Ayurvedic spa treatments for wellness retreat center participants.

5 Reasons to Plan a Spa Retreat

January 17, 2018

Shirodhara treatment at panchakarma wellness retreat.

When it comes to pampering yourself, it’s hard to beat a couple of days at a high-quality spa. But some spa experiences go above and beyond, offering a retreat that is about so much more than merely spoiling yourself.


Are you tired to the core? Overwhelmed? Feeling that you simply don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish everything that you need to accomplish? Struggling to balance all your seemingly insurmountable responsibilities? Well, you may not think that a spa retreat could be the answer to your problems. But you’ve never had an experience like the Shankara Ayurveda Spa at The Art of Living Retreat Center.


Still wondering if it’s a right time for a trip to the spa? Just consider that a high quality wellness spa can help you do all of the following:


Overcome the effects of stress and fatigue

Like all spas, a wellness spa is a great place to treat yourself to some much needed rest and TLC. But unlike the benefits of a mere “pampering” spa, the effects of a visit to a wellness spa can last long beyond the few days that you spend there.


Connect with yourself

It’s extremely difficult to “find yourself” when you’re lost in the grind of your daily routine. A spa retreat can not only help you to get away from it all, it can help you get in touch with your long buried thoughts and emotions. Give yourself some “me time” in the most profound meaning of the term.


Try something new

If you’re intrigued by a esoteric type of massage or a spa treatment that is largely unknown to the general public, seek out an organization that provides that particular service and give it a try. Better yet, find a quality comprehensive wellness spa and explore everything that they have to offer.


Learn something new

Interested in being gluten-free? Wonder about the benefits of a vegetarian or Ayurvedic diet? A good full-service wellness spa will not only pamper but educate, giving you the information that you need to understand a wide variety of health topics and the tools that you need to incorporate them into your life.


Start the New Year with a new you

The time has come for New Year’s resolutions. Want to explore a path to health and wellness? A spa retreat can help you develop a personalized plan to get you on that path and keep you there.


Providing so much more than your ordinary spa retreat, the Shankara Ayurveda Spa at The Art of Living Retreat Center can help you do all of these things and so much more. We’d love to support you, giving you the break that you need during your visit to our facilities and the tools that you need to build a healthier and happier you for years to come. Discover the benefits that await you at The Art of Living Retreat Center.


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: new years resolutions , spa retreat , wellness retreat

Walking the Path: Four Things I Wish I’d Known Earlier About Silence

By Andrew
March 17, 2017


When I started becoming interested in meditation at 16, I was eager and young, with no experience in silence. I wanted to find inner peace, and so I found some books in the local library to start my journey and quickly began experimenting (I owe some gratitude to my patient mother who put up with all of my experiments). Here are four things I know now that I wish I’d known then.

Communication Matters

This sounds like common sense, right? However, youthful enthusiasm tends to overpower common sense any day.

Before you enter into silence, I encourage you to get on your phone, call or text your loved ones, and let them know that you’ll be unavailable for a few days. If you’re shy, you can tell them you’re on vacation (you are). But why be shy? Silent retreats are almost now de rigueur.

When I was young, I did the opposite and told my mom nothing, simply going into silence for 24 hours. Keep in mind that I was still living at home – I went into silence and stayed in silence, despite the knockings and inquiries to know just what exactly was going on.

It was a small house, and a little silence apparently went a long way.

I explained to my worried mother the next day that I had simply gone into silence for 24 hours. She put on her best patient-but-annoyed tone to ask me to tell her before going into silence the next time. Lesson learned.

I’m passing on this advice from my mother to you, dear reader, just in case your loved ones/colleagues/boss would be distraught if you disappeared without notice for 3-4 days.

Getting a Map

It’s worth investing in guidance about the silent journey. It’s an amazing journey, and very rewarding; like all journeys, it also has potential pitfalls.

We use a map when we embark on a physical journey, for example, to visit Ireland or California. We even use GPS just to drive across town for groceries! However, when it comes to the inner dimension of our lives, which is even more subtle and unclear, often people take a DIY approach and try to figure it out on their own.

Sure, you can just figure it out, but it might take years of trial and error. Or you could get lost. You could also, in theory, drive across Los Angeles at night in search of a new address without a map; it’s going to take much longer and be far more frustrating, though.

