Exploring Wisdom: Stacey Vann & Pamela Hunter on Freedom
What is being free?
How do you experience freedom? This is a question I often ask our retreat participants. Are you aware of how freedom feels in your body, mind, and Spirit? Our awareness forgets simply for the joy of remembering. Feel your feet on the earth and observe your breath.
Remember a time as a child when you felt free. How does it feel in your body? Where are you? What are the scents in the air? What sensations are touching your skin? What sounds do you hear? Do you remember a taste on your tongue? Simply pause in the memory of that moment.
Bring that memory into present time and awaken your awareness to the feeling of freedom. My memory is riding my bicycle with no hands in the California summer heat while visiting my grandparents. You are authentically joyful, because depression does not ride on your bike with your hands in the air and your heart open to the world. You are one with the wind. You are one with your Spirit. Everyday, we have the choice to choose freedom.
During our retreat together, we awaken our awareness to feel freedom, feel joy, feel authentic. Through the simple actions of self-care, self-love, self-reflection, we remember our joy. How did we ever forget?
Join us for self-care, self-love, and self-reflection at our Awakening Your Essence retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center, from September 21 to 24, 2018.
Stacey Vann, E-RYT 500, and Pamela Hunter, E-RYT 500, are the Aloha Sistas. Stacey is a mother of five, Soul-Centered Life Coach, Doula, Reflexologist, and the Founder of the Mahabhuta Yoga Festival and Galactic Child Yoga. Pamela is a mother of two, an Integrated Health Coach, an Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Certified trainer, and the owner of Fun Lovin’ Wellness.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Articles We Love: A Return to Nature in April
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.
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.”
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.”
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!
Articles We Love: Happiness in March
Spring is here, and what better time to refresh your outlook, brush the dust out of the corners of your mind and heart, and refocus yourself and your goals? The UN’s International Day of Happiness falls on March 20th this year, and we think it’s a perfect opportunity to spend some time in reflection on how to become your happiest, healthiest self.
The articles we love this month focus on digging into that inner well of happiness within yourself, and opening up the windows of the soul and letting in some fresh air.
Monique Serbu for MindBodyGreen
Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be limited to your physical environment. Monique Serbu shares four great tips on how to clear out your digital life so you’re feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to leap into the new season.
“Spring is steadily approaching, and that means spring cleaning is on the horizon. While many of us dread this annual ritual, it doesn’t have to be such a pain. Think of it more like an opportunity to clear any excess from your life—an exercise in releasing that which no longer serves you.”
Nicola Albini for Sivana Spirit
With the International Day of Happiness on the horizon, you might be inclined to focus on external ways to find satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. In this article, Nicola Albini details a few ways in which happiness actually comes from within, and shares affirmations and strategies for a pursuit of happiness that is drawn from your own mind, body, and spirit.
“[I] could no longer blame my parents, girlfriend, teachers, friends or anyone else for my own unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Underneath my complaints about what others were “doing to me” was a need to accept myself. I needed to take full responsibility for my experience and change my life from the inside out.”
Dakota Steyn for Thought Catalog
Real happiness is within your grasp. Dakota Steyn shares her thoughts on why happiness is a choice and a result of your actions, not a carrot on a stick to be chased.
“Let me share with you the secret to life: there is no “dummies guide to life,” there’s no one telling what to do or how to feel- at the end of the day life is made up of choices, the choices that you make. How your whole life goes; that’s up to you. You can choose to be negative about everything or you can make the most out of every second of what you do.”
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Living Well: Decreasing Physician Burnout for a More Fulfilling Practice and Life
Physicians working in the current healthcare environment are under an enormous amount of pressure and stress, and as a result, a condition commonly referred to as ‘physician burnout’ is becoming an ongoing concern in the medical field. Trying to manage the stress of patient cases and administrative tasks, on top of balancing the challenges of everyday life, are among the reasons why physicians are feeling the pressure.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 300-400 physicians die by suicide annually. That’s almost a doctor a day. As mentioned in the April 2016 issue of U.S. News & World Report, physicians have higher rates of depression, divorce, and substance addiction than the general population, and 50-70% of doctors suffer from ‘burnout syndrome’. A growing body of research shows that physician burnout and depression are linked to medical errors and to the kind of depersonalized care that is often both less effective and less palatable.
