Exploring Wisdom: Slow Down and Be Here Now
Studies have shown that Americans are more miserable now than ever. With the challenges that we face economically, it can feel as though we are just hanging on by a thread. This is not so. We all underestimate our need to slow down. If we are not careful, we live as if our schedules are our lives. At the end of the day, we haven’t necessarily been present to our own experience. Mary Pipher, psychologist, says “I have never seen people as rushed and distracted as we are now. We have become a nation of multitaskers.”
The habit of rushing
I am incredibly fortunate to work with my counseling clients. Seeing such a rich and intimate side of people has helped me identify what elements are essential to slowing down and being here now. I feel incredibly privileged to have such a profound connection with people. However the occasions when we genuinely need to rush are really a lot less frequent than we convince ourselves. The simple truth is that rushing has become a habit for many of us. And it has a negative effect on our mental, spiritual and physical health.
Happiness, the body, and the brain
Scientists have studied emotions and their effect on cognition and brain function. When we are in good spirits, our cognitive repertoire is broadened. That means we are more able to problem solve, complete tasks and fulfill goals (Seligman M. E. P., 1991). Happiness has even been proven to increase pain tolerance. Negative emotion narrows our thought-action repertoire; tasks not only seem more arduous, they actually are.
When you are rushing the body literally is in panic mode. The physical systems feel as if they are constantly being stressed to meet imaginary deadlines. An occasional shot of adrenaline might be good for you but a continuous stream of it will wear down the body and its immune system. You will tend to get sick more often, feel more fatigued, enervated and listless.
When you are rushing mentally, your mind is always ‘on’. Thoughts of things you need to get done and things you have not yet gotten done keep streaming through your mind making you feel out of sorts and unaccomplished. You may even feel panicked and have trouble sleeping and relaxing.
One experience at a time
We need to become aware of our daily habits and thoughts. Most of the time when we are rushing, we do not even realize it because it is such an automatic response. By slowing down, and sticking to one experience at a time, we are able to experience more joy. We need to learn to do one thing at a time.
Mary Pipher, psychologist, and author of bestselling Reviving Ophelia, says “one of the reasons pets are so popular is that when we are with them, we share their pleasure in being here now. Pets do not live in clock time, and they allow us to rest from chronological time. We join them in older, animal rhythms.” (Seeking Peace, 2009)
I have dished up a list of some things you can do today to easily slow down, enjoy one activity at a time, and live with more joy. Get ready to Be Here, Now.
Slow your attention
Slowing down helps give our full-attention to what we are doing. Like full-attention Zen, slowing down can put us in the zone, or what Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi calls flow (“Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience”). Try walking more slowly. Pause before responding to questions. Speak more slowly.
The first years of the twenty-first century have brought about new and surprising findings about how Buddhist contemplative training can affect the brain. The findings include unprecedented levels of brain activation in certain regions of the brain during meditation, evidence that meditation affects brain areas associated with to positive emotions, as well as strong evidence the brain can be changed through prolonged and disciplined mental training. (J. Davidson, et al., Alterations in Brain and Immune Function Produced by Mindfulness Meditation, Psychosomatic medicine 65.4 (2003): 564-70.)
Initiate a slowing-down contest
Fnd a friend and email each other some joyful things that you do each day. Your entry can include the simplest of joys; baking, watching a sunset, reading to a child
Check out The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron
Many folks have found this ground-breaking book very helpful in goal setting and connecting with their creative genius. I believe that we all our geniuses. We just need the time and space to let our amazing selves shine.
Keep a gratitude journal
Keep a gratitude journal. This is my absolute favorite new pastime. I love it especially when I am sulking in a moment of gloom and doom. I go to my gratitude journal and put in all the things that happened that I am grateful for, like having a seat on the bus, or getting a card in the mail, or enjoying a lovely meal. (nothing is too small). Start your gratitude journal today, and you will notice that you will attract more good things into your world.
Check out these smell-the-roses sites
End the day slowly
Having an evening ritual is a balm to the nervous system. Before you go to sleep make sure that there is nothing stressful going on. Dimming the lights several hours before bedtime relaxes the mind, and intensifies the output of tryptophan, the sleep-inducing hormone. It’s very hard to enjoy a good-night’s sleep after watching the news. Find a slowness ritual that works for you; reading a book, talking to your partner or a friend, drawing, or journaling.
