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

Exploring Wisdom: The Three Ingredients of Attention

By Sarah McLean
June 25, 2018

Attention - The Art of Living Retreat Center

 

I’ve made it my mission to demystify meditation. You don’t have to have a particular religious belief to find moments of sanctuary, or to nourish and feed yourself in mind, body, and spirit. My journey is ever-expanding, ever-evolving, just like yours is. It’s like a lotus that is blooming continually, revealing new petals all the time. My quest is to go deeper.

 

Seeking common ground

I’ve studied so many spiritual traditions, and throughout my life, I’ve always tried to find the common ground they share. I think it’s where we enter in from–whether you’re looking to lower your blood pressure, create peace on the planet, increase your immunity, or be a better listener, we’re all coming to spirituality through similar doors.

 

The first ingredient: willingness

What I’ve found in my studies is that there are three ingredients to the majority of meditative traditions. The first ingredient to a successful meditation practice is your willingness to do it. The willingness is born out of frustration, or desperation, or out of a deep and heartfelt longing.

 

The second ingredient: attention

The second ingredient is gentle, non-judgemental attention. But what do I mean by attention? Who is paying attention, and to what?

 

Turn your attention right now to the one who’s looking through your eyes. To the presence that’s beaming through your eyes, listening through your ears, that’s right here, right now, dwelling in this body of yours. Try to find that presence.

 

You are in charge of deliberately paying attention. No one can pay attention for me. No one can harm my attention for you. People can certainly try to steal your attention, but it’s your job not to let them. We are distracted all the time, and we must reclaim our attention again and again and again. The only way to peace is to be completely in charge of where and how you focus your attention.

 

The third ingredient: technique

The third ingredient is where technique enters in, whether you’re paying attention to a sound, a sensation, a visual element. It could be a candle flame, or the night sky. It could be the sound of the wind in the trees and over the red rocks. Or, it could be some sound you hear in your own body, your heartbeat, your breath.

 

You can meditate anywhere

Meditation is a solitary practice. Of course, you can find a place where you’re stable and comfortable, where you won’t be disturbed, where you can really lose track of time and space.  But you can also meditate anywhere, anytime, or on anything. When you harness the power of your attention, you can access it at any time.

 

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 , silence , transcendentalism , wellness
Breath - Art of Living Retreat Center

The Practice: Are you Bored with your Breath?

By Denise Lyon
June 11, 2018

Breath - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

At the beginning of most of my meditations I set an intention. This morning I asked for wisdom to arise that would let me know why I don’t always take care of myself…why I don’t always put exercising or eating better or resting at the top of my list. Why does everything else seem to bubble to the top? Why can’t I seem to get everything done. Sound familiar?

 

So I was expecting (ok, remember Denise…let go of expectations in meditation) to gain a better understanding of self love, self empowerment on a grand scale from the morning meditation. But you know what I heard?

Part of creation

My Breath Awareness Meditation taught me this morning that in every moment we are a part of the incredible life force that animates everything. With every inhale I am inhaling the very same thing that makes the sun rise, that makes a heart beat for the first time, that makes the neon green leaves emerge from the trees in Spring. With every inhale of breath I am honored to be a part of this creation, and with each exhale I have the opportunity to let go of that which doesn’t serve me…my judgments about myself, the lies I have told myself about me, my busyness that keeps me from seeing things as they really are…and on and on.

 

With every breath, let go

Every moment I can remember the miracle that I am and let go of anything that blocks the sunshine. With every breath I can do this. And with this same breath I can be reminded that I am a part of this life force. Wait…no, I AM! the life force that animates everything. I can allow the knowledge and the experience of this miraculous force to be what drives me everyday…that kicks my butt when I forget who and what I am. I exist inside the miracle of the energy of creation.

 

So I guess I really did gain a better understanding of self love. I have this to remember when I forget.

   

Denise Lyon is a mind and body healer, a soul-centered seeker, and believes that to create a peaceful and happy world, we start with creating our own peace and happiness. Denise is a dedicated meditator, a Certified Meditation & Mindfulness Instructor and a graduate of McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, AZ. Her heart’s desire is to provide a path anchored in ancient wisdom and modern neuroscience to help guide us to that place of living together in peace and possibility.

 

Are you new to meditation? Join Denise for her introductory Meditation and Mindfulness retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from August 24th to August 26th.