When the praise turns into stress
Health care professionals are inspired to serve their patients and profession. But in the process of caring for their patient’s needs, the care provider is subject to many stressors, and often neglects their own health. While putting their needs last may seem heroic and praiseworthy, this can compromise clinicians’ personal well-being, and may lead to:
- Emotional exhaustion
- Moral distress
- Compassion fatigue
- Poor clinical decisions
- Medical errors
- Loss of sense of self and purpose
- Lack of a sense of personal achievement
- Suicidal tendencies
Health and happiness start with you
By sacrificing their own well-being, health care providers are adversely compromising the quality of care they provide to their patients. As a doctor, you must remember that before you can take care of others, you must take care of yourself first.
Dr Susmitha Jasty, a practicing gastroenterologist in Brooklyn, New York, says, “One cannot serve from empty vessel. Historically, physicians are caregivers, but we don’t always take good care of ourselves. When we invest in self-care, we typically become better role models for our patients and our families and experience less stress and burnout. When we overlook these priorities, we might become wealthier, but may do so at the cost of our health and happiness.”
An interesting read in The Wall Street Journal mentions, “There’s a strong link between what doctors do themselves and what they tell their patients to do,” says Erica Frank, a professor of public health at the University of British Columbia who was the principal investigator on the Women Physician’s Health Study (WPHS) which surveyed the health practices of 4,500 women doctors in the 1990s, and has studied U.S. medical students and Canadian doctors as well. “If we pay more attention to physicians’ health, we’ll have a patient population that is healthier.”
Another interesting article in New York Times points out, “It has been shown in some studies that if the physician is exercising, if the physician are taking care of themselves, eating well, sleeping better, they have patients who have better clinical outcomes,” said Dr. Hilary McClafferty, a pediatrician who is an associate professor in the department of medicine at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Tucson.
In order to be truly effective in their work, physicians need to balance the demands of their work with self-care. This involves taking time off for introspection and self-care to replenish their personal reserve of adequate mental, emotional, and physical energy to stay clinically competent and present.
Caring for oneself to care for others: physicians and their self care
The famous Wellness Wheel refers to 6 types of wellness – physical, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, social and occupational – and allows individuals to reflect on current life balance and self-care. Improving physicians’ wellness and implementing self-care strategies is a multifactorial process and includes attention to all these 6 types. Personal self-care refers to strategies for individual physicians to take better care of themselves.
According to a research study, strategies for personal self-care include prioritizing close relationships such as those with family; maintaining a healthy lifestyle by ensuring adequate sleep, regular exercise, and time for vacations; fostering recreational activities and hobbies; practicing yoga, deep breathing techniques, mindfulness, and meditation, as well as pursuing spiritual development.
Meditation over medication
According to the American Medical Association, burnout and ignoring the source of problems is not the way to wellness. Meditation can help to protect the mind, which can help healers to heal while they maintain personal well-being.
According to Psychology Today, 6.3 million Americans, or roughly 1 in 30 Americans, are being referred by doctors to practice activities like meditation. The high number of referrals shows that doctors are recognizing the benefits of meditation and yoga. A Harvard study shows that mind-body practices like yoga and meditation have been shown to reduce your body’s stress response, and to have many health benefits, including improving heart health and helping relieve depression and anxiety.
The Living Well: Intensive Retreat for MDs and HCPs
The Art of Living Foundation, a global pioneer in yoga and meditation for more than 35 years, offers the
“Living Well: Intensive Retreat for MDs and HCPs” program for busy medical doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals seeking to build a proficient practice for self-care to enrich their quality of life and patient care. The tools and techniques taught in this retreat have been well researched and backed by many scientific studies at different universities world wide.
- This retreat provides the health care provider an opportunity to learn yoga and meditation-based, simple hands-on self-care practices that
- Reduce stress, exhaustion and compassion fatigue
- Enchance physical, mental, spiritual and social well-being
- Enrich quality of life
- Improve ability for intuitive diagnosis, focus, concentration
- Help to navigate the challenges of personal as well as professional life with more tranquility and dynamism resulting in improved performance
- The retreat also provides physicians and allied health professionals with an update on the latest research in yoga, breathing practices, and meditation, as well as their therapeutic applications, including benefits and risks.
Earn CME/CNE credits while you learn
Recognizing the importance and essentiality of self-care for physicians, the NYU Post-Graduate Medical School designates this program 10-30 CME credits. By attending this program HCP not only learn excellent self-care tools, but also earns 10-30 CME / CNE credits as provided by NYU Post-Graduate Medical School.
