3 Things Your Yoga Mat Would Tell You If It Could Speak

January 18, 2019

A Heartfelt Letter from a Yoga Mat to a Yogi

My dear yogi-being,


You and I have been close companions on this beautiful journey of yoga. Today, I am going to take this opportunity to tell you what I’ve been wanting to say for a long time:

1. It’s okay

It’s ok if you miss your practice. I know that sometimes you miss your yoga practice for other things in life – for the laundry, for a party, for meeting friends or that dinner date.

Sometimes you don’t practice for a few days for one reason or another. But when you come back to your mat, there is no need to be unnecessarily harsh to yourself or blame yourself when it takes longer for you to melt into your forward fold, grip your foot during dancer’s pose, or transition effortlessly into chaturanga.

I’m here to say it’s ok, no matter how long you’ve been on or off the mat. Even if you practice everyday or every other day, or rarely – I am here to invite you as you are. I miss you while you are away, but I know the other things you did nourished and added to your journey in different ways. It’s all about the journey. It’s not about the pose, it’s about how you feel in it.

2. Make it a play, I’m your magic carpet

By resting on me – whether it’s through asanas or just by lying down after an overwhelming day – you can transform your mental and physical tiredness into peace and energy. As you press your toes onto me into your Warrior II, I love how I can see the transformation in you from feeling ‘bleh’ to being as happy as a child on a sugar rush. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Flow into movements. Listen to your body. Try new poses. I’m your magic carpet, the instrument to take you to your wonderland within.

3. I’m your blank slate and best friend

I am here to give you the space to be, to release yourself. Roll me out and practice – flow to your heart’s content.

Feeling too emotional or overwhelmed? As you stretch and move through what’s been going on in your life, it’s okay if you trickle a tear in your child’s pose. You can lie down on me and just let thoughts flow. Laugh with me as you move with zeal and enthusiasm on the good days, and giggle with me when you slap face down as you challenge yourself in a Bakasana or Eka Pada Galavasana.

Pour yourself onto me because I’m the space where you can be you – with yourself, by yourself, for yourself. Let’s move and be together as we practice compassion, love and awareness through your asanas, your meditation, and your breath.

All I’m here to say is – you can tell me, and release whatever is in you through the practice. Know that you do and are enough. However it is you need your ‘you time’ – in rest or practice – take it and give it.

Your Yoga Mat

By Isha Sharma. Full article originally posted on ArtofLiving.com

Next Steps With Your Yoga Mat

Join us for Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training – an authentic and immersive 3-week 200H Yoga Alliance accredited training with a world-class faculty. Dive deeply into yoga and emerge from this life-changing immersion as a confident, heart-centered yoga teacher with a profound practice to share. Next training June 20 – July 11, 2019 Learn More


Interested in learning more about yoga 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 , experiences , self-care , wellness , yoga , yoga practice , yoga teacher training

A Breathing Practice to Calm, Soothe, & Relax

December 20, 2018

For the last 35 years, the Art of Living has taught over 30 million people how to use breathing exercises to quiet the mind, reduce stress and make meditation easier – and Alternate Nostril Breathing is one of our favorites.

In Sanskrit, Alternate Nostril Breathing is called Nadi Shodhana Pranayama, which translates to “subtle energy clearing breathing technique”, and it has many benefits. Alternate Nostril Breathing helps calm the mind, reduce anxiety, and bring a feeling of relaxation to the entire body. It also relaxes the mind in preparation for meditation, which can be helpful for those struggling to settle down before meditating. When performed for just a few minutes, Alternate Nostril Breathing can instantly reduce stress and fatigue, and is a quick and efficient practice to do before high-stress situations such as job interviews and public speaking engagements.

How To Do Alternate Nostril Breathing

  • Sit in a comfortable position with the spine long and the hips relaxed. Release any tension from your jaw. Close your eyes.
  • Place your left hand on your left knee with the palm face upward, or in the Chin Mudra by pressing the index finger and thumb together.
  • Place the tip of the index finger and middle finger of the right hand in between the eyebrows with the ring finger and little finger on the left nostril, and the thumb on the right nostril. Use the ring finger and little finger to open and close the left nostril and use the thumb for the right nostril.
  • On an exhalation, close the right nostril with your thumb and breathe out through the left nostril.
  • Breathe in through the left nostril and then close with the ring finger.
  • Release the thumb on the right nostril and breathe out through the right nostril.
  • Inhale through the right nostril, close with the thumb, release the ring finger from the left side and exhale through the left nostril.
  • These two full breaths are called one round of Alternate Nostril Breath.
  • Perform 5 to 9 rounds of this alternating breath between the nostrils. Remember to always inhale through the same nostril you just exhaled through.

The Nadi Shodhana Pranayama will relax the mind and prepare it for meditation, making it a great technique to perform before meditating.

The Benefits

  • Calms and centers the mind
  • Brings the mind to the present moment and out of the past (releasing old fears, regret, and worry)
  • Therapeutic for the circulatory and respiratory systems
  • Stress relieving and relaxing for the body and mind
  • Helps harmonize the left and right hemispheres of the brain, which correlate to the logical and emotional sides of our personality.
  • Helps purify and balance the nadis, the subtle energy channels, thereby ensuring smooth flow of prana (life force) through the body.
  • Maintains body temperature.

3 Things to Remember

  • The breathing pattern is breath out, breathe in, switch sides.
  • Do not force the breath – keep it gentle and natural. Allow the breath to be smooth and even without creating force or pressure. Do not breathe through the mouth or make any sound such as in Ujjayi breath.
  • Place the fingers very lightly on the forehead and nose. There is no need to apply any pressure.

Full article originally posted on ArtofLiving.com

Watch Art of Living faculty member, Jim Larsen, guide Alternate Nostril Breathing.

