Philip Fraser on Art of Silence: Activities and Benefits

By Dr. Elizabeth Herman, PhD
June 13, 2016

Art of Silence Retreats

We sat down with Philip Fraser to talk about the Art of Silence course, which he started teaching in the early 1990s. He currently teaches it every few months. Here, he describes in detail the process of this course and its many benefits.


Silence and Consciousness

The subject matter of this course, and the purpose of silence, is consciousness. That’s why it’s a unique course. You can do participate over and over; you can come back to this course many times. The material doesn’t become old.


We generally wake up fairly early; there’s a lot of energy in that part of the day, so that alone is rejuvenating. Then we have a yoga practice and a breathing techniques session, followed by breakfast and some little tasks and jobs that people perform in a group (seva). It gives participants a wonderful sense of belonging.


Guided meditations are also a big part of being in silence. We’re not in silence the whole time, of course, but the combined hours of silence add up to two full days.


More Energy, More Discipline

The first benefit of this course that people notice is the energy – participants feel lighter, clearer, more awake.


Sometimes people take the Happiness course, which is the first part of the series, but find it hard to be regular with that, to create the routine needed and be disciplined about it. But what you find after the Silence course is that your motivation and discipline transforms. You become almost addicted to the process of taking care of yourself.


Watching Your Own Mind

The second benefit is felt on an even deeper level – you become aware of your own mind. What you’ll notice is it’s either in this happy or neutral state, or a little bit unhappy. This sequence happens throughout any day of our lives. Some moments in the day we feel everything is good; and some moments it’s just kind of boring, and some moments something wrong has happened.


On this course, you get to watch your mind and its cycles. There’s no distraction. There’s nothing to blame your moods on, but you’ll still watch your moods fluctuate. It’s not an intellectual process, but just by experience, just by noticing your moods, you get a little bit of distance from it. That realization comes: “I’m not just my mind; I’m not just my thoughts.” That is the point at which you experience true happiness.


For example, when you watch a movie, you enjoy every element of the plot, even the parts that make you sad, anxious, or angry. Life is like that as well. Silence helps us realize that our plot is not everything that we are – this gives you have the ability to be in your emotions 100% when they arise. We temper ourselves so much, repress our anger, explain away our sadness, so this is a revolutionary thing for many people.


Kids are great at this. They go 100% into their emotions, and they release them just as easily.

They’ll fight with their friend and say, “You’re not my friend anymore; I hate you.” They’re really fully feeling it, they mean what they say – but five minutes later, everything is fine.


Later in life when you fight, you’re so much trying to control everything, you don’t have that resilience anymore in your own mind, energy and consciousness. So you fight with your friend, and possibly it could be for many years! “You’re not my friend anymore!” If that comes up as an adult, you’re in a lawsuit; you’re in some crazy thing that’s absorbing so much of your life force. So that ability to be in an emotion, let it go, and accept it: this unique skill is what we teach.


Happiness in the Moment

We think happiness comes from control. We think, “If I have enough money, I can just go anywhere. When I want to be in Paris for lunch, I can at any moment, and that’s when I’m gonna be happy.” Because that’s control; we can do whatever we want. If that were the case then everyone who had that degree of financial freedom would be so happy. But they may not be.

That realization comes: “I’m not just my mind; I’m not just my thoughts.” That is the point at which you experience true happiness.


You ask someone, “What do you need to be happy and when will you be happy?” They’ll always say, “It’s not based on anything.” Instinctively, we know that. But this is the way to achieve it: this course and these practices. You can have that. It’s something that you culture in your system.


Many people think, “If I just read a book about the present moment that’s enough.” Reading does help; it’s a definite eye-opener. But that’s only part of it. Really, by direct experience and by systematically going through that and finding yourself there again and again, you’ll start to say, “Yeah, it’s like this. I am more than just the thoughts. I am more than this mood or event or these labels they put in front of me.” Then you’ll find it.

To learn more about our Silent Retreats, click here. 


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


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TAGS: happiness , healthy lifestyle , Sleep , yoga retreat

Sleep Better With Ayurveda

February 21, 2016

Ever wondered how to sleep better? Ask just about anyone if they get enough sleep, and the answer you are likely to get is “no.” According to the CDC, “An estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorder.”


Not only is the quality of sleep we get not up to snuff, we are also not getting enough sleep. A 2009 survey conducted by the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System found that 35.3% of adults surveyed get less than 7 hours of sleep. The survey also found adults reporting nodding off while driving, or engaged in other activities.


It’s not just adults who have trouble getting enough sleep, but children also. The demands placed on our youth in school and in their activities make it hard for them to get a good night’s sleep. A solution to this widespread sleep problem is applying the principles of Ayurveda to your pre-sleep preparations.


Before we introduce Ayurveda, let’s look at why sleep is so important. In children, sleep is essential for healthy growth and development. Children who get enough sleep are more focused, perform better in school and activities, are happier and have fewer behavioral problems. The average child between the ages of 5 and 12 needs 10 to 11 hours of sleep each night.

sleep better with Ayurveda - relaxing sleep

In adults, sleep is when the body and mind rest and restore. Adults who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney disease and stroke. Adults who get enough sleep are also more likely to maintain a healthy weight. The average adult needs about 7 and a half to 9 hours of sleep per night.


