Life is a Journey - The Art of Living Retreat Center

Life is a Journey

By Dara Kurtz
October 6, 2018

Life is a Journey - The Art of Living Retreat Center

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.

 

Your takeaway

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!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , attention , dara kurtz , wellness , wisdom
Meditation Expectations - Art of Living Retreat Center

Letting Go of Meditation Expectations

By Sarah McLean
July 12, 2018

Meditation Expectations - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

If you grow roses, you’ll know that sometimes one just won’t open up. You might want to pull it apart, thinking that you’re helping it bloom, but it just ends up looking like a mess. This is exactly the case with our spiritual growth, too. When you put too much effort into the natural awakening or evolution of your consciousness, you might end up with a mess on your hands–headaches, anxiety, self-judgement.

 

Releasing expectations

The way you can begin to become comfortable with letting yourself naturally progress is to let go of your expectations. Stop monitoring your experiences so closely, and let go of the results that you want. You need to be really kind to yourself.

 

To have a human birth is very fortunate. And to have a human birth where you also have the kernel of desire for enlightenment is very rare. Your path in this life is difficult, unique, and designed especially for you.  When you let go of your expectations about what enlightenment looks like, you open yourself up instead to relieve the exact medicine you need.

 

Non-judgmental attention

Your focus will start to expand as you settle into this non-judgmental attention. You move from an active mind to a receptive one, and sink into a field of love. That’s the source of attention. We are all an expression of love, and this non-judgmental attention helps you let go of your expectations further and surrender to an expansion of consciousness.

 

A state of transcendence

This is the space where the benefits of meditation arise–you purify your nervous system and dive deep into who you really are, which is a present, unique, expansive, infinite, timeless being. In that state of transcendence, you don’t know what time it is, because you’re in this timeless world. You’re in a world of healing, wholeness, and purity.

 

This state doesn’t happen because you wish it into being. It happens because you set yourself up to succeed by letting go of your attachment to the outcome.

 

Meditation is a lover. It always welcomes us back with open arms, without spite. It is always waiting for you. Go to it.

 

Sarah McLean considers herself an American Transcendentalist. She’s dedicated her life to exploring meditation: living as a resident of both a Zen Buddhist monastery and a traditional ashram in India, as well as living and working in a Transcendental Meditation center. She headed up the education programs at Deepak Chopra’s center in California and Byron Katie’s School for the Work. Sarah is a best-selling Hay House author of the books Soul-Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation and The Power of Attention: Awaken to Love and its Unlimited Potential with Meditation. She’s also a sought-after speaker who is determined to create more peace on this planet by helping people wake up to the wonder and beauty of their lives and the world around them through the practice of meditation.

   

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: attention , meditation , mindfulness , Sarah McLean , self love , self-care , transcendence

Exploring Wisdom: The Three Ingredients of Attention

By Sarah McLean
June 25, 2018

Attention - The Art of Living Retreat Center

 

I’ve made it my mission to demystify meditation. You don’t have to have a particular religious belief to find moments of sanctuary, or to nourish and feed yourself in mind, body, and spirit. My journey is ever-expanding, ever-evolving, just like yours is. It’s like a lotus that is blooming continually, revealing new petals all the time. My quest is to go deeper.

 

Seeking common ground

I’ve studied so many spiritual traditions, and throughout my life, I’ve always tried to find the common ground they share. I think it’s where we enter in from–whether you’re looking to lower your blood pressure, create peace on the planet, increase your immunity, or be a better listener, we’re all coming to spirituality through similar doors.

 

The first ingredient: willingness

What I’ve found in my studies is that there are three ingredients to the majority of meditative traditions. The first ingredient to a successful meditation practice is your willingness to do it. The willingness is born out of frustration, or desperation, or out of a deep and heartfelt longing.

 

The second ingredient: attention

The second ingredient is gentle, non-judgemental attention. But what do I mean by attention? Who is paying attention, and to what?

 

Turn your attention right now to the one who’s looking through your eyes. To the presence that’s beaming through your eyes, listening through your ears, that’s right here, right now, dwelling in this body of yours. Try to find that presence.

 

You are in charge of deliberately paying attention. No one can pay attention for me. No one can harm my attention for you. People can certainly try to steal your attention, but it’s your job not to let them. We are distracted all the time, and we must reclaim our attention again and again and again. The only way to peace is to be completely in charge of where and how you focus your attention.

 

The third ingredient: technique

The third ingredient is where technique enters in, whether you’re paying attention to a sound, a sensation, a visual element. It could be a candle flame, or the night sky. It could be the sound of the wind in the trees and over the red rocks. Or, it could be some sound you hear in your own body, your heartbeat, your breath.

