Life is a Journey
The path of life doesn’t always take us where we want to go. Sometimes, circumstances force us to deal with things we don’t want to have to deal with. Other times, where life takes us is so much better than our grandest dreams.
Life is a journey.
I was reminded of this the other day, when I was taking a walk. It was just a normal walk, but it was a good lesson to me, and maybe to you, to keep moving forward. Whatever season of life you’re in. Whatever you’re facing. Whatever is going on in your life.
I walked down the path. I’d been on this path, many times, and love it there. Walking in the woods is one of my favorite things to do, and I walk the same path many times each week. Sometimes, with a friend, other times, alone.
Life is a journey.
A new path, a new discovery
As I began to turn, taking my normal route, something caused me to pause. I’m not sure what it was, but instead of turning the way I usually go, I stopped. I hesitated. I wondered, “What would happen if I went another way?”
I found myself thinking, “What’s down there?”
I’d never asked this question before. Never thought to even wonder what was down the other path. But, in that moment, for some reason, I wanted to know. I wanted to discover what was there.
Instead of turning the way I’ve always gone, I turned the other way. I went down the opposite path. I took a chance.
I walked for a little while, taking in all my surroundings, admiring the beautiful woods. There were new things to see, to discover, and I was glad I had ventured down this different path.
It was a good lesson for me.
I’ve been struggling with several things in my life, and wasn’t sure which way I wanted to go. I’ve been consumed with thinking about which decision would be “best,” not even considering taking a different approach. Going down a different path.
Don’t be afraid to walk down another path. To take a risk. To go where you haven’t been before. Sure, there’s a risk when we walk into the unknown. We don’t know what we’ll find. We don’t know what we’ll see. We don’t know how it will turn out.
But, that’s OK.
Sometimes, we need to push ourselves down a new path. Don’t ignore the feeling in your heart that tells you you’re ready for something new. Maybe it’s a new hobby. Maybe it’s a new job. Maybe it’s something you haven’t even thought about yet.
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut. It’s easy to get used to walking down the same path, day after day. It’s easy to accept “this is the way it is.” However, don’t forget, each day, you have a choice.
A new day ahead of you, on life’s journey.
To explore the world.
To notice all the amazing things life has to offer.
To challenge yourself to walk down a new path.
That doesn’t mean you aren’t happy with what you have or don’t appreciate the blessings in your life. It just means, for whatever reason, you want more. Maybe a new challenge. Maybe a new friend. Maybe just the excitement something new can bring.
Focus your attention
Listen to your heart. Listen to that pull you might feel inside yourself, and be willing to go down a new path. You never know what you’ll discover or find. That’s the wonderful thing about life, there’s always something new to learn, something new to experience, something new to discover.
Savor all your experiences. Take it all in.
Sure, sometimes the journey of life takes a turn we don’t want to be on.
When that happens, push through it. Soldier on. Lean on your friends and family and find the inner strength you possess to get passed it. You will.
On the same walk, several days later, I paused at the spot where I had taken the new turn. I hesitated again, trying to decide which way to go. I smiled at myself, as I turned down my “normal” route.
It’s always nice to come back to what’s familiar, especially after trying something new. The good news, most of the time it’s still there. This time, as I walked the usual path, I saw it with a renewed sense of appreciation.
Find meaning each day.
Do you want more from life? Do you feel a lack of fun, joy, passion or success? Whether you’ve been through a tough time, or are dusting yourself off after a percieved failure, or whether you’ve simply fallen into a rut which you’re struggling to get out of–this is the transformative pick-me-up for you. Dara Kurtz and Garth Callaghan host You Deserve to Thrive at the Art of Living Retreat Center from November 2-4, 2018.
Dara Kurtz is a cancer survivor, inspirational author, and speaker who shares her life-changing work with people all over the world through workshops, media, and as a coach. She has learned first-hand how to get through difficult times and create the life she truly desires.
This article first appeared on Crazy Perfect Life, 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!
Ayurveda 101: The Very Basics
We are passionate about the power of Ayurveda.
Our bodies, minds, and spirits are intimately interconnected. When the body is in good health, the mind and spirit thrive. We’ve seen the incredible ways in which practicing Ayurveda has changed lives over the years, and that’s why we’ve dedicated ourselves at Art of Living not only to nurturing your spiritual and emotional wellness, but your physical wellness, too.
