Samadhi and Enlightenment - the Art of Living Retreat Center

Samadhi and the Nature of Enlightenment

By Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
October 8, 2018

Samadhi and Enlightenment - the Art of Living Retreat Center

 

There are many different types of Samadhi. “Dhi” means intellect, or consciousness, and “sama” means equanimous, so Samadhi means an equanimous intellect.

 

When Samadhi becomes so stable that you don’t need to do anything, you don’t even need to meditate, then that state is called enlightenment. Until then, the practice of Samadhi is essential.

 

Samadhi is as though you are not there: see, whenever you get very deep rest and a sense of total peace within yourself, know that you have experienced a little bit of Samadhi. Unless you touch that area deep inside, you don’t get that freshness and deep rest and essence of joy or contentment. We sit for a little while, and then afterwards, as usual, things will move — but with practice, then it comes to a stage where Samadhi doesn’t leave you, you don’t need to hold onto it, and that stage doesn’t leave you at all.

 

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is a humanitarian and spiritual leader, an ambassador of peace and human values. Through his life and work, Sri Sri has inspired millions around the world with a vision of a stress-free, violence-free world.  He has founded courses that provide techniques and tools to live a deeper, more joyous life and he has established nonprofit organizations that recognize a common human identity above the boundaries of race, nationality, and religion.

 

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: enlightenment , Samadhi , spirituality , sri sri ravi shankar , wisdom
Men's Spirituality & Power Animals

Men’s Spirituality & Power Animals

By Dr. Steven Farmer
October 7, 2018

Men's Spirituality & Power Animals

 

Men can’t help but be spiritual. The fact of being alive is a spiritual experience, yet many have lost their conscious awareness of this fundamental truth. Gradually over the past several centuries, the rational, logical mind has usurped the creative wisdom of Spirit and the deeper awareness of the interconnectivity of all life. Civilization has further eroded men’s intimate association with the natural world, and instead, earth and all its non-human inhabitants– plant, animal and mineral– have been viewed solely as resources for the sustenance of more and more human beings. The prevailing belief has been that the planet is to be dominated and subdued rather than viewed as a beautiful, giving, abundant Mother Earth with whom we can have a mutually beneficial and cooperative relationship.

 

Men’s spirituality, internal rhythms, and instinctual selves

What happens for most of us men raised with this as the norm is that we become removed not only from the more natural rhythms and seasons of the earth, but dissociated from our own internal rhythms and instinctual selves. Many never hear– or else ignore– the call of Spirit that beckons us to follow our soul’s destiny. Instead, we chase materiality to the exclusion of the deeper currents of life. Although this path may yield great riches– or at least a comfortable existence– the cost to our bodies and our souls is great.

 

One of my favorite poems by Rainier Maria Rilke (translation by Robert Bly,) speaks to this:

 

Sometimes a man stands up during supper
and walks outdoors, and keeps on walking,
because of a church that stands somewhere in the East.
And his children say blessings on him
as if he were dead.
And another man, who remains inside his own house,
dies there, inside the dishes and in the glasses,
so that his children have to go far out
into the world
toward that same church, which he forgot.

 

One of the men’s groups I have participated in would read this as part of the opening ceremony each meeting. It speaks to the spiritual adventurer that lies inside every man. Typically, unless he is raised in a way that supports this kind of exploration, his soul’s urgings to seek out the bigger truths of the earth and the cosmos remain dormant until such time as they are awakened– if they ever are.

 

The two by four approach

Over the many years of working with men, I’ve found that this awakening can sometimes come as a result of the “two by four” approach. This happens when a man is going along, thinking everything’s okay with his work and his relationship, (even though there’s this nagging voice inside saying otherwise,) and God hits him with a metaphorical two by four. His wife divorces him, he gets laid off from his job or his addictions catch up to him– some momentous disruption of his life takes place. He can ignore this or take it as a signal to change, but by the time he’s in his late 30’s or 40’s, it becomes more difficult to deny it.