Next Steps

Join us for Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training – an authentic and immersive 3-week 200H Yoga Alliance accredited training with a world-class faculty. Dive deeply into yoga and emerge from this life-changing immersion as a confident, heart-centered yoga teacher with a profound practice to share. Next training June 20 – July 11, 2019 Learn More


Interested in learning more about yoga 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 , breathing , experiences , health , meditation , pranayama , self-care , wellness , yoga , yoga practice , yoga teacher training
You Matter to the Universe - Art of Living Retreat Center

You Matter to the Universe

By Robert Peng
December 18, 2018

You Matter to the Universe - Art of Living Retreat Center

Of all our relationships, one stands apart in its ability to inspire and mystify—our relationship to the universe—but most of the time we remain as unaware of the star-speckled space enveloping us as the wallpaper in our living room.


The universe is the pillar that sustains everything in existence, including all our relationships, but despite the pivotal role it plays, we hardly notice it at all. We identify passionately with our private property, neighborhood, country, or even the whole planet, but tend to remain oblivious to the boundless depth of starry space that stretches out endlessly in all directions around us.

“Through us the universe has grown arms and legs and has become self-aware….When you move, the universe stirs. When you sing, the universe dances. And when you cry, the universe sheds a tear.”

But if you stood under the vaulted heavens on a crisp summer night, gazed up, and became aware of the shimmering planets, stars, and galaxies that pixilate the vastness of space, what would you experience? Would you feel like a detached, insignificant spectator standing on a lonesome planet observing a meaningless mass of twirling matter from the fringes? Or would you feel a deep, personal, and heartfelt connection with those sparkling lights?


How do you really feel about the universe? Do you feel at “home” in it, or are you just a “homeless drifter” passing through? And if you imagined the universe as a giant being staring back at you as you gazed out at it, how do you imagine this being might feel about you? Does the universe relate to you with a sense of wonder, mystery, and awe, or as a meaningless mite on a planetary mote swirling in a galactic cauldron lost in immeasurable time?


The universe is your true family

As a rule, many of our deepest personal issues derive from our own early home environments. If we felt safe in our homes and were closely bonded to our kin, we are more likely to fully express ourselves in healthy ways as adults. But if our home life was fraught with fear, apathy, or uncertainty, we are more likely to shut down and close off in our dealings with the world later on. This rule also applies to the way we relate to the universe, our greater home, but on a larger scale.


The entire spiritual enterprise is founded on the notion that you matter to the universe more than you can ever imagine. In the broadest sense the universe is your mother, the stars are your ancestors, and space is your home, literally! The universe is your primordial family. Against the wildest odds, you won the cosmic lottery by being born a human being—a prize of inestimable value that is precious beyond all conceivable measure—and for this reason, the universe cherishes you as dearly as the most nurturing parent adores their child. This family loves you; this “home” welcomes you.


When we develop a loving, trusting relationship with Father Sky and Mother Earth, we awaken a universal love in our hearts that spans the breadth of the cosmos. We can then plug the network of all our human relations—even those that are flawed—right into that source and let them bask in the healing energy. In the process of developing a loving relationship with the universe, we inadvertently heal many of our own childhood traumas.


Through you, the universe evolves

Our insatiable urge to learn more about matter, life, and human nature represents the universe’s desire to know itself. Through our hands and eyes, the universe finally developed the ability to hold up a mirror and see its many faces. When an astronomer points a telescope at the starry canvas of space, the universe is admiring itself; when a biologist stumbles on a new species, the universe discovers another part of its body; when a philosopher elucidates the human condition, the universe becomes more knowledgeable about itself; and whenever a spiritual practitioner becomes enlightened, the universe realizes its own primordial nature.


Through us the universe has grown arms and legs and has become self-aware. Through us evolution has become self-directed. The rest of the animal kingdom is propelled into the future by the blind momentum of its evolutionary past, but we are not pushed forward from behind. We can conceive realities that do not yet exist and steer our own futures toward them—we control our destiny.


There is pain and pleasure in awakening

In pursuing our human destiny we offer the universe meaning, and through our fulfillment, we bring it happiness. But the universe also wallows in our sorrows. While striving to actualize a purposeful life, we stumble and fall repeatedly. We collect physical bruises and emotional scars that bleed and ache, sometimes for an entire lifetime.

In the midst of that pain, it is not unusual to forget who we truly are and feel stuck out in the middle of nowhere, without a clear sense of direction, overwhelmed by the hugeness of the cosmos and the seemingly insignificant space that we occupy in it.


Of all the species inhabiting the planet, only one can claim existential anguish as one of its defining characteristics: human beings. Elephants don’t suffer sleepless nights contemplating their purpose in life. Birds don’t need to read self-help books to discover their rightful place in the natural order. Crocodiles don’t require years of therapy to heal their broken hopes and dreams.


At its low point, the human condition becomes like a Greek tragedy in which the protagonist is blessed with a gift that is also a curse. That gift is our higher consciousness and the promise of the meaningful, fulfilling life that it can bring. But when we lack a sense of destiny or the energy to pursue it, then life becomes an unending nightmare from which we can’t wake up. That is the curse of being born human.


Despite the high hopes we place on finding happiness at some point in our future, the sad truth is that many of us leave this Earth still waiting to find it. But having a spiritual practice can help you avert that dismal fate. Your life can become a joyful, meaningful journey.


Your eyes are the eyes of the universe. Your heart is the heart of the universe. Your body is the body of the universe. When you move, the universe stirs. When you sing, the universe dances. And when you cry, the universe sheds a tear. The universe has awaited eons to awaken in you. It continues to evolve through you, right here and right now. As you sow seeds of creativity in the flowering garden of the world, realize that—frail creature that you are—you also soar as a god.


Rediscover the universe inside of you and your place in the universe. Robert Peng hosts Qigong Empowerments for Wisdom and Vitality at the Art of Living Retreat Center from March 17th-22nd, 2019.