Play in nature
This is a lovely way to help you slow down. To enjoy nature you have to be patient. Go to the beach, look at the sea and listen to the waves. Visit the countyside, look at the greenery, and listen to the birds chirping on the trees. Admire the blooming flowers in your garden and study the snail crawling on the ground. These are some of the delightful things that you can do to take it easy.
Nourishing, feeding, and harvesting a plant can lower blood pressure, strengthen the heart and increase the production of serotonin, the happy chemical. And flowers are beautiful.
Studies have shown that spirituality affects health. In a study of 1,700 older adults, those attending church were half as likely to have elevated levels of IL-6 (hormones associated with increased incidence of disease)
Rachel Fleischman, CSW, REAT, helps people move out of their heads and into their bodies to heal. A seasoned psychotherapist, educator, speaker and writer, she is the founder of the Dance Your Bliss™ healing system and the Being Bliss meditation CDs. Rachel has pioneered the combination of psychology with movement, neuroscience, expressive-arts and spirituality.
Are you ready for an exuberant, deeply restorative, and life-changing experience? Join Rachel for the Dance Your Bliss™ retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from October 19th to October 21st.
This article first appeared on DancingYourBliss.com.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Exploring Wisdom: Three Things Your Loved Ones are Trying to Tell You
Since I work with Spirit World full time, I get to share a lot of messages to people. I’ve witnessed first hand profound mental and emotional healing that comes as a result of hearing from your loved ones.
What your loved ones want you to know
One consistent thing that is shared is “I love you!” Clients, friends and family, have told me that hearing three words have brought comfort and lifted their grief. The second message is consistent is I’m OK. I know this sounds simple and straightforward. But imagine the positive impact of knowing your loved one is OK. Knowing that your loved ones are OK gives you the freedom heal and be happy, for them and for you. The third most important message they say is I’m still here. Since they are now a spirit body, not a physical body, they look for ways to get this message to you. They use different methods to get this message through to you. They show up in your dreams, put coins and feathers in your path. They work with nature and electronics in unique ways that you can’t explain, but you know its them because of the underlying feeling or sense that you feel when it happens.
Bottom line, they want to bring you healing and comfort any way they can. They check in with you, so you know they are in their new spirit home, at peace and still with you. They want to help know their spirit is alive and lives beyond this world and you can talk to them and share your life with them.
Healing through Spirit
On a personal note, getting a message from my dad resolved 12 years of grief. Hearing from my father healed me emotionally in ways that I didn’t even know needed healing. I was so afraid of going through the pain of loss, I held back from getting too close to people. One of the positive results, I was able to slowly let go of my fear of loving and getting close to people.
It’s been over 20 years since he moved to the other side. I still send mental voicemails to him, asking him to let know he’s still with me. He’s kinda slow in getting back to me, but he always lets me know he is still with me. I’m still relieved and comforted when he finally returns my request. I’ve come to realize and trust that the Spirit World is intelligent and has great timing.
Over the past 10 years, Jennifer Farmer has helped people heal grief through readings and development workshops. She is well respected and a recognized leader in her field as gifted intuitive, medium and spiritual teacher. In 2008, Jennifer earned the seal of approval as one of the best psychic mediums. She continues to study new teachings and regularly attends workshops, including the Arthur Findlay College in the UK.
Access your gifts from Spirit and create a new Spirit-powered life with Jennifer at the Art of Living Retreat Center from October 4th to October 7th, 2018 at her retreat, Healing With the Spirit World.
This article first appeared on jenniferfarmer.com.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Exploring Wisdom: Are You Committing Violence?
I have recently become aware that I have been committing violence. Yes, me. Violence.
But wait a minute…I am the most un-violent person I know. I love peace. I am a meditation teacher. I TEACH peace. Power to the peaceful! It wasn’t until I read the words of Thomas Merton that I realized the truth:
“There is a pervasive form of contemporary violence to which the idealist most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow one’s self to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit one’s self to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activism neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
How about you?
Life is perfect… or is it?