After experimenting with silence a number of times, I tried a guided silent retreat. It was spectacular. Finally having some guidance about how to go into silence, what to do (and what not to do!) during silence, and gaining support along the journey made all the difference.

There is a history of silent journeys and a collected wisdom that is invaluable. People have embarked on this spectacular inner journey for millennia, and it’s not so easy to embrace that knowledge and learn from it. Why reinvent the wheel?

Joining a silent retreat is tapping into this accumulated experience, essentially downloading Google maps for your inner journey.

Ease Into It

There are two approaches to silence: you can either go cold turkey, or ease into it.

I chose the first option. Many people choose the first. Some silent retreats even choose the first.

Jumping into silence cold turkey can be like jumping into ice cold water – surprising, unexpected, shocking. Going in gradually worked much better for me. There are specific processes designed to help your mind slowly enter into silence. Easing in minimizes the overwhelm factor.

We’ve spent our whole lives talking and being immersed in our environment. When we turn that off, it can lead to a wonderful experience of inner stillness, centeredness, and energy. However, if we turn it off too fast, our thoughts can overwhelm us. So go slow. Again, appropriate guidance at a silence retreat can help you ease yourself in.

The Experience Ripens with Time

My first silent retreat was so much better than that first experiment in silence. Each silent retreat has been better still, and I’m going on my 14th – yes, it’s that good. Silence is something that matures with time. Our sensitivity increases, our ability to watch our thoughts increases, and gradually, the experience of inner peace deepens.

A friend shared this thought with me on the last silent retreat we did together – “I didn’t think this could be better than the last one, but it was.” So don’t give up. Even if your first foray into silence isn’t exactly bliss.

There’s no need to worry about silence and plenty of reasons – inner peace, self-discovery, and renewed energy, to name a few – to try it out. Like any journey, it has easy routes and winding ones. I’m grateful that after some trial and error, I found an easy way.

Interested in learning more about silence? Curious about how silence can enrich your life? Check out one of our upcoming Silent Retreats! 

Interested in learning more about 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 , silence , silent retreat , wisdom

Exploring Wisdom: John Osborne on Finding More Silence

By Paige Reist
March 16, 2017


In a world that seems to get noisier every year, more and more of us are looking for a greater experience of silence in our lives. Although prayer and meditation have always been seen as traditionally effective methods of deepening silence, there are other ways to find it in the midst of a busy daily routine. Most of them are available to each of us if we know where to look for them.

Seeking Out Silence

Traditional forms of physical exercise, particularly yoga and martial arts (Tai Chi etc.) in addition to stretching and strengthening the body, have the added effect of bringing the body and mind into a state of balance and stillness which can open us up to an inner experience of silence . Introductory classes can be easily found these days in local fitness and community centers.

Various forms of music have been found to create more brain coherence, which in turn allows the mind to drop into its deepest, most silent state. These might include traditional forms of chant, choral, devotional or classical music. Experiencing that music performed live seems to have an even stronger effect.

Reading books that are uplifting or in which you find knowledge or insight can help the mind settle. While one part of the mind is engaged, another is freed to rest or quietly observe. Likewise writing, especially in a journal or to someone you feel connected with, can empty our mind of thoughts and feelings, allowing it to experience more of its deeper more silent nature.

Wearing earplugs when socially appropriate or listening to white noise or nature sounds through headphones may allow a level of interior silence to rise within us, especially in noisy work or public environments.

“I only went for a walk and finally concluded to say out ’til sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
– John Muir

Walking in Nature helps many people to tune into a deeper level of silence …. In the words of of the naturalist John Muir, “I only went for a walk and finally concluded to stay out ’til sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.” Even for those of us who live in an urban area, a few minutes walking in a park or on a walking path can ground us and return us to that deeper experience… running or jogging also works in this way for some people.

See if you can find places where others have sought silence and go there to sit, even for a few moments. Look for public gardens, parks, churches, temples or even libraries if they have quiet reading areas. I recently found a great deal of silence in the middle of an art museum. And finally…

Create your own silent space… find a few minutes or hours each week when you can turn off your cell phone and the TV, shut your door and see what it feels like not to talk or listen to outside sounds for an extended period. Start modestly with maybe 30 or 60 minutes of silence on a weekend day, then see if you can schedule it to be a regular part of your weekly routine, and gradually build up the time you’re able to devote to the practice.