 

When lack clarifies

I was in serious straits following my divorce from the mother of my two daughters. I felt alone, confused and unclear about what direction my life was taking. I loved my girls, but didn’t feel competent as their father. I was burdened with guilt from divorcing their mother while they were still young. I knew I had to change my life, but wasn’t sure where to go. The seeds of my spiritual awakening had actually begun during my marriage, following a dramatic realization that I felt unlovable as well as unworthy of being loved. It took the separation to underscore a heartfelt need for a deeper and more profound love– a kind of love that I later realized to be the love that all spiritual masters spoke of.

 

During the years that followed, I found solace in a sequence of spiritually focused organizations. My involvement in each typically lasted about three to four years, at which point I would move on and explore another “church that stands somewhere in the East.” About fifteen years ago, my seeking brought me to shamanism. From my first initiation, I knew it was the path I’d follow for the rest of my life. I also realized that each step I’d taken had been necessary to move to the next one.

 

Animal spirit guides

I’m not suggesting that every man needs to follow a shamanic path. However, there are important aspects of shamanic practices that I’ve found to be particularly attractive to a lot of men.

One of these shamanic technologies is forming a relationship with an animal spirit guide, or power animal. Power animals touch something deep and ancient inside a man, a yearning for a more intimate and heartfelt relationship with the natural world. That relationship has often been forgotten in the haste, competitiveness and isolation from nature that are so endemic to the modern world and modern man. Power animals help a man remember at a profound level his ancient and interrelated connection to Mother Earth. Working with power animals and animal spirit guides is a spiritually practical way to work with the various energies of the earth.

The whole notion of power animals has its roots in some of the earliest spiritual practices of humans cross-culturally. It continues in indigenous peoples today. It’s particularly fitting for today, when many men are awakening to the wisdom of our long-ago ancestors and realizing that so-called “primitive” people have much to teach us.

 

Part of the pack

Our ancestors also knew another secret: we need one another. Sometimes our lives depended on our connection to each other, and in combat situations this is still true. These days, getting together with other men generally happens in order to work together, play a sport or go to the pub and have a few– all perfectly legitimate ways for men to hang out together. Yet at some point in a man’s life, it’s important to expand on these characteristic ways of being together, to break the sense of isolation that many men experience– to be supported by other men in our mission and purpose on this earth. This is as spiritual as a man can get.

 

In all indigenous cultures, men would spend a good deal of their time together, whether hunting or preparing and enacting rituals to honor the sacredness of life. In Australian aboriginal cultures, men’s sacred ceremonies were exclusive of females, and vice-versa.

 

I’m a strong advocate of us gathering in groups on a regular basis to share our triumphs and concerns, and to give and receive support with one another. I’ve been involved in men’s groups for the majority of my adult life, and I can say unequivocally that this has made me a better man. I’ve developed close relationships with a few men who are spiritual brothers, ones I can call on in a time of need. And by need, I don’t mean only when I’m broken and bleeding, but milder needs as well.

 

Learning trust

Yes, there are blocks for most of us to overcome– the main one being to trust other men enough to be vulnerable. We’ve all been hurt in some way by other men, starting with father, and betrayals by other men stay with us for a long time. We may even have been teased for being too sensitive. In addition, when men get together, the specter of homophobia can appear, inhibiting us from revealing our inner feelings and thoughts. It takes a different sort of courage to confront these blocks and overcome them, to test the waters of trusting other men, to discern who can be trusted– and who can’t.

 

If you think of yourself as a spiritual seeker, then I strongly encourage you to look into the idea of a men’s group. You can put it together yourself with a couple of mates that you’re close to, taking a leadership role. Again, it requires courage to take this kind of risk, but the worst that can happen isn’t all that bad, and the rewards will become self-evident by your taking such a bold step.

 

Whether you’re new to shamanism, already have some training, or curious as to how you can integrate these principles into your daily life and/or an alternative healing practice, deepen your experience and understanding of shamanic realities. Dr. Steven Farmer hosts Integrating Shamanism Into Your Life and Work at the Art of Living Retreat Center from November 16-18, 2018.

 

Dr. Steven Farmer is a psychotherapist, shamanic healer, and the author of several best-selling books and oracle cards. In addition to workshops on Animal Spirit Guides, Integrative Breathwork, Healing Ancestral Karma, and shamanism, Dr. Farmer offers Integrative Healing sessions in person or remotely by phone, Zoom, or Skype, as well as an individualized Spiritual Mentorship program. He is on the board of the Society of Shamanic Practice and also offers a certification program, the Earth Magic® Practitioner training.