I’m one of those people who fails to recognize my own stress. Life is perfect, life is good. I have no complaints. It’s only in retrospect that I realize that, yes, maybe I have been stressed and too busy. Maybe there is a reason that I haven’t been sleeping, that I’m tired a lot and that I can’t seem to shake that extra twenty pounds I’m carrying around. And maybe that reason is that I’m stressed. Hmmm. Maybe.
The violence we commit against ourselves
Recently I got sick. A virus. Knocked me on my butt for ten days. I never get sick. But boy, I was sick. For over a week I couldn’t do anything but sleep. And the world didn’t come to an end. The contrast to my normal life of busyness was eye opening. For the past several years, I have worked full time, started a new part-time business, volunteered for a non-profit that I’m terribly passionate about, checked off several projects on an unending list of projects on my fixer-upper 100-year old house, taken care of two wonderful furry family members who depend on me for their happiness, tried to spend some time with family and friends, created a new website, worked on a teaching certification…and on and on and on, while trying to finally clean that area between the stove and the cabinet and get some laundry done.
I’m not feeling sorry for myself. I can’t begin to imagine how those of you who add to that typical list by taking care of children or aging parents, or working three jobs do it. My point here is that too many of us are too busy. And we are creating violence. Serious violence towards ourselves. I hear it from my massage therapy clients daily. Overworked. No time for play. Too many responsibilities. No time for me. What are we doing all this for anyway?
But what if we find a way to take a break?
Learning to create peace
The world went on, as it does, while I was sick. Thank you, virus, for teaching me that I can…and need to…let go of a few things in order to create some time for just “being”. A capable, wonderful person can blossom by taking my place on my non-profit board for a while. I can teach one meditation class a week instead of filling my schedule with workshops and retreats on top of running a full-time massage therapy business. I can say “no, thanks” when I would rather stay home than go out with friends. They’re learning to understand my need for solitude.
Creating some “time” in my life is taking care of me. It is creating peace. Waking up without an agenda on my day off is a heavenly thing that I didn’t have for many years. Letting go is creating space. Space for more being. Space for reflection and awareness. Space for noticing the beauty of my blooming garden. For being present. For creating more peace.
Violence is not just an outward creation
As my fantasy boyfriend, Henry David Thoreau, said about just sitting in his doorway from sunrise til noon, rapt in a reverie…”I grew in those seasons, like corn in the night; and they were far better than any work of the hands would have been. They were not time subtracted from my life, but so much over and above my usual allowance”. Hank gets me. We would have been great together.
So what I know is this. When we create our own peace, we contribute to a peaceful world. We don’t do this by creating violence of ANY kind. Violence is not just an outward creation. We often and ever so subtly commit violence towards our self. Peace comes from awareness. And awareness feels a lot like stillness. I’ll be having more of that.
Denise Lyon is a mind and body healer, a soul-centered seeker, and believes that to create a peaceful and happy world, we start with creating our own peace and happiness. Denise is a dedicated meditator, a Certified Meditation & Mindfulness Instructor and a graduate of McLean Meditation Institute in Sedona, AZ. Her heart’s desire is to provide a path anchored in ancient wisdom and modern neuroscience to help guide us to that place of living together in peace and possibility.
Are you new to meditation? Join Denise for her introductory Meditation and Mindfulness retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center from August 24th to August 26th.
This article first appeared on Elephant Journal, 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!
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.
Exploring Wisdom: Jealous? Here’s Why
In her phone session with me, Katy was completely perplexed about her jealousy.
“As you know, I broke up with my boyfriend, Jared, 6 months ago. By the time I broke up with him, I was really done with the relationship, and I have no desire to be with him. But last week I found out that he has a girlfriend and I feel jealous! I can’t figure this out. It makes no sense to me at all.”
I asked Katy to open to learning with the jealous part of her – an aspect of her wounded self.
The need to feel special
Katy’s 12-year-old wounded self quickly started to talk.
“I always want to be the favorite. I wanted to be Mom and Dad’s favorite and I was always upset when my brother seemed to be the favorite. Even though I don’t want to be with Jared, I want to be his favorite. As long as he didn’t have a girlfriend, I still felt like I was his favorite.”