Why Silence?

Why do we have to work at developing an experience of silence? In earlier days silence was a much greater part of everyone’s daily experience. Before electricity, telephones and televisions, many people’s home hours were filled with silence and in agrarian societies daily work was often solitary and and at least intermittently silent. It is only in the past 100 years that the noise level of our common experience has begun to rise dramatically. To balance out all the noise and activity in today’s environment we may have to cultivate some silence in order to lower stress levels and give ourselves a chance to rest and recharge.

Scientists have discovered that brain wave activity radically changes in silence. The parts of the brain that govern creativity and inspiration become enlivened, and the areas of our nervous system that get overstimulated by stress and outside stimulae have a chance to rest, de-stress and recharge. Silence isn’t just an outer experience. There is actually a deep level of our own consciousness which is always silent. Nurturing that level of our inner life and restoring a balance between silence and activity in our consciousness can deliver great rewards on the level of body, mind and spirit.

Go inward and find your silence at one of our Silent Retreats. 

Interested in learning more about 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 , nature , silence , wellness , wisdom
The Freedom of Silence

How Silence Saved Me

By Paige Reist
January 22, 2017

The Freedom of Silence

Silence is intimidating and hard to find in a world that is busy, loud, and chaotic – and this is precisely why it is necessary. Kavina T., a recent participant in our Silent Retreat and an Art of Living volunteer, recently shared her experiences and thoughts on this life-changing course.


Journey into SilenceI’ve been doing this kind of inner work since 2010. I do skin care for a living and have a very intimate relationship with all of my clients. They ask me, “How come you’re so calm?” They want to know. And when I told them I was going to do a silent retreat and they went wild. They asked, “You‘re really going to be silent for a week? You could choose to go anywhere and you’re going to go be silent?”


I told them, “Oh yeah!”


There’s a lot of resistance to silence. People, my brother-in-law included, think that it’s not very much fun, and there’s also a fear that they’ll lose their freedom somehow – people are sometimes afraid that they’re going to have to subscribe to some dogma. But I’ve found silence is a practice that brings such freedom in life.


Silence Over Shoes

At the beginning of the retreat, the instructor asked me what I’d like to gain. I said commitment. I tend to get really involved, then I’m like, “No, I don’t want to be happy. I’m going to go do other things.” Really destructive things. But then there comes a point where I realize that that is not who I am and not where I want to be. Coming back to the practice of silence reminds me that I am peaceful, I am calm. The silence of who I am is always here, it’s just that we cover it up with so much distraction, and I’m good at distraction – I like shopping. I love shoes, but this silence wins over shoes.

We are so addicted to drama and we don’t even know it. Silence reminds me of my true self.


Domestic Violence and Silence

I’m a survivor of domestic violence, so I have a lot of post-traumatic stress. It’s hard to get quiet sometimes, and my first experiences of silence were characterized by a lot of emotion. I had so much anger that I wasn’t able to express to my abuser, and it was scary. It was scary to be by myself. It was scary to listen to my thoughts and even scary to be sad. When you’re trying to survive, you don’t get to be sad. You just have to survive. But even though it was difficult, I was hooked because silence gave me a glimpse into what life could be like for me. Peaceful.

Silence gave me a glimpse into what life could be like for me. Peaceful.

Finding Stillness Amidst Chaos

The silence really made me think about how busy and bold our daily lives are. How much talking there is.  I got a chance to observe that, which was great. In our daily lives, we don’t see how everybody is coming at us, how bold and big their personalities are – we’re all just hitting against one another. It was nice to just get quiet and observe that rather than participate in it, and to realize that it’s still possible to find stillness in a busy life. You can still hold onto the joy and expansion stillness gives you.
There’s just nothing like the Art of Living, and there’s nothing like silence. There’s nothing that can bring you what you are looking for outside of yourself – whether it’s shopping or whatever else you do to try to cope, none of these things can give you what silence does.


If you are interested in learning more about our Silent Retreats, click here.