This course, which is designed for physicians, medical students, residents, fellows, osteopath practitioners, nurses, nurse practitioners, allied HCPs and complementary and alternative medical practitioners, is offered in various locations in the USA throughout the year by the Art of Living Foundation.
— Dr. Bharti Verma, M.D.
This article first appeared on artofliving.org
Exploring Wisdom: Chronic Pain & Yoga – A Physician’s Perspective
Pain is something we all feel at some time in our lives. If we are fortunate, the source of the pain is treated properly, and the pain goes away relatively quickly.
But sometimes, with pain that is difficult to manage, the discomfort can persist for months at a time. In those circumstances, pain comes to be seen as a disease in its own right. And often it can only be managed, not cured.
The true cost of chronic pain
Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease and cancer combined, according to a fact sheet from the US National Institutes of Health. It is the most common reason Americans access the health care system. Pain is the leading cause of disability, and the most common cause of long term disability. It is a major contributor to health care costs.
The National Academy of Medicine estimates that pain affects more than 100 million people and costs $600 billion a year.
Taking all of this information into account, we can guess at the impact pain has on individuals. As French Physician Dr. Albert Schweitzer described it, back in 1931, “Pain is a more terrible lord of mankind than even death itself.”
We know the scale of the problem: the numbers of people involved, and the cost of managing their discomfort.
The question is – can we reduce that terrible toll? Can we, the health provider and the patient, work together to find and deliver a better way of managing chronic pain? I believe we can.
Exploring solutions for chronic pain
In my practice as a family physician, I’ve discovered some low-cost, highly-effective remedies that can improve the lives of people living with chronic pain. These are solutions that I, as a family physician, am happy to share with my patients, and these remedies can be used in addition to the conventional strategies for managing chronic pain.
One of those conventional strategies is the prescription of opioids. Of course,we are all keen to see a reduction in the death toll from the overuse of opioids, but I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let’s go back to the root of the problem–pain.
How do we define and manage pain?
Acute pain is the body’s reaction to physical injury, infection or inflammation due to tissue damage. The International Association for Study of Pain, in 1994, defined pain as “unpleasant sensory and emotional experience associated with actual or potential tissue damage”.
In medicine we talk about pathophysiology, a term used to explain the processes within the body that result in the signs and symptoms of a disease.
The pathophysiology of chronic pain is not well understood; nor is the significant impact of pain on the patient, and his or her physical, emotional, social and occupational wellbeing.
These factors, in turn, can have a significant impact on a patient’s ability to overcome chronic pain. The prognosis, the course and probable outcome of the condition, is influenced by many environmental factors: nutrition, social supports, socio-economic status, exposure to drugs and substances, the patient’s state of physical and mental health before the onset of the condition, the patient’s attitude, and even genetics.
The opiod issue
Traditionally, chronic pain is managed by the use of analgesics, physiotherapy, massage therapy, occupational therapy, and psychotherapy.
Opioids have become the mainstay of drug-oriented treatment. Unfortunately, in Canada in 2016, there were 2,800 apparent opioid-related deaths. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, if this trend were to continue, up to 4,000 lives were expected to be lost for the same reason in 2017.
The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in the US 63,600 deaths were related to opioid overuse in 2016, and the estimate is 66,000 in 2017.
As society, and health providers, we have to do a better job.
And, as health care providers, we are trying. The 2017 Canadian guidelines for managing non-cancer pain lists its number one recommendation as “optimization of non-opioid pharmacotherapy and non-pharmacological therapy, rather than a trial of opioids.”
It is well accepted that conventional management of chronic pain has limited success.
So, let’s explore an option that I know to be highly effective – which can help reduce pain and reliance on pain medications.
How yoga and meditation can help
Yoga and meditation can be helpful in managing not just pain, but also the associated depression and anxiety that comes along with chronic pain. More than that, it can improve cognitive function deficits associated with chronic pain. A recent research done at Stanford University suggests that meditation and breathing practices could be the solution to overcome the opioid crisis.
According to an official of the National Institutes of health, “There is compelling evidence that practicing mind-body techniques such as yoga and meditation can counteract the brain anatomy effects of chronic pain.”
Neuro-imaging studies have shown that chronic pain can reduce gray matter in the brain. Decreased gray matter can lead to memory impairment, emotional problems, and decreased cognitive functioning. The practice of yoga can actually increase gray matter in brain. If we can increase our gray matter, we increase our ability to handle pain.
