Exploring Wisdom: Dealing with Jealousy

By Wah! & Dr. James Leary
September 12, 2018

Jealousy - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

In this series, regular Art of Living Retreat Center presenters Wah! and Dr. James Leary answer your questions about life, love, and spirituality.

“How do you deal with jealousy?”

 

Wah!: Jealousy is just self-hatred turned outwards. When you’re jealous of someone else, the root of that energy is actually self-loathing. You’re projecting onto someone else, and telling yourself that you’re not good enough, that you think the other person is better. The work in jealousy is to dissolve, forgive, and love yourself.

 

Once you do that, there won’t be that comparison anymore. You’re able to arrive at the statement of “I am. I am this way. I didn’t make myself this way, I just simply evolved to this point and this is who I am right now.” And that’s okay! That’s magical, and that’s special.

 

James: In my own growth with jealousy, I’ve learned that it’s never simple. But when you look at it and think about it, when you really break it down – Where is that thought coming from? Where is that emotion coming from? – you inevitably learn to embrace and love yourself, and turn your attention away from a place of lack.

 

Wah! Wah! blends a seductive, Eastern-tinged spiritual sound with a unique mix of pop, world music, ambient electronica, hip hop, and reggae. She teaches women’s leadership trainings, sound healing workshops, yoga teacher trainings, and performs healing concerts in planetariums and theaters throughout the United States.

         

Dr. James Leary, DOM, DMQ, PhD, has been treating people successfully for 30 years. His Life Qi Renewal is a protocol for life activation which draws from many teachers and healing methods. Dr. Leary’s expertise has been utilized by healing therapists, professional athletes, and corporate executives all over the world.

         

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: James Leary , jealousy , self love , self-care , Wah! , wellness
How I Quit Smoking - Art of Living Retreat Center

Seeing is Believing: How I Quit Smoking

By Jurian Hughes
September 1, 2018

How I Quit Smoking - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

On June 11, 2003 I smoked my last cigarette.

 

When I count the things that I’m most grateful for in my life, “I quit smoking” is almost always number one. Even now, after fourteen years, I’m aware that this one factor changed the quality and course of my life perhaps more than any other decision or achievement I’ve made since.

 

Quitting smoking is one of my proudest accomplishments. I enjoy the clarity around it. Either you smoke or you don’t. There’s no vagueness about it. I was a smoker. Now I’m not. To this day I’m fascinated by how I did it.

 

How I quit smoking

Before I made the decision to quit smoking I projected myself into the future ten years. I saw who I would become if I continued smoking. I could easily imagine what my body would feel and look like, how active I would be (or not). I imagined the quality of my life – chest pain as I walked up subway stairs, the smell of my apartment, clothes and hair.

 

I had a very real and tangible sense of who I would become if I continued down that road. And I knew it was not who I wanted to be. I wanted to be another woman – a physically fit, vital, brighter, more hopeful, more engaged person than I was at that time. And I could see very clearly that if I continued smoking I was not going to get there.

 

Resetting my intentions

So I stopped. Immediately. That was it. Once I had seen so clearly where I wanted to go vs. where I was headed, I simply stopped smoking. The intention was not “Quit Smoking.” The intention was robust health, overall well-being, more joy. Quitting smoking became a necessary step toward the person I was determined to become. Though I had tried to quit numerous times before, that final time it was actually…easy. It was simple, inevitable.

 

Getting clear

During that same time I made a lot of other changes. I stopped hanging out with men who were no good for me (and met my beloved partner David shortly thereafter). I left a career that was no longer fulfilling me (and found my way to teaching in the world of yoga, dance, voice and play not long after.)

 

Now when I find myself needing to make a life change, I imagine myself going through the same process that I went through back in 2003. I try to get as clear as I can about who it is that I am passionate to evolve into next. Once I see her clearly — and believe that I have the ability and the right to have her life – I know the steps will reveal themselves.

 

Seeing is believing

“Seeing is believing” says the old adage. If we can see a future self we can begin to imagine what her life feels like, what it’s like to be in her skin, to move through her day, to spend time as she does. The more fully we imagine her, the more real she becomes, and then her evolution becomes…inevitable.