For older adults, sleep is an essential tool in maintaining health during the aging process. Many seniors find it hard to fall asleep and stay asleep due to health conditions such as the need to use the rest room frequently. Older adults need just as much sleep as their younger counterparts, about 7 and a half to 9 hours.


How can Ayurveda help?

Ayurveda is a method of healing the body naturally. It is a discipline that is over 5,000 years old, and originated in India. The main difference between Ayurveda and modern medicine is that Ayurveda seeks to treat the cause of disease, not the symptoms.


Have you ever taken a sleep aid? Millions of adults take prescribed medications to help them sleep better. Unfortunately, sleeping pills don’t address the underlying causes of lack and poor quality of sleep. Applying principles of Ayurveda to your night-time routine can help you get better sleep, and more of it, with less reliance on pills.


Find Out How to Sleep Better with Ayurveda

Try adding these practices to your day and enjoy the increased energy that comes with better sleep!

Nix caffeine. Or at least cut off your caffeine consumption after 3 pm to sleep better. That goes for sugar and other stimulants. Your body will have a tough time closing up shop for the night if you have sugary, caffeinated substances coursing through your system.

Drink hot milk. It sounds like something your grandmother would tell you to do, but a common Ayurvedic practice is to drink hot spiced milk before bed. Try a hot cup with a pinch of cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and nutmeg. The spices are cleansing for your body, and the nutmeg is calming.

Unplug. Give yourself some screen free quiet time for at least an hour before bed. Turn off your phone, computer, TV and tablet. Dim the lights and play some soothing music that fills your heart. This gives your brain a chance to switch from active mode to sleep mode.

Meditate. You may not think you know how, but you don’t have to be a Yogi or Buddhist Monk to meditate. Try this: sit quietly and comfortably, close your eyes, and focus on your breath. Even 5 minutes of this is enough to start resting the mind.

Get Moving. Not right before bed of course, but try to incorporate more movement or exercise into your day. Take the stairs, go for a walk, do yoga, get active! Your body is designed to be in motion during the day and at rest at night. Moving more will help you get on that cycle.


Interested in learning more about how Ayurveda can improve your health? To find out more, schedule a free consultation with our Ayurveda specialist.


Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


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TAGS: Ayurveda , Sleep

Find Better Rest and Sounder Sleep with Ayurveda

By Andrew
February 6, 2015


Do You Want More Rest? 

Have you ever wondered how to get better rest, faster? Perhaps googled sleep hacks to maximize those few hours of sleep you get in? I have. so I asked Ayurveda expert Lokesh Raturi about how to get better rest from an Ayurveda perspective – an Ayurveda life hack, if you will. His comments show Ayurveda’s characteristic view that gives different solutions for each body types and offer some great tips for everyone. Read on for more.


Q: What is the importance of rest?

A: Rest is a part of our life.

For a vata (light) person, sleep will give good rest at the level of the body. For a kapha person, too much sleep is a danger that may imbalance kapha (heaviness), making him more dull and lethargic. We need to strike a balance. For a kapha person, six hours of sleep is enough to rest the body so that your body feels dynamic and you can enjoy the day. But while a kapha person should not sleep late in the morning or during the day, a vata person can take a nap, especially in summertime. So the right amount of rest depends on your individual constitution.

Q: Many people feel too tired. How can we feel better rested?

A: This depends on the situation. If you work really hard and feel tired, that is natural; but if the body feels tired without working, it is a sign that amma (toxins) have collected in the body. What are more signs of toxins in the body?

  • when you wake up in the morning, you feel sleepy and want to sleep in five minutes more
  • the body aches
  • all joints ache
  • body feels dull and lethargic

These are the signs of toxicity.




Purify for Sounder Sleep

One solution, which also helps with weight loss, is to go for five days on an Ayurveda cleanse and drink one cup of hot water. In these five days, the body cleans itself of many of the gathered toxins. Some people want to lose weight, but they are unable to due to the toxicity in the body, though they may exercise and do plenty of work to lose pounds. However, as the body becomes free of toxins, they can lose weight more easily and feel good, light and energetic.

Rest has many meanings. If you work hard you need rest. Or if your mind feels too tired, then too you need rest. Sleep is essential to rest the body (a note here is that for people with heavier, kapha builds, exercise will give better rest — when you exercise and then relax — then that will be good rest.

I confess…I did try this Ayurveda cleanse for myself. Within one day I felt better, and within another day ten (10!) friends joined me to experiment with the kichadi cleanse. Did I feel better rested? Yes. Fresher in the morning? For sure. I invite you to grab a couple of friends, a pot of mung beans and try it yourself and share your  experience.  in our next post, we’ll investigate more practical hints to get better rest on a daily basis.


Ayurveda cleanse detox

Interested in learning more about programs at the Art of Living Retreat Center? Check out our annual catalog here.


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TAGS: Ayurveda , cleanse , Detox , Rest , Sleep

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