Samadhi and Enlightenment - the Art of Living Retreat Center

Samadhi and the Nature of Enlightenment

By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
October 8, 2018

Samadhi and Enlightenment - the Art of Living Retreat Center


There are many different types of Samadhi. “Dhi” means intellect, or consciousness, and “sama” means equanimous, so Samadhi means an equanimous intellect.


When Samadhi becomes so stable that you don’t need to do anything, you don’t even need to meditate, then that state is called enlightenment. Until then, the practice of Samadhi is essential.


Samadhi is as though you are not there: see, whenever you get very deep rest and a sense of total peace within yourself, know that you have experienced a little bit of Samadhi. Unless you touch that area deep inside, you don’t get that freshness and deep rest and essence of joy or contentment. We sit for a little while, and then afterwards, as usual, things will move — but with practice, then it comes to a stage where Samadhi doesn’t leave you, you don’t need to hold onto it, and that stage doesn’t leave you at all.


Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian and spiritual leader, an ambassador of peace and human values. Through his life and work, Sri Sri has inspired millions around the world with a vision of a stress-free, violence-free world.  He has founded courses that provide techniques and tools to live a deeper, more joyous life and he has established nonprofit organizations that recognize a common human identity above the boundaries of race, nationality, and religion.


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: enlightenment , Samadhi , spirituality , sri sri ravi shankar , wisdom
Men's Spirituality & Power Animals

Men’s Spirituality & Power Animals

By Dr. Steven Farmer
October 7, 2018

Men's Spirituality & Power Animals


Men can’t help but be spiritual. The fact of being alive is a spiritual experience, yet many have lost their conscious awareness of this fundamental truth. Gradually over the past several centuries, the rational, logical mind has usurped the creative wisdom of Spirit and the deeper awareness of the interconnectivity of all life. Civilization has further eroded men’s intimate association with the natural world, and instead, earth and all its non-human inhabitants– plant, animal and mineral– have been viewed solely as resources for the sustenance of more and more human beings. The prevailing belief has been that the planet is to be dominated and subdued rather than viewed as a beautiful, giving, abundant Mother Earth with whom we can have a mutually beneficial and cooperative relationship.


Men’s spirituality, internal rhythms, and instinctual selves

What happens for most of us men raised with this as the norm is that we become removed not only from the more natural rhythms and seasons of the earth, but dissociated from our own internal rhythms and instinctual selves. Many never hear– or else ignore– the call of Spirit that beckons us to follow our soul’s destiny. Instead, we chase materiality to the exclusion of the deeper currents of life. Although this path may yield great riches– or at least a comfortable existence– the cost to our bodies and our souls is great.


One of my favorite poems by Rainier Maria Rilke (translation by Robert Bly,) speaks to this:


Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him
as if he were dead.
And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out
into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.


One of the men’s groups I have participated in would read this as part of the opening ceremony each meeting. It speaks to the spiritual adventurer that lies inside every man. Typically, unless he is raised in a way that supports this kind of exploration, his soul’s urgings to seek out the bigger truths of the earth and the cosmos remain dormant until such time as they are awakened– if they ever are.


The two by four approach

Over the many years of working with men, I’ve found that this awakening can sometimes come as a result of the “two by four” approach. This happens when a man is going along, thinking everything’s okay with his work and his relationship, (even though there’s this nagging voice inside saying otherwise,) and God hits him with a metaphorical two by four. His wife divorces him, he gets laid off from his job or his addictions catch up to him– some momentous disruption of his life takes place. He can ignore this or take it as a signal to change, but by the time he’s in his late 30’s or 40’s, it becomes more difficult to deny it.


When lack clarifies

I was in serious straits following my divorce from the mother of my two daughters. I felt alone, confused and unclear about what direction my life was taking. I loved my girls, but didn’t feel competent as their father. I was burdened with guilt from divorcing their mother while they were still young. I knew I had to change my life, but wasn’t sure where to go. The seeds of my spiritual awakening had actually begun during my marriage, following a dramatic realization that I felt unlovable as well as unworthy of being loved. It took the separation to underscore a heartfelt need for a deeper and more profound love– a kind of love that I later realized to be the love that all spiritual masters spoke of.


During the years that followed, I found solace in a sequence of spiritually focused organizations. My involvement in each typically lasted about three to four years, at which point I would move on and explore another “church that stands somewhere in the East.” About fifteen years ago, my seeking brought me to shamanism. From my first initiation, I knew it was the path I’d follow for the rest of my life. I also realized that each step I’d taken had been necessary to move to the next one.