Ayurveda isn’t as esoteric as it might seem at first glance. It’s actually a simple, logical system of health that you can easily incorporate into your day to day life. In this article, we’ll be exploring the basics of Ayurveda, demystifying this ancient way of life and bringing it home to the modern world. We want you to live your happiest, healthiest life, and through Ayurveda, you can!
So what is Ayurveda, anyway?
In the most basic of terms, Ayurveda is an ancient system of health and wellness, developed in India and practiced for thousands upon thousands of years. The word “Ayurveda” means “the knowledge of life”; “ayur” translates to “life,” and “veda” translates to “knowledge.” Unlike classical western medicine, Ayurveda seeks to help the practitioner achieve optimal wellness through balance and integration, and seeks to treat the root cause of illness, rather than the symptoms.
Ayurvedic philosophy doesn’t separate us from our environment, but celebrates and recognizes the importance of the cycles of the earth, the seasons, and the time of day. It places great importance on hygiene, plant-based medicine, and physical and mental wellness. Health, in Ayurvedic terms, is a state in which your thoughts, emotions, and body are in a state of thriving harmony with each other and with your environment.
The origins of Ayurveda
Ayurveda originated in India, and can be traced back to as early as the 4th century BCE; Ayurvedic wisdom was even included in the Vedas, which are the holy scriptures of Hinduism and the oldest surviving Sanskrit literature. Ayurveda has actually undergone very few changes over the centuries — advancements in medicine and science are often in line with what Ayurveda already knows.
How Ayurveda can improve your health
Ayurveda is all about balance. To start with Ayurveda, it’s important to understand what forces are at work within yourself and the world, and to learn how to bring those back into balance. Ayurveda focuses on streamlining treatment to every single individual, rather than prescribing certain things across the board. Through an Ayurvedic diet, living by an Ayurvedic clock, and developing a custom system of health for yourself, you can become the best you ever.
Stay tuned for posts on the doshas, elements, and other Ayurvedic wisdom!
Immerse yourself in Ayurvedic wisdom in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Take a look at our programs and retreats to see which one is right for you!
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
The Best 10-Minute Kale Salad
This is one of the best kale salads I’ve ever made and that says a lot because I’ve made hundreds of kale salads. This raw kale salad is not only quick to toss together but it’s simple, can be whipped up in 10 minutes and uses a few basic ingredients. You can serve this vegan kale salad with apples, cranberries or any other fruit you’d like if you can’t find fresh figs.
- 1 head dinosaur (flat) kale, finely chopped and stems removed
- 2 tbsp. lemon juice
- 2 tsp. olive oil, extra-virgin
- sea salt to taste
- 1 head Swiss chard, finely chopped and stems removed
- 1 medium purple cabbage, thinly sliced
- 4 large fresh figs, halved
- 2 tbsp. walnuts, chopped
- 1 tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped
- 2 tsp. lemon zest
- 4 tbsp. tahini, well-stirred
- 6 tbsp. warm water
- 1 tsp. chickpea miso paste, optional
- 1/2 tsp. sea salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 tsp. pepper, to taste
- 1/4 tsp. ground cumin
- chili powder, pinch
- Massage the kale in a large mixing bowl using your hands with the lemon juice, olive oil, and sea salt, to taste. Massage for two minutes, or until the kale is very tender and dark green.
- Add the Swiss chard, cabbage, figs, walnuts, mint, and lemon zest. Set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl, mix together all the dressing ingredients until it forms your desired dressing consistency.
- Add more water or lemon juice, if needed. Drizzle this dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Discover the missing pieces keeping you from optimal health, weight, and happiness at my upcoming retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center, The Whole Body Transformation. This retreat is designed for anyone who wants to transform their life beyond medical care. The entire retreat will be a very safe space for women to open up and heal the deeper issues that are going on inside their bodies that medicine does not address.
This article is excerpted from TheHealthyApple.com, and is used with permission from the author.
Amie Valpone, HHC, AAP is a chef, nutritionist, and the author of the best-selling cookbook Eating Clean: The 21-Day Plan to Detox, Fight Inflammation & Reset Your Body. She is the founder of TheHealthyApple.com, where she discusses how she healed herself after 10 years of chronic illness from lyme disease, polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) and hypothyroidism.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Becoming a Yoga Instructor: The Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training Course
With week one and week two under our belt, we moved into our final week of the Sri Sri Teacher Training Course in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina. During week three, our schedule remained the same, and our growth continued.