Presenter Bio Image

Robert Peng is a Qigong master who, as a boy in China, secretly apprenticed under the legendary Buddhist monk Xiao Yao. Yao trained him in the martial and healing arts – a training which included 100 days of meditation and fasting in a dark, underground chamber deep in the mountains of the Chinese countryside. Later, Robert discovered that he had developed spiritual powers – including the ability to transmit powerful energy from his hands. He now offers a distillation of his training in the form of Qigong Empowerments, with the intention of enhancing the well-being and quality of life of his students.


This article was adapted from The Master Key: Qigong Secrets for Vitality, Love, and Wisdom by Robert Peng.


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: emotional healing , purpose , qigong , Robert Peng , spirituality , wellness
New Year - Art of Living Retreat Center

Wipe Your Slate Clean this New Year and Begin Anew

By Lisa Cypers Kamen
December 16, 2018

New Year - Art of Living Retreat Center


“We spend January 1st walking through our lives, room by room, drawing up a list of work to be done, cracks to be patched. Maybe this year, to balance the list, we ought to walk through the rooms of our lives…not looking for flaws, but for potential.” ― Ellen Goodman


With the New Year upon us, it’s a great time to start thinking about new beginnings and formulating intentions that bring us our desires. After all, we all want our desires to come to pass so that we can continue to feel satisfied and at peace with life. With all the New Year resolutions that go forth each January, it’s no surprise that energy levels are the highest come January when many people have a fresh set of goals and a surge of resolve to help them achieve those goals.

It’s interesting to delve into the idea of the calendar as we approach the New Year, as we may be apt to neglect the importance and purpose of the calendar each year. Sure, we write down birthdays and appointments, but do you really understand how calendars serve humanity?


Calendars link us to the cosmos

Calendars keep track of time and time only exists in this world that we see. If you happen to read about the cosmos and spiritual realms, time does not exist. Various societies have implemented different calendars for their people so that they could serve practical purposes. After all, without calendars and time, most of us would be at a disadvantage in many areas of life. Though we could use the sun to get an idea of what time it is, we’d be lost in regards to specific times and well, we’d sure miss a lot of birthdays.


The Gregorian calendar

There are different types of calendars in use today. The Gregorian calendar came to us from the ecclesiastical community and is primarily used today internationally for civil use. Additionally, the Protestant and Roman Catholic churches use it to regulate their ceremonies.


The Hebrew calendar

Presently Jews use the Hebrew calendar mainly to serve as a reminder for religious festivals, agricultural timing as well as defining lunar and solar cycles. The New Moon designates the beginning of a new month.


Time is an illusion, yet necessary

Whether time is an illusion or not, calendars are of value and the New Year reminds us that there are new beginnings available. The New Year tends to get people thinking about new goals and dreams. It causes people to make New Year resolutions and wipe the slate clean. It is actually a great time to create new intentions and action plans that will bring those intentions to fruition.

The key is to clarify intentions, create an action plan and then simply follow through with it. This is where New Year resolutions go south, as many people do well at creating momentum for a few weeks and then momentum slows until eventually the goals are dropped. Maybe they just get busy or the actions are just more difficult that they imagined. Maybe they get bored or just affirm that it’s easier to stay inside the box and be comfortable rather than step out of the comfort zone. Regardless of the reason, new beginnings oftentimes stop short of producing the intended results.


How to keep momentum going

As the New Year approaches, go ahead and create some new goals for the New Year. Don’t settle for where you’re at. Step out of your comfort zone.

  • Choose one or two areas in your life that you’d like to improve.
  • Create an action plan to get those goals accomplished.
  • Take your calendar and write down what you will do when and actually follow through.

If you will do this consistently, you will achieve your goals one by one. Consistency and effort are the keys. You can do what you want to do and have fun while doing it!


Go big this New Year

The New Year is the time when most people are thinking up new goals and new beginnings. It is actually a great time to go all out when it comes to making changes. This year, what do you want? What changes would you like to see? You know you can achieve whatever your big heart desires, but it will take some effort on your part. Go big. Resolve to do what you’ve been saying you wanted to do for ages. Grab a friend and go all out together! You have full permission to dream as big as you want.


Happiness doesn’t have to be a fleeting emotion. Learn how to handle emotional fluctuations and increase your resiliency through film, music, storytelling, and movement: Lisa Cypers Kamen hosts Harvesting Happiness at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 17th-19th, 2019.


Lisa Cypers Kamen is a lifestyle management consultant who explores the art and science of happiness in her work as a speaker, author, and happiness expert. Through her globally syndicated podcast, books, media appearances, and documentary film, Kamen has impaced millions of people around the world. Learn more at HarvestingHappiness.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: Lisa Cypers Kamen , new year , new years resolutions , self-improvement , wellness
Relationship Failure - the Art of Living Retreat Center

The One Major Cause of Relationship Failure

By Margaret Paul
December 12, 2018

Relationship Failure - the Art of Living Retreat Center


What if there really is ONE major cause of relationship problems, one issue that if you address, would change everything? The good news and the bad news is – there is!

The good news is that it makes it easier to understand why you might be having problems in your relationship, or why your relationship has failed.

The bad news is that to resolve the issue takes a deep personal commitment to heal.


The one cause is: self-abandonment

Let’s take a look at what self-abandonment is and why it causes almost all the problems in relationships.

There are many areas in which we can abandon ourselves: emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, relational, and organizational. One or more of these areas may be affecting your relationship, or may have caused your relationship to fail. The area of self-abandonment that often causes the most problems is emotional self-abandonment.


Emotional self-abandonment

The Encarta(r) World English Dictionary defines ‘abandon’ as: “to leave somebody or something behind for others to look after, especially somebody or something meant to be a personal responsibility.”