Animal spirit guides

I’m not suggesting that every man needs to follow a shamanic path. However, there are important aspects of shamanic practices that I’ve found to be particularly attractive to a lot of men.

One of these shamanic technologies is forming a relationship with an animal spirit guide, or power animal. Power animals touch something deep and ancient inside a man, a yearning for a more intimate and heartfelt relationship with the natural world. That relationship has often been forgotten in the haste, competitiveness and isolation from nature that are so endemic to the modern world and modern man. Power animals help a man remember at a profound level his ancient and interrelated connection to Mother Earth. Working with power animals and animal spirit guides is a spiritually practical way to work with the various energies of the earth.

The whole notion of power animals has its roots in some of the earliest spiritual practices of humans cross-culturally. It continues in indigenous peoples today. It’s particularly fitting for today, when many men are awakening to the wisdom of our long-ago ancestors and realizing that so-called “primitive” people have much to teach us.


Part of the pack

Our ancestors also knew another secret: we need one another. Sometimes our lives depended on our connection to each other, and in combat situations this is still true. These days, getting together with other men generally happens in order to work together, play a sport or go to the pub and have a few– all perfectly legitimate ways for men to hang out together. Yet at some point in a man’s life, it’s important to expand on these characteristic ways of being together, to break the sense of isolation that many men experience– to be supported by other men in our mission and purpose on this earth. This is as spiritual as a man can get.


In all indigenous cultures, men would spend a good deal of their time together, whether hunting or preparing and enacting rituals to honor the sacredness of life. In Australian aboriginal cultures, men’s sacred ceremonies were exclusive of females, and vice-versa.


I’m a strong advocate of us gathering in groups on a regular basis to share our triumphs and concerns, and to give and receive support with one another. I’ve been involved in men’s groups for the majority of my adult life, and I can say unequivocally that this has made me a better man. I’ve developed close relationships with a few men who are spiritual brothers, ones I can call on in a time of need. And by need, I don’t mean only when I’m broken and bleeding, but milder needs as well.


Learning trust

Yes, there are blocks for most of us to overcome– the main one being to trust other men enough to be vulnerable. We’ve all been hurt in some way by other men, starting with father, and betrayals by other men stay with us for a long time. We may even have been teased for being too sensitive. In addition, when men get together, the specter of homophobia can appear, inhibiting us from revealing our inner feelings and thoughts. It takes a different sort of courage to confront these blocks and overcome them, to test the waters of trusting other men, to discern who can be trusted– and who can’t.


If you think of yourself as a spiritual seeker, then I strongly encourage you to look into the idea of a men’s group. You can put it together yourself with a couple of mates that you’re close to, taking a leadership role. Again, it requires courage to take this kind of risk, but the worst that can happen isn’t all that bad, and the rewards will become self-evident by your taking such a bold step.


Whether you’re new to shamanism, already have some training, or curious as to how you can integrate these principles into your daily life and/or an alternative healing practice, deepen your experience and understanding of shamanic realities. Dr. Steven Farmer hosts Integrating Shamanism Into Your Life and Work at the Art of Living Retreat Center from November 16-18, 2018.


Dr. Steven Farmer is a psychotherapist, shamanic healer, and the author of several best-selling books and oracle cards. In addition to workshops on Animal Spirit Guides, Integrative Breathwork, Healing Ancestral Karma, and shamanism, Dr. Farmer offers Integrative Healing sessions in person or remotely by phone, Zoom, or Skype, as well as an individualized Spiritual Mentorship program. He is on the board of the Society of Shamanic Practice and also offers a certification program, the Earth Magic® Practitioner training.


This article first appeared in Creations Magazine, 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!


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TAGS: community , fatherhood , indigenous culture , men's spirituality , men's wellness , power animals , shamanism , spirituality , steven farmer , wellness , wisdom
Stress Relief

Definitions and Causes of Stress: Relief Results from Understanding

By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
September 9, 2018

Stress Relief


There’s a beautiful human being inside everyone. What makes one different is the stress that covers the beauty.  When the stress is gone, we become our original selves. In this article, Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar speaks on the 5 things we need to know about stress.


5 things we need to know about stress

The Definition of Stress

Too much to do, too little time, and no energy – that’s what the definition of stress is. When you want to do too much and you have neither energy nor time, you get stressed.


Challenges and Confidence

Secondly, remember you have faced many challenges in the past and you have overcome them all. So, have this confidence that you can handle this challenge as well.


The Importance of Life Itself

Then you must also know that there’s nothing more important in life than life itself. If you are alive, then everything else is. If you are alive, then there is business. If you are alive, so are your relationships. If you are alive, then there is fame or whatever you wish for. Don’t put life at risk to get these other things. You must give more importance to life itself.