 

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: breath , Denise Lyon , meditation , mindfulness , the Practice
Violence - Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: Are You Committing Violence?

By Denise Lyon
May 28, 2018

Violence - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

I have recently become aware that I have been committing violence. Yes, me. Violence.

 

But wait a minute…I am the most un-violent person I know. I love peace. I am a meditation teacher. I TEACH peace. Power to the peaceful! It wasn’t until I read the words of Thomas Merton that I realized the truth:

 

“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow one’s self to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit one’s self to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

 

Busted.

 

How about you?

 

Life is perfect… or is it?

I’m one of those people who fails to recognize my own stress. Life is perfect, life is good. I have no complaints. It’s only in retrospect that I realize that, yes, maybe I have been stressed and too busy. Maybe there is a reason that I haven’t been sleeping, that I’m tired a lot and that I can’t seem to shake that extra twenty pounds I’m carrying around. And maybe that reason is that I’m stressed. Hmmm. Maybe.

 

The violence we commit against ourselves

Recently I got sick. A virus. Knocked me on my butt for ten days. I never get sick. But boy, I was sick. For over a week I couldn’t do anything but sleep. And the world didn’t come to an end. The contrast to my normal life of busyness was eye opening. For the past several years, I have worked full time, started a new part-time business, volunteered for a non-profit that I’m terribly passionate about, checked off several projects on an unending list of projects on my fixer-upper 100-year old house, taken care of two wonderful furry family members who depend on me for their happiness, tried to spend some time with family and friends, created a new website, worked on a teaching certification…and on and on and on, while trying to finally clean that area between the stove and the cabinet and get some laundry done.

 

I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I can’t begin to imagine how those of you who add to that typical list by taking care of children or aging parents, or working three jobs do it. My point here is that too many of us are too busy. And we are creating violence. Serious violence towards ourselves. I hear it from my massage therapy clients daily. Overworked. No time for play. Too many responsibilities. No time for me. What are we doing all this for anyway?

 

But what if we find a way to take a break?

 

Learning to create peace

The world went on, as it does, while I was sick. Thank you, virus, for teaching me that I can…and need to…let go of a few things in order to create some time for just “being”. A capable, wonderful person can blossom by taking my place on my non-profit board for a while. I can teach one meditation class a week instead of filling my schedule with workshops and retreats on top of running a full-time massage therapy business. I can say “no, thanks” when I would rather stay home than go out with friends. They’re learning to understand my need for solitude.

 

Creating some “time” in my life is taking care of me. It is creating peace. Waking up without an agenda on my day off is a heavenly thing that I didn’t have for many years. Letting go is creating space. Space for more being. Space for reflection and awareness. Space for noticing the beauty of my blooming garden. For being present. For creating more peace.

 

Violence is not just an outward creation

As my fantasy boyfriend, Henry David Thoreau, said about just sitting in his doorway from sunrise til noon, rapt in a reverie…”I grew in those seasons, like corn in the night; and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance”. Hank gets me. We would have been great together.

 

So what I know is this. When we create our own peace, we contribute to a peaceful world. We don’t do this by creating violence of ANY kind. Violence is not just an outward creation. We often and ever so subtly commit violence towards our self. Peace comes from awareness. And awareness feels a lot like stillness. I’ll be having more of that.

 

Denise Lyon is a mind and body healer, a soul-centered seeker, and believes that to create a peaceful and happy world, we start with creating our own peace and happiness. Denise is a dedicated meditator, a Certified Meditation & Mindfulness Instructor and a graduate of McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, AZ. Her heart’s desire is to provide a path anchored in ancient wisdom and modern neuroscience to help guide us to that place of living together in peace and possibility.

 

Are you new to meditation? Join Denise for her introductory Meditation and Mindfulness retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from August 24th to August 26th.

This article first appeared on Elephant Journal, and is reposted 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: ahimsa , busyness , calm , Denise Lyon , exploring wisdom , happiness , meditation , peace , violence
Art of Living Retreat Center - Being Jealous

Exploring Wisdom: Jealous? Here’s Why

By Margaret Paul
May 11, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center - Being Jealous

 

In her phone session with me, Katy was completely perplexed about her jealousy.

 

“As you know, I broke up with my boyfriend, Jared, 6 months ago. By the time I broke up with him, I was really done with the relationship, and I have no desire to be with him. But last week I found out that he has a girlfriend and I feel jealous! I can’t figure this out. It makes no sense to me at all.”

