is a lover. It always welcomes us back with open arms, without spite. It is always waiting for you. Go to it.

 

Sarah McLean considers herself an American Transcendentalist. She’s dedicated her life to exploring meditation: living as a resident of both a Zen Buddhist monastery and a traditional ashram in India, as well as living and working in a Transcendental Meditation center. She headed up the education programs at Deepak Chopra’s center in California and Byron Katie’s School for the Work. Sarah is a best-selling Hay House author of the books Soul-Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation and The Power of Attention: Awaken to Love and its Unlimited Potential with Meditation. She’s also a sought-after speaker who is determined to create more peace on this planet by helping people wake up to the wonder and beauty of their lives and the world around them through the practice of meditation.

   

Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: attention , meditation , mindfulness , Sarah McLean , self love , self-care , transcendence

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