Why do you do anything that you do? It’s because you want to be happy. And if you achieve something at the cost of happiness, it’s worth nothing at all. You achieved what you wanted but lost happiness, so that achievement is null and void. So you must keep this in mind.


Karma is Real

Things happen through a different law in the universe. You might have noticed that you are very good to people and still there are people who suddenly become your enemies. Your friends become your enemies. And the opposite happens–someone for whom you have not done any big favor helps you when you really need it. So friendship or animosity happens through some special law of the universe, and it’s called karma.


When your times are good, your worst enemy behaves as a friend; when your times are bad, then your best friend behaves like an enemy. So, understand things from a bigger dimension.


This post first appeared on


Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian and spiritual leader, an ambassador of peace and human values. Through his life and work, Sri Sri has inspired millions around the world with a vision of a stress-free, violence-free world.  He has founded courses that provide techniques and tools to live a deeper, more joyous life and he has established nonprofit organizations that recognize a common human identity above the boundaries of race, nationality, and religion.


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: Sri Sri , sri sri ravi shankar , stress , wisdom

Intuition: It’s Not About How You Feel, It’s About How You Target

By Laura Day
September 8, 2018


Intuition: Accessing Your Hidden World

You have the power to create immediate and miraculous change today. In this video, Laura Day explains why feelings don’t matter and targets do when it comes to getting useful and actionable information from intuition.


Learn to use your intuition, psychic healing, ritual, writing, art, meditation, and the power of group to bring yourself to a New Reality of your own choosing. Laura Day hosts The Hidden World this October 24-28 at the Art of Living Retreat Center.


Laura Day is a NY Times bestselling author who has spent three decades helping individuals, organizations, and companies use their innate intuitive abilities to create profound changes in their lives. Her work has helped demystify intuition and demonstrate its practical, verifiable uses in the fields of business, science, medicine and personal growth.


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: intuition , Laura Day , wellness
After-Death Communication - Art of Living Retreat Center

In House: Jennifer Farmer on After-Death Communication

By Jennifer Farmer
September 3, 2018

After-Death Communication - Art of Living Retreat Center


The most frequent question I get is “Can I communicate with my deceased loved ones?” The answer is a solid YES. If you are open to the Spirit World, not only is it possible, it is likely that you will have a Spirit touch and visit from your loved ones.


Is after-death communication possible for me?

Yes! After-death spirit communication is different for everyone. Some communication occurs through dreams and some throughout waking daily life. It’s important to mentally send your request and let your loved ones know you want to hear from them. You can do tell them out loud or through your mind. You might feel a little crazy at first, but rest assured, they hear you.


When Spirit visits your dreams

I’ve had many Spirit visits in my dreams over the years. For me, they are different than regular dreams. When I have them, I can feel my deceased loved one is with me more clearly. They usually have a lighted energy with them and I wake up feeling I’m had an in actual in-person visit together.


Dreams are not the only form of after-death communication. They also connect with us during our waking hours. I like a good night’s sleep, so I prefer to communicate with my loved ones during my waking hours.


Wakeful communication

Waking communication is similar to sleep state after-death communications. Asking your loved ones through your mind or verbally speaking is still the first step. Non-verbal communication from your loved ones in a waking state is just as profound as those in dreams. They can communicate better with us when we are relaxed, open, and receptive. That’s why so many people experience after death communication while in meditative state or asleep.


It takes two people to have a conversation. Sending your thoughts and words like “I really need to see you in my dreams” or “I need to know that you are okay” are the best ways to start the connection.


How can I communicate with my loved ones?

Asking is the first step in starting the new and improved connection. You can ask your deceased loved one to come and visit you during your sleeping period. When making your request, ask sincerely, from your heart, in a quiet manner or prayer. One strategy I’ve taught my clients and students to to take these steps before bed to connect with your loved one:

  • In a relaxed state, right before sleep, imagine your loved one with you.
  • See them as healed and whole.
  • Imagine their face smiling brilliantly, and occupied with love for you.
  • Say, “I love you!” with a radiant smile on your face.
  • Ask your loved one to come visit while you are sleeping.
  • Relax and go to sleep.

How communication eases grief

I’ve worked giving readings, teachings and meditation for more than 10 years now. I’ve focused so much on honing my gifts of Spirit communication for others.


My mom passed last year and I’ve had the opportunity to use my abilities for personal reasons. I’m sure glad I can. After-death communication with my mom has comforted me while riding the emotional roller coaster of grief.