 

I asked Katy to open to learning with the jealous part of her – an aspect of her wounded self.

 

The need to feel special

Katy’s 12-year-old wounded self quickly started to talk.

 

“I always want to be the favorite. I wanted to be Mom and Dad’s favorite and I was always upset when my brother seemed to be the favorite. Even though I don’t want to be with Jared, I want to be his favorite. As long as he didn’t have a girlfriend, I still felt like I was his favorite.”

 

When asked what being the favorite means to her, she answered, “It means that I’m better than other people. I always want to be the special one. I don’t like it when I’m with my friends and they pay more attention to their children or even their dog than they do to me. I know that it sounds crazy, but I hate it when my best friend brings her dog along when we get together. I feel upset about the attention she gives her dog!”

 

Katy was not valuing herself. Her jealousy was a symptom of her own inner abandonment. What her inner child was saying to her was, “I don’t feel at all special or important to you. I am not your favorite. You don’t think much of me. You rarely pay attention to me.”

 

When we are not loving ourselves, our wounded self may look to others for confirmation of worth. To our wounded self, who may constantly compare us to others, being “better than” – which may be determined by getting special attention from others – validates our worth.

 

Because Katy had spent most of her life making others responsible for her self-worth by trying to get their attention and approval, her inner child felt abandoned and worthless. Of course she felt jealous! And she would continue to feel jealous in many different situations until she felt loved and valued by loving adult Katy.

 

“Now I know you love me”

As Katy began to devote herself to practicing Inner Bonding, she started to recognize her own beautiful qualities and take care of her own feelings. The more she did this, the more loved and special her inner child felt. One day her inner little girl said to her, “I know that you love me. I know that I am your favorite. And I love you too.” Katy tearfully reported to me that she did indeed love her little girl and that jealousy was no longer an issue for her.

 

Feelings such as jealousy are always a symptom of inner abandonment. Jealousy, insecurity, neediness, fear of rejection – these feelings are not the issue. They are the symptom of the fact that we are abandoning ourselves through:

 
  • Self Judgment
  • Not attending to our feelings, ignoring them or using addictions to numb them
  • Making others responsible for our feelings of safety, lovability and worth
 

No other person can ever take away these painful feelings. No other person can make up to you the lack of valuing you might have experienced as a child. No matter how much others love and value you, as long as you are not loving and valuing yourself, you will feel unsafe, insecure or jealous.

 

The power of Inner Bonding is that, through practice, you learn to give yourself what you didn’t receive as a child and always wanted and needed. This is what heals jealousy, as well as insecurity, neediness, and fear of rejection.

 

Dr. Margaret Paul is a bestselling author and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, and the related SelfQuest® self-healing online program – recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette. She has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including Oprah. Margaret holds a PhD in psychology, is a relationship expert, public speaker, consultant and artist. She has successfully worked with thousands and taught classes and seminars for over 50 years.

 

Join Margaret at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 18th to 20th to heal the cycle of shame and self-abandonment, learn to love yourself, and move into a healthy pattern of decision making at her retreat, Inner Bonding.

 

This article is reposted from margaretpaul.com 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: exploring wisdom , inner child , jealous , jealousy , self love , self-care , wisdom
Art of Living Retreat Center - Get Organized

Exploring Wisdom: Loving Yourself by Getting Organized

By Margaret Paul
May 9, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center - Get Organized

 

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone” – Pablo Picasso

 

Do you struggle with:

  • Procrastination
  • Clutter
  • Overwhelm
  • Disorganization
  • Being late
  • Guilt over not getting things done or not following through with commitments
  • Anxiety over things like taxes and bills being late
 

While some personality types have an easier time being organized than others, everyone has the capacity to learn to be organized and get important things done.

 

Why, then, do so many people have a problem with it?

 

It has to do with your intent.

 

Which part of you is in charge of time and organization?

Do you have a part of you that tells you what you HAVE to get done, and another part of you that goes into resistance? If you identify with this, then the part of you in charge of your time and organization is your wounded self, and your intent is to control and avoid being controlled.

 

One part of your wounded self tells you what you have to do – likely in a judgmental, harsh, critical, parental voice (does this sound like your mother or father or another caregiver?), while another, perhaps younger aspect of your wounded self goes into resistance to being controlled. An inner power struggle ensues, essentially immobilizing you. The critical voice might get more critical and the resistant aspect, who is determined not to be controlled – even if it’s by yourself and even if what the critical part says to do is in your highest good – digs in his or her heels.