Tapping into the joys of childhood
At the beginning of the third week, everyone in class began to look younger. It doesn’t make sense, does it? After two weeks of lengthy yoga sessions, unpredictable weather, and long days, we should have looked haggard.
But, we didn’t.
We all have those memories of the unbounded joys of childhood. Remember those? Our class collectively began to tap into those old memories of happiness, and the contentment of self that young children have before life gets rough. Tapping into those feelings of happiness made us feel and look younger. That lost eye twinkle was back!
What could challenge that renewed youthful spirit? Well, I’ll tell you what…EXAMS!
The class instructors were very upfront about the upcoming exams. The exams would be difficult.
Panic rippled through the class. What if we spent three weeks learning anatomy, physiology, the endocrine system, ancient yoga knowledge, Sanskrit, perfected our yoga poses only to be told, “Sorry, honey, you failed. You can’t be a yoga instructor.”
Before I started the course, I didn’t even know I wanted to become a yoga instructor, and now I was panicked I would fail. Other classmates verbalized that same fear as we dried dishes during seva, or walked up the hill to class.
During the third week, we had two practicums where we had to perform poses in front of our class and the teachers. The teachers we had grown to love would have clipboards and stern faces and would grade us as they watched us teach, and they weren’t afraid to give failing grades.
We had the tools we needed, knowledge, proper alignment of poses, but could we teach a class? Did we believe in ourselves enough?
Doubt crept back in, and most of us wondered, “Do I know enough to succeed?”
Letting go of doubt
One of our teachers said something remarkable when faced with a barrage of questions from nervous classmates (It wasn’t just me!) about the level of difficulty in the exam and practicum. Instructor Bharti said that if we failed, then she failed as a teacher. It was her job to provide us with everything we needed to pass. We had everything we needed. We just needed to calm down and believe in ourselves.
Intention matters. My intention developed and grew, and I wanted to pass the course. I had to believe that I did indeed have everything I needed. I had to let go of the crutches that kept me from succeeding, the what if’s in life that everyone has. What if I couldn’t remember the information. What if I physically couldn’t perform the poses. What if I fail. What if…
With a little help from friends…
Our class would study together as we walked to the dining hall for meals. We would quiz each other while we were drying dishes. When one person felt weak about a particular subject, whether it was the name of bones or muscles or how to pronounce words in Sanskrit, collectively we would help that person. As we worked together as a group, and we became stronger as individuals.
Each classmate at one time or another during that last week reached out to help me with some aspect of the exam. I, in turn, reached out to help whoever needed help. We created a song to go with the Sanskrit words for the personal ethics of yoga while working in the kitchen. One classmate created a Jeopardy game that quizzed us on the endocrine system. A classmate reminded us all that we were only as strong as the weakest student. The individual desire to pass became a collective one fueling us through the week.
A desire to help others
When it was time for the practicum, I focused on my intention to teach yoga to the best of my ability. I didn’t worry that I wasn’t the most flexible person in the room or that I was in my 50’s. My focus was on my intention, and my intention had grown from accepting a challenge from a friend to strengthening a desire to help others.
Without the three-week immersion into all things yoga, I might have missed that essential element.
I’m not going to tell you that the written exam was easy because I had all that I needed to pass it. It was tough, really tough. I hadn’t taken a college-level exam in a long time (OK, so I’m talking 30 years.). We had 2 ½ hours to complete the exam (which felt like a college-level exam to me), and it took me the entire time. Yes, I remembered nearly all of the information, but I did get confused on some of the questions (what did the mitral valve do…what did that Sanskrit word mean again…argh!).
At the end of the week, we found out as a class what our grades were and that we would be getting our 300-hour Sri Sri Yoga Certificate, which would allow us to apply for a 200-hour Yoga Alliance Certificate as well.
As a class, we did pretty well. There were a few As, a few Bs, many Cs, a few Ds, and a few people failed but were allowed to retake the exam. My grade was a B, and I was content with that.
We spent many hours after we got our scores smiling, hugging, laughing, and talking about how we would visit each other’s yoga studios and guest teach. If we make those visits, the trips will take us all over the United States, to Canada and China.
A way to give back
I’ve been home from The Sri Sri Teachers Training Course for several months now, and I find myself pausing when my friends say, “How was your yoga trip? It must have been so relaxing to do yoga for three weeks!”
“No. No, it wasn’t relaxing at all.” I reply to them. “It was transformational.”