When asked what being the favorite means to her, she answered, “It means that I’m better than other people. I always want to be the special one. I don’t like it when I’m with my friends and they pay more attention to their children or even their dog than they do to me. I know that it sounds crazy, but I hate it when my best friend brings her dog along when we get together. I feel upset about the attention she gives her dog!”
Katy was not valuing herself. Her jealousy was a symptom of her own inner abandonment. What her inner child was saying to her was, “I don’t feel at all special or important to you. I am not your favorite. You don’t think much of me. You rarely pay attention to me.”
When we are not loving ourselves, our wounded self may look to others for confirmation of worth. To our wounded self, who may constantly compare us to others, being “better than” – which may be determined by getting special attention from others – validates our worth.
Because Katy had spent most of her life making others responsible for her self-worth by trying to get their attention and approval, her inner child felt abandoned and worthless. Of course she felt jealous! And she would continue to feel jealous in many different situations until she felt loved and valued by loving adult Katy.
“Now I know you love me”
As Katy began to devote herself to practicing Inner Bonding, she started to recognize her own beautiful qualities and take care of her own feelings. The more she did this, the more loved and special her inner child felt. One day her inner little girl said to her, “I know that you love me. I know that I am your favorite. And I love you too.” Katy tearfully reported to me that she did indeed love her little girl and that jealousy was no longer an issue for her.
Feelings such as jealousy are always a symptom of inner abandonment. Jealousy, insecurity, neediness, fear of rejection – these feelings are not the issue. They are the symptom of the fact that we are abandoning ourselves through:
- Self Judgment
- Not attending to our feelings, ignoring them or using addictions to numb them
- Making others responsible for our feelings of safety, lovability and worth
No other person can ever take away these painful feelings. No other person can make up to you the lack of valuing you might have experienced as a child. No matter how much others love and value you, as long as you are not loving and valuing yourself, you will feel unsafe, insecure or jealous.
The power of Inner Bonding is that, through practice, you learn to give yourself what you didn’t receive as a child and always wanted and needed. This is what heals jealousy, as well as insecurity, neediness, and fear of rejection.
Dr. Margaret Paul is a bestselling author and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, and the related SelfQuest® self-healing online program – recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette. She has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including Oprah. Margaret holds a PhD in psychology, is a relationship expert, public speaker, consultant and artist. She has successfully worked with thousands and taught classes and seminars for over 50 years.
Join Margaret at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 18th to 20th to heal the cycle of shame and self-abandonment, learn to love yourself, and move into a healthy pattern of decision making at her retreat, Inner Bonding.
This article is reposted from margaretpaul.com with permission from the author.
Exploring Wisdom: Can Enlightenment be Obtained through Spiritual Practices?
“Can spiritual practices really lead to enlightenment? I have been doing my practices for over 25 years regularly and sincerely. I undoubtedly see many benefits, but I don’t see myself anywhere near enlightenment. I also do seva regularly and have sincere devotion in my heart. I don’t know what’s missing. Could you please share your thoughts on it.”
Spiritual enlightenment is a flashy and vague term. It can mean many different things to different people. I don’t know what it means to you, and what exactly are you trying to achieve?
The Yoga Scriptures don’t use the term ‘enlightenment’. Instead, they inspire the seekers to become mukta (free or liberated). Becoming mukta is a meaningful, clear, and achievable goal of spiritual journey. It means freeing yourself from all that you have created in your mind. In the Bhagvad Geeta, Lord Krishna repeatedly says that a yogi is free, and inspires Arjuna to become free. He doesn’t tell Arjuna to become enlightened.
Spiritual practices have their limitations
Spiritual practices are very essential for the wellness of your body, mind, and Spirit, but they also have their limitations. The practices are something similar to sunbathing. When you sunbathe, you experience the presence of Sun, but you are nowhere close to the Sun. You can sunbathe a million times, your tan will certainly become darker, but the distance will still remain.
Similarly, in meditation you experience something beautiful that is being emitted from the Spirit, but you are nowhere near the Spirit. You can meditate for many years, your experience will certainly become deeper, but you may still be nowhere closer to the Spirit. Though the Spirit is omnipresent, it is not accessible to all. Its presence is.