If you imagine your life full of joy and dance and the ability to help others experience more of that, too, join me this Sep 22 – Oct 2 at Art of Living for a ten-day Let Your Yoga Dance Teacher Training Immersion. See it. Believe it. Take the first step.

 

Jurian Hughs, E-RYT 500, MFA, is founder of the Yoga of Voice; co-founder of A Wild Life Sanctuary™; co-creator of The Yoga of Yes; a Let Your Yoga Dance® teacher trainer; voice coach; personal mentor; writer; speaker; and theatre performer known for her passionate, playful, and engaging teaching style. As a senior faculty member of the Kripalu School of Yoga since 2006, Hughes has led thousands of workshops and programs and trained more than 1,000 Kripalu yoga teachers.

 

For more about Jurian, visit jurianhughes.com. Join Jurian for her ten-day Let Your Yoga Dance® Teacher Training at the Art of Living Retreat Center from September 22 – October 2, 2018.


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: jurian hughes , mindfulness , self-care , smoking , visualization , wellness , yoga
Maintaining a Practice - Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: the Daily Practice

By Wah! & Dr. James Leary
August 30, 2018

Maintaining a Practice - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

In this series, regular Art of Living Retreat Center presenters Wah! and Dr. James Leary answer your questions about life, love, and spirituality.

“Sometimes I lose my daily practice. Do you have any inspirations for continuing a daily practice? What advice can you offer?”

 

Wah!: Having several things that you like to do and know how to do, that each take different lengths of time, is a really great toolbox to have. When you have an hour, maybe you’ll do a yoga routine with relaxation. If you’ve got half an hour, maybe it’s just the yoga routine. If you’ve got 15 minutes, maybe it’s a little bit of Marma, and if you have five, maybe it’s even just going outside and taking a deep breath of fresh air, inviting Mother Nature to be with you for the day. No matter what it is, just do something.

 

James: If you look at it, there’s 1,440 minutes in a day. Most people don’t even really afford themselves a few minutes of quality time. For me, my biggest practice is my daily meditation of stepping outside. I’ll wander a little, find something in nature that really catches my eye, take a deep breath, and I’ll just be clear.

 

I just allow nature to come in and allow me to breathe with it. Whether it’s 10 seconds or five minutes, it’s such a clearing and energizing way to increase the ability to take in what we need to from the universe.

 

Wah!: Something that we teach in our classes is the practice of taking a clearing breath. You can’t bring in a new day if you haven’t cleared the old. Inhale, find something in the consciousness that is congested, that doesn’t serve you or belong, and then breathe it out. Release it into the universe.

 

That’s all you have to do–the universe follows your lead. We have these false beliefs that we should be the ones to fix whatever is wrong, but all we need to do is tie into the energy of Mother Nature, which is around you, and allow healing to flow through you. Start your practice with a daily exhale, set your intentions, and let Mother Nature in.

 

Wah! Wah! blends a seductive, Eastern-tinged spiritual sound with a unique mix of pop, world music, ambient electronica, hip hop, and reggae. She teaches women’s leadership trainings, sound healing workshops, yoga teacher trainings, and performs healing concerts in planetariums and theaters throughout the United States.

         

Dr. James Leary, DOM, DMQ, PhD, has been treating people successfully for 30 years. His Life Qi Renewal is a protocol for life activation which draws from many teachers and healing methods. Dr. Leary’s expertise has been utilized by healing therapists, professional athletes, and corporate executives all over the world.

         

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: James Leary , mindfulness , self love , self-care , Wah!
Inner Bonding - Art of Living Retreat Center

The Inner Bonding Process

By Margaret Paul
August 13, 2018

Inner Bonding - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

This past May, the Art of Living Retreat Center hosted Dr. Margaret Paul for Inner Bonding, a weekend of transformative healing. Below, she elaborates on what the Inner Bonding Process is, and how it can change your life. 

 

If you don’t value yourself or think that you’re good enough, why would you be motivated to take care of yourself?

 

A new solution for happiness

I worked as a traditional psychotherapist for 17 years, and I did not see people healing on a deep level. They’d feel better after a session, of course, but then something would happen in their life and they wouldn’t be able to deal with it. They didn’t have the tools, techniques, and inner strength needed to overcome the struggles of everyday life. I started to pray for a process that would go deep in terms of healing, for something that people could draw upon no matter where they were or how they were feeling.