Yoga practice may provide a protective effect in reducing the burden of depression and anxiety in these patients living with chronic pain.Yoga and meditation practice can also reduce pain sensitivity, leading to patients requiring less pain medication.
Bridging the gap to yoga
Often when I say ‘yoga’, many shy away. They worry that they need to be flexible, agile, and fit to practice yoga. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Yoga practice can be tailored to an individual’s needs. Meditation practice can be taught to anyone willing to learn.
All you need to start yoga or meditation is the willingness to begin; a willingness to try something new. And let’s face it, if you’ve lived with chronic pain for any length of time, you probably know that conventional pain management is not always effective. So, what do you have to lose?
I believe we should be offering to teach yoga and meditation to our chronic pain patients, to improve their quality of life.
These practices are effective, and they can give us a low cost, highly effective way of improving the lives of people living with chronic pain and its associated problems.
A new option for health care providers
What is more heart warming than that now yoga, breathing and meditation practices are widely accepted by the medical community? There are courses where health care providers can learn these powerful ancient healing techniques and earn the Continuous Education Credits too.
This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Bharti Verma, MA, MD, FCFP
Dr. Bharti Verma is the President of Duffus Health Centre, and has varied experience in all aspects of family medicine, including long-term care, obstetrics, geriatrics, pediatrics, psychotherapy, and counselling. She is also a senior instructor in yoga and meditation with Art of Living Canada, and was Vice-President of AOLF Canada from 2010-2017.
This article first appeared on artofliving.org.
The world needs your voice! Join Dr. Verma and Medha Garud for their upcoming Women’s Wellness Retreat, where you’ll learn to identify and overcome the barriers for reaching your full potential, and approach health, wellness, and womanhood from an Ayurvedic perspective. Learn More Here!
Articles We Love: A Love-Filled February
Ah, love. It’s one of the most powerful forces in the world, and something we all crave at a cellular level. Connecting with others and feeling loved and cherished nourishes our soul and gives us purpose. But love is so much more than something that you receive from others. It’s something that you can actively put into the world, and something that you can use to heal and grow within yourself.
As much as we adore love in all forms, we think that self-love is perhaps one of the most important and revolutionary practices you can cultivate. Which is why our favourite articles this month focus on how to make the choice to love yourself.
Kelly Douglas for Thought Catalog
Kelly Douglas shares her thoughts on learning to loving herself, and how this journey has transformed her life from a painful existence full of self-deception to one that is brimming with light.
“Amid the thick fog of my self-deception, I could vaguely make out a glimmer of the truth. I chased that spark of unconditional self-love with a sense of reckless abandon, steadfastly determined to capture it and forever hold it close. The light slowly grew more powerful, stripping my soul of self-imposed deception and filling my heart with truth. As I basked in the warmth of self-love, I resolved to never again habitually deprive myself of the love I deserve. At long last, I discovered I am always enough, despite the feverishly conniving taunts of my mind attempting to convince me otherwise.”
Samantha Lahonen for Sivana East
Yoga isn’t just a physical practice, but a mental and emotional one as well. Samantha Lahonen guides us through four transformative yoga poses that foster self-love.
“Sometimes, it doesn’t feel so easy to love yourself, yet having a negative self-image sets you up for illnesses such as anxiety and depression. You may notice that you put the needs of others before yourself; as the “people pleaser,” you often compare yourself to others, or you avoid certain situations or opportunities for fear of failure. This is where yoga comes in. Yoga puts you in a state of meditation, helping you to let go of the thoughts that whisper you are not good enough and keep you in a state of low self-esteem. Yoga replaces them with positive thoughts such as the feelings of strength, stability, and energy that come with practicing yoga.”
Kelly Ann Matuskiewicz for Absolute Awareness
Kelly Ann Matuskiewicz shares her thoughts on self-love as a spiritual practice, and how she incorporated self-love techniques into her own life to bring forth a more meaningful, fulfilling way of existing in the world.
“When I started to practice radical self love, my entire life experience shifted to more positive interactions and outcomes. I felt more confident, self assured, I trusted myself. Who and what I attracted into my life felt better and I was more in the flow. Unfortunately, not many of us know how to truly love ourselves. This is a key piece preventing us from manifesting our dreams and creating the lives we desire.”
5 Reasons to Plan a Spa 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.
In House: Marci Miles on Authentic Self-Care
Founder of the My Authentic Self-Care™ (MASC™) Retreat Marcelletta Miles sat down with Andrew Keaveney to discuss the inspiration and goals of her program.