 

This article first appeared in Creations Magazine, 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!

 

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TAGS: community , fatherhood , indigenous culture , men's spirituality , men's wellness , power animals , shamanism , spirituality , steven farmer , wellness , wisdom
Keep the Drama on the Page - Art of Living Retreat Center

Keep the Drama on the Page

By Julia Cameron
October 3, 2018

Keep the Drama on the Page - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

Drama belongs on the page. We have a mythology which tells us writers’ lives are dramatic, but this mythology does not serve us. Writers’ lives are best non-dramatic. It serves us to keep drama at bay.

 

Writing when you just don’t feel like it

Today I woke up tired and crabby. I didn’t fall asleep until 2:30 AM, and this morning I was filled with anxiety— and might I add, drama. Fatigue clouded my thoughts and the day looked bleak ahead of me. I tried to sleep again, but was unsuccessful, and eventually I got up and filled myself with coffee. Still, I was “tired and wired”— anxious and fatigued. I didn’t want to write. I wasn’t “in the mood.” And yet, I knew the act of writing would bring me cheer.

I set my pen to the page. I had learned from long years of practice that writing always cheered me. I wrote about the clouded-obscured mountain out the window. The weather matched my dour mood. The day was grey and chill. I complained on the page. Nothing suited me. But what was this? My rancor was yielding to a stronger, better mood.

 

Moving to optimism

“I don’t want to write,” I wrote, “I’m full of drama and pessimism today.” And yet, in writing, I found myself gently moved to optimism. My mood lightened perceptibly. I found myself ready to write further. It was as if by putting my dour sentiments on the page I underwent an exorcism. The demon despair was vanquished. I found myself open-hearted. My sour mood transformed slowly into something more like hope. I wrote, “It is a grey day, but the clouds are thinning. A hint of blue sky looms overhead. And what’s this? Now we have a glint of sun. The day promises to become bright. My mood follows suit.” I have been writing for half an hour, not very long, but long enough. My mood could now be described as “cheery.” Writing has rescued the day from the dramatic doldrums I woke up in.

 

Join Julia at the Art of Living Retreat Center from November 9th-11th, 2018 for her retreat, The Artist’s Way: Blasting Through Blocks. 

 

Julia Cameron the Artist's Way

Julia Cameron has been an active artist for over four decades. She is the author of more than forty books, including such bestselling works on the creative process as The Artist’s Way, Walking in This World and Finding Water. Also a novelist, playwright, songwriter and poet, she has multiple credits in theater, film and television. 2017 marked the 25th anniversary of The Artist’s Way, with over five million copies sold.

 

This post first appeared on juliacameronlive.com, and is reposted with permission from the author.

 

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TAGS: Julia Cameron , mindfulness , optimism , spirituality , wisdom
After-Death Communication - Art of Living Retreat Center

In House: Jennifer Farmer on After-Death Communication

By Jennifer Farmer
September 3, 2018

After-Death Communication - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

The most frequent question I get is “Can I communicate with my deceased loved ones?” The answer is a solid YES. If you are open to the Spirit World, not only is it possible, it is likely that you will have a Spirit touch and visit from your loved ones.

 

Is after-death communication possible for me?

Yes! After-death spirit communication is different for everyone. Some communication occurs through dreams and some throughout waking daily life. It’s important to mentally send your request and let your loved ones know you want to hear from them. You can do tell them out loud or through your mind. You might feel a little crazy at first, but rest assured, they hear you.

 

When Spirit visits your dreams

I’ve had many Spirit visits in my dreams over the years. For me, they are different than regular dreams. When I have them, I can feel my deceased loved one is with me more clearly. They usually have a lighted energy with them and I wake up feeling I’m had an in actual in-person visit together.

 

Dreams are not the only form of after-death communication. They also connect with us during our waking hours. I like a good night’s sleep, so I prefer to communicate with my loved ones during my waking hours.

 

Wakeful communication

Waking communication is similar to sleep state after-death communications. Asking your loved ones through your mind or verbally speaking is still the first step. Non-verbal communication from your loved ones in a waking state is just as profound as those in dreams. They can communicate better with us when we are relaxed, open, and receptive. That’s why so many people experience after death communication while in meditative state or asleep.