Cultivate freedom of the mind, not enlightenment
So, drop the desire to be enlightened. It is only a concept. Instead, cultivate the desire to be free in your mind. You have bound yourself, and now, through knowledge and self-effort, unbound yourself. When the mind is free, it will open the doors to the Spirit, and the drop will merge into the Ocean.
A free mind doesn’t have the desire to have its own identity, and therefore it merges into Infinity. When you are desiring for enlightenment, you have the desire to exist. You want to exist as an enlightened being, which is not possible.
Join Krishan for the Yoga Teacher Training Program this fall. Considering becoming a yoga teacher? Speak with a yoga ambassador to learn more: Schedule a call
Krishan Verma is a seeker, student, teacher, and teacher trainer on the path of yoga for over 35 years. In his programs, he firmly yet gently guides each student to experience the effortless union of body, mind and spirit. The student emerges rejuvenated and serenely dynamic. Under his tutelage thousands of teachers now share the knowledge of yoga all around the world.
This article first appeared on Shudam.org.
Exploring Wisdom: Revathi Raghavan on Marma
When combined with panchakarma, the practice of marma can help you find a profound sense of rest and release. We recently spoke with Revathi Raghavan, Marma Chikitsa Trainer, Ayurvedic Practitioner and Art of Living retreat host, about her journey with marma, and why she thinks it’s an essential addition to your panchakarma experience.
AOLRC: Can you explain what, exactly, marma is?
R: The word marma literally means mortal, sensitive or vulnerable. The term comes from the suchi veda, a part of Ayurveda, and it said to have origins in the martial arts and used on the battlefield to defeat enemies. Another theory is that it originated from Dhanur Veda, one of the four “upavedas” along with Ayurveda, Gandharva Veda (Music) and Staapatya Veda (vastu). Warriors wore protective armor to guard their vital points. Marma points are hidden, secret and vital. Hidden because you can’t see them, they are both inside and on the surface of the body. They’re anatomically thought of to be present at the junction of muscles, ligaments, bones, joints, tendons, and nerves. They’re sort of between mind and matter – that’s why they’re hidden. These points are also full of prana, or consciousness, which is why we refer to them as vital. It was also kept secret so that it is not misused – the knowledge was guarded and passed on mainly within families or through teacher-disciple relationship.
Sometimes we hear stories of people who are in accidents, and who may not have sustained any external injuries, but they die. Often, it’s because their vital marma points have been hit. There are points that can cause death or injury. When the same points are used therapeutically they bring enormous healing benefits.
According to Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, it is one of the most restorative therapies. The practice of Marma or Marma Chikitsa is through gentle pressure or stimulation of these vital points. This releases any stresses or blocks held in the nadis for a long time and allows for free flow of prana or energy, thereby bringing deep relaxation and rejuvenation. It is one of the most direct ways of harmonizing prana in an individual. I like to think of Marma Vidya (Science of Marma) as the grandfather of acupressure.
AOLRC: And what are the benefits of marma?
R: The practice of marma has benefits on the body, mind and spirit. On the bodily level, it brings about hydration, nourishment, hormonal balance, pain relief, balances doshas, revitalizes organs, balances digestion and elimination, relaxes muscles and is generally cleansing. On the mind level, marma strengthens, balances the gunas, helps the mind be more in the present moment, improves perception, understanding and communication. Of course it helps us clear emotions and release stresses and achieve a deep state of relaxation. It also helps clear out any fogginess thus bringing clarity.
We live in a very stimulated environment today. People are constantly engaging their senses and there is enormous pressure to be someone and achieve something. There is also a overuse and misuse of our senses and we end up spending countless hours on television, ipads, kindles, laptops, and you-name-it gadgets. Everyone has goals, naturally, but there is so much pressure, hurried movement and competition that we’ve begun to live in this “vata” aggravated environment. Marma gives us a break from all of this and helps release some of the stresses brought on by the overuse/misuse of the senses.
AOLRC: What inspired you to learn and teach marma?