 

That’s when I met the co-creator of Inner Bonding, Dr. Erika Choprich. I’m certain that Spirit made sure that we met so that we could combine our experience and knowledge. Our process has been life-changing for me, and I know it has been life changing for others, as well.

 

Learning to love yourself

With the Inner Bonding Process, people really get a handle on their anxiety and depression. They become motivated to take care of themselves, especially with what they put into their physical bodies. Their addictions to sugar, cigarettes, alcohol, what have you, begin to fade away.

 

Their relationships improve. Many people begin to realize that they’ve never learned to take responsibility for their own feelings and how to truly love themselves. In our society, we don’t have role models for that! In order to know what to do in any given moment, you have to access your inner guidance. You learn to ask yourself, “What’s loving to me right now? What can I do that’s in my highest interest?”

 

Nurturing emotional intelligence

Let’s say that you’re angry, and you’re convinced that your anger is because someone else has been unloving to you. Somebody else has put you down, judged you, rejected you, or pulled away from you. Your first instinct might be to say, “Well, of course I’m angry! Look at what they’re doing to me!” But in the Inner Bonding Process, we learn that anger is a symptom of our inner child, our soul, our essence, angry at us because we don’t know how to take care of ourselves in the face of somebody else’s unloving behavior.

 

When we get angry, we’re abandoning ourselves. We get defensive, we explain, we give up, we shut down, we take it personally, we blame the other person. We teach people to turn around and say to their inner selves, “How am I treating you? What am I telling you? How am I judging or abandoning you? How am I not being an advocate for you in the face of what somebody else is saying?”

 

That inner self might say, “Well, you’re judging me all the time. You’re putting me down. You’re not standing up for me. You’re not keeping me safe. You numb me with food. You don’t even know I exist.”

 

This self lets us know whether we’re loving ourselves or abandoning ourselves. When we feel peaceful, full, loved, and valued, then we know we’re taking care of that self.

 

Unlearning childhood pain

Growing up, we deal with a lot of pain. And we learn that we need to avoid pain at all costs, because it overwhelms us. Many of our parents treated us like we weren’t good enough, like we had to be perfect, to perform, that their love was conditional on how we looked or how many A’s we got or how popular we were. We absorbed all of that, and we started to treat ourselves the way we were treated by our parents or caregivers or church.

 

We perpetuate the abuse, and then wonder why we feel so bad. Why we feel so much pain. We don’t know what to do with it. We don’t know how to manage it. But that pain is telling you something about yourself.

 

The people who should have taught us how to handle this pain may in fact have been the ones hurting us. We learn to disconnect, dissociate from our feelings. We learn to think that feelings are weakness. We learn to think that we were bad when we were feeling our feelings. We’re supposed to just be okay all the time. With the inner bonding process, people learn to reconnect with their feelings and to interpret what their feelings are telling them.

 

They learn how to embrace themselves with compassion, to take responsibility to move closer to our feelings, to move with an intention to learn. We all want to receive love and avoid pain.

 

Love yourself in every area of your life

The 6 Inner steps of bonding helps you learn what it means to love yourself physically, emotionally, spiritually, within relationships, organizationally, and financially. You learn what it means to show up for yourself, and that creates a sense of fullness and peace inside. You develop new neural pathways in your higher brain, your prefrontal cortex. You become a loving adult who naturally relies on your higher brain.

 

Parent your inner child

We need to approach our feelings as a loving adult. Your inner child needs to trust you, so you need to be open and compassionate and to really listen. We have to learn to reconnect with our intuition and to honor our feelings rather than squash them. This is what inner bonding is about. Learning to trust your inner guidance. We become our own guru. We access really amazing information.

 

Our goal can’t be to avoid pain–that makes our frequency too low. We can’t come at it from a perspective of protection, avoidance, and control. We access it only when we’re open to learning about what it means to love ourselves, and to identify our false beliefs.

 

Find your purpose

As you practice inner bonding, you get in touch with why you’re on the planet, with what brings you joy to offer the world. We’re here to evolve in our ability to love ourselves and love others, and we’re here to offer our love to the world in our own unique way. We have so many gifts that have been squashed down and judged, and this process really reconnects you to those gifts. When people tap into that, it brings enormous joy.