 

It takes two people to have a conversation. Sending your thoughts and words like “I really need to see you in my dreams” or “I need to know that you are okay” are the best ways to start the connection.

 

How can I communicate with my loved ones?

Asking is the first step in starting the new and improved connection. You can ask your deceased loved one to come and visit you during your sleeping period. When making your request, ask sincerely, from your heart, in a quiet manner or prayer. One strategy I’ve taught my clients and students to to take these steps before bed to connect with your loved one:

 
  • In a relaxed state, right before sleep, imagine your loved one with you.
  • See them as healed and whole.
  • Imagine their face smiling brilliantly, and occupied with love for you.
  • Say, “I love you!” with a radiant smile on your face.
  • Ask your loved one to come visit while you are sleeping.
  • Relax and go to sleep.
 

How communication eases grief

I’ve worked giving readings, teachings and meditation for more than 10 years now. I’ve focused so much on honing my gifts of Spirit communication for others.

 

My mom passed last year and I’ve had the opportunity to use my abilities for personal reasons. I’m sure glad I can. After-death communication with my mom has comforted me while riding the emotional roller coaster of grief.

 

Do not let depression, grief and loneliness take the better part of you. Talk to your loved ones who have gone. Staying in a state of grief, anger, guilt, or regret cannot bring back your deceased loved ones. God knows, I speak the truth in this. I held on to anger too long after my dad passed. I felt connected to him even while I was mad him for leaving me. Knowing that I could communicate with him after his passing was a life changer for me. After-death communication is open to everyone. Having a little faith in yourself and in the Spirit World is all you need to get started.

 

Your loved ones in Spirit want to help you through your time of grief.

 

Have you been thinking about your loved ones and how to connect with them after they are gone? After-death communication changed my life in so many ways and I wish the same for you. If you are open to the healing power of the Spirit World, your life will take on new meaning and purpose.

 

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.


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TAGS: communication , death , grief , in house , Jennifer Farmer , psychic , spirit , spirituality
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!

 

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TAGS: health , in house , inner bonding , margaret paul , self love , self-care , spirituality , wellness
Law of Attraction - Art of Living Retreat Center

The Law of Attraction and Trojan Horses

By Martha Beck
June 19, 2018

Law of Attraction - Art of Living Retreat Center

 

People talk about “the Law of Attraction” as a way to hook Hollywood headlines, Washington power, and Wall Street wealth. I believe in the Law of Attraction, but I don’t think it’s that simple. In fact, I direct a slightly bitter laugh at the whole concept of thinking ourselves to success. Haha.

 

Here’s the sobering truth: We don’t attract what our minds want. We attract what our souls want. The mind, despite its amazing abilities, is powerless to do miracles unless it’s in cahoots with the soul. And what do our souls want? Not the cabana on the beach, not the well-oiled, nubile partner, not our names in lights.

 

Our souls want us to wake up.

 

Dammit!

 

Because of this, we draw into our lives—inexorably, unintentionally, with maddening repetitiveness—exactly the things that lead most directly to awakening. In many cases, that’s our deepest suffering.

 

You know how the road to hell is paved with good intentions? Well, the road to heaven is paved with apparently horrible mistakes. In order to wake up, we must not only observe people who bring up the most unenlightened parts of our egos—not even merely encounter them. We must give birth to them, move in with them, invite them into the bathtub and the bed right along with us.

 

So many of the things that transfix us, the things that make us fall madly in love, are Trojan horses. We think they’re a gift that will make us happy, and for a while they do. But then our time to awaken arrives. The new baby who’s slept angelically for two weeks develops colic. The perfect lover quits antidepressants, cold turkey. The friendly new coworker smilingly throws us under the bus in a meeting.

 

The soldiers are out of the horse.

 

There’s an awful period of resistance when this first happens. We go through all the stages of grieving our own deaths, because part of us is dying: the ego’s attachment to the story of the thing that’s going to make us happy forever.

 

So, here we go. You know the steps to this dance:

 

Denial

This isn’t happening. At worst, it’s just a blip. Everything will go back to normal soon.

 

Bargaining

If I try harder, if I do a better job and really make them happy, everything will go back to normal.