My life isn’t perfect since I became a yoga instructor, and I’m certainly not happy all the time. Life is hard for everyone, and there is always something that knocks me off my confidence platform. Yoga, though, is a way for me to pick myself back up when I get knocked down. It’s also a way for me to give back to the well of life from which I drink.
I have taught a few yoga classes since I have been home. The best part about teaching is looking at the faces of students after the yoga session and seeing people who are relaxed and happy. It’s a great feeling to know that I am helping others to find their happy through the practice of yoga.
Recently, I’ve learned there is a 500-hour yoga teacher training course. I’m in my 50’s and not very bendy, but in the near future, I’ll be taking that course.
This September, you can experience the Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training for yourself. Click here to learn more and begin your yoga teaching journey!
Can my body survive?: The Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training Course
While taking a three-week course in the mountains of Boone, I spent the first week battling doubt in my abilities. The second week brought many other hurdles. My mind was willing, but could my 50-something-year-old body handle the course?
Luckily, sensing the exhaustion of the class, Krishan Verma, the Yogi Master, adjusted the start time from 5:30 am to 6:00 am. Thirty extra minutes. Only thirty extra minutes. I really could have used four extra hours…
The weekly pattern
The classes each week followed a similar pattern. We had early morning yoga, the full sequence (40+ poses) followed by breathing exercises and meditation. Then, we would walk to the dining hall for breakfast and seva. After, we would go back to the classroom for more yoga poses and strength training until lunch. Following lunch, we would do seva before walking to the classroom building.
The afternoon consisted of lessons on anatomy, physiology, and the endocrine system, more yoga poses, and meditation before dinner. After dinner, we did seva then walked back to Veda II (the classroom building) for satsang. The day ended with yoga theory, and study sessions/homework before hopefully falling asleep before midnight.
That’s a demanding schedule for someone like me. Before my car accident, I was training to run a marathon. I was a little more used to a physically disciplined life then, but that was two years ago. By week two, I wasn’t just tired; I was exhausted.
Weathering the weather
Not only was the course challenging, but Boone in October brought constant weather changes. There would be eighty-degree days followed by twenty-degree days. The retreat center experienced flooding and sunshine, gale-force winds and gentle breezes, beautiful fall foliage and snow. Part of the physical challenge of the course became figuring out what to wear each day: flip flops or winter boots, t-shirts or thick fuzzy sweaters.
However drastic the change in weather might be, the retreat center maintained its awe-inspiring beauty. After the flooding, a double rainbow painted the sky. A bright full moon warmed the frigid night. There was beauty everywhere I looked. It seemed the weather was in celebration of our course.
A week of celebrations
The weather wasn’t the only thing celebrating. We also celebrated Diwali, the Festival of Lights. Our class dressed for the occasion and held a celebration after dinner. I was unprepared for the Diwali celebration – I didn’t pack a dress. Sensing my feeling of inadequacy, my class buddy, Sunita, invited me to her room, reached in her suitcase and generously gave me a beautiful dress to wear. Her generosity humbled me.
The celebrations continued with two birthdays. Celebrating our Yogi Master’s birthday, we danced, sang and ate cake. For Halloween, we celebrated yet another birthday. We laughed and danced with Jennifer (one of our yoga instructors) and even pranked her by dressing up our anatomy class skeleton with some of her clothes and placing the skeleton on her yoga mat. The nights ended with singing around a campfire eating candy from our Sanskrit teacher.
We worked hard each day, but we also celebrated with great joy.
A varied team of instructors
We had seven instructors who taught us every aspect of yoga. Andrew, a Sanskrit scholar, demonstrated how to pronounce Sanskrit words correctly. Medha, an expert on Ayurveda, lectured on the importance of diet. Bharti, a medical doctor, guided us through anatomy, physiology, and the endocrine system. Neha, Jennifer, and Neelam taught the morning yoga classes and were always on hand to help. There was so much to the course that I hadn’t anticipated. I knew there would be a Yogi Master, but to have six additional instructors guiding us was fantastic. It increased the intensity of the course because it heightened our growth potential.
The course was so much more than learning yoga poses. We were learning to be healthier, happier people from the inside out.
Deep cleansing… literally
During week two, we literally moved our insides…out. One day we learned how to use the infamous Neti pot. Our entire class, together, cleaned out our sinuses using salt water while hanging our heads over the railing of the dining hall veranda. The saline cleared away the gunk and carried it down the hill to mix with the fallen leaves. On the terrace once more, we learned the practice of Sutra Neti, or nasal flossing, which I was not a big fan of; I’ll leave it at that.