As adults, our own wellbeing is our personal responsibility.

Do you abandon yourself, making your partner responsible for you, and then feel abandoned by your partner or others when they leave you or don’t take responsibility for you?

As an adult, another person cannot abandon you, since they are not responsible for you. We can abandon a child, an ill person or an old person – someone who cannot take care of themselves. But if you are a physically healthy adult, you can be left, but you cannot be abandoned by others. Only you can abandon yourself.

What are the ways you might be abandoning yourself?


Judging yourself

How often do you judge yourself with comments to yourself such as:
“You are not good enough.” “You are inadequate.”
“You are stupid.” “You are an idiot.”
“You are ugly.” “You are not attractive enough.”
“If you fail, you are not okay.”
“If someone rejects you, you are not okay.”
“It’s all your fault that….”
“You will never amount to anything. You are a failure. You are not reaching your potential.”
…and so on.

Just as a small child feels alone and abandoned when a parent is harsh and judgmental, so your own inner child – your inner feeling self – feels alone and abandoned when you judge yourself. Self-judgment not only creates inner feelings of aloneness and emptiness, but it also creates feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, hurt, fear, guilt, shame, aloneness and emptiness. Then what do you do when you have judged yourself and created all these painful feelings?


Making others responsible for you

Once you judge yourself and then ignore the pain you have caused, it is quite likely that you then turn to your partner for the love and approval that you are not giving to yourself. Your inner child needs love, approval and attention. We all need the love and comfort of others, but when you abandon yourself with your self-judgments and ignore your feelings, the wounded child part of you turns to your partner in needy, controlling ways that may actually push your partner away. Because the child part of you is desperately needy for love, you likely become manipulative to get that love – getting angry and blaming, or becoming overly nice or compliant and trying to do everything right. You have handed your inner child away to your partner, hoping he or she will give you the love you are not giving to yourself and that you so desperately need.

The more you make your partner responsible for giving you the love, attention and approval you need, the more your inner child feels abandoned by you, leading to more addictive and controlling behavior to fill the emptiness and avoid the pain of your self-abandonment.
People tend to treat us the way we treat ourselves, so the more you abandon yourself, the more you might feel rejected by your partner.


Financial self-abandonment

When we refuse to take care of ourselves financially, instead expecting our partner to take financial responsibility for us, this can create problems. This is not a problem if your partner agrees to take financial responsibility for you and you fully accept how he or she takes this responsibility, but if you choose to be financially irresponsible, much conflict can occur over your financial self-abandonment.


Organizational self-abandonment

If you refuse to take responsibility for your own time and space, instead being consistently late or being a clutterer, and your partner is an on-time and/or neat person, this can create huge power struggles. In fact, some relationships actually break up over these issues. While these issues might not have seemed so major at the beginning of the relationship, over time they can erode the love between you.


Physical self-abandonment

If you refuse to take care of yourself physically, instead eating badly and not exercising and possibly causing yourself health problems, your partner may feel resentful at having to take care of you. Your physical self-abandonment not only has negative consequences for you regarding your health and well being, but it also has unwanted consequences for your partner, which can lead to much conflict and power struggles.

If, due to physical self-abandonment, you have put on a lot of weight, this might be a turn off to your partner. It might not just be your weight that is the turn off, but also the fact that you don’t care enough about yourself to take care of your physical wellbeing. Again, not caring about yourself might be reflected back to you in your partner also not caring about you.


Relational self-abandonment

If you refuse to speak up for yourself in your relationship, instead giving yourself up and allowing your partner to control you, you are eroding the love in the relationship. When you abandon yourself to your partner, you create a lack of trust that leads to conflict and resentment, because if your partner knows that he or she can manipulate you into giving yourself up, how can he or she trust that you are not going to allow yourself to be manipulated by others?


Spiritual self-abandonment

When you make your partner your dependable source of love rather than learning to turn to a spiritual source for your dependable source of love, you place a very unfair burden on your partner. When your intent in the relationship is to get love rather than to share love, then you will pull on your partner for attention, approval, time, or sex. When you do not take responsibility for learning how to connect with a spiritual source of sustenance and comfort, your neediness can create much conflict in the relationship.


Controlling behavior pushes your partner away

Trying to get love, rather than learning to fill yourself up with love to be shared with your partner, is a major result of self-abandonment. The more you abandon yourself in these ways, the more you will try to control your partner, and the more you try to control your partner, the more he or she will likely pull away.

What are the ways you try to control your partner?
Do you:

  • Explain and defend yourself?
  • Shame and judge your partner?
  • Comply, giving yourself up?
  • Withdraw, shut down, ignore, resist?
  • Yell, blame, and attack?
  • Complain?
  • Cry as a victim?

How does your partner respond when you attempt to control in these ways? Does this lead to closeness or to distance? These are some of the ways you might be trying to get love from your partner when you are abandoning yourself.


The way out: learning to love yourself rather than abandon yourself

When you decide to learn to love yourself rather than continue to abandon yourself, you will discover how to create a loving relationship with your partner. Practicing the 6-Step self-healing Inner Bonding® process is a very powerful way of learning to love yourself!


A brief overview of the Six Steps of Inner Bonding

Step 1: Willingness to Feel Pain and Take Responsibility for Your Feelings
In Step 1, you move into the present moment and focus within, tuning into your feelings and emotions – moving toward your feelings rather than away from them. You make the choice to be mindful of all your feelings, including your pain, rather than protect against them with various addictions. You make a conscious decision that you want to take responsibility for your feelings, which means that you want responsibility for learning how you might be causing your own anxiety, depression, anger, guilt and shame with your own thoughts and actions, and that you want responsibility for learning how to nurture the painful existential feelings of life – the loneliness, heartbreak, grief and helplessness concerning others that are so challenging.