 

Anger

I WILL NOT PUT UP WITH THIS HAPPENING! EVERYTHING HAS TO GO BACK TO NORMAL, NOW, NOW, NOW!!!!

 

Grief

Nothing’s ever going back to normal. I want to die. I can’t get out of bed.

 

Acceptance

Maybe I can find a new normal. True, Troy is now being run by the damn Greeks. But on the other hand, we’ve got a really nice big wooden horse.

 

This sequence happens when we fail to get an expected email or our favorite sitcom gets cancelled, let alone when we lose a job, a love, or a lifestyle. I’ve been through it several times lately, on a moderate scale. And here’s what I’ve seen, every time:

 

I’ve seen that what we’re most afraid to lose is never a thing, person, or situation, but our story about how that thing will make us happy, conform to our ego’s desires, and remain forever unchanging. This is true even when the thing is our own body.

 

I’ve seen that when we relinquish our stories—when the truth of our soul kills the narrative we’re spinning out to impress ourselves and others—we reach acceptance and suffering ends.

 

I’ve seen that on the other side of death lies peace. Not the peace of the unsuspecting Trojans before they got that awesome horse, but the peace braided through their epic poetry and psychologically compelling myths.

 

This is what our souls attract. This joy, this disappointment, this euphoria, this depression. This death after death after death. Ultimately, I believe that we can let all our stories die. Then we’ll accept every Trojan Horse, every betrayal, as precisely the gift we most needed in order to awaken.

 

The meta-learning I take from all this is simple: know that your story is your own invention, and that it will die. Hold it lightly. Enjoy your gift-horse. And when the Greek soldiers pour out of it, offer them your sword.

 

Join Martha at the Art of Living Retreat Center from September 28th-30th for Navigating the Storm, a retreat designed to give you powerful tools to navigate uncharted territory in your life.

 

Martha Beck, photo by Rich LaburnDr. Martha Beck is a life coach and the New York Times best-selling author of these popular resources for finding your life purpose: Finding Your Own North Star, Steering by Starlight, Finding Your Way in a Wild New World, The Joy Diet, and more. She’s also the author of the bestselling memoirs Expecting Adam and Leaving the Saints. Beck’s latest book, Diana, Herself: An Allegory of Awakening, is her first foray into fiction and is the first installment of her Bewilderment Chronicles series.

 

This article first appeared on marthabeck.com.

   

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TAGS: ego , law of attraction , martha beck , spirituality , wisdom
Food & Happiness - Art of Living Retreat Center

How Food Affects Your Happiness

By Margaret Paul
June 16, 2018

Food & Happiness - 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. 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.

 

Inner bonding

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!

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: Detox , diet , food , happiness , spirituality , weight-loss
Niyamas on the Mat - Art of Living Retreat Center

The Practice: Niyamas on the Mat

By Dr. Bharti Verma, MD
May 10, 2018

Niyamas on the Mat - Art of Living Retreat Center

Last month, we delved into how to practice Yamas on the mat. Today, we’ll be looking into Niyamas. The Yamas are a social code of conduct, and the Niyamas are a standard of personal ethics an individual strives to follow on the spiritual sojourn of Yoga.

 

Shaucha (purity)

Cleanliness and tidiness in the outer environment and your own personal cleanliness keeps the mind from becoming cluttered and irritable. On the mat, if your mind becomes disturbed, then your body cannot focus on doing asana, and the whole practice becomes disturbed.

Deeper understanding of Shaucha is to understand that your body and mind influence each other both on the mat and off the mat. Taking care of each is important to achieve a steady and comfortable asana. Balance and symmetry can only be achieved if the mind is calm and the body flows with the breath.

Shaucha on the mat means personal and environmental cleanliness, together with calmness of the mind.

 

Santosha (contentment)

Santosha on the mat means your asana practice is happening with a relaxed attitude of the body and mind.

Accepting the body as it is in that moment without complaint, and having a mindful attitude toward the practice of asana. When the mind and body are both relaxed, then every movement is joyful and becomes an expression of happiness.

 

Santosha on the mat is a tension-free body and a joyful mind, both flowing in harmony with the breath. 

