Exploring Wisdom: Why Life is Easy
Life is easy.
Don’t get me wrong – I know full well that this is not the experience that people are having. I get that. But the mechanics of life, essentially, are easy.
We’re great at making easy things hard
Relationships are basic. We’re human beings, and therefore we must engage in relationships. These relationships become better, deeper, more fruitful, and more powerful as we become more intimate, and that this intimacy requires a certain degree of vulnerability, and vulnerability requires a certain kind of self-confidence. So self-confidence is the key to good relationships. That’s very basic. That’s very straightforward.
Health is also very basic. Our bodies run on a couple of different fundamental systems. In Chinese medicine, we call the energy of life “Chi,” and it circulates around the body and is made up of specific components: air, which you receive through breath; food, that you choose to ingest; environment, or the colours, structures, and living things that you surround yourself with. This is basic stuff.
Stop resisting your flow
Unfortunately, our lifestyles make all of this basic simplicity hard, because our lifestyles are designed to resist our natural flow. We resist the easy things on an almost unconscious level and for very personal reasons. We each have our own personal history of physical, mental, emotional, and energetic traumas, and those traumas set up stopping points or interruptions fo us. But here’s the thing–when we can identify what those self-interruptions are, we can begin to do something about it.
For example, I take it back to the physical with my Tai Chi practice. How does the body resist easy movement? We become confused, we tell ourselves that we can’t perform certain actions. What we’ve got here is not magic. It’s not a mystery. It’s a pattern of resistance.
Misdirection and moving from the center
One of the common patterns of resistance is something we call “misdirection”. Misdirection is the tendency to pay more attention to the things that you favour–whatever’s on the surface or periphery of things, and at the same time, avoiding whatever’s at the center of something.
In Tai Chi, for example, we have a whole set of principles around moving from the center, finding the center, establishing the center, and remaining in the center. And then we look at people moving, and we see that the focus is not on the center at all, but on the movements that are supposed to be rooted in the center.
Focus on what’s important
This is a common pattern. We seem to place our focus on what is less important, and not on what is most important. There’s a reason that we get stuck in this misdirection. It’s because we’re getting rewarded for it on some level. Mentally, emotionally, spiritually, or energetically, there’s a reward that you’re receiving for this misdirection, over and over.
This reward is instant gratification. Instant gratification is the thing that is keeping us from making progress on our spiritual path, from approaching that place of happiness and contentment and community. Every one of these resistances gives us instant gratification instead of authentic growth.
How to be happy
So next time you find yourself lamenting about the difficulty of life, I encourage you to search for your center, and try to identify what instant gratification you’re reaching for. Choose discomfort and centeredness over movement and gratification, in your physical, spiritual, and emotional lives, and watch happiness become more attainable.
Grandmaster David-Dorian Ross has introduced more students to Tai Chi than any other teacher in America. Master Ross has written, produced and starred in more than 150 educational dvds and television programs. He is the founder and CEO of TaijiFit, the creator of the TaijiFit mind-body exercise program, and is the director of the first online Tai Chi academy. Trained in China by championship martial arts coaches, Master Ross has had an illustrious career in competitive Tai Chi, winning eight U.S. gold medals, a world silver medal and two world bronze medals —the highest awards ever given to an American for international Tai Chi performance.
Interested in learning more about Ayurveda and the programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here!
How Food Affects Your Happiness
This past May, the Art of Living Retreat Center hosted Dr. Margaret Paul for Inner Bonding, a weekend of transformative healing. Here, she speaks about how your diet is an essential ingredient to happiness.
There’s so much unhealthy food that is normalized in our culture, and people don’t realize that it lowers their vibrancy. Food, alcohol, and drugs are addictive for those of us who don’t know how to manage our feelings. Anxiety, depression, anger, loneliness, helplessness, heartbreak, shame, and guilt can be completely overwhelming. We don’t know how to learn from our feelings, or to lovingly manage them, which is how people become dependent on these things to live their everyday lives. But instead of providing relief, this unhealthy food contributes to illness, anxiety, and depression.
How bad food lowers your vibrancy
When people eat junk food, it disrupts the microbial gut flora, and the toxicity that that process creates actually goes right up into the brain. This process can actually create anxiety and depression. It becomes a vicious cycle, and people have no idea what else to do. Their medication doesn’t work for them. They feel stuck. Their frequency is lowered.
The body-spirit connection
I was a sickly child, and I just hated being sick. So in my early 20s, I started reading everything that I could about health. I threw out everything in my kitchen, and started eating all organic, all fresh. I was the health food nut, and that was 56 years ago. I’m 78 now, and I have unbelievable health, so much energy, no arthritis, no brain degeneration. Not only does this help my body, but it helps me connect to spirit.