Another class exercise was Shankhaprakshalana: a salt water colon cleanse. This time IN the dining hall, our entire class drank salt water, performed eight yoga poses, and ran to the nearby bathroom as the concoction began to work. Then we would grab another cup of the colon cleansing elixir, return to our yoga mats and continue the poses until it was time for another mad dash for the toilets. In a way, it was a lot like the prep for the colonoscopy I had last year except for the classmates and the yoga. I have to add that it didn’t taste as awful as the colonoscopy prep. The Neti pot experience may have brought our class closer, but the Shankhaprakshalana took our bonding to a whole new level.
At first, I thought: I will never do this again, but the cleanse left me feeling lighter. I made a mental note to repeat the practice every six months. We were getting rid of trapped physical and emotional waste. Who needs to hold on to all that garbage anyway?
The emergency cookies
Two weeks of focusing on yoga created a visible change in me. My clothes hung more loosely, and I was breathing more freely (and not just because of the Neti pot).
There was a bag of emergency cookies in my room – Pepperidge Farm Milano. I unpacked the cookies the first day and carefully placed them on the desk. I used to eat 4 or 5 every night. Maybe it was because I thought it gave me control over my day, or possibly just because? After the first week, I found that number being knocked down to one and not every night. Just one cookie every now and then. The entire yoga process was creating a calmer Laurie, a happier me that didn’t really need a cookie before bed.
Looseness in the body
Falling asleep at night was no problem at all. In the past, I would have to take Motrin PM to fall asleep, but with the disciplined work came a tired body and a clear mind that had no problem sleeping. Waking up at 5 am became easier and easier. When the weather was good, I loved walking to class alone but for the stars brilliant against the dark sky.
With all of the mountain walks combined with endless hours of yoga, I was amazed that I had no soreness. My neck and back are often sore from the car accident I had two years ago. While I was taking the yoga course, I had no stiffness or soreness.
An emotional detox
The Yogi Master certainly knew what he was doing. All those poses we were holding were not only strengthening but also detoxing our bodies and emotions. There were times during class when I would notice tears streaming down my face. I wasn’t sad or hurt, yet the tears came, freeing me from trapped emotions. I wasn’t the only person experiencing tears in class. We became experts at knowing where the tissue box was and gently passing it to the person in need. That wasn’t the only release. There were times when bursts of laughter would erupt from the room.
During the second week, I began to concentrate on my body’s alignment, and not just during the hours of yoga sessions. While walking, I was more aware of my posture. Did I suck in my stomach? Were my shoulders pulled down and away from my ears? While I sat, was my spine straight?
The stronger my body became, the more I cared about my body alignment, and the less I cared about my flexibility.
My mind and body became stronger, allowing my spirit to take center stage. The total immersion into yoga allowed a safe place for me to grow.
Mind, body, and spirit
During the second week, our minds were challenged to memorize the sequence of poses, Sanskrit terms, ancient yoga knowledge, anatomy, physiology, and the endocrine system. Our bodies worked to perform the correct alignment for the poses while learning counter poses. Our bodies also had to build up from the cleanses while maintaining a tight daily schedule. Eventually, our spirits were challenged as locked-in emotions were set free allowing for growth.
My fear of not being able to complete the course physically was unfounded. The second week taught me that when led in the right direction, my body can keep up just fine. It even had energy left over to celebrate happy events. I began to feel thinner, stronger, and more comfortable in my skin. I felt my spirit grow as week two ended and week three started.
Two weeks down and one to go. Easy, right? Not really. The class as a whole was stronger and happier, but that didn’t make week three easier. No, it wasn’t easy at all. While the hours spent in class had become more routine, and the poses an enjoyable challenge, week three brought with it challenges that made me question if my spirit was going to be strong enough to help me pass the course.
To Be Continued…
An Unlikely Candidate: The Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training Course
Last summer, a friend of mine, Sejal, suggested I take a three-week course in the mountains of Boone, North Carolina to become a yoga instructor. At first, of course, I said no.
I’m in my 50’s and not very bendy. Except for taking Sejal’s yoga class at the Art of Living Retreat Center, the only yoga I had taken was a class here and there at the YMCA and a few other fitness centers. Those classes were more feats of calisthenics than true yoga, and left me sore and feeling inadequate.