Step 2: Move into the Intent to Learn
In Step 2, you focus in your heart and invite the compassionate presence of your higher self into your heart, by simply saying, “I invite love and compassion into my heart.”
Now you’re ready to focus on “intent” – your deepest desire, your primary motivation. There are only two possible intents you can have in any given moment:

  • The intent to protect yourself from pain with various forms of controlling, self-abandoning behavior, or
  • The intent to learn about loving yourself and others

When your intent is to learn, you are operating as a loving adult. When your intent to avoid your pain with some form of self-abandoning behavior, you are operating from your programmed ego self – what we call in Inner Bonding your ‘wounded self’.

Step 3: Dialogue with Your Wounded self and Your Inner Child
With kindness, gentleness and compassion toward yourself, you discover the thoughts and false beliefs from your wounded self that may be causing your shame, fear, anxiety, depression, aloneness, emptiness or anger, and you learn how to release anger in appropriate ways. You uncover the false beliefs that were created in the past and have led to the self-abandonment that is causing much of your current pain. You explore what may be happening with a person or event that is causing the existential painful feelings of life – loneliness, heartache, heartbreak, helplessness concerning others, or grief. You explore your core self – your essence, your inner child, which is your feeling self – and discover what brings you joy.

Only when the unconscious false beliefs that have limited you for so long are understood and identified, can they be replaced by new and healthier truths that will nurture and heal you.

In Step 3, you ask yourself questions, such as, “What am I telling myself and how am I treating myself that is causing my pain?” “What am I trying to control or avoid with my controlling behavior?”

Step 4: Dialogue with Your Inner or Higher Guidance
In Step 4, you ask a source of inner or higher wisdom – whatever that is for you: “What is the truth about the false beliefs I may have uncovered in Step 3?” And, “What is the loving behavior toward my inner child in this situation? What is in my highest good? What is kind to myself?” You open and allow the answers to come through you in words, pictures or feelings. The answers may not come immediately, but if you have a sincere desire to learn, they will come.

By staying open to learning, you will begin to experience that you are never alone. This is where fears start to fall away and you begin to receive all the love and wisdom you need to take loving actions for yourself and with others.


Step 5: Take Loving Action
Step 5 is about telling yourself the truth and taking the loving action based on the information that came through from your inner or higher guidance in Step 4.


You have opened to your pain, moved into learning, started a dialogue with your wounded self and inner child, and tapped into your higher wisdom. In step 5 you take the ‘loving action’ that, over time, heals the painful feelings that have been the result of your self-abandonment.

Step 6: Evaluate Your Action
Once you take the loving action, you check in to see if your anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, aloneness or emptiness is getting healed. If not, go back through the steps until you discover the truth and actions that bring you relief, peace, joy, and a deep sense of intrinsic worth.

Turning this daily practice into a way of life is what will protect you from going back into self-abandoning behaviors. Much like attending to – say – a child’s feelings, you learn to keep a loving relationship with yourself throughout your life, no matter the challenges that come at you. This loving relationship with yourself and your higher guidance fills you and empowers you to handle life’s challenges with strength and equanimity. This is what then leads to being able to share love with your partner, rather than always trying to get love.

Even if just one of you in a relationship starts to learn to love yourself rather than abandon yourself, your relationship can begin to heal. Try it! You will be truly amazed at the results!


Learn more about the Inner Bonding Process and heal your relationships, your emotions, and your spirit. Dr. Margaret Paul hosts the Inner Bonding workshop at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 17th-19th, 2019.


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: abandonment , Love , margaret paul , relationships , resilience , wellness
Mind-Body Connection - The Art of Living Retreat Center

Believe in it All: A Neurosurgeon’s Perspective on the Mind-Body Connection

By Eben Alexander
December 9, 2018

Mind-Body Connection - The Art of Living Retreat Center


What is the relationship between the mind and the brain? Most people do not dwell on this question. It’s best to leave such musings up to neuroscientists and philosophers—why spend time thinking about such scholarly matters? Brain and mind are clearly related, and that’s enough for most of us to know, right? We have more important things to focus on in our lives.


As a practicing neurosurgeon, I was exposed daily to the mind-brain relationship due to the fact that my patients would often have alterations in their level of consciousness. While this phenomenon was interesting, my focus was pragmatic. I was trained to evaluate those alterations in consciousness in order to diagnose and treat various tumors, injuries, infections, or strokes affecting the brain. We have the tools and, hopefully,
the talent to benefit our patients by restoring them to more “normal” levels of conscious awareness. I closely followed developments in physics and knew there were theories about how it all works, but I had patients to care for, and more important things to consider.


The spiritual catalyst

My complacency with that arrangement of casual “understanding” came crashing to a halt on November 10, 2008. I collapsed on my bed and fell into a deep coma, after which I was admitted to Lynchburg General Hospital—the same hospital where I had worked as a neurosurgeon.


While in coma, I experienced things that, in the weeks after awakening, baffled me and cried out for an explanation within the bounds of science as I knew it.


According to conventional neuroscience, due to the severe damage to my brain caused by an overwhelming bacterial meningoencephalitis, I should not have experienced anything—at all! But while my brain was besieged and swollen with infection, I went on a fantastic odyssey during which I remembered nothing of my life on earth. This odyssey seemed to
have lasted for months or years, an elaborate journey into many layers of higher dimensions, at times viewed from the perspective of infinity and eternity, outside of space and time. Such a complete inactivation of my neocortex, the outer surface of the brain, should have disabled all but the most rudimentary experiences and memory—yet I was haunted by the persistence of so many ultrareal memories, vivid and complex. At first I simply trusted my doctors and their advice that “the dying brain can play all kinds of tricks.” After all, I had sometimes given my own patients the same “advice.”