Do not let depression, grief and loneliness take the better part of you. Talk to your loved ones who have gone. Staying in a state of grief, anger, guilt, or regret cannot bring back your deceased loved ones. God knows, I speak the truth in this. I held on to anger too long after my dad passed. I felt connected to him even while I was mad him for leaving me. Knowing that I could communicate with him after his passing was a life changer for me. After-death communication is open to everyone. Having a little faith in yourself and in the Spirit World is all you need to get started.


Your loved ones in Spirit want to help you through your time of grief.


Have you been thinking about your loved ones and how to connect with them after they are gone? After-death communication changed my life in so many ways and I wish the same for you. If you are open to the healing power of the Spirit World, your life will take on new meaning and purpose.


Over the past 10 years, Jennifer Farmer has helped people heal grief through readings and development workshops. She is well respected and a recognized leader in her field as gifted intuitive, medium and spiritual teacher. In 2008, Jennifer earned the seal of approval as one of the best psychic mediums. She continues to study new teachings and regularly attends workshops, including the Arthur Findlay College in the UK.


Access your gifts from Spirit and create a new Spirit-powered life with Jennifer at the Art of Living Retreat Center from October 4th to October 7th, 2018 at her retreat, Healing With the Spirit World.


This article first appeared on

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TAGS: communication , death , grief , in house , Jennifer Farmer , psychic , spirit , spirituality

Celebrating Being Through Yoga with Wendy Swanson

By Travis Eliot
August 11, 2018


Wendy Swanson, the owner of Be Yoga in Charlotte, is an open-hearted yoga teacher, acupuncturist, healer, and transformational leader who uses a beautiful combination of alternative health care modalities, yoga practice, and personal development work with her students. Along with running her studio, she has been leading retreats around the world for fifteen years. She recently spoke with us about her healing journey, her upcoming retreat, and the powerful awareness yoga brings.

I got involved with yoga about 25 years ago due in part to my first job after graduating from college. I suffered pain from sitting at a desk, which – as many of us know – is not good for the body over an extended period of time.

After discovering yoga through my church, people started noticing that my usually high-strung, Type A personality was less pronounced. I was a little more balanced. For those who study Ayurveda, I’m pretty Vatta, so yoga, breathing, and meditation helped to settle my energy.

From the start I found myself sleeping better and feeling better physically. I was in my body much more rather than getting caught up in my head so often. So, yoga had a huge effect on my whole being and helped me to relax so my true self could be expressed more fully.

But, as I continued on in the same career, I became miserable. I had a sales and marketing job in a very corporate environment. I was practicing yoga but was unhappy in my day to day working life. I knew that I was meant to do something different.

When I received an acupuncture treatment from a close friend, I was blown away by the results. I was also intrigued by the fact that it’s an ancient medicine with thousands of years of history. After I began to study acupuncture rigorously along with my yoga practice, I knew I was on my path.

Practical, Real-life Approaches with Miraculous Results

For so many of us, it’s impossible to give up our desk jobs because it’s the way we make a living. I work on methods for balancing this working lifestyle with numerous patients and students. We often hold ourselves in a scrunched, hunched-over position, sitting rigidly behind a desk or steering wheel.

While yoga asks us to assume shapes that may look kind of odd, these positions help with the six rotations of the spine so that we can feel elongated and free in our bodies. It is so amazing that once we feel good in our bodies, that translates to feeling good in our minds.

I really feel like my life purpose is to help people get out of the fight or flight stress response so that they can return to being present in their bodies. Both yoga and acupuncture help us move out of the sympathetic part of our nervous system which triggers the fight or flight response, and engage the parasympathetic nervous system, in which we can rest, digest, and renew.

Yoga and acupuncture go so well together that I often combine the two. I do a lot of restorative yoga and I’ll actually add in some acupuncture because this combination is extremely effective in calming the nervous system.

When our nervous system has been calmed, we make better decisions in that. We’re able to deal with our loved ones in a more compassionate and loving way, and we’re able to feel better in our bodies.

I have my own chronic pains from accidents and injuries, and yoga and acupuncture help me to stay in balance with that. It’s not about making every ache, pain, and problem disappear, but rather about how to be present with these things and how to lead a life that feels more open, more loving, and more fulfilled.

How to Slow Down Time
The meaning behind the name of my retreat, ‘Celebrate Being Through Yoga’, is acknowledging, honoring, and embodying our true selves. To celebrate being means to practice being authentically ourselves. It means showing up for our families, our friends, our jobs – whatever we may need to show up for – and feeling that we are enough. This is simple, but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.