Sejal persisted, which made me wonder, “Why?” Why should a woman in her fifties with minimal experience in yoga become a yoga teacher?
“You don’t have to be bendy,” Sejal insisted. She went on to say that this is about a lifestyle, a chance to make life better.
Suddenly, and surprisingly to me, my “Why should I?” turned into “Why not?,” and I headed to the mountains of Boone with my car packed full of clothes and emergency cookies.
Arriving at the Center
Upon reaching the Art of Living Retreat Center, I immediately felt a sense of calm, as though I was home. I checked into my dormitory-styled room, heaving my overstuffed luggage up the stairs. My room consisted of a bed, a nightstand, a desk, and a chair. I opened the windows and let the fresh mountain air fill the room before walking to class.
The view from the front of the building was gorgeous as I stopped by the benches placed for people to sit and breathe in the mountain view. It was October 14th, and the leaves were changing color.
I walked up the hill to one of the buildings below the main ashram. The crisp air, the view of the rolling mountains, and the overall stillness of retreat center made life feel simpler as I walked towards Veda II, the building I would be taking classes in for the next three weeks.
The first class
The building was intimate, yet had plenty of room for our class of 24 to spread out. I sat in the front row facing a small stage. On a yoga mat next to me sat Sunita, who soon became my buddy. She is 72. Yes, 72. It wasn’t long before she told me about her double knee replacement surgeries and how yoga helped in her recovery. Here I was worried about not being very bendy and in my 50’s…
While sitting on our yoga mats, the class had a short introductory session before we broke for dinner. It’s a steep hill up to the dining hall, one we would walk up and down many times over the three-week course.
Nourishing food and community
The dining hall for the Art of Living Retreat Center is entirely vegan, and meals are served buffet-style. There were so many choices of food that I found my plate piled high each meal because I wanted to try everything. Chef Mel was fabulous at providing unique meals and only repeating dishes when asked – his tomato and pepper bisque was a welcome repeat.
Windows lined the dining hall wall and displayed a view of the rolling mountains painted with the changing fall leaves. That first night, I sat and ate dinner amongst strangers not fully aware that after three weeks these people would become my family.
The first full day set the tone for how physically and mentally demanding the course would be. I set out for the day at 5:05 am, meeting Sunita and Daisy (another classmate) for the 15-minute walk up the hill to class.
At 5:05 am, the stars shone very brightly in the night sky. The brisk morning air stung my cheeks. I planned on bringing with me to Boone a mini Keurig so I could continue having my morning coffee, but my teenage daughter would not allow me to bring one. “Mom,” she said with great exasperation, “It’s like bringing beer to rehab. You are not bringing a coffee machine to learn yoga.” She was right, and the coffee-free brisk morning walk helped to wake me up for the 5:30 am class.
The early morning class began with yoga, breathing exercises including Sudarshan Kriya (rhythmic breathing developed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar), and Sahaj Samadhi meditation until 8:30 am. Then it was time for breakfast.
The hidden blessing of seva
One of the essential aspects of Sri Sri Yoga is seva (selfless service). We were all assigned a seva, and my seva was working in the kitchen after each meal.
Usually, I would not be excited about working in a kitchen. Truth-be-known, I am never enthusiastic about working in my kitchen at home. It made a huge difference that this kitchen was not my kitchen. It was a commercial kitchen filled with happy people whose intent was to help others. I would dry dishes and put them out on the counter, or stack dirty dishes bound for the large industrial dishwasher. This dishwasher had a conveyor belt system. Every time I pushed a tray into the machine, it reminded me of how people get on rides at Disney.
I scrubbed pots and pans, and I wrapped fruit. Whichever task I did, I did with contentment. It’s amazing how being around like-minded happy people can make even the most menial tasks enjoyable.
Jim managed the kitchen. This job was his retirement job, and he always had a pep in his step and a sparkle in his eyes.
Other classmates worked in the kitchen with me. We would talk about our families and lives back home as we dried dishes, or whatever chore we were doing. Seva was a very grounding and comforting experience.
Sinking into yoga
After breakfast, it was back to Veda for more yoga. The Yogi Master, Krishan Verma, would have us hold specific yoga poses or asanas, and I would think, “Wow, I am awful at this,” or “I’m not going to be able to stand up and walk again after holding this pose for so long.” After a session, I would stand up and walk just fine without any pain. Yes, I would be exhausted, but I would not feel pain, which amazed me.