A new perspective on neuroscience

My final follow-up visit with the main neurologist involved in my care came in early January 2010, fourteen months after awakening from my treacherous weeklong coma. Dr. Charlie Joseph had been a friend and close associate before my coma, and had struggled with the rest of my medical colleagues through the brunt of my horrific meningoencephalitis, recording the details of the neurological devastation along the way. We caught up on the specifics of my recovery (all of which were quite surprising and unexpected, given the severity of my illness during that fateful week), reviewing some of the neurological exams and MRI and CT scan results from my time in coma, and performing a complete neurological examination.

As tempting as it was to simply accept my extraordinary healing and current well-being as an inexplicable miracle, I couldn’t do that. Instead, I was driven to find an explanation for the journey I took during the coma—a sensory experience that completely defied our conventional neuroscientific concepts of the role of the neocortex in detailed conscious
awareness. The unsettling prospect that fundamental tenets of neuroscience were incorrect led me into deeper territory in my final discussion with Dr. Joseph that blustery winter afternoon.


The mysteries of the brain

“I am left with no explanation whatsoever as to how my mental experiences deep in coma, so vibrant, complex, and alive, could have possibly occurred,” I said to him. “It seemed more real than anything I had ever experienced.” I recounted for him how numerous details clearly placed the vast majority of my coma experience as occurring between days one and five of my seven-day coma, and yet the neurological examinations, lab values, and imaging results all confirmed that my neocortex was too damaged by the severe meningoencephalitis to have supported any such conscious experience. “How am I to make any sense of all this?” I asked my friend.

I’ll never forget Charlie’s smile, as he looked at me with a sense of knowing, and said, “There is plenty of room in our understanding of the brain, and mind, and consciousness to allow for this mystery of your remarkable recovery to indicate something of great importance. As you well know, we encounter copious evidence in clinical neurology that we have a far way to go before we can start claiming any kind of ‘complete’ understanding. I am inclined to accept your personal mystery as another lovely piece of the puzzle, one that greatly raises the ante in approaching any understanding of the nature of our existence. Just enjoy!”

I found it most reassuring that a highly trained and capable neurologist, one who had carefully followed the details of my illness, was open to the grand possibilities implied by my memories from deep in coma.


Deducing the truth

Charlie helped open wide the door that has led to my transformation from a materialist scientist, proud of his academic skepticism, into someone who now knows his true nature and has also been offered a glimpse into levels of reality that is most refreshing, indeed. Of course, it was not an easy journey in those initial months of exploration and confusion. I knew that I was entertaining concepts that many in my field would consider beyond the pale, if not outright heretical.


Some might even suggest that I let go of my inquiry rather than commit professional suicide by sharing such a radical tale.


As Dr. Joseph and I had come to agree, my brain was severely damaged by a near-fatal case of bacterial meningoencephalitis. The neocortex—the part modern neuroscience tells us must be at least partially active for conscious experience—was incapable of creating or processing anything even remotely close to what I experienced. And yet I did experience it. To quote Sherlock Holmes, “When you have excluded the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” Thus, I had to accept the improbable: This very real experience happened, and I was conscious of it—and my consciousness did not depend on having an intact brain. Only by allowing my mind (and my heart) to open as widely as possible was I able to see the cracks in the conventional consensus view of the brain and consciousness. It was by the light allowed in by those cracks that I began to glimpse the true depths of the mind-body debate.


The mind-body connection

That debate is of extreme importance to us all because many of our foundational assumptions about the nature of reality hinge on the directions in which that debate flows. Any notion of meaning and purpose in our existence, of connection with others and the universe, of our very sense of free will, and even of such concepts as an afterlife and reincarnation—all of these deep issues depend directly on the outcome of the mind-body debate. The relationship between mind and brain is thus one of the most profound and important mysteries in all of human thought. And the picture emerging from the most advanced reaches of scientific investigation is quite contrary to our conventional scientific viewpoint. A revolution in understanding appears imminent.

This pathway of discovery continues to unfold, and will no doubt occupy me for the rest of my life. Along the way I have encountered some of the most expansive experiences and intriguing people I could possibly imagine. I have learned not to be seduced by simplistic falsehoods about an assumed world, but to strive to assess and deal with the world as it truly is. As human beings seeking a deeper understanding of our existence, we are all well served to take that approach to heart.


Believe in it all, at least for now

During the deepest and most perplexing phases in the nine years since I first awakened from coma, my mantra has often been, “Believe in it all, at least for now.” My advice to you, dear reader, is to do the same—suspend disbelief for now, and open your mind as broadly as possible.

Deeper understanding demands this liberation, just as trapeze artists must release the trapeze to tumble through the air, trusting that their partner will be there to catch them.


Have you always felt that there are deeper experiences out there – but never found a way to engage with them? Close the gap and discover your place in the universe. Eben Alexander and Karen Newell host Living In a Mindful Universe at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 3rd-5th, 2019.


This post is excerpted from Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Heart of Consciousness, and is reposted with permission from the authors. Read the entire first chapter here. 


Eben Alexander, MD, spent over 25 years working within academic neuroscience at Harvard Medical School and elsewhere. He thought he knew how the brain, mind, and consciousness worked–but after a near-death experience during a week-long coma, he discovered that there was more to life than he’d thought. He went on to reconcile spiritual experience with contemporary physicals and cosmology, and now shares this theory and practice around the world and in the media, including on shows such as Oprah and Dr. Oz, and in his own best-selling books.


Karen Newell is an innovator in the emerging field of brainwave entrainment audio meditation. She co-founded Sacred Acoustics, and empowers others in their journeys of self-discovery. She teaches how to connect with inner guidance, achieve inspiration, improve wellness and develop intuition; and has co-authored a book with Eben Alexander, entitled Living in a Mindful Universe: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Heart of Consciousness.