 

Tapas (penance)

Tapas means willingly accepting adverse conditions without complaining, and this extends to your asana practice on the mat being met with a sincere attitude. Having patience and willingness to give the practice your sincere effort. This type of practice will develop endurance and stamina on the mat and build capacity for endurance off the mat.

 

Tapas on the mat is accepting the challenge of practice with a sincere attitude.

 

Swadhyaya (self-study)

Self-study on the mat means observing one’s attitude, balance, symmetry, and sincerity, and from these observations, learning to improve your own practice at your own pace.

Swadhyaya on the mat means learning from Self-reflection.

 

Ishwar pranidhana (surrendering to a higher power)

Ishwar pranidhana is invited to your practice by 100% just letting go of any anxiety on the mat. Once your sincere effort has been given to achieving symmetry and balance on the mat, let the mind and body totally relax.

This attitude drops any feverishness. It allows you to transcend the body into stillness and the mind into a deep silence. This allows the divinity within to prevail.

Or as Patanjali explains, “Prayatna Shaithalya vAnant Samapatti bhyam!”

Ishwar Pranidhana on the mat is letting the divinity within be your guide into the practice and allowing the divinity to prevail: It is the journey and the destination!

 

In fact, one needs to follow only one of the Yamas or Niyamas and all other Yamas and Niyamas will start to manifest. Not just on the mat, but also in life. Each Yama or Niyama holds a secret to leading one to the truth, and like all rivers merge in the ocean, each of the Yamas and Niyamas bring one to the depth of True Consciousness.

Asatoma sat gamay…

 

Dr. Bharti Verma, MA, MD, MCFP,  combines an established medical perspective with a seasoned background in yoga. As a senior teacher with the Foundation, Bharti teaches advanced level yoga and meditation programs internationally. She is an avid yoga practitioner and instructor with 500 h E-RYT Yoga Alliance certification. She brings yoga to her clinical practice and provides yoga and meditation instruction to many of her patients on a weekly basis.

 

Join Dr. Verma and some of the most influential and engaging yoga teachers in the south east for the Joyful Yoga Conference from August 10th-12th, 2018 at the Art of Living Retreat Center.


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: alignment , niyamas , spirituality , the Practice , yoga
Kripalu Yoga - Art of Living Retreat Center

The Practice: Me and Kripalu Yoga, An Unexpected Love Story

By Heather Bilotta
April 26, 2018

Kripalu Yoga - Art of Living Retreat Center

I walked into my first yoga class at 19. It was strip mall yoga. I remember being told to relax and breathe while in poses where breath, and relaxation were the last things I imagined possible. “WTF” was muttered under my breath repeatedly as I contorted myself into painful poses I’d never done before. I worked hard and tried to keep up with a flow that felt like it was created by a sadist. When the class was over, I remember feeling really angry and hateful. No bliss. No peace of mind. I walked away from my first experience of asana wondering what the hell my straight-edge, vegan friends getting into yoga and joining the Hari Krishnas were thinking. Nuts. They were nuts.

 

Why I ran from yoga

But like many ultimately great relationships mine with yoga started with distaste and confusion. What the hell was this practice that pushed my buttons so deeply? Why would I want to chaturanga 20 times and then hold down dog while watching my brain spin? Not willing to quit right away I tried out some DVDs by yoga-lebrity teachers and disliked those too. Some were too fitness class like, some too New Agey. And just like the woman who runs from that guy at the party who sips seltzer and challenges her mind with interesting thoughts rather than telling her how hot she is, I ran from yoga.

 

What on earth is Kripalu Yoga? 

Flash forward by 9 years. My back hurt. It hurt bad. I had herniated discs during labor and the road to recovery was filled with intense lightning bolts of pain. Every doctor I had encouraged me to try yoga. “It’s good for a bad back,” they said. “It’ll be relaxing,” they said. With my initial experience of yoga with the sadist and boring DVDs it was hard to believe what I was hearing so I ignored the advice. After a year of limping through physical therapy, cortisone injections, and ever more pain I saw a flyer in my town for free yoga classes… this yoga had a weird name… Kripalu Yoga. Incredulous. Exasperated. I decided that I would try this yoga with the strange name.