For me, showing up means being present in the little moments that make up our days. Perhaps you’ve had the experience of getting in the car, then arriving at your destinations having no idea of how you got there. Many of our day-to-day activities become habits. So showing up also means slowing down.

We still have to accomplish the tasks in our daily routines, but we can savor each moment more fully. We can really taste our coffee and feel it’s warmth when we sip it. We can pause and feel the connection when someone asks how we are.

So, it’s not necessarily about changing anything. It’s simply about noticing. By noticing, it’s possible to expand time. As we get older, time moves more quickly, and sometimes life gets very busy. So this practice allows you to truly enjoy and be there for the moments you get to spend with your child, for example. You may not have hours and hours, but when you can be present in the time you do have, it’s enough.

Yoga teaches us to be present by tuning us in to each and every breath. It teaches us to get in touch with what’s going on in our bodies. We get ourselves into some really odd shapes, and then we notice the sensations along with the breath. Some of these shapes might feel great, and some might not. But when we are present with and experience these uncomfortable feelings in yoga, we are better able to handle life when it doesn’t feel so great.

We remember that we breathed through whatever unpleasant sensations or emotions came up in yoga, and those sensations didn’t last forever. Then, we felt something great in the next pose! When we practice yoga we are practicing being present for the joys and struggles of life.

This practice involves yoga asana, some fairly gentle pranayama or breathing techniques, and meditation. We will also be learning some daily practices for self-care, which in ayurveda is referred to as dinacharya. All in all, we will be giving participants simple tools to celebrate life and celebrate who they are.

Upcoming Family Programs

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TAGS: deep , yoga

Diving Deep with Travis Eliot

By Travis Eliot
August 11, 2018

We recently had the opportunity to talk to Travis Eliot, a respected yoga and mindfulness meditation instructor, about the most profound awakenings throughout his life and how they always led him back to Yoga.

We discussed the importance of a holistic approach to practice, going inward, ‘Cadillac Escalade Yoga’, and how he makes his retreats so transformational.

He and his partner Lauren Eckstrom will be leading their Holistic Yoga Flow Retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center August 16-19.


North Carolina, L.A., Thailand, and Back Home to the Self

I can’t wait for our retreat at Art of Living in Boone because North Carolina holds a very special place in my heart. I grew up in Winston-Salem and my fondest memories are of playing in the mountains. This will be our first retreat here.

When I first left North Carolina for Los Angeles, I spent quite a while working in the entertainment industry. But, as soon as I discovered yoga, I was head over heels. I became a ferocious student of all things yoga and meditation from kirtan to Ayurvedic medicine; you name it. These things became my life.

Fast forward to a near-drowning experience in Kauai that changed my life even more. This experience opened my eyes to the fragility of life and led me to re-examine everything. Being awakened to my own impermanence, I was able to see where I was wasting energy and effort on things that don’t truly matter. I began to invest time and energy into things that are important, meaningful, eternal, infinite – the things which yoga brings us back to.

Soon after, I found myself on the beautiful island of Kolata in Thailand teaching yoga. I felt I was using every dimension of my being to teach these yoga classes. That’s when I knew without a doubt that this was my path.

Then, in 2005, I was reminded of my mortality again when the big tsunami hit. As I watched my bungalow, the yoga deck, the whole resort get washed away by the tsunami waves, I was overcome with gratitude for the many gifts in my life: my marriage, my breath, my meaningful relationships. After that I returned to Los Angeles and single-mindedly began to teach yoga to as many people as possible.

The Wisdom of a Storm

Living through the tsunami also taught me that this experience we signed up for, this crazy ride that is the human life, involves duality. It is impossible to have birth without death. You can’t have paradise without destruction, and you can’t have loss without gain, praise without blame, victory without defeat, health without sickness, female without male, or Shiva without Shakti… you could just go on and on.

The tendency that we often have is to only want the good and pleasurable experiences in life. We just want the positive, but that is not and will never be the human experience. As long as we remain in denial of that, we are fighting against nature. It’s as though we’re swimming upstream. In this way, we cause our own suffering.

For me, it became about really working on clear sight and fully accepting that we live in this world of duality. I learned not to cling to the good, and I learned not to push away the challenging or the negative.

So, I began to maintain more equanimity in my mind through the vicissitudes of life. Rather than being on this crazy roller coaster going up and down and up down, it became a little bit more steady.

When I hit the speed bumps of life, instead of being in an old 1960s beat up Ford Pinto that’s getting all jerked around, now I’m driving a plush Cadillac Escalade. That’s what it’s like- you still have to go over the bump, but it’s a lot less jolting.