 

As long as your intent is to control and not be controlled, you will be stuck in the resistance of your wounded self.

 

Shifting your intent

Our intent is the essence of our free will. At any given moment you can choose the intent to control and not be controlled – stuck in the inner power struggle – or you can change your mind and decide that loving yourself and learning about what is loving to you and others is your primary intent. And that determines everything, because all your behavior follows from your intent.

 

When you shift from the intent to control and resist being controlled, into the intent to learn about loving yourself, and you open to learning with your higher self about what actions are in your highest good, then your loving adult is in charge rather than your wounded self.

 

The loving adult doesn’t procrastinate, doesn’t clutter, is organized, is on time, keeps commitments and gets done what needs to be done. When we are operating as a spiritually connected loving adult, it’s easy to be organized. It’s not about exerting will power – it’s about allowing Spirit to flow through us, giving us the guidance and energy to take loving care of ourselves.

 

Putting your loving adult in charge relieves stress

Just as actual children feel safe when their parents are reliable and do what they say they will do, our inner child feels safe when we do what we commit to doing for ourselves and for others. If you say you will be on time but you are late, your inner child feels anxious and unsafe. If you say you will get your taxes done on time and you don’t, your inner child feels stressed. If you say you will get up early and exercise and you don’t, your inner child may feel depressed.

 

Inner peace and a sense of safety come from operating as a trustworthy, organized and reliable loving adult. When loving yourself is more important to you then trying to have control over getting yourself to do things ‘right’ and then going into resistance to being controlled, you will start to feel much more inner peace and safety.

 

Since you are in charge of your intent, you can make this shift any time you want!

   

Dr. Margaret Paul is a bestselling author and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, and the related SelfQuest® self-healing online program – recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette. She has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including Oprah. Margaret holds a PhD in psychology, is a relationship expert, public speaker, consultant and artist. She has successfully worked with thousands and taught classes and seminars for over 50 years.

 

Join Margaret at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 18th to 20th to heal the cycle of shame and self-abandonment, learn to love yourself, and move into a healthy pattern of decision making at her retreat, Inner Bonding.

 

This article is reposted from margaretpaul.com 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: control , healing , Love , organization , organized , peace , stress
Art of Living Retreat Center - Nature

Articles We Love: A Return to Nature in April

By Paige Reist
April 16, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center - Nature

 

At the Art of Living Retreat Center, we know that one of the most profound pillars of healing and wellness is the natural world. Nature is a wise teacher, a gentle and fierce guide, and a way back into ourselves. We’re incredibly lucky to hold a space nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, where our guests can breathe in the cool, sweet mountain air, explore the gorgeous forests, and let the beauty of the wild sink deeply in.

 

In celebration of the Mountains returning to life this spring, our favourite articles this month remind us of the deep medicine available through nature.

 

Recompose and the Conservation Burial Movement

Emma Loewe for MindBodyGreen

Death is a subject that causes many of us in the West intense discomfort. The cultural avoidance and fear of death has even affected our burial practices — we have a tradition of preserving the bodies of our deceased loved ones as best as science knows how. Unfortunately, these burial practices can be harmful to the environment. Recompose founder Katrina Spade aims to provide a more nature-friendly option. Emma Loewe speaks to Katrina for MindBodyGreen.

“In U.S. cemeteries, we bury enough metal each year to build the Golden Gate Bridge all over again, enough wood to build 1,800 single-family homes. Cremation takes its toll too, emitting 600 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually in the United States. Considering that 10,000 people are turning 65 every day in this country, these figures aren’t likely to go down anytime soon. As Spade puts it, “The awful truth is that the very last thing that most of us will do on this earth is poison it. I want to push back against these defaults that aren’t aligned with our ideals and interests as people.”

 

How to Cure Stress the Old Fashioned Way

Brian Stanton for Elephant Journal

Brian Stanton shares how nature can cure our “addiction to doing”, how it centers us and cures us of our stress, and how it helps us slip into an effortless meditation.

 

“It turns out that when you cure stress, you cure other things too. Researchers from Japan, in fact, have shown that lingering in the woods might even prevent cancer by boosting natural killer cell activity. This Japanese practice, called “forest bathing,” also results in lower blood pressure and cortisol levels.”