Even though I was eating well, it wasn’t an automatic connection to spirit. It was the intention to learn that really opened things up. Eating well and being open to learning helps you vibrate on a more spiritual frequency.
With my Inner Bonding Process, you learn to make decisions that love your body. So now, when someone brings in yummy, sugary stuff, which I used to eat all the time, my higher brain says “you know, i love you too much to eat this.” I love being connected to my higher guidance. I know that if I eat this, my vibrancy, my health, everything is going to tank. I don’t even have a problem refusing poor food.
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.
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.
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.”
In House: Marci Miles on Authentic Self-Care
Founder of the My Authentic Self-Care™ (MASC™) Retreat Marcelletta Miles sat down with Andrew Keaveney to discuss the inspiration and goals of her program.
Having lost her uncle, aunt, grandmother and grandfather within a two-year period, Miles was forced to come to terms with a personal truth. Despite 22 years as a nurse, she did not know how to take care of herself in a physically and emotionally lasting way. Her struggle through this difficult time gave her the inspiration and perspective to launch a three-day retreat recently held here at the Boone Art of Living Retreat Center based on the concept of “taking care of yourself from the inside-out.” Here’s a bit of what she had to say about this idea:
The difference of authentic self-care
MASC is about really taking time and taking care of yourself so you can be your best self for the other people around you. I always used the example of a glass full of water. Every time you give to someone else or do something else, you’re taking away from the water. And at some point, the glass runs dry and if you don’t take time to refill your glass, then you are running on empty. And if you just think about it and just stop and take time to do something for yourself that energizes you from the inside-out.
It’s not about getting your hair done. It’s not about getting your nails done. All that stuff washes away. Now when you energize yourself from the inside-out, from the core of who you are, you’re getting love from a place of sincerity.
Signs that someone is ‘running on empty’
They are exhausted all the time; they are frustrated; they feel empty; they feel like they’re missing something on the inside. They are discouraged. Some people even begin to feel suicidal because they just don’t have anything on the inside that’s keeping them grounded. And over this past weekend, that’s what we’ve heard a lot of.
Taking care of yourself from the inside out
When you are really taking care of yourself from inside-out, you find yourself getting lost in something that you’re really enjoying doing and it really energizes you. MASC is about pulling off the mask that we put on every day, that we hide behind. We don’t want people to see the true us. But we’ve gotten so comfortable with having that mask on that we are hiding from ourselves. And so this weekend was about pulling off the mask and really reaching the core of who we are on the inside.
We just take some time to get back to the things that you enjoy because that’s what energizes you. For example, one of the participants this weekend got back into writing poetry. She said that she didn’t take the time to write anymore, and so this gave her the opportunity to really sit down and out pen to paper and express yourself. And she was like, “Oh my goodness! I forgot what this felt like!”
If you’re interested in a weekend to reconnect with the core of your being, register here for Marcelletta Miles’s May 2018 MASC Retreat.
Exploring Wisdom: Annalies Richmond on Confidence and Compassion
There are so many benefits to the practices of meditation and mindfulness. Peace, joy, and wisdom are all natural rewards of the methods and techniques taught in the Art of Living Retreat Center’s weekly Happiness Retreat, but perhaps two of the most powerful, unexpected qualities we foster in meditation are confidence and compassion. We recently sat down with Art of Living instructor Annalies Richmond to speak about her journey to confidence, compassion, and maintaining self-worth in the face of negative interaction.
Confidence & the Happiness Retreat
My first experience with Art of Living and the teachings of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar completely blew me away. I was a professional dancer, which is a high-stress and intensely focused career path, and I was always very nervous during auditions and performances. I’d practiced different kinds of meditation before, trying to overcome that nervousness, but it never quite did the trick. A friend recommended the Happiness Retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center, and I felt like it brought a new element of mindfulness to my entire life.
After the Happiness Retreat, everything came to life. I started noticing the trees when I would walk to the subway. I started feeling more happy at work. Anything bothersome that would happen would just roll off my back, as long as I was practicing the techniques I’d learned. But the most astounding thing for me, and for my career, was that after I started practicing meditation daily, the nervousness just disappeared. Performance felt natural and normal, like I was in my living room. I remember walking on stage at the Metropolitan Opera in front of four thousand people and not feeling nervous at all.
After dealing with nerves for so long, that was an incredible experience that really demonstrated the power of all the techniques I’d learned in the Happiness Retreat. I enjoyed my career so much more after that, and I felt that the knowledge and wisdom I’d gained during the retreat gave me a much bigger perspective on my life. It made me realize that there was even more I could contribute to the world.
So I began teaching for Art of Living, and learning about how confidence and compassion are intertwined.