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: afterlife , brain , mind-body connection , neuroscience , spirituality , wellness

Too Busy to Breathe? 5 Easy Tips to Incorporate Yoga into a Busy Day

November 22, 2018

Regular contemporary life is quite hectic, and the mind, body, and spirit go through various spins just trying to keep up. While we’re running amuck, tending to chores, and fulfilling our duties, we have a tendency to fall out of sync with ourselves, which eventually results in a deterioration of our health and well-being.

The truth is that we all need a support system in the form of something that can help us keep running and remain healthy even on our busiest days. Yoga has been helping people for centuries to achieve complete balance in the body, mind, and spirit. The science of yoga is universal and does not require a specific time, place, or schedule in order for practitioners to benefit. You can make it your most reliable companion, even on the busiest of days. All yoga needs is the right mindset. Here are five ways you can incorporate yoga into your hectic schedule and achieve greater balance, harmony, and wellness.

1. Begin the Morning with Sun Salutations

If you snooze in the morning, then you shall lose the day! True to these words, yoga demands commitment, but in return, it will be your constant supporter, even through your worst days. The first step to incorporating yoga into a busy lifestyle is adjusting your body clock so that it is in line with the daily cycle. As a yogi, it is essential to function in harmony with the energy cycle of the sun. This means getting 6-8 hours of sleep, along with ensuring that the wake-up time is at or before the sunrise. Turn off the lights and put away your electronics by 11pm, so you can wake up feeling fresh and active just before the sun begins to shine its first rays. Begin your day with 10 minutes of Sun Salutations, which can have the same effect as a 45-minute workout. Through Surya Namaskar, you not only pay homage to the ultimate source of power (the Sun) but also start your day off prioritizing your mind, body, and spirit.

2. Practice Yogic Breaths On-the-Go

Breath is the source of life. Yoga explains how breath is directly linked to the health and wellness of the entire body and mind – this pranayama breathing technique can be performed anytime and anywhere. All you have to do is breathe into the full capacity of the lungs, retain the breath for a few seconds, and gently breathe out through the nostrils. This is recognized as Simple Relaxation Yoga Breathing. This process of breathwork not only clears any channel blockages in the body and mind, but also ensures that impurities are flushed out from the body in the form of carbon dioxide. If you want to kick it up a notch, there are a few other yogic breathing techniques that you can try, such as Alternate Nostril Breathing, Sudarshan Kriya, Sheetali Breath, or Kapalbhati.

3. Embrace an Ayurvedic Diet Regimen

Ayurveda, the sister science of yoga, has a significant role to play in sustaining a yogic lifestyle. Our body is composed of different doshas (constitutions) that directly influence our physical and mental behavioral patterns. Maintaining a dietary discipline according to the body constitution is crucial for gaining the maximum results from your yoga practice. If you are unsure about your dosha, then seek the help of an Ayurveda expert, and begin to incorporate the suggested personalized diet that they will recommend.

4. Take Yoga Breaks

If you’re too busy to roll out the yoga mat and perform a full routine, this doesn’t mean you can’t practice yoga! If you are devoted and in need, then the science shall accompany you wherever you go. Take a few minutes in the car, at work, at your desk, or in the kitchen to practice some Chair Yoga. Try the Seated Spinal Twist, Cat/Cow Pose, Seated Camel Pose, Seated Forward Bend, Seated Tree Pose, or any other poses that you can perform comfortably and in the space of a few minutes. These poses are simple, restorative, and highly effective in keeping the circulation of energy up and running through the entire body from head to toe.

5. Conclude the Day with a 10-Minute Meditation

Now that you are all set to doze off, invest in a few minutes of guided meditation and self-reflection. This can be done by lying down in a supine position, and gently reminiscing about the gifts of life with gratitude while embracing any disparity with positivity. This will help you sleep better, as the practice puts both the mind and the body in a peaceful state.

The first step to welcoming yoga into your life is a resolution. The rest will follow.

By Manmohan Singh. Full article originally posted on ArtofLiving.com

Next Steps

Join us for Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training – an authentic and immersive 3-week 200H Yoga Alliance accredited training with a world-class faculty. Dive deeply into yoga and emerge from this life-changing immersion as a confident, heart-centered yoga teacher with a profound practice to share. Next training June 20 – July 11, 2019 Learn More


Interested in learning more about yoga 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 , Ayurveda , experiences , health , healthy lifestyle , meditation , self-care , wellness , yoga , yoga practice , yoga teacher training
Thankfulness - the Art of Living Retreat Center

Appreciative Thankfulness for the Everything of Everything

By Lisa Cypers Kamen
November 21, 2018

Thankfulness - the Art of Living Retreat Center

I write this missive with a heavy heart and mind.


Many of you know that we craft our consciously prepared weekly podcast from the beaches of Malibu, California. We don’t live in the center of the ‘Bu anymore but much of my daily life is lived in this small but mighty city. Our home and neighborhood a few miles north was spared but we watched in horror from the beach as Mother Nature roared with her fire and fury.


Our community has been devastated by the fires that burned many of our friends’ and neighbors’ homes. My children, now both in college, are graduates of Malibu High School. The substance abuse recovery treatment centers I consult to are all located in the mountains or at the beach in Malibu. Some have closed. Some have burned. Some are slowly reopening.


Life is never static and change is the only guarantee.

And here’s another hard reality bite—The Borderline Bar senseless mass shootings took place just a few miles from our home. Needless to say, this area has been traumatized and worn out by life recently.


But with all things, there is a silver lining — we fall, we get back up.

We see that community does really care and does rally to support one another. Love is the secret sauce that binds.


I was home recovering from surgery under doctor’s orders to rest, heal, and recover when these tragedies occurred. But this was too much to bear sitting still. Off to work I went supporting evacuated clients stabilize and ground after fresh trauma was layered onto old wounds. Being of use, being in gratitude for the opportunity to serve, and being able to show up in a time of serious need made me happy amidst the horrors we’ve witnessed.