 

Learn more about the Inner Bonding Process here.

 

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!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

   
TAGS: health , in house , inner bonding , margaret paul , self love , self-care , spirituality , wellness
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
Belly Love

The Practice: Belly Love

By Wendy Swanson
May 17, 2018

Belly Love

 

Our belly, my belly, your belly, women’s bellies, men’s bellies “should” be flat, flat, flat. I have met very few people that are not on a quest for a flatter abdomen. I, too, have striven for this perfection as the message I heard growing up from my misguided but well-intentioned mom was “you can never be too thin (or too blonde)”. I wonder, though, if in our quest for perfection we are sacrificing our wellbeing.

 

A strong core and firm abdominal muscles do indeed help stabilize our low back and lumbar spine. We do need strength in our body, and in particular in our abdomen, to hold ourselves upright and to move through our day with integrity.

 

The beauty of a Buddha belly

Belly LoveA strong belly does not necessarily equal a flat as a board, six pack belly. In the practice of Chinese Medicine, a healthy belly is one that actually has some softness that resembles a slightly rounded “Buddha belly”. The softness indicates that tension is not being stored in the abdomen and that the breath is freely moving through the belly, diaphragm and chest. I’ve noticed that when I feel most relaxed my breath moves and when I feel stressed my breath hangs out in my chest and is quite shallow. I could go on and on about body image and societal pressure to be thin, but today I want to offer a few tools to simply help us get to know our belly and possibly even love our belly AND let you know that a soft, slightly rounded belly is normal, healthy, and dare I say even beautiful.

 

Ways to love your belly

Abdominal massage is a great way to love your belly and has the added benefit to help with constipation. Rub your hands together to warm them before placing them at 12 o’clock above your belly button. Allow your fingers to sink into your belly but not too much that you feel pain. Move your hands around your belly button in a clockwise motion. You can use some coconut oil or sesame oil to help your hands move smoothly around your belly.

Sit or lie down and place your hands gently on top of your belly. See if you can bring your breath all the way to your belly enough so that you can visibly see the rise and fall of your hands.

Find movement that makes you feel great and beautiful. One of my favorite things is to put on music, turn up the volume and simply move and dance with no particular purpose and with no one watching. It helps me to feel free and connected to my body and my belly.

Practice speaking kindly to yourself. Write yourself a love note. Be kind to yourself.

 

Wendy Swanson, L.Ac, E-RYT 200, is a healer, transformational leader, yoga teacher and licensed acupuncturist. Wendy has been leading groups for over 15 years both domestically and internationally. She is an open hearted yoga instructor who is currently studying at Kripalu to obtain her 500 hour yoga certification. As a licensed acupuncturist for over ten years, Wendy’s strives to help people live a life filled with greater ease, joy, well-being and balance. Wendy owns Be Yoga & Wellness in Charlotte, NC.

 

Join Wendy at the Art of Living Retreat Center for The Art of Being You from June 15-17, the Joyful Yoga Conference from August 10-12, and Celebrate Being through Yoga from September 27-30.

     

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: abdomen , belly , Body Image , Love , self-care , yoga
Art of Living Retreat Center - Being Jealous

Exploring Wisdom: Jealous? Here’s Why

By Margaret Paul
May 11, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center - Being Jealous

 

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.

 

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: exploring wisdom , inner child , jealous , jealousy , self love , self-care , wisdom
Make Friends With Your Body

Exploring Wisdom: Make Friends with Your Body

By Cyndi Lee
April 2, 2018

Make Friends With Your Body

 

Pairs of yogis face each other, press their palms together, and shyly bow their heads. Wearing baggy sweat pants and sexy yoga tops, bike shorts and faded t-shirts advertising local breweries, they are somehow all transformed into elegant beings in this moment—their generosity shining out toward each other. Then they laugh, slap a high five or share a shoulder squeeze, and return to their yoga mats for the rest of the class. They’ve just finished a partnering exercise and are feeling pretty exhilarated.

 

Without exception, everyone who participates in partner yoga is a cheerleader. They say things like: Yes! Push your feet into the wall. Keep breathing—don’t worry, I’ve got you. That’s great! You almost got up today. Do you want to come down now? Okay, good. Let’s take a rest. When one partner drops down and folds into a resting pose, the other partner gives them a friendly back rub.