How to Navigate Negative Interactions
One of the key insights of yogic wisdom that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar speaks on is how to maintain confidence and compassion when someone treats you poorly. The way someone treats you is a reflection of their character, not yours. You are always worthy and loved, no matter how you are treated. If you have self-respect, no one can ever take that away from you, and when you treat other people with respect and honor, it demonstrates the quality and integrity of your character and actually helps them break their own negative patterns.
If you react in a negative way to poor treatment, it’s not helpful to the other person. The way to help people out of their damaging social patterns is to maintain your own center and not get caught up in trying to diagnose or assign intention to their actions. If you approach someone in a calm, serene state, and with an attitude of love and helpfulness, people do pick up on that vibe, and they’re often willing to listen to you.
Building Relationships through Compassion
For instance, I’ve taught at youth correctional facilities, and I’ve really had to learn to suspend my own judgement and approach these kids from a place of understanding and compassion. Often times, many of them are in there because they had no choice, due to their upbringing or circumstances. The first day of these courses usually come with a lot of disrespect. The kids aren’t interested in anything I have to say. But I just have to keep reminidng myself that their behaviour has nothing to do with me, and that I can’t take offense to how they’re reacting to me.
But over two or three days of me just being willing to listen to them without reacting, without yelling back at them, they begin to actually develop a curiosity as to what I have to say. By the fourth day, I’m able to teach them breathing techniques, and by the last day, they don’t want me to leave. We build real relationships. Teaching these young people has been amazing, and has really reaffirmed in my mind that if you maintain equanimity and peace of mind during conflict, you can help with the healing process.
Making the World a More Loving Place
We’re very fortunate to have a teacher like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar alive on this planet. Someone of his enlightened stature, who chooses to share his wisdom with us, who can teach us how to go deeply inwards and get in touch with our true selves. He can show you how to heal yourself and serve the world at the same time. He teaches how to be at peace with ourselves and our surroundings, but also how to be dynamic and make the world more peaceful and loving.
The Art of Living is joy and balance. It’s harmony on the inside, and harmony with the outside. And the Art of Living Retreat Center is such a magnificent natural setting to help you along in your jouney. You wake up and look out the window, and you’re above the cloud lines sometimes, which feels completely ethereal. The combination of meditation and community and nature makes you feel like you’re truly in heaven.
Join Annalies for YesPlus Art of Silence from Dec 30, 2017 – Jan 2, 2018 and begin the New Year feeling refreshed and rejuvenated.
The Happiness Retreat runs weekly.
Art of Living Journeys: How Denise Re-framed Her Life
Before joining us at the Art of Living Retreat Center for our weekly Happiness Retreat, Denise felt as though she was stuck – in an unhappy marriage, in unhealthy patterns, in the darkness. But after a weekend of lessons, love, and light, she found her own light at the end of the tunnel. We recently sat down with Denise to speak about her experiences, what she would tell her former self, and how she is living in her light.
Prioritize Your Wellness
Before Art of Living came into my life, I was in a place of hopelessness. I yearned to find joy and happiness, but I was at the point where I didn’t feel like I was meant to in this lifetime. I was dealing with some emotional trauma, and I was also in an unhappy marriage. It wasn’t only affecting me, but my children as well. My unconditional love and acceptance for this person had turned a corner to enabling. Through Art of Living and the Happiness Retreat, I was able to realize that I could still love this person while prioritizing my own wellness and taking myself out of an unhealthy situation.
The tools and techniques taught in the Happiness Retreat took away the guilt of that decision. I was able to move forward and live the life I’d always wanted to live. I found a joy and a peace that I’d never felt before.
A Way Out of Darkness
If I could speak to my former self, I would apologize to her, for letting her feel for even one moment that there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. That she would be unhappy forever. I would tell her that the darkness is not a place she had to stay, that there was a way out. And the Happiness Course is the very essence of the first step towards finding a way out of that place.
The Happiness Retreat brought a knowledge and confirmation to me that there was something better out there. It’s not just someone telling you that you can be happy. The tools and techniques of the program transformed all of my negative thoughts and patterns into something positive. It allowed me to move forward, and to find the light, even in my darkest moments.
Paying it Forward
The Art of Living Retreat Center is such a wonderful, accepting place. It feels as though you are coming together as a family, connecting with anyone and everyone. We all matter – each person does have something to give to someone else. If I had not come here and seen the people around me, and felt the love and peace and happiness, then I would have never been able to conceive of that happiness being possible within myself.
My desire now is to share my story with others. There are women out there who are exactly where I was, and I want to show anyone who’s been where I am how I got through it, and how I ended up in this amazing place of peace and joy. I want women to know that there is hope to live a life of joy, peace, and happiness.
Make the choice to truly thrive in life. The Happiness Retreat runs weekly.