So there you have it—I’m a consumer of my own counsel and it made all the difference in those dark and scary moments. Much of my time is spent as a professional “hope-holder” for people who are undergoing and enduring challenges in their lives. I guess I find happiness in the dark.


Thomas Moore wrote, “Every human life is made up of the light and the dark, the happy and the sad, the vital and the deadening. How you think about this rhythm of moods makes all the difference.”


Learning to love and appreciate the rhythm of life has been a personal game-changer. Life does not always dance to the melody of our own music. Thankfully, everything is temporary and change is the only guarantee.


I find a lot of peace in this awareness.


Thank you, Universe, for that valuable, and not always happy, lesson.

So, as we swing into Thanksgiving and full holiday spirit take a minute or two to express appreciative thankfulness for all the goodness in your life and then extend that gratitude to life’s greatest teachers — adversity, challenge, and resilience.


Thank you for the opportunity to continue to learn, share and grow with you.


Stay safe and grateful…gobble…gobble…


Happiness doesn’t have to be a fleeting emotion. Learn how to handle emotional fluctuations and increase your resiliency through film, music, storytelling, and movement: Lisa Cypers Kamen hosts Harvesting Happiness at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 17th-19th.


Lisa Cypers Kamen is a lifestyle management consultant who explores the art and science of happiness in her work as a speaker, author, and happiness expert. Through her globally syndicated podcast, books, media appearances, and documentary film, Kamen has impaced millions of people around the world. Learn more at HarvestingHappiness.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: emotion , resilience , thankfulness , thanksgiving , wellness

8 Yoga Poses that Kindle Gratitude on Thanksgiving

October 23, 2018

Start your Thanksgiving day with 8 yoga poses that inspire gratitude.

For the best results, hold each pose for five to ten breaths.

1. Mountain Pose with Raised Hands (Urdva Hasta Tadasana)

This welcoming, powerful pose kindles gratitude as you open your heart and stand grounded in receptivity. Feel hopeful and grateful for all your dreams and the unknown adventures of the future that give you a sense of purpose and openness respectively.

2. Standing Forward Fold (Hastapadasana)

This releases the spine and invokes gratitude as you learn to trust your feet to hold you and allow fresh, oxygen-rich blood to move towards your brain for mental clarity. Allow your worries and negativity from the day to roll down your spine and pour onto the floor, and feel renewed with gratitude for the positivity in your life.

3. Child’s Pose (Shishuasana)

This gentle hip-opener inspires gratitude as you fold forward into yourself, get closer to the earth as if you are putting a gentle kiss of gratefulness on the forehead of mother earth. Bow down and surrender. Let go of things that are not serving you. Find gratitude for your very breath—a sign that you are alive and everything is possible.

4. Camel Pose (Ustrasana)

This challenging pose inspires gratitude as you practice courage and vulnerability while remaining open. As you open your heart, throat, and shoulders, find gratitude for all the courage you’ve summoned into your life, and how it’s helped you through challenges big and small.

5. Seated Forward Fold (Paschimottanasana)

This hamstring stretch inspires gratitude as you focus your attention inward. As you breathe calmly, consider one part of your body for which you are especially grateful.

6. Supported Reclining Heart Opener (Supta Baddhakonasana)

This relaxing chest opener softens and opens up your heart chakra and inspires gratitude as you allow the props to support you. Think of a friend, family member or mentor who is dear to you and all you’ve learned from him or her. Allow the thought of this person to inspire feelings of being nurtured and loved. Feel the gratitude for yourself and those around you radiating out from your heart center.

7. Knees-to-Chest (Pavanmutasana)

Lying down, draw your knees into your chest and wrap your arms around your shins. Take a moment to feel gratitude for yourself. Hug yourself and accept who and where you are.

8. Corpse Pose (Savasana)

This “ahhhhh”-inducing pose inspires gratitude as you rest completely and let go of all tension. Find compassion and gratitude for your own journey, for all of your strengths and all of your struggles. Finally feel compassion and gratitude for all beings everywhere, wishing them health, happiness, and ease on their journeys as well.

On this Thanksgiving day, I encourage you reflect on what your yoga practice has done for you over the years. Not only will this get you in the spirit of Thanksgiving, but it will also give your practice new meaning and purpose.

Celebrate gratitude for a month

Studies prove that giving thanks can make you happier, and gratitude increases a sense of well-being by 10%. Try it and find out for yourself!

Starting from Thanksgiving day, maintain a gratitude journal. Every morning, start your day with a simple gratitude meditation about 3-10 things you are grateful for, both big and small. Simply jot down the little moments of grace that comes effortlessly into your life. You will be amazed at how these small blessings cultivate a beautiful “just right” abundance of love and joy. Make the whole month about giving thanks, not just one day. And you will see that it will become your lifetime habit.

Finally let us remember that Thanksgiving is much more than turkey, stuffing, and pumpkin pie. This year find gratitude not only for your blessings but also in the challenges that have shaped who you are today.

By Sejal Shah. Full article originally posted on ArtofLiving.com

Next Steps

Join us for Sri Sri Yoga Teacher Training – an authentic and immersive 3-week 200H Yoga Alliance accredited training with a world-class faculty. Dive deeply into yoga and emerge from this life-changing immersion as a confident, heart-centered yoga teacher with a profound practice to share. Next training June 20 – July 11, 2019 Learn More


Interested in learning more about yoga 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 , experiences , gratitude , health , wellness , yoga , yoga practice , yoga retreat , yoga teacher training
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!


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: community , fatherhood , indigenous culture , men's spirituality , men's wellness , power animals , shamanism , spirituality , steven farmer , wellness , wisdom

Learn more about our 2018 retreats and offerings!


Stay in touch