Interested in learning more about 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 , Ayurveda , healing , nature , silence , wellness

Philip Fraser on Art of Silence: Activities and Benefits

By Dr. Elizabeth Herman, PhD
June 13, 2016

Art of Silence Retreats

We sat down with Philip Fraser to talk about the Art of Silence course, which he started teaching in the early 1990s. He currently teaches it every few months. Here, he describes in detail the process of this course and its many benefits.


Silence and Consciousness

The subject matter of this course, and the purpose of silence, is consciousness. That’s why it’s a unique course. You can do participate over and over; you can come back to this course many times. The material doesn’t become old.


We generally wake up fairly early; there’s a lot of energy in that part of the day, so that alone is rejuvenating. Then we have a yoga practice and a breathing techniques session, followed by breakfast and some little tasks and jobs that people perform in a group (seva). It gives participants a wonderful sense of belonging.


Guided meditations are also a big part of being in silence. We’re not in silence the whole time, of course, but the combined hours of silence add up to two full days.


More Energy, More Discipline

The first benefit of this course that people notice is the energy – participants feel lighter, clearer, more awake.


Sometimes people take the Happiness course, which is the first part of the series, but find it hard to be regular with that, to create the routine needed and be disciplined about it. But what you find after the Silence course is that your motivation and discipline transforms. You become almost addicted to the process of taking care of yourself.


Watching Your Own Mind

The second benefit is felt on an even deeper level – you become aware of your own mind. What you’ll notice is it’s either in this happy or neutral state, or a little bit unhappy. This sequence happens throughout any day of our lives. Some moments in the day we feel everything is good; and some moments it’s just kind of boring, and some moments something wrong has happened.


On this course, you get to watch your mind and its cycles. There’s no distraction. There’s nothing to blame your moods on, but you’ll still watch your moods fluctuate. It’s not an intellectual process, but just by experience, just by noticing your moods, you get a little bit of distance from it. That realization comes: “I’m not just my mind; I’m not just my thoughts.” That is the point at which you experience true happiness.


For example, when you watch a movie, you enjoy every element of the plot, even the parts that make you sad, anxious, or angry. Life is like that as well. Silence helps us realize that our plot is not everything that we are – this gives you have the ability to be in your emotions 100% when they arise. We temper ourselves so much, repress our anger, explain away our sadness, so this is a revolutionary thing for many people.


Kids are great at this. They go 100% into their emotions, and they release them just as easily.

They’ll fight with their friend and say, “You’re not my friend anymore; I hate you.” They’re really fully feeling it, they mean what they say – but five minutes later, everything is fine.


Later in life when you fight, you’re so much trying to control everything, you don’t have that resilience anymore in your own mind, energy and consciousness. So you fight with your friend, and possibly it could be for many years! “You’re not my friend anymore!” If that comes up as an adult, you’re in a lawsuit; you’re in some crazy thing that’s absorbing so much of your life force. So that ability to be in an emotion, let it go, and accept it: this unique skill is what we teach.


Happiness in the Moment

We think happiness comes from control. We think, “If I have enough money, I can just go anywhere. When I want to be in Paris for lunch, I can at any moment, and that’s when I’m gonna be happy.” Because that’s control; we can do whatever we want. If that were the case then everyone who had that degree of financial freedom would be so happy. But they may not be.

That realization comes: “I’m not just my mind; I’m not just my thoughts.” That is the point at which you experience true happiness.


You ask someone, “What do you need to be happy and when will you be happy?” They’ll always say, “It’s not based on anything.” Instinctively, we know that. But this is the way to achieve it: this course and these practices. You can have that. It’s something that you culture in your system.


Many people think, “If I just read a book about the present moment that’s enough.” Reading does help; it’s a definite eye-opener. But that’s only part of it. Really, by direct experience and by systematically going through that and finding yourself there again and again, you’ll start to say, “Yeah, it’s like this. I am more than just the thoughts. I am more than this mood or event or these labels they put in front of me.” Then you’ll find it.

To learn more about our Silent Retreats, click here. 


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


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: happiness , healthy lifestyle , Sleep , yoga retreat

Learn more about our 2018 retreats and offerings!


Stay in touch