 

You can meditate anywhere

Meditation is a solitary practice. Of course, you can find a place where you’re stable and comfortable, where you won’t be disturbed, where you can really lose track of time and space.  But you can also meditate anywhere, anytime, or on anything. When you harness the power of your attention, you can access it at any time.

 

Sarah McLean considers herself an American Transcendentalist. She’s dedicated her life to exploring meditation: living as a resident of both a Zen Buddhist monastery and a traditional ashram in India, as well as living and working in a Transcendental Meditation center. She headed up the education programs at Deepak Chopra’s center in California and Byron Katie’s School for the Work. Sarah is a best-selling Hay House author of the books Soul-Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation and The Power of Attention: Awaken to Love and its Unlimited Potential with Meditation. She’s also a sought-after speaker who is determined to create more peace on this planet by helping people wake up to the wonder and beauty of their lives and the world around them through the practice of meditation.

   

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: attention , meditation , mindfulness , Sarah McLean , silence , transcendentalism , wellness
Art of Living Retreat Center

In House: Why Should I Go on a Retreat?

By Sarah McLean
April 1, 2018
 

Art of Living Retreat Center

Reconnect to the deepest part of you at a meditation retreat

Being on a meditation retreat for a day or a week can be a unique opportunity to unplug, spend time exploring your own inner world, and to find more appreciation for your life.

 

A meditation retreat can be a reset button and can even create a new normal: one where you are more present to what matters to you, responsive rather than reactive, and have a deep inner peace.

 

Some of our meditation and mindfulness retreats focus on cultivating creativity, others give you the opportunity to dive deep into your meditation practice, and there are those that offer the opportunity to explore and heal a particular emotional issue.

 

Techniques, not traditions

All of the retreats that Sarah McLean facilitates are secular in nature, yet are deeply spiritual. She says she teaches techniques, not traditions.

 

Sarah creates a safe and open atmosphere designed to encourage participants to find out who they are, what they really want, and be more intimate with their lives. Each retreat includes instruction in meditation and mindfulness, deep meditation practices, interactive exercises, mindfulness experiences, time in nature, and some offer an opportunity to explore gentle yoga.

 

Meditation is an undeniably powerful practice to create more balance in the body, spaciousness in the mind, and a new appreciation for everything and everyone in your life.

 

Each retreat is designed to create a touchstone of feeling whole and good—and a new perspective. It’s a meditation vacation!

 

A sustainable practice of meditation

In a meditation retreat with Sarah McLean, you’ll discover the secrets to how and why meditation works, and whether you are new at it or are a seasoned meditator, you’ll learn a sustainable practice of meditation.

 

When you return home you can bring the practices with you, so you can create a mini-retreat every single day. You also might notice that you are experiencing some subtle changes. Perhaps you order something different on a menu, or have more patience with your children, or you are less concerned about what people think.

 

You might sleep better, feel more balanced and energized, or find more creativity or confidence. With a continued meditation practice, more profound changes might follow as you explore your relationship to your job, or where you live, or you find a renewed purpose or passion in life.

 

The Power of Attention

Join Sarah McLean for her upcoming retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center, The Power of Attention, from May 10th to May 13th. The Power of Attention retreat will take you on a journey into mindfulness and meditation to increase your understanding of the value of attention. A value Sarah calls your superpower: the most important ingredient for living a powerful, purposeful, love-filled life.

   

Sarah McLean considers herself an American Transcendentalist. She’s dedicated her life to exploring meditation: living as a resident of both a Zen Buddhist monastery and a traditional ashram in India, as well as living and working in a Transcendental Meditation center. She headed up the education programs at Deepak Chopra’s center in California and Byron Katie’s School for the Work. Sarah is a best-selling Hay House author of the books Soul-Centered: Transform Your Life in 8 Weeks with Meditation and The Power of Attention: Awaken to Love and its Unlimited Potential with Meditation. She’s also a sought-after speaker who is determined to create more peace on this planet by helping people wake up to the wonder and beauty of their lives and the world around them through the practice of meditation.

 

This article first appeared on mcleanmeditation.com.

   

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: attention , in house , knowledge , meditation , presenters , retreat , Sarah McLean , wisdom
Art of Living Retreat Center

In House: Sarah McLean on the Power of Attention

By AOLRC
November 1, 2017

Art of Living Retreat Center

This autumn at the Art of Living Retreat Center, Sarah McLean, best-selling author and meditation expert, brought retreat guests through a journey to understanding the value of attention. Attention, as Sarah puts it, is your superpower: the most important ingredient for living a powerful, purposeful, love-filled life. We recently sat down with Sarah to chat about meditation, identity, and love.