 

3 Spiritual Lessons That I Have Learned from the Ocean

Alex Chong Do Thompson for Rebelle Society

Alex Chong Do Thompson writes about his encounters with watery wisdom during his time as a U.S. Marine and beyond.

“The amount of ocean life that exists is fantastic, but what’s even more interesting is why it exists. We must remember that there are no magical incantations or preternatural powers being used to create all of this abundance. Rather, the ocean is simply the perfect container for different forms of life to manifest.

It provides the right salt content for tuna, the right temperatures for jellyfish, the right pH levels for seaweed, etc. And then the Universe takes care of the rest.

Over the years, I’ve learned that this is also true of human interaction. For example, we have no control over what people say to us throughout the day. Conversations may be pleasant, or they may be absolutely dreadful. It’s completely out of our hands. But like the ocean, we can create a container that encourages good things to happen.”

 

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: art of living , art of living retreat center , articles we love , death , happiness , nature , spirituality , Spring , stress , wellness
Meditation & Yoga

In House: Cyndi Lee on The Complete Package of Meditation and Yoga

By Cyndi Lee
April 10, 2018

Meditation & Yoga

 

It came without warning right at the beginning of the day trip down the river. I really don’t like water and I am a weak, underconfident swimmer at best. But people I trusted said it was fun and not scary at all. If you did fall out, you would land on a little rock and immediately be picked up in the next boat.

 

So I went and on the very first bend in the river, I slid out. There was no warning and no big inhale before plunging into icy cold, wildly churning water. And then there I was, trapped under a rubber boat in the whitewater rapids of the Pacuare River in Costa Rica.

 

No breath in my lungs and nobody can see where I am. I thought, “Wow, this is how it happens,” and I visualized a small obit in The New York Times: “Yoga Teacher Drowns Leading Retreat in Costa Rica.” My mind raced and my lungs tightened, but somehow I didn’t panic.

 

I never fully realized it before, but the yoga, breathing and meditation practices I had been doing for years had prepared me for this very moment. Practicing awareness, manipulation and retention of the breath allowed me to know intuitively that I could go without breathing for way longer than was comfortable. My daily twisting and inverting enabled me know what was up and down and to maintain a highly fluid sense of balance. Meditation had trained me to stay focused on the task at hand even while thoughts of my own death ran rampant through my head. I groped my way along the bottom of the boat and popped up into the rapids.

 

A very long minute later, a body-builder/yoga student of mine grabbed me by the collar and plopped me into his boat. My Buddhist teacher, Gelek Rinpoche, had taught me that to meet the dharma in your lifetime is as fortunate and rare as a tortoise’s head popping up into an inner tube in the middle of the ocean. In that moment I felt just like that tortoise. Sitting in the haven of boat #2, my heart hammering, my adrenaline rushing, my lungs gasping, I was as scared as I’ve ever been. But when I was under the boat I had not been scared. I was wide awake, balanced and steady. Mindfulness meditation, yoga asanas and pranayama are each powerful practices that can affect our lives deeply. But there is no doubt in my mind that in this life-threatening moment, it was the combination of the three that saved my life.

 

What do I do with this body and this mind? 

As a yoga teacher, I am passionate about yoga and have been fortunate to share this passion with many students over the past 20 years. I have been a student of Tibetan Buddhism for more than 10 years and it has been a natural evolution for the two lineages to merge in my teaching. Yoga and Buddhism offer insights and experiences that complement each other and together complete a basic homework assignment for human beings: What do I do with this body and this mind?

Back in 1972 I started taking yoga classes for an easy P.E. credit in college. The feeling of being cleansed-like taking a shower from the inside out-was unmatched any other kind of exercise I had experienced. My teachers were inspiring and I was highly motivated. It didn’t take long for me to be able to hold my breath for over a minute or to stand on my head for five minutes. I was hooked.

I got left behind, though, when it came to the “spiritual” part. I just didn’t get it when my teachers quoted Patanjali, author of the Yoga Sutra, who wrote, “Yoga is the cessation of the fluctuations of the mind.” They closed their eyes and somehow seemed plugged into a big bliss cloud of happiness. I tried to feel blissful, but then the class was over. Walking down the street, my body was strong, clean, juicy and open, but I felt inadequate and cranky.