Equate that to life and you get less drama, less conflict, less reactivity, and more smoothness, so that you’re able to deal with the challenges and curveballs that the universe throws at you with more grace, nobility, and equanimity.


Searching in All the Wrong Places

My yoga journey illuminated another life-changing lesson. I think that our culture has taught us that we’re not good enough unless we buy products and consume more. There’s a whole multi-billion dollar industry built around this concept of telling us we’re not good enough and that in order to become enough, we need to get things.

We become ensnared within this web of what the yogis call Maya, this illusion that we can only get our happiness from external sources. The great awakening of my life was that this is not true. It’s like a cat chasing its tail, or trying to cling to a phantom or ghost. Some people spend the entirety of their lives in this way, never actually attaining anything.

A great example is actually an animal, the Musk deer. From the day it’s born, it smells this scent that it is very drawn to. It will spend its whole life chasing the scent through forests and meadows, through mountains; then eventually it dies, never having found the source of the scent. The deer could never locate the scent because that whole time, it was coming right from underneath the deer’s nose.

This was my awakening. I realized that ‘the scent’ is not out there, but rather inside us all. Through the practices of yoga we learn to go inward rather than out. As we do so, we learn that everything we could possibly want doesn’t exist externally; it doesn’t come from things in the physical world.

What we seek by consuming things actually already exists inside us all.

All the happiness, wisdom, joy, abundance, knowledge… it’s all inside of us. That being said, I believe a good teacher is one who directs students to connect inward to the resources that exist within them. That’s what was so life-changing about yoga, on the deepest level, for myself.

There are no Shortcuts on the Path to Happiness… But You Can Speed up Your Journey

It’s so, so important to step back from life and take time for yourself, and a retreat setting provides the perfect opportunity. The greatest teachers to ever walk this planet always went away into retreat; it is essential. You must remember that you can’t give to others what you don’t have to give.
On a retreat you’re filling up your energetic cup, and we will be there as your guides to lead you through.

While it is a learning experience, it’s also an emotionally healing one. It’s common to experience emotional release while meditating in a retreat setting. We call these releases the unfinished business of the heart.

When we are able to acknowledge these emotions, we are beginning to heal some of the many griefs and traumas we have become non-reactive to as we carry them with us through life. In meditation we bring compassion to our past traumas so that we can let them go.

It’s three nights and four days of allowing yourself, in a safe, loving, compassionate environment, to renew and recharge very deeply, and to let go of what has been holding you back.

Something that really compliments this process at Art of Living in particular is the Ayurveda component. We will have time within the retreat itself for everyone to experience some of the ayurveda treatments at the spa if they wish to do so. There will be time to read, nap, hike, or stroll… Whatever you like to do to relax. It truly an investment into your own health and well-being.

Travis and Lauren’s Holistic Yoga Flow Program

A lot of what we teach is based around the framework of subtle anatomy, or the five koshas. We are the muscles, bones, organs, tissues, cells that make up our body, but we’re also much more than that.

The physical sheath is known as the annamaya kosha. Then we have the pranamaya kosha, the breath body, and the manomaya kosha of the mind and heart, which the Yogis really view as being one in the same.

Next is the vijnanamaya kosha, our higher self. This kosha can be understood as the witness or observer, as though this consciousness is looking down from a bird’s-eye view. This awareness can notice thoughts as though they are moving through the sky like clouds and emotions like waves that rise and fall within the ocean of the heart.

Then, there is the anandamaya kosha. The anandamaya kosha is bliss; it’s the essence of who we are. Although we all have different bodies, stories, and backgrounds, on a deep level there’s that essence within all of us that really is one and the same. In my experience, when all five koshas are activated, it’s as if you’re firing on all cylinders.

This is why a holistic practice is so essential. We utilize a holistic approach which includes meditation to embody many of these concepts I’ve mentioned. It’s not just a work-out in holistic yoga flow, it’s also a ‘work-in’.

So you can think of it as not just exercising, but ‘innercising’ as well. You’re strengthening your body while simultaneously strengthening mental qualities like focus, concentration, and presence, which have been proven by modern science to increase your health and happiness. You’re strengthening the qualities of the heart: generosity, compassion, kindness, love. This is what we practice in our retreats.

This holistic practice helps us to strengthen and awaken, and the beauty of it is that you get to take all of this and bring it back into your life. You get to bring it into every facet: your relationships, job, hobbies, and interests, and really embody the person that you want to be.

The beauty of it is that you return motivated to live the life that you want to live. And that’s why we’re all here… We’re here to be the truest version of ourselves. That’s what our retreat is based on.