There were many times that first week when I kept looking into Krishan and his wife Bharti’s eyes thinking they were going to shake their heads at me with an awkward look of annoyance and point towards the door saying, “This really isn’t working. It’s time for you to leave.” Of course, that never happened – it was just doubt overwhelming my mind.
I doubted whether I would be able to do all the poses. My body is still recovering from a car accident I was in two years ago. It was a significant accident. I had neck problems and mild traumatic brain injury from the wreck that affected my speech and short-term memory. I would think about that as I was sitting crossed legged listening to Krishan teach the class. Maybe Sejal was wrong? Maybe I wouldn’t be able to do this.
So much doubt!
Working through mental and physical blocks
Several years before the car accident, I blew out my Achilles tendon while training for a marathon and had to learn to walk again after having a new tendon created. Maybe I just couldn’t do yoga because of that, never mind the car accident…
I kept doing all the poses to the best of my ability, taking the meditations seriously, committing to the breathing exercises, arriving to class early, and listening to what the teachers were instructing. At some point during the first week the doubt I was carrying became unimportant. It was still there. At times, it would wash over me in waves, but I found it best to acknowledge it and move on.
Maybe it was the fact that I was constantly busy? Perhaps the yoga poses, breathing exercises and meditations were giving me the strength I needed to ignore the persistent nagging doubt? Maybe I was just too exhausted? I don’t know, but I stopped listening to that voice in my head that said, “You can’t do this because of…” I began to concentrate on one step at a time.
We would break for lunch between 1 and 1:30, walk up the steep hill, eat lunch, and I would work in the kitchen again. That first week, as I got to know my classmates better, I began to notice that we all had voices of doubt to overcome. Life is difficult for everyone. It doesn’t matter what kind of doubt someone carries. Doubt is doubt, and for every individual, it can stop progress.
Finding a rhythm
Some days, my classmates and I would talk a lot while doing seva. There were days when we wouldn’t talk at all. Then there were days where we would laugh and sing. It all depended on what we were working through that day. Our struggles might have been different, but our paths were similar.
By the end of week one, we had learned all the Sri Sri Yoga poses, and we began learning anatomy and ancient yoga knowledge. Class started at 5:30 am and ended at 10 pm, followed by a daily written homework assignment and studying. After week one, the battle between myself and my mind had quieted. Now I wondered, can my body withstand the course?
To Be Continued…
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.”
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.”
Ayurvedic Recipes: Sauteed Greens
Ayurveda calls collard greens sattvic. This implies that they support peacefulness and purity of body, mind, and spirit. Collard greens possess bitter, astringent, light, dry qualities. Their digestion is aided with spices, healthy fats, and substances rich in digestive enzymes and stomach acid boosting abilities.
Enjoy collards as a side dish, a main dish with protein rich nuts, seeds, and beans or, in a soup. Read on to discover more about the greatness of these greens and the ingredients by which they are accompanied in February’s recipe.
The ‘personality traits’ of the ingredients
- Collards Greens are packed with fiber and are an excellent source of antioxidants, vitamins A , C, E, K, folic acid, iron, calcium, magnesium. Their bitter taste aids in de-stagnation of the liver and enhances bile flow.
- Tamari contains digestive enzymes and provides that “umami” taste.
- Apple Cider Vinegar will give your stomach acid a boost and supports healthy blood sugar.
- Ginger enkindles the digestion fire, keeps us warm, and detoxifies unhealthy fat from the body.
- Ghee-the butyric acid in ghee nourishes the gut and provides a great source of healthy fat.
- Pumpkin & Sunflower Seeds provide protein, are mineral rich and protect against free radicals.
Sauteed Greens with Pumpkin & Sunflower Seeds
- 1 cup water
- About 10 cups washed, dried, and chopped fresh collard greens
- 2 teaspoons fresh chopped ginger
- 1.5 tablespoon ghee
- 2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon tamari
- 1/4 c. toasted sunflower seeds
- 1/4 c. toasted pumpkin seeds
1. In a large deep skillet, on medium heat, sauté the ginger until soft and slightly golden.
2. Add the collard greens and mix well.
3. Add the water, cover and reduce the heat to low and cook until the collard greens are tender.
4. Turn off the heat and stir in the tamari and raw apple cider vinegar.
5. Transfer to serving bowl and stir in the sunflower and pumpkin seeds.