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In House: Wah & James Leary Pt. 2


This April, The Art of Living Retreat Center hosted the transformational Life Qi Renewal Retreat – a four-day journey to learn self-healing and Qi healing protocols headed by the dynamic duo of Dr. James Leary and Wah. We recently spoke to them about their experiences at the Retreat Center, the power of Kirtan, or mantra chanting, and the magic of the mountain. Read Part 1 here.

Teaching Together

AOLRC: You’re both such extraordinary people, who happen to be teachers and great communicators and facilitators yourself – what is the experience of coming and teaching together? What’s it like to fuse each of your energies, your intellects, your spirituality?
Wah: There’s an activation that happens between us. James will open up a certain energy, and I’ll expand upon it. Someone will go through a really intense experience, and I’ll be able to work from that with questions – Where do we take it from here? How do you integrate that experience? What are you going to do? Are you going to take soothing food, soothing energy? I’ll take those questions as far as they can go, and then James will take over from there with particular techniques.

That doesn’t only happen in our teachings, but in our lives as well. It’s an activation, it’s a back-and-forth. It’s like any other good relationship: you do your part, and I’ll do my part, and that’s how community works. If you don’t do your part, then community doesn’t move forward, so it’s as though each person has a chance to add their little piece to the puzzle.

Ancient Knowledge in a Modern World

AOLRC: You have a curriculum you’ve defined, but it also sounds as if within this framework, there’s an enormous expansiveness, an unpredictability, a mystery of the unfolding that you reach – ebb and flow with each other, and get into places that you might otherwise not get to, had you not been there, getting into it together. 

Wah: Well, between us, we have quite the global experience – I’ve got knowledge and experience from India, and James has experience from Mongolia and China. Combining medical practices with Ayurveda and yoga from India is a fascinating thing to explore. These teachings all originated from the same places and became different over time. The foundations of these teachings are the same globally. So we take the things we know, and approach them from different disciplines, and trace them back to the common source. It’s fun! And to see where the development of these practices is going – There’s yoga for scoliosis – that’s not in the vatas. There’s yoga for addiction recovery. We treat autism, downs, et cetera – there are so many modern ways to apply ancient knowledge, and we love to explore that.

James: The basic core of many eastern teachings come from the Northern Himalayas. The teachers spread out to share this knowledge and wealth, to allow this growth of the world. And so, over the millennia, people have taken these things and done what they would with them. There is a lot of culture that we still can’t uncover about that time, but the teachings we do know stand true. Six thousand plus years later, they’re still relevant. What really gets me cracking up in the West is that we refer to it as “alternative” medicine, when modern medicine is really only a few hundred years old.

Wah: Modern medicine, really, is the alternative.

James: Of course, we’ve really increased the ability to save lives with trauma medicine, but for spirituality and natural healing, it’s these ancient practices that seem to be the most transformative for people. I think that it should be more mainstream. With a facility like this and the background of it – I love the fact that there’s no alcohol, smoking, or drug use allowed here. It sets such a beautiful energy for learning, for assimilating, for letting people take it in and make it theirs. In a lot of places you don’t find it.


AOLRC: You mentioned that in Sanskrit there are two separate words for health, and in English we have a hard time translating that because we just don’t think that way. We think of health in the singular. It’s like you used to have these two concepts – one is being alive, and another one is not being sick. The western world is happy to think of health as “not-sickness”.

James: With everything going on in the world right now, people are coming to understand, in the last 20 years especially, what’s been surrounding them. They’re opening themselves up to different spiritual and healing modalities. They’re getting back to where they’re feeling things again for the first time. Not so much just touch, or the physical aspects of healing, but also the spiritual and energetic. In western medicine and science, if you can’t produce empirical evidence; evidence you can see, smell, taste; it’s not real. But we know that there are other things in the world that are tangible that you can work with, and that many, many people, all over the world, can actually see, feel, and manipulate these energies, and use them for good and healing.

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