Meditation and Science: Two Rivers Converge

The purpose of practicing yoga is to bring what you gain from your yoga flow into your entire life flow. That’s the thing about yoga – it’s a practice and a training. When you’re practicing meditation, you’re actively working with neuroplasticity by rewiring the neuro-branches inside your brain. This is why boredom and resistance are often experienced during meditation.

When we’re facing something in life similar to the boredom, resistance, challenge, or struggle that we’ve experienced in our meditation or yoga practice, we can deal with the adversity with more dignity because we’ve now rewired our brain to do so.
These practices aren’t new-age ideals; they revolve around science. People are able to deal with struggles much more calmly thanks to a strong meditation practice because it rewires the brain.

Spirituality and science have been seen as two separate rivers for so long, but we are living in a truly exciting time in which these two rivers are now converging together. I think that’s why spirituality and these teachings are exploding at such an amazing rate right now.

…The Goal?

You’re not going to get everything perfect right away, and that’s okay. You’re going to mess up and make mistakes along the way. As Ramdass always says, yeah, I flunked the test many times. These great spiritual teachers, even Buddha and Jesus, had issues in their lives, and they made mistakes along the way. So, if they didn’t get it perfect, how are you going to?

It takes the pressure off to realize that this practice is not about becoming a perfect human being. It’s really about perfecting your love and your compassion towards all things, including and especially yourself.


Upcoming Family Programs

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TAGS: deep , travis eliot

Why People’s Opinions of You Aren’t Real

By Kyle Cease
July 20, 2018


It doesn’t matter if you’re a Christian, a Buddhist, or an atheist… we all have this part of us that just wants to create and express ourselves completely. What we call that part of ourselves really doesn’t matter—people get so caught up trying to name things that they completely miss the point. All that matters is that we connect to that place inside and allow ourselves to get lost in our creativity so we can bring something beautiful into the world.


The problem is, the world has taught us not to connect to that place; instead, we’re trained to connect to everything but that place. We’re supposed to connect to the television, the news, the brands and the society that has tricked us into believing that we’re not enough as we are… and so we get caught in the cycle of trying to find love outside of ourselves in the form of food, money, superficial relationships, clothes, cars, and autographed Back to the Future posters … that last one is probably more me than you, but you get the point.

When we were kids, we didn’t care about any of that crap because we lived in the knowing that “You are what you love, not what loves you.”
When we were kids we just played and did what we loved to do. We created. We danced and sang all day. We didn’t care what people thought about us or what our ex-girlfriend was doing. We were totally free and pretended that we were firemen or astronauts or veterinarians. Our imagination was limitless and our creativity is what was running us. We were living from in to out. As time went on, we learned from society to shut off the oil well of possibilities that lived inside of us and to start moving from out to in. We learned that we can’t do the things that we want to do and that it’s “not that easy.” We learned that there’s not enough to go around and that the only way to feel security in this world is to get as much as possible and hold on to it as tight as you can.

Kyle Cease Live at the Art of Living Retreat Center
Kyle Cease Live at the Art of Living Retreat Center


Instead of working on getting as much as we can externally, what if we were focused on growing as much as we can internally? What if we were able to go back to that child-like state where we were filled with wonder and possibility and the desire to play full-out? What if we could step out of the box the world has put us in and realize that life is just one big playground of opportunity? What if you could let go of the results and allow life to lead you into a life that’s even more amazing and fulfilling than you could have ever planned?


Well, you can. Start to enjoy the process of working on yourself. Start to find your own inner fulfillment instead of external distraction. Start acting on what is exciting to you in the moment instead of what you’re supposed to do.
You are what you love, not what loves you.
-Kyle Cease


Join Kyle Cease live at the Art of Living Retreat Center from Oct 19-21, 2018, for his retreat, Life Is A Playground

Kyle Cease

Kyle Cease New York Times bestselling author and Comedy Central headliner, Kyle Cease, helps his audience discover a new vision of what is possible in their lives. He draws on experience gained during his 25 years of performing, creating, and letting go of what other people think, to help you audience move past your anxieties, limitations, and self-doubts.


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: opinions
Reiki - Art of Living Retreat Center

In House: Neil Kagan on his Reiki Journey

By Neil Kagan
June 7, 2018

Reiki - Art of Living Retreat Center

Why might somebody feel called to take a Reiki class? In my experience, there are generally four categories:

  1. You have a need for yourself
  2. You have a need for someone else
  3. You are in the Healing business (massage therapy, chiropractic, etc)
  4. You love the subject of energy work and other similar modalities

Taking healing into your own hands

The common theme through all of these is that you can learn how to take healing into your own hands — literally — with Reiki. By tapping into the unlimited supply of universal or Reiki energy, you can administer the energy to yourself, a loved one, an animal, or even a situation.