 

I’ve seen this scenario repeated many times during my fifteen years of full-time yoga teaching, and it always warms my heart. It seems natural and easy for yoga students to open to their partners, and it brings to mind what one of my favorite Buddhist teachers once said, “At the end of the day, the true measure of our practice is how much we can open to others.” Remembering this, I think to myself, why is it so difficult to open to ourselves?

 

Finding a middle path

It is fairly typical to feel resentful, or at least annoyed, when we’re faced with obstacles. A common response is to blame another person. For instance, “I’m tired because my husband snores,” or “I’m fat because my kids like to eat ice cream,” or “Everyone in my family has tight hamstrings and that’s why I can’t do yoga… or anything.” The list goes on.

 

As meditators, we cultivate awareness of these blaming thoughts. We notice them, label them as thinking, and practice letting them go and coming back to now. We have learned that we always have options regarding how to respond to rising irritation, and we like to think that we might make a positive choice, one that involves relaxing and resting in openness—no other response necessary.

 

Yet I’ve noticed that when it’s our own body that is the source of discomfort and irritation, we often get frustrated or critical and simply give up on finding a middle path that meets the needs of both parties, that is, our body and our mind.

 

Overcoming needless suffering

The sad truth is that many of us just don’t like our bodies the way they are. We keep wishing they were different. Well, guess what? They are different! You used to be two feet tall and crawled everywhere. You used to be able to put your foot in your mouth. Perhaps you used to be thinner. The color of your skin changes depending on how much you expose it to the sun. Has your hair changed color, too? So, you see, our bodies change all the time; it’s just our relationship to our bodies that has become locked up tight.

 

My favorite definition of dukkha, attributed to the great yogi Deskichar, is, “Sitting alone in a dark, cold room.” It’s about claustrophobia and needless suffering. And that is just what we are doing to ourselves when we sit in meditation posture with knee pain and backache, feeling trapped in our body, and mad about it, too.

 

Approaching your body with kindness and patience

Isn’t it interesting that yoga students never say to each other, “I don’t want to be your partner,” or “You are too fat, or too old, or too weak, or too uncoordinated to do this pose”? But these are all things we say to ourselves while meditating. This negative thinking habit then becomes a major element of what we are practicing, from the very beginning of our meditation practice when we first place our seat on the cushion.

 

Maybe you are thinking, “Well, I actually am too old or stiff to ever be comfortable sitting on a cushion.” But what if you took the approach that your body is fine as it is? This powerful mind shift then lays the ground for transforming dukkha into sukha, a sense of space and ease. After my yoga students thank each other and walk back to their own mats, I always ask them the same question: “Can you be as kind and patient with yourself as you were with your partner?”

 

A naked look

Step one is to accept your body the way it is today. In meditation this is called taking a naked look at things as they are, without having to change or fix them. If you can do this, it is an act of personal kindness, a very good thing to practice. It’s also simply being real, because let’s face it, you can’t practice with the body of the person next to you, anymore than you can practice with someone else’s mind. We are practicing with our own body—this one that we’re in today. Instead of thinking of all the things that are wrong with it, can you think of them as interesting elements to work with? Try it.

 

Let’s take stock: Tight hips? No problem. Stiff lower back? Okay. Creaky knees? Fine. Negative Attitude? We can probably get that unstuck, too. Let’s turn our dukkha drama into a sukha story.

 

Warming Up

Bodies are meant to move and, if we are planning to sit still for a while, it makes sense that we should move things around a bit first, to maintain a balance of activity and receptivity. Begin with this brief warm-up.

 

Stand up tall with your feet firmly planted on the floor, directly below your hips. Inhale as you circle your arms out to the side and all the way to the sky. Reach your fingers up! Exhale as you circle your arms back down by your sides. Repeat this four times. Inhale your arms up again. This time as you exhale, bend your knees. Next, inhale and straighten them. Exhale and bend. Repeat eight times.

 

Lower your arms by your sides. Turn your head to the right, then to the center, the left, and to the center again. Dip your right ear toward your right shoulder. Lift it up back up and dip your left ear to left shoulder.