 

Yoga is a mirror

It turns out that my experience wasn’t that unusual. While most people do walk out of yoga class in better physical shape than when they walked in, personal awakening may still elude them. Yoga is an unparalleled method of strengthening muscles, enhancing breathing, cleansing toxins and soothing the nervous system, but the sense of harmonious rejuvenation that arises by the end of the class may dissipate once our feet hit the pavement in front of the yoga studio door. A person’s body may change but their mind will still be jumping, their heart still buried under layers of tension and fear.

 

As a teacher I have seen again and again that if you are a Type A personality, you will do your yoga practice with the same aggression and competitiveness that shapes the rest of your life. If you are sloppy, your posture will reflect that. If you are easily frustrated, the challenges of yoga may magnify that tendency. It has been my experience that the physical practice of hatha yoga alone is not strong enough medicine to alter those patterns-particularly in the maelstrom of today’s world.

 

Awakening to Buddhist meditation as a companion for yoga

My dissatisfaction with yoga left me with a longing for something more, a sad empty feeling. Remembering that my dad’s prescription for loneliness or depression was always to do something helpful for someone else, I began to search for a way to take the focus off myself and still be myself. I read about maitri, the loving-kindness aspect of Buddhism, and was drawn to explore that. So when a friend of mine invited me to attend teachings with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, I signed on for two weeks worth of teachings.

 

The first week was slow going, what with translators explaining to us Westerners the teachings of these great lamas. Some of the teachers wore business suits, some wore elaborate robes and exotic hair-dos. I didn’t have a clue who they were or what they were saying, but I liked being there. The second week His Holiness explained what it meant to be a bodhisattva, and without hesitation I signed on with a bodhisattva vow.

 

Through a friend I met the Tibetan teacher Gelek Rinpoche. For at least the first year I studied with him I struggled to follow the teachings, and even to stay awake during his all-day talks. But although I didn’t exactly know what he was talking about, I always felt that he was talking right to me. It seemed like he always knew exactly what was problematic in my life and would frame his talks just to help me. I noticed that I was becoming more grounded, more patient and more conscious of others, and over time, inspired by the kindness of my teacher, I began to share what I learned from him with my yoga students. The teachings and techniques were a natural fit with yoga asana practice.

 

As my Buddhist practice developed I learned to watch my thoughts come and go like watching birds playing in the sky. This mindfulness training began to seep into my yoga practice. Rather than looking for bliss by dropping out, I dropped in, taking notice of my physical sensations and the thoughts that arose in connection to them. I realized I had the same thought every time the teacher said, “Let’s do backbending.” I thought I didn’t like backbends, but my relationship to backbends changed when I recognized that thinking pattern.

 

Applying Buddhist meditation instruction to how I did yoga postures slowed me down enough to feel my breath, my heart and my mind. My sense organs softened and opened, allowing me to experience each individual new backbend. I discovered that my backbends were different all the time and that was interesting to me. In fact, meditation gave me license to just let that happen, instead of trying to stifle my thoughts and become something different than who I am.

 

My Buddhist teachers said mindfulness meditation was “synchronizing body and mind” and I understood that conceptually. But after sitting on the cushion for a whole weekend I thought, “What body?” Didn’t the Buddha ever walk, stand or climb stairs? History tells us that he did engage in extreme yogic practices and ultimately found them unsatisfactory. Finally, after sitting still under the Bodhi tree he became enlightened, and then got up and began to move through the world again.

 

The Eight-Limbed Path

Patanjali is credited with writing the Yoga Sutra about 150 years later. Although yoga is often associated with Hinduism, it is most closely aligned with Sankhya, one of the six classical Indian darsanas, or “ways to see.” Sankhya is an attempt to explain the nature of all existence by dividing it into purusha, that which is unchanging, and prakrti, or matter. It tells us that the separation of these two states is the cause of our suffering and that the path to liberation is through repression of our thoughts, withdrawal of our senses, and denial of our body in order to reconnect with our true Self. This re-union is the state of yoga, from the verb yuj; to yoke or bind.

 

The practices of introverted concentration associated with this state are described in the Yoga Sutra of Patanjali as an eight-limbed path: yamas (restraints), niyama (observances), asana (postures), pranayama (breathing), pratyahara (withdrawal of senses), dharana (concentration), dhyani (meditation), and samadhi (absorption). The limbs begin by refining our behavior in the outer world and then lead us more and more inward until we reach samadhi. Most people doing yoga today are engaged in the third limb, asana, which is a program of physical postures designed to purify the body and provide the physical strength and stamina required for long periods of immobility.