Having lost her uncle, aunt, grandmother and grandfather within a two-year period, Miles was forced to come to terms with a personal truth. Despite 22 years as a nurse, she did not know how to take care of herself in a physically and emotionally lasting way. Her struggle through this difficult time gave her the inspiration and perspective to launch a three-day retreat recently held here at the Boone Art of Living Retreat Center based on the concept of “taking care of yourself from the inside-out.” Here’s a bit of what she had to say about this idea:
The difference of authentic self-care
MASC is about really taking time and taking care of yourself so you can be your best self for the other people around you. I always used the example of a glass full of water. Every time you give to someone else or do something else, you’re taking away from the water. And at some point, the glass runs dry and if you don’t take time to refill your glass, then you are running on empty. And if you just think about it and just stop and take time to do something for yourself that energizes you from the inside-out.
It’s not about getting your hair done. It’s not about getting your nails done. All that stuff washes away. Now when you energize yourself from the inside-out, from the core of who you are, you’re getting love from a place of sincerity.
Signs that someone is ‘running on empty’
They are exhausted all the time; they are frustrated; they feel empty; they feel like they’re missing something on the inside. They are discouraged. Some people even begin to feel suicidal because they just don’t have anything on the inside that’s keeping them grounded. And over this past weekend, that’s what we’ve heard a lot of.
Taking care of yourself from the inside out
When you are really taking care of yourself from inside-out, you find yourself getting lost in something that you’re really enjoying doing and it really energizes you. MASC is about pulling off the mask that we put on every day, that we hide behind. We don’t want people to see the true us. But we’ve gotten so comfortable with having that mask on that we are hiding from ourselves. And so this weekend was about pulling off the mask and really reaching the core of who we are on the inside.
We just take some time to get back to the things that you enjoy because that’s what energizes you. For example, one of the participants this weekend got back into writing poetry. She said that she didn’t take the time to write anymore, and so this gave her the opportunity to really sit down and out pen to paper and express yourself. And she was like, “Oh my goodness! I forgot what this felt like!”
If you’re interested in a weekend to reconnect with the core of your being, register here for Marcelletta Miles’s May 2018 MASC Retreat.
In House: Eric Maisel on Criticism & Creativity in Writing
Eric Maisel is a Creativity Coach and author who’s been working with writers for 30 years. This summer, he hosted the Deep Writing Workshop at the Art of Living Retreat Center, where writers of all experience levels relearned how to prioritize and develop their creativity in a supportive, quiet space.
A different kind of writing group
The Deep Writing Retreat is very simple in structure. Eric provides a series of lessons, as well as a safe space — there’s no critiquing or sharing of the writing that is created.
“A lot of people come for that reason alone,” Eric says. “They know they’re not going to have their writing shredded by somebody else on the spot. There’s also plenty of time to write, and not on writing exercises that go nowhere, but on their own projects. Many attendees have a project that they’re working on. This is an opportunity to get a lot of writing done in a safe environment, and also learn lessons that they can take back and continue to implement when they’re back home.”
About 15 years ago, Eric was invited to teach a writer’s workshop, and his group shared the space with another writer’s course. He noticed how much critiquing and unhappiness was happening in the other group; tears and feuds and everything he knew he didn’t want in a writing workshop. Observing that group, Eric saw how the idea of sharing and critiquing in the moment doesn’t really support one’s intention to have a good experience and get a lot of writing done.
According to Eric, many writers don’t understand the extent to which anxiety and existential despair gets in the way of writing, especially when they feel blocked. He crafted his workshops with this in mind, and has been leading groups with compassion, respect, and space for over 15 years.
What is deep writing?
Deep writing is simply getting quiet enough to write. “If we get quiet enough, we go deep from a physiological standpoint, and we get our whole brain back,” Eric says. Our minds are always on the go, and not just figuratively. Each thought takes up thousands of neurons, and when you’ve got a lot of your mind, it’s very difficult to find the brain space in which to be creative.
“One of the main things I help writers understand is why they want to get quiet. This is different from meditating, but not unrelated. This is quiet for the sake of generating ideas; it’s quiet with the purpose of allowing something to bubble up. When you get quiet, you have that experience of silence in which ideas are born, and that’s the depth of the workshop.”