R: I had a wonderful experience receiving marma in Bangalore ashram once, and I’ve been fascinated ever since. I’ve been an Ayurvedic practitioner for many years now, and during my training, I delved into many panchakarma therapies, including abhyanga, shirodhara, nasya, swedana, virechana, and bastis. But I felt like my Ayurvedic training wasn’t complete without learning about marma chikitsa. I had the opportunity to learn from Ann Revington, the director of the Sri Sri Ayurveda programs in Canada, in our Texas ashram, which is where my journey with marma began.
AOLRC: In your experience, what is the common experience that participants have with marma?
R: It’s amazing to see how marma affects people. Even just doing a few points, people go into such a deep state of rest or relaxation. It’s wonderful to see the stress and tension just melt away. People have reported and shared healing of all kinds. They are able to sleep better at night, let go of anxiety, relief from body aches/pain, rest like they have never gotten in years, also have a deep meditative experience. Marma is safe for all ages and groups of people. It is beneficial for post-shock and trauma, illnesses (including cancer), injury, surgery, anxiety, insomnia and many other conditions.
It’s important for the practitioner to be on a regular sadhana practice, so that they’re stress-free and centered themselves. Giving someone an experience of marma is a very meditative experience, and both the practitioner and the recipient tend to achieve a profound state of meditation, and a deep sense of intimacy and oneness with each other and the universe.
AOLRC: Why the Art of Living Retreat Center?
R: When I’m here, I feel home. I don’t feel like going back to my real world! Everyone takes such wonderful care of each other here. The kitchen staff, the office, event organizers, the teachers, the participants – so courteous and sincere and go out of there way to make you feel comfortable. You can tell that everyone here is very passionate about what they do. I feel so comfortable here, so welcome. And yes, of course, the food is delicious!!
Experience the deep and restorative practice of marma at one of our many Panchakarma Retreats, and/or join Revathi for our next Marma practitioner training in July or October. You can also join her for a skin and beauty workshop “Beauty From Within” in July or October.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
Exploring Wisdom: This is Me Dancing
My heart felt achy; heavy in my chest. It was a strange yet familiar feeling, a combination of an ice block in my core right alongside a sensation of longing. I could feel my arms, legs, and hips move with the rhythm of the music. With each step, reach, bend I felt like I was melting that ice away, opening deeper into my experience of myself. What is this feeling?
Loneliness… sadness… heartache…“that’s it,” I thought to myself, and all the while my body kept pulsing, moving, kept expressing this deep sadness via the way my limbs crumbled, extended, folded, and launched my body through space. Here I am. I am heartache. This is me. I am dancing.
Dance is Expression
Dance has always been a way for us to express and connect. An ancient way to find a mate, go to war, celebrate birth and death and get in touch with so many wordless aspects of the human experience. I postulate that dance in its most sincere form is not just about connection to another, it is also about fostering an intimate connection with ourselves as well. Movement is a way to experience and communicate those deep emotions that well up from the insides of us. The ones that we may have a hard time processing with language alone.
For me, heartache is one of those hard to feel and hard to share emotions. What I mean is to share from a place of feeling, not just talking. I can report about my sadness or loneliness to you in words, but there’s a way this content-driven means of communication can feel hollow for me, and maybe for you, too, as the listener. We are hard-wired to communicate our feelings through the subtle and unsubtle movements of our face, hands, and every other part of our body. When I allow my body to move out my grief through the vehicle of dance to an evocative song, or off the dance floor when my movements and facial expressions tell you how I feel as my voice is silent…that is when we can often feel the most deeply touched by the experience of another.
Dance is Healing
The healing trick for me here is this. Attunement. Attunement to self, then another. The first step in the process is to allow ourselves to first become aware of our own felt experience. Once we are in touch with those feelings, we can choose movements and gestures to help us land even deeper into our experience. When we are embodied, fully connected to our felt sense we can then move in a way that feels alive and congruous. Dance and expressive movement is a way that I get to know me better, and then share me with others in a way the feels soulful and rich.
Throughout my life there has been nothing quite so healing as having the dance of my truth. Whether that’s sorrow, joy, power, or softness with others who are dancing their truth. It has been particularly sacred when my fellow dancers and I echo and mirror movements…then I know they get it. They get me. My pain is their pain and vice versa. “Just like me….” This seeing a reflection of my movements, this feeling of unison, of community through dance can often blast through my frozen heart in a far superior way than words. As my fellow dancers and I fall into moving together a connection forms like no other off the dance floor.