 

Interlace your fingers behind your back. Lift your chest. Breathe in fully. Exhale and stick your tongue out. Repeat three times. Place your hands on your hips. Lift your right knee up toward your chest. Hold onto it with both hands. If that is not available to you today, place your left hand on a chair or the wall and hold your knee with your right hand. If that is not available today, lift your right foot off the floor two inches. Circle your right ankle three times in each direction. Do the other side.

 

Standing tall, bend your knees again. Place your left hand on your right knee and twist your chest and shoulders to the right. Extend your right arm toward the wall behind you. Stay here for three deep breaths. Untwist back to the center. Do the other side. Repeat two times.

 

Now you are ready to work on your sitting meditation posture.

 

Sitting Meditation Posture

First, organize your materials. You will need at least three to five meditation cushions or large, firm pillows and three to five blankets. A carpet or rug is also useful, but if you don’t have one, fold a blanket in half and place it on the floor. Place two of your cushions on the blanket near the far edge. Then sit down on the cushions with your sitting bones near the front edge of the cushion. Your thighs should not be supported, yet your seat should be firmly on the cushion.

 

Place one hand on your tailbone and one hand on your pubic bone. Rock forward and back a few times and try to find the middle point of balance, where your pelvis feels vertical. If you feel that your tailbone is tucking under, which is very common and no big deal, you just need to sit up on at least one more cushion. This alignment will allow your spine to be upright without overworking your back muscles. Give yourself the chance to have a comfortable, supported sitting environment by using as many cushions as you need.

 

Check out the placement of your knees. If your thighs and knees are far from the floor, roll up two blankets and place one under each thigh so that your legs are fully supported. This will allow you to relax your groins and lower abdominals. Over time your hips will become more open but without this support they will continue to grip and you could develop an injury. If this were your yoga partner, you would happily place a rolled up blanket under their thighs for them, so no need to resist doing it for yourself, right?

 

Place your palms on your thighs. Align your upper arm bones with the side of your body, so that your chest is open and your back is upright. If your hands slide past your knees it will tend to close your chest, inhibiting your breathing and creating upper back stress. If your arms are a tad short, then place a small cushion or folded up blanket on each thigh so your forearms can rest on a higher plane.

 

This should feel pretty good! In fact, it might not feel like anything and that is also good. This preparation might seem cumbersome, but if we can take the time to create the conditions for a supported meditation position, that will support a focused and restful mind. When one body part starts screaming, it pulls the mind there and discomfort becomes the object of meditation, rather than the breath.

 

Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche says meditation is simply placing the mind, and therefore we are actually meditating all the time. But formal meditation practice is making a choice about how and where we place our mind. This requires working with the body in a careful way so that physical discomfort does not overtake the mind.

 

Make a commitment to being honest about what you are really feeling. Not what you want to feel or not feel. The goal is not to have perfect meditation posture but to step onto the path toward a healthy sitting position. Even though you might have felt nicely balanced and comfortable two minutes ago, something may have shifted and now you don’t feel comfortable. That’s okay. Reorganize if you need to. If you don’t need to, don’t. Be clear about it. Move if you are getting hurt. Don’t move if you are getting bored.

 

You will find yourself slouching. No problem. Refresh your posture. This will happen again and again, just as your mind strays off into thoughts. When you notice it, wake up, sit up, and come back to your object of meditation, usually the breath. In this way you are strengthening your mind muscle and your body muscles at the same time.

 

If you can be kind to yourself and interested in what your experience is, and if you can commit to being friendly to your own body by creating the conditions for proper physical support, then meditation becomes a truly integrated mind–body–heart activity.

Cyndi Lee is the first female Western yoga teacher to fully integrate yoga asana and Tibetan Buddhism in her practice and teaching. Founder of NYC’s OM yoga Center (1998-2012) she now teaches yoga, meditation and resiliency workshops worldwide. Cyndi is a formally trained Buddhist Chaplain, and has been teaching yoga for 40 years.

 

This article first appeared on lionsroar.com and has been republished 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!

 

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TAGS: cyndi lee , meditation , self love , self-care , yoga
Art of Living Retreat Center - Self-Care

In House: Marci Miles on Authentic Self-Care

By AOLRC
December 25, 2017

Art of Living Retreat Center - 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.

 

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 , happiness , Marcelletta Miles , MASC , self-care

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