A holistic approach with Reiki

In my case, I fit into the second category. My firstborn son was getting ready to have a liver transplant at the age of 10 months. While I knew he had to undergo major surgery, I was still searching for ways and modalities that I could do to help facilitate his healing.


Approximately one month before his transplant, I took my first Reiki class. I still remember the energy I felt the first time I put my hands over him, just hours after his transplant. The energy I felt in my hand was very powerful, but yet I was not aware of just how powerful.


The beginning of a lifelong practice

The doctors told us that he would be in the hospital for a month — he was out in two weeks. His mother, his donor, also being treated with Reiki, had one of the fastest returns back to normal liver functions that they had seen from a donor. We couldn’t believe how well he was doing.


As he continued to recover extremely well from his transplant, I thought my days of using Reiki would soon be over. But as fate would have it, and as time went on, I would get sick with colds and later with a knee energy. I found myself using Reiki for myself, moving over to the first category.


A powerful tool for healing

I have been in this category for over 22 years, and have seen thousands of people using Reiki for all sorts of ailments, illnesses, and various other concerns. Reiki is very powerful on healing the physical body, it it is equally effective on the other parts of our being — mental, emotional, spiritual, etc. Still, to this day, I am amazed at how powerful and effective this energy is and how it can literally change peoples lives for the better.



Reiki Master Neil Kagan’s diverse background started with martial arts in 1981. This prompted a life-long study and practice of various martial and healing arts, including Yoga, Tai Chi and Chi Kung. In 1995, he earned the title of Kung Fu Master (8th degree black belt). He has been teaching classes since 1997.


Learn how to support yourself and your loved ones with energetic healing with Neil and Tobi Gold at the Art of Living Retreat Center from July 13th to July 15th, 2018 at their retreat, Become a Reiki Master. 




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: energy , healing , in house , neil kagan , reiki
Reiki - Art of Living Retreat Center

In House: How Tobi Gold Discovered Reiki

By Tobi Gold
May 3, 2018

Reiki - Art of Living Retreat Center

I came to Reiki through teaching Yoga. For years, as I ended a class and people were resting in Savasana, I would place my pointer fingers in the center of my student’s foreheads and spread a little oil. Student’s would often remark, “I really liked the energy I felt from your hands!” I was not a Reiki practitioner then, but hearing those words led me to pursue it.


Finding the right Reiki teacher

In May of 2016, I took Reiki Level I at a lovely Holistic Center in Florida. I’d heard many stories about finding the right teacher, and didn’t understand why that was important. But that was before I had Neil Kagan as my teacher — I knew right away that he was the right teacher for me. In addition to making us feel comfortable with his relaxed approach and great stories, he was not “woo-woo” at all. In fact, he was very grounded, organized, and clear in his communication. I ended up taking all three Levels with him.


Healing from a distance

At Level I, I could practice Reiki on myself. At Level II, I could use Reiki for distance healing. I was telling my old friends from New England all about my newly acquired skill, and as they talked about their various illnesses, I offered to send Reiki to them long-distance. They would “recieve” this energy in a variety of ways, some with relief from pain, some with relaxation and better sleep.

I was so happy that I could help.


Now, as a Level III practitioner, I often use Reiki when I work with clients one-on-one. Reiki, the ability to use universal energy as it comes through my palms, is simple and effective.


Experiences with Reiki

I have one client who experiences chronic pain in his hips and lower back. All I have to do is bring in the Reiki energy and rest my hands in those areas, and he feels relief. Sometimes he falls alseep — a sign of complete relaxation and the absence of pain.


Another client experiences occasional pain from anxiety and tension. For her, I combine Reiki with restorative Yoga. I simply help her get into a comfortable, supported pose and apply the Reiki energy where she is feeling distress. She does experience the heat from my hands, and a deep relaxation with the treatment, which leads to reducing pain: a great gift.


Tobi Gold has been practicing Yoga and Meditation since 2001. She completed her first certification at Kripalu in 2007, and has been teaching Hatha and Vinyasa Flow ever since. In 2016, she took a Reiki Master Program in Florida, taught by Neil Kagan.


Learn how to support yourself and your loved ones with energetic healing with Tobi and Neil Kagan at the Art of Living Retreat Center from July 13th to July 15th, 2018 at their retreat, Become a Reiki Master. 




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: energy , healing , in house , neil kagan , reiki , Tobi Gold , yoga

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