Dance is Connection
Turns out that this feeling of peace and well-being after dancing isn’t just my experience or the experience of a finite group of people. While listening to NPR’s Morning Edition earlier this summer I heard a report on a recent research study out of the University of Oxford on the profound health benefits of group dance. They found that people who danced together in synchrony had a higher pain threshold than those who didn’t dance, or those who danced without mirroring others.
Dance is a way that we connect, that we attune to each other, that we feel felt by another. Humans are a social species. Our survival, growth, and evolution are dependent in part upon our ability to connect with our community. Dance has been and continues to be an integral part of the human experience. My suggestion is that when we add self-attunement with dance, this is a recipe with endless healing potential.
So the research is in. Dance. Get out there and do it. Whether you go sign up for ballroom, get your best friends together in your living room, or come to one of my Shake Your Soul classes, dance is a powerful way to befriend your body, other people, and create a sense of well-being and peace inside and out.
– Heather Bilotta
Heather Bilotta, RSMT
A passionate believer in the healing power of self-expression and the importance of connection to community, Heather is a Registered Somatic Movement Therapist, Certified Shake Your Soul® Instructor, SomaSoul® Practitioner, and Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra® Teacher. Heather teaches at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Cranwell Golf Resort, and beyond. Read more of Heather’s thoughts on her blog.
Express, connect, and heal at Shake Your Soul: The Yoga of Dance, from June 23 – 25, 2017. Click here to learn more.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.
Exploring Wisdom: Illuminating the World With KiMani Divine
Self-love is so important, and here at the Art of Living Center, you can cultivate that at the deepest part of your being, and begin to recognize and remember that you are loved. The presence of God lives inside of you, so you are worth your own time, your own attention, and your own devotion. That’s the message of Art of Living Center guest facilitator KiMani Divine’s work; making time for yourself, taking time to go within. We recently spoke with KiMani about the far-reaching effects of self-love.
We have all struggled with learning to love ourselves exactly how we are. The most powerful lesson I’ve learned through self-reflection is that I don’t need any fixing. I am a simply a vessel for the light of the universe. When I deny that light, when I do not honor myself just as I am, I am denying my purpose.
The Light That I Am is the Light That You Are
When we all understand that our own light is bright enough, just as we are, then we empower others to find their own light as well. We are all one light. The light that I am is the light that you are. There is only one, and in that oneness, we can illuminate the world.
When you are restless, or feeling negative, or focusing too much on the outside world, the first thing you must do is to become aware. You can’t make any significant changes in your life until you’re aware of your own negative patterns of behavior and thought. This is why self-reflection is a huge part of meditation.
The Power of Prayer
Spending time in prayer and meditation is the foundation of my life. It’s like breathing. I can’t get along without it. Every thought, every word becomes a prayer. And when I retreat to the silence of my own mind, I receive answers to those prayers. I receive answers through how I think about myself, how I think about others, how I think about experiences. And when I begin to understand the answers to my prayers, I can put them into context – knowing that when I give out love, I receive love. When I think loving thoughts to myself, when I’m quiet within myself, that is where the love I’m seeking can be found. In this way, I’m truly able to give love without needing anything in return.
I find that it’s helpful to journal about your inner state – I have journals that go back all the way to 1990! When I go back over them, sometimes I’m astounded that I thought the things I did. Journaling is an act of release. It gets the thoughts out of you, out of your mind, and onto paper, where you can begin to understand them from a new perspective.
Humanity is a Diamond
We are all on a wonderful and sacred journey, and every single journey on the planet is leading to the One. The one space, the one time, the one journey – the One. Unity. Humanity is like a diamond. There are so many facets, so many peaks and planes, and we tend to conceptualize ourselves as different, separate points of the diamond. We think of ourselves ans individuals, but really, we are part of a whole. If a single peak of the diamond is illuminated, the rest of the diamond is as well. One point of light can echo through the entirety of the diamond. In this way, we are truly one. When we connect, when we show compassion, our level of love, and acceptance through self-love, transforms the whole of humanity.
Learn more about KiMani Divine here.
Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.