Deepening your writing practice often has the effect of deepening your life as well. If you’re a writer, and you’re not making time for your writing, it’s easy to become disappointed in yourself and with life in general. Joining a workshop, especially one in which you can give your writing a depth of attention that’s almost impossible in the business of day to day life, helps you do the wonderful, existential work of living your life’s purpose.
Letting your voice ring out
Most people have a voice, or wish they had a voice with which to express themselves. Most of blockage, according to Eric, is self-censorship. Speaking your truth is difficult, whether you’re a writer, an activist, a teacher, or even just initiating a difficult conversation. This is all the same process. The process by which we can let our voice ring out involves getting quiet, being courageous, preparing ourselves, and then actually speaking.
“A lot of the workshop is about eliminating excuses that people have. I think many find it to be a profound experience, a life-changing experience. I very often get mail from a person long after they’ve taken the workshop, telling me their book is finished or that it’s been published, and that it was the workshop that made the difference.”
Are your thoughts serving you?
Eric also tells us that we need to think the thoughts that will serve us. The biggest creative blocker is the way we talk to ourselves. If we say “I’m not talented”, or “there’s too much competition,” or even things like “I’m too tired to write, I’m too busy”, we won’t get our creative purpose off the ground, or our other purposes as well. The most important element is the cognitive work of making sure that you think thoughts that serve you.
Exploring Wisdom: Nikki Myers on Overcoming Addiction
Recent Art of Living Retreat Center retreat host Nikki Myers has created a revolutionary, holistic approach to addiction recovery that combines yoga philosophy and the tools of the traditional 12-step program. We recently spoke with Nikki about how these two philosophies work together, the role of sacred transformation, and her own road to recovery.
A practice born from lived experience
Here’s the story: my life was in the thrall of addiction for many years. There’s a phrase used in 12-step programs that goes ‘jails, institutions, and death’ — well, all of those I understand, and all of those I have experience with. My inspiration to create this program comes out of my own lived experience with addiction and recovery.
I found my way into 12-step programs by the grace of something bigger than myself. The 12-step program absolutely, positively saved my life. For 8 years, I was immersed in this program, but even after 8 years clean, I relapsed, and found myself falling back into addictive behavior all over again.
After my first relapse, I was reintroduced to yoga. I’d had experience with yoga before, but coming back to it, I truly fell in love with the practice for the first time, and began to understand how closely the philosophy and practice of yoga relates to the 12-step program.
Working together to heal addiction
There were so many connections that I saw between yoga and the program, and after four years of studying yoga and staying clean, I decided that I didn’t need the program anymore. And you know what? I relapsed again. It was only after that second relapse that I came to realize that I was keeping these two practices in separate boxes. What I really needed to sustain recovery was a marriage between the two.
Y12SR was created out of my personal experience, and along the way, I discovered there were so many more people like me. The 12-step program deals with the cognitive aspects of addiction, but yoga helps with the somatic aspect, and together, they create a full-system set of teachings.
There is a model in yoga philosophy that comes from the yoga sutras, stating how the root of so many problems is in Avidya, which ultimately is a misconception of who we are. We think we’re separate from each other and from nature, from the universe, and even from our own bodies.
The founders of the 12-step program address the same problem, but a little differently. They call it “stinkin’ thinkin'”, but it’s the same thing as misconception. We look at things through the lens of our own subjective experience, which can lead us to misinterpretation of the world around us and ourselves.
One of my teachers says the answer to everything is ‘it depends’. When the pain of not doing something at all became greater than the pain of taking a step forward, then I knew it was time to take the step forward.
This step could simply be an investigation. I tell people all the time to just try some things on. One of the things I personally tried early on was giving up — if you want to see if you’re addicted to something, watch what happens when you take it away. Your mood, your attitude, even your physiology can change. If you experience these kinds of changes, it could be an indicator of a serious problem.
A spiritual solution to a spiritual problem
There are many avenues to combat addiction. Of course, there are 12-step programs, which are absolutely brilliant, and do tie very closely to yoga. You could try yoga, or online resources. There are many ways to begin the journey to recovery.
At its heart, the crisis of addiction is a spiritual problem, a spiritual crisis. We’ve taken a pharmaceutical approach to it, and in my experience, what I assert is that there will never be a pharmacological answer to a spiritual crisis. Both yoga and the 12-step program affirm this. Addiction is a spiritual issue that needs a spiritual remedy.
What I love about the combination of yoga and the cognitive pieces of the 12-step program is that together, they offer tools and processes to begin to support that spiritual transformation, that sacred road to recovery.