 

Buddhism begins with the premise that life is suffering but ultimately leads us outward, rather than only inward. We start the Buddhist path by sitting still and stabilizing our mind. From the spaciousness that arises during this practice of calm abiding, we naturally begin to feel our heart. Combining the practice of non-grasping wakefulness with exercises that generate compassion gives us a recipe for how to interact intelligently, soulfully and spontaneously with ourselves, each other, our family and the world.

 

These teachings invite us to open up to who we already are, rather than look elsewhere for connection, because the seed of awakened heart is within all of us already. It’s our heritage as human beings. It’s just that we can’t always feel our beautiful lotus heart blooming because we get stuck on ideas of fear, jealousy, anger, hatred, greed.

 

Remaining in the immediacy of everything

But Buddhist meditation techniques reveal that none of these emotions are solid and with practice we learn how to watch them arise and fade away and still stay steady on our seat or on our feet. We learn how to remain in the immediacy of everything, for example, backbending, rather than what we are thinking about backbending. Then loving-kindness invites us to approach our backbends with at least an inner smile and a little less crabbiness.

 

At OM Yoga Center in New York we practice a form of yoga called vinyasa, which is a series of flowing movement sequences coordinated with rhythmic breathing. We approach the vinyasa style with great attention to detail, especially regarding alignment, to ensure that students do not get injured and get the most benefit from their practice.

 

The other element of OM yoga is meditation in action, which invites the yogi to observe and become familiar with mental and physical habits, to relax the grip of thought activity, and kindly abide in the asana. All this is done while maintaining a sense of vipassana, or clear seeing, which opens the yogi to the world around them and creates a healthy balance to the refined inner vision of yoga practice. The flow, precision and mindfulness of our yoga practice are all supported by Buddhist principles.

 

The flowing form is the physical manifestation of path without a goal: each pose is connected by a transitional movement that has as much value as the pose itself. This approach relates to equanimity, not knowing when our actions will bear fruit, and helps us break through the goal-oriented mentality we know so well and which is so prevalent in our relationship to our bodies.

 

The lessons of a forward bend

This shows up a lot in forward bending. Many people have a desire to be able to bend forward and touch their toes. But guess what-I can do it and can definitely tell you that touching your toes does not make you happier. I do enjoy the lengthened feeling in the back of my legs and the openness in my spine-most of the time. But just like everything else that is transitory and conditional; sometimes it feels stressful or boring. So in our yoga practice we pay attention to how we get into the pose, what happens in our body, mind and breathing while there, and how it is to move out of the pose and on to the next thing.

 

You can try this without even bending over. The next time you decide to go from the couch to the refrigerator, feel yourself moving through space. You can go slow or at an ordinary pace, but feel the floor beneath your feet, look and really see everything along the way, feel the swinging of your arms and what your breathing is like today, right now. If you are going to the kitchen because you are hungry, feel that. If you are going because you’re thirsty, feel that. How many times have you opened the refrigerator door and realized you forgot what you went for? This time feel the coolness when you open the door, and feel the softness of the sofa cushion as you sit back down. We take lots of little journeys like this every day, driving in our car or rolling over in bed. Try to actively participate as you travel through your world, rather than making only about your end point.

 

Cultivating physical precision

Precision is a way to develop clarity of mind at the same time that we develop accuracy in our physical placement. Applying specificity to where you put your hands and feet creates a wakeful mental attitude. You simply can’t think clearly if your alignment is sloppy. For example, what is your posture right now as you are reading this? Try changing your position, or even walking around and see if you feel sleepy or clear.

 

It is also difficult to feel openhearted or uplifted if your chest is sunk and your spine is sagging. Not only are your cardiovascular functions diminished, but your body is a cage. This curling in creates dukha, suffering, which is the opposite of sukha, joy, and can relate to the physical and emotional space created through good posture. Hatha yoga aligns skin, muscles and bones so that each can support each other with more ease than effort. Proper alignment opens energetic blockages which can be caused by diet, stress, illness and emotions, or even tight belts, wristwatches and fabrics wrapped around our bodies. Physical precision extends to your clothing, environment and personal hygiene.