 

AOLRC: What would you say your main message is? 

SM: Meditation is your birthright. You don’t have to know a secret language or take on a new religion. Everybody has the capacity and the capability of meditation.

 

My favourite benefit of meditation is the ability to turn attention inward, dive into the source of our lives, the source of our consciousness, the source of our expression and attention, and to really get to know who we are outside of our roles, responsibilities, worries, plans, histories, relationships – to just know ourselves as the center point of peace that is wise and clear and love.

 

AOLRC: So, if we were to take ourselves outside of the context of our roles and responsibilities… who are we? Who do we find there? 

 

SM: That’s such a great question. Who am I? Who is this one looking through my eyes? Who are you? You know, I wish I could give you a short answer, but I think that everyone’s journey is to discover the source of who they are. As a meditator, I’m always talking about attention, and bringing that attention back, whether it’s to your breath, to a mantra, or to a physical sensation.

But what is attention? Where does it arise from? What is the source of attention? For me, these are all similar questions to the one we’re asking – who am I? Who is this one who’s paying attention? It’s not just a though, or a personality, but who is it? What I’ve personally come to realize is that my expanded, open attention is a currency. A currency of love.

 

When I give you attention, it’s a connection and I’m loving you in this way. When you give me attention, you’re loving me. As long as the attention is very expanded, like the aperture of a camera – it’s much different than the contracted attention that can occur when people are stressed, fearful, or trapped in a self-limiting belief.

 

So, for me… who am I? The answer is that I am love. And who are you? You’re an expression in the same field of love. Everything is.

 

AOLRC: And how do you feel Ayurveda sets us up for a good meditation practice? 

 

SM: Well, in order to meditate, it’s ideal to be comfortable. Ayurveda is all about preventing stress from accumulating and masking your true nature. When we don’t see ourselves and the world clearly, we’re not comfortable, physically or otherwise.

 

Getting enough sleep, digesting your food, and living in tune with nature and its rhythms are all important practices. Ayurveda really is a beautiful entry to nourishing your body and mind to be a well-tuned machine. It enhances your awareness. It’s not only about digesting your food well, but about digesting your life, being present for your experiences, being aware of your surroundings, choosing sensory inputs that are nourishing to you.

 

AOLRC: What came first for you, Ayurveda or meditation?

SM: Well, I was walking with a question, as many people do. I was 26 and working in real estate, and this question kept coming up – what’s next for me? This isn’t it. So I kept thinking about that question, and like anyone who is on a quest, if you’re present – the science, the wonders, the synchronicity started to appear to me.

 

I was reading about yoga, meditation, herbs, different ways of living in tune with nature, seasonal therapies, massage. And I picked up a book on Ayurveda. I started to get excited, because I’d been interested in all of these practices separately, and Ayurveda encapsulates all of that.

 

I met someone on the beach, and he asked me “So, what do you really want to do with your life?” And I told him that I was interested in Ayurveda, and believe it or not, his entire family practiced Ayurveda and meditation. He totally lit up when I said it, and it excited me so much that I went and started to read several books by Deepak Chopra.

 

In the back of his book Perfect Health, it said that if I wanted more information, that I should call this number. So, of course, I called it, and it was the Maharishi Ayurveda Health Center in Lancaster, Massachusetts. I met a lovely man called Ron Pleasant, and his wife Melody Pleasant – aren’t those beautiful names? Ron asked me – “Would you like to come work here?” And, of course, I said yes.

I packed up my car and drove up to Massachusetts. I worked and lived there, immersing myself in the Ayurvedic lifestyle, meeting with vaidyas from India, learning about herbs and Panchakarma, and spending lots of time in meditation.

 

I learned that meditation supports everything, because it excavates the deepest stresses, even for people who grew up in a difficult environment. Ayurveda, accompanied with meditation, allows for that return to wholeness. For me they’re inseparable.

 

AOLRC: A lot of people conceive of meditation as something that happens in the head, not the heart. What, in your experience, is the connection between the heart, the mind, love, and meditation?

SM: For me, love is much more than a sentiment. It just is; love is. Meditation is about meeting your mind , meeting the way you think, meeting that, the one who is thinking, and merging the two. When you look deeply into anything, what you find is love.

 

Whether we’re looking deeply into a flower or deeply into a soul, deeply into a child’s eyes, or deeply into a forest – we always find this field of love that is expressed as a tree, as a child, as a flower, as you, as me.