 

I walked into the tiny rec center with a stinky carpet and cardio machines jammed against the wall and my tiny chunk of hope shrank even smaller. There were 10 or so people jammed into a room that only 6 people on yoga mats would fit comfortably…I was about to leave when my teacher Laura immediately sprang to help me find a spot. Everyone shifted a little left, a little right, and suddenly there was a place for me…it felt nice. My hope grew a smidge.

 

Coming home

There was gentle chanting playing from a tiny radio. She had a sweet little altar with sacred objects I didn’t recognize and this little chime that she struck right before she began to speak. After the chime sounded everyone stopped stretching and the room fell silent. We were old, young, fit, and fat people all gathered together. Looking around the room I felt a sense of ease. I felt that we each belonged there on that mat, in that place, with each other. I felt myself settle.

 

This is yoga!

When Laura spoke her voice resounded through the small space, sounding like warm honey tastes…nourishing and sweet. She encouraged us to turn our gaze inward and sense our breath and body as it was in the moment. Then for about 10 minutes we breathed and noticed that practice. We began simply, just filling our bellies with breath, then breath moved up a bit higher, all the way to the collarbone. We exhaled generously, squeezing the belly. I felt my self sink deep into my body, felt my busy mind slow way down. I felt the muscles in my body soften a little, felt peace beginning to bubble up from inside. Suddenly my heart and brain screamed from inside of me, THIS IS YOGA!

 

Finding the true potential of yoga 

Though the rest of the practice was challenging and again I found myself in poses I didn’t know that I could do and breathe simultaneously, again I felt angry about my body’s limitations, however there was a big difference between that night and my other experiences. This time I had space for it all. With my teacher’s gentle cues, encouragements, and lots of reminders to notice and accept the thoughts and sensations I was having I made it through the 90 minutes of yoga without letting my frustration sweep me away, off the mat and out of the class.

 

At the end of class I felt a sense of accomplishment, and my body felt better. Tensions were softened. Tissues lengthened. Though the flow was intense I felt like I was learning something beyond exercise for a sore back, I was learning something really important about noticing my experience and not letting it carry me away.

 

The beginning of a mad affair

That was 11 years ago and I haven’t looked back. I’ve been practicing Kripalu Yoga ever since. Not to say that this mad affair has been all wine and roses, true yoga practice isn’t. I’ve cried, sweated, blown apart, come back together, blown apart again and got back on that mat many times. I’ve learned that what I experience on my mat I can take into my life…noticing the hard feelings and not becoming overtaken by them. Bringing acceptance to my limitations, celebrating my growing ability to become conscious of feelings and thoughts.

 

The impact of a good teacher

Over the past decade I’ve had the opportunity to study with a number of yoga teachers, some true masters of Kripalu Yoga but none will ever capture my gratitude and heart like my first teacher, Laura Lin. Thank you Laura, wherever you are now. Your spirit lit the candle in my soul and I will be ever blessed for that. Jai Bhagwan!

 

Heather Bilotta is a passionate believer in the healing power of self-expression and the importance of connection to community. Her Shake Your Soul®, Kripalu YogaDance, Kripalu R&R classes, one-one SomaSoul® and Divine Sleep Yoga Nidra® healing sessions are infused with heart and creativity and are an opportunity to bring light and acceptance to your whole, unfiltered self. She truly provides a supportive no-judgment zone. Heather teaches at Kripalu Center for Yoga & Health, Cranwell Golf Resort, and beyond. She is continuing her studies in Body-Centered, Subtle Energy Healing in the Professional Training Program at Hartford Family Institute.

Join Heather at the Art of Living Retreat Center from September 28th to 30th, 2018, for Move. Feel. Heal., a SomaSoul® Somatic Therapy retreat to help you unwind, slow down, and soothe your nervous system.

This article first appeared on heatherbe.com. 


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

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: dance , Heather Bilotta , kripalu , spirituality , the Practice , yoga
Art of Living Retreat Center - Nature

Articles We Love: A Return to Nature in April

By Paige Reist
April 16, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center - Nature

 

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.

 

Recompose and the Conservation Burial Movement

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.”

 

How to Cure Stress the Old Fashioned Way

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.”

 

3 Spiritual Lessons That I Have Learned from the Ocean

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.”

 

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 , articles we love , death , happiness , nature , spirituality , Spring , stress , wellness

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