 

We are also attentive to how we arrange our practice space. Each person at OM Yoga has a mat and organizes their yoga props-blankets, blocks, straps-in a neat and orderly fashion, because a jumbled heap of stuff in your line of sight creates an obstacle as well. Everybody who has a messy desk knows this to be true. The spacious discipline of precision gives the yogi a sense of open heart, open mind and open agenda.

 

Opening to Prana

We apply meditation instruction to our yoga practice by using the breath as a reference point for resting the mind. But in yoga we also manipulate the breath in various ways that soothe our nervous system, cleanse our sinuses and oxygenate our entire body. Prana, which means “to bring forth mystical vibration,” exists in sunlight, water, earth and all beings. For human beings, the most direct way to feel this universal life force is through the wave-like nature of our breathing, which reminds us that even though everything is changing all the time we can still feel peaceful as long as we keep in rhythm. Whenever you feel out of sync, take a moment to lengthen and equalize your inhale and exhale, and right away you will feel more balanced.

 

Try this. Stand with your feet firmly planted on the floor with your arms down by your sides. Close your eyes. Don’t do anything. Just stand there. You will soon begin to notice quite a lot of movement within the stillness of simply standing. You will feel the movement of your body, expanding and contracting as you breathe; you will feel the pulse of your own heartbeat; you will feel your entire body swaying slightly in order to stay balanced on this big round ball we live on. In fact, if you were truly static, the earth’s movement would eventually tip you over. Can you relax and let your body, breath and heart do this dance of balance?

 

Applying Ahimsa

All of these exercises sit on a bed called ahimsa , non-violence, in yoga, or compassion in Buddhism. What’s the good of being awake if you can’t let your heart be like your lungs, giving and receiving with every pulse? Mindfulness helps us recognize when we have habits that are harsh, and creates a gap between an impulse and the action that usually follows. It creates a space for us to dip into our hearts and come back up with a pearl of kindness.

 

Since for most of us a major part of our self-identity is tied to the appearance and health of our physicality, our body is an excellent reflective surface for getting to know our habits and applying ahimsa to what comes up. In the wordless conversation between our body and our mind, everything that happens in all our relationships-frustration, aggression, love, tenderness, boredom-will arise while doing downward facing dog. Yoga and meditation help us recognize our form of effort, whether it is too tight or too loose. Either way, effort is related to goals. So instead, with sensitivity, we apply exactly the right amount of action. Right action is a balance of body, breath and mind using the ingredients of rhythm, movement, direction, energy and intention, but never aggression.

 

Embodying meditation

When you apply this mind/heart training to the process of doing yoga asanas it becomes a way to understand the whole world in the form of you. It provides the means for working with all of those relationships right there on the yoga mat while you become fit at the same time. And for us busy people who are both meditators and yogis it is helpful to be able to combine practices.

 

Yoga helps Buddhists embody their meditation. As the meditator’s body becomes more mobile, strong and functional, it becomes a support for meditation practice rather than the more familiar and painful distraction of creaking knees and whining spines. Similarly, the specific focus of Buddhist mindfulness and compassion helps the yogi’s mind become unbiased, wakeful and connected in whatever physical shape they assume and demonsrates the transient nature of all things, including mastery over body.

 

Sitting cross-legged at the end of yoga class, I feel elemental. My breath is the wind and my mind is a raft floating on the oceanic tide of prana. The fire in my belly radiates out and makes the sweat on my skin feel like rain and earth mixed together. My heart rests in a big, big space.

 

Then I get up off the mat and go back to running the yoga center. Hopefully, today I won’t have a life-threatening experience but still I’m grateful for my practices. Life might not be a bliss cloud, but through the wisdom and compassion of yoga and Buddhism, it has become supremely workable.

 

Join Cyndi Lee on a journey to invite your body and mind back into balance at the Yoga Body, Buddha Mind retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 18th to May 20th.

 

Cyndi Lee is the first female Western yoga teacher to fully integrate yoga asana and Tibetan Buddhism in her practice and teaching. Founder of NYC’s OM yoga Center (1998-2012) she now teaches yoga, meditation and resiliency workshops worldwide. Cyndi is a formally trained Buddhist Chaplain, and has been teaching yoga for 40 years.

 

This article first appeared on lionsroar.com and has been republished 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: ahimsa , balance , Buddhism , cyndi lee , in house , meditation , wisdom , yoga

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