 

When you say the word “I”, and point to yourself, you generally point to your heart. You are not pointing to the head. When you point to your heart, this is where the “I” lives: the same presence that is looking through your eyes.

 

When your awareness expands, you realize that you are that. That is what the mantra Aham Brahmasmi indicates, I am the universe, I am you, you are me, this is that. Everything and everyone (whether you believe it or not) is an expression of love. For me, “that” lives in my heart. I drop my attention to the heart, instead of the head, and walk heart-first into any situation.

 

AOLRC: What would you like to share with someone just starting on the path?

SM:  We’re all on a journey, and it all starts somewhere. I know when people come to my center in Sedona or meet me at a retreat, that many tell me that they’re in transition. They knew that their old way had ended, but they didn’t know what the new way was.

 

Quite often, people are on a quest of their own. Whether it’s a quest for health, a quest for joy, a quest for love, or a quest for peace. To acknowledge that and to be present is powerful. Mindfulness helps you be open to the ways in which you’re being pointed.

 

There’s a lot of mystery around meditation. I don’t teach that. I teach techniques. You don’t have to take on a new religion. All meditation requires is three ingredients – your willingness to do it, your gentle, non-judgmental attention, and a focus for your meditation, whether it be something you see, feel, or hear.

 

I always encourage people to realize that mediation is a practice, a training of your attention. We’re not meditating so we can have a great meditation; we’re meditating so we can have a great life, so we can live with this awareness of Self. The experience of the real Namaste.

 

AOLRC: And what is that real Namaste for you?

 

SM: It’s an awareness of the Divine living through me, as me. Whether you call it God, or love, or Source, or the unified field. I bow down to that. That is much wiser than I am in my limited scope of attention. It’s omnipotent, omnipresent, eternal, infinite. Once I recognize that in myself, I can see the same in you. The same in people I don’t like. The same in every living being. The life force of love.

 

AOLRC: Is there anything else that you’d like to share?

 

SM: I’ve never met anyone who can’t meditate. Thoughts are natural in meditation. It’s the nature of your mind to think, be creative, to identify and judge, and label. That’s the nature of the mind. It doesn’t mean you’re failing.

 

My book, The Power of Attention, is all about that. You learn to sustain your ability to pay attention to one or two things at a time. It could be your breath and the mantra. It could be japa practice. There are many ways to do it, but it’s you and that which you’re paying attention to. Subject, object. What happens over time is that the separation between the two dissipates, and all that’s left is pure awareness. Some call that transcendence. And it gets back to the question, what is it that’s looking through your eyes? Turn your attention back to the source of your attention, and you’ll just find love.

 

AOLRC: So if I’m practicing meditation, but I feel like I’m not capable of focusing my attention, what advice would you give me? 

 

SM: It’s said that we have 60,000 thoughts a day. That’s a thought every 1 to 2 seconds. That’s just the nature of your mind, to think. Attention is something that seems to be scattered – bells, whistles, phones, ads, politics. It seems like we’re at the mercy of what’s the loudest and shiniest. But when we start to value our attention, we recognize that we only have so much of it. We recognize its power, that it is love, that it does enliven that which we do, especially if it’s our open, non-judgmental attention.

 

Then we recognize that it’s something we have to train. It’s a skill set. We don’t acknowledge that in our school systems, families, or culture.

 

Being listened to – how do you feel when you’re being listened to? I had a woman in our retreat say that she felt as though her thoughts were more organized when she was being heard. What does it feel like when you’re being listened to, versus when someone keeps checking their phone, looking above your head, or watching the TV over you? There’s a certain feeling that exists or a certain exchange that happens with attention.

 

It’s not just between you and another human being, but it’s between you and everything in your life. So start to appreciate your attention, start to pay attention to how you pay attention, and what you pay attention to. Meditation is training for that. Too many thoughts? Come on back again and again and again, and start to get a handle on your own attention, because only you can train yourself.

 

AOLRC: And how was your experience of the Retreat Center?

 

SM: I feel very supported here. The food is fantastic! The housing is beautiful for everyone, whether people are here for a single room and a spa experience, or in a dorm room. Everybody in the dorm experience loved it. The meeting room was great. The environment was so peaceful, the sunrises and sunsets, the owls in the middle of the night, the crickets. It’s definitely an immersion into nature and I love it. I think it’s so important to have a community that is committed, not to commerce, but to consciousness.
 


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: attention , meditation , mindfulness , Sarah McLean , wellness , wisdom

Learn more about our 2018 retreats and offerings!

Catalogs

Stay in touch