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Articles We Love: Happiness in March

By Paige Reist
March 19, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center - Happiness

Spring is here, and what better time to refresh your outlook, brush the dust out of the corners of your mind and heart, and refocus yourself and your goals? The UN’s International Day of Happiness falls on March 20th this year, and we think it’s a perfect opportunity to spend some time in reflection on how to become your happiest, healthiest self.

The articles we love this month focus on digging into that inner well of happiness within yourself, and opening up the windows of the soul and letting in some fresh air.

Spring Cleaning 101: How to be a Tech Minimalist

Monique Serbu for MindBodyGreen

Spring cleaning doesn’t have to be limited to your physical environment. Monique Serbu shares four great tips on how to clear out your digital life so you’re feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to leap into the new season.
“Spring is steadily approaching, and that means spring cleaning is on the horizon. While many of us dread this annual ritual, it doesn’t have to be such a pain. Think of it more like an opportunity to clear any excess from your life—an exercise in releasing that which no longer serves you.”

3 Ways to Stop Sabotaging Your Happiness

Nicola Albini for Sivana Spirit

With the International Day of Happiness on the horizon, you might be inclined to focus on external ways to find satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. In this article, Nicola Albini details a few ways in which happiness actually comes from within, and shares affirmations and strategies for a pursuit of happiness that is drawn from your own mind, body, and spirit.

“[I] could no longer blame my parents, girlfriend, teachers, friends or anyone else for my own unhappiness and dissatisfaction. Underneath my complaints about what others were “doing to me” was a need to accept myself. I needed to take full responsibility for my experience and change my life from the inside out.


A Theory About Finding Real Happiness

Dakota Steyn for Thought Catalog

Real happiness is within your grasp. Dakota Steyn shares her thoughts on why happiness is a choice and a result of your actions, not a carrot on a stick to be chased.
“Let me share with you the secret to life: there is no “dummies guide to life,” there’s no one telling what to do or how to feel- at the end of the day life is made up of choices, the choices that you make. How your whole life goes; that’s up to you. You can choose to be negative about everything or you can make the most out of every second of what you do.


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 , digital detox , happiness , knowledge , Spring , technology , wellness , wisdom , yoga
Art of Living - Articles We Love February

Articles We Love: A Love-Filled February

By Paige Reist
February 14, 2018

Art of Living - Articles We Love February


Ah, love. It’s one of the most powerful forces in the world, and something we all crave at a cellular level. Connecting with others and feeling loved and cherished nourishes our soul and gives us purpose. But love is so much more than something that you receive from others. It’s something that you can actively put into the world, and something that you can use to heal and grow within yourself.


As much as we adore love in all forms, we think that self-love is perhaps one of the most important and revolutionary practices you can cultivate. Which is why our favourite articles this month focus on how to make the choice to love yourself.


The Beautiful Truth About What Happens When You Choose to Fall in Love With Yourself

Kelly Douglas for Thought Catalog

Kelly Douglas shares her thoughts on learning to loving herself, and how this journey has transformed her life from a painful existence full of self-deception to one that is brimming with light.

“Amid the thick fog of my self-deception, I could vaguely make out a glimmer of the truth. I chased that spark of unconditional self-love with a sense of reckless abandon, steadfastly determined to capture it and forever hold it close. The light slowly grew more powerful, stripping my soul of self-imposed deception and filling my heart with truth. As I basked in the warmth of self-love, I resolved to never again habitually deprive myself of the love I deserve. At long last, I discovered I am always enough, despite the feverishly conniving taunts of my mind attempting to convince me otherwise.”


4 Yoga Practices for Self Love

Samantha Lahonen for Sivana East

Yoga isn’t just a physical practice, but a mental and emotional one as well. Samantha Lahonen guides us through four transformative yoga poses that foster self-love.

“Sometimes, it doesn’t feel so easy to love yourself, yet having a negative self-image sets you up for illnesses such as anxiety and depression. You may notice that you put the needs of others before yourself; as the “people pleaser,” you often compare yourself to others, or you avoid certain situations or opportunities for fear of failure. This is where yoga comes in. Yoga puts you in a state of meditation, helping you to let go of the thoughts that whisper you are not good enough and keep you in a state of low self-esteem. Yoga replaces them with positive thoughts such as the feelings of strength, stability, and energy that come with practicing yoga.”


Radical Self-Love as a Spiritual Practice

Kelly Ann Matuskiewicz for Absolute Awareness
Kelly Ann Matuskiewicz shares her thoughts on self-love as a spiritual practice, and how she incorporated self-love techniques into her own life to bring forth a more meaningful, fulfilling way of existing in the world.

“When I started to practice radical self love, my entire life experience shifted to more positive interactions and outcomes. I felt more confident, self assured, I trusted myself. Who and what I attracted into my life felt better and I was more in the flow. Unfortunately, not many of us know how to truly love ourselves. This is a key piece preventing us from manifesting our dreams and creating the lives we desire.”


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 , healing , Love , self love , wellness , wisdom , yoga
Art of Living Retreat Center

The Practice: Creating a Home Meditation Space

February 10, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center


Recharging your body and mind, improving your focus, and boosting clarity are all great reasons to meditate — but what if you could improve on what you’re already doing?


What if you could create the perfect meditation space in your home?

Carving out a private enclave for meditation doesn’t have to be tough, whether you’re living in a studio-sized condo or a spacious estate with a dozen spare rooms you’ve never used. With a few simple tips, you can transform any space into a private nook where you can disconnect from daily stresses, internal dialogue, and negative experiences.


What is a meditation space?

A meditation space is a sacred spot where you can release stress, find serenity, and center yourself. Sacred doesn’t necessarily mean religious or spiritual; in this context, it means you only use the area for meditation, yoga, rest, or stillness. It’s your own personal retreat within your home, and you can designate a corner, a partitioned space, or even an entire room to it as long as you feel good about your choice.


Exceptional spots for a meditation space in any home

This is your space, so there isn’t a one-size-fits all spot that works for everyone. Ideally, you’ll be able to walk through each room in your home and narrow down your choices to rooms you absolutely love — those that make you smile, relax you, and give you a sense of peace. As you search for your perfect meditation space, be mindful that:

  • Facing a southeast corner will bathe you in early morning light, which may be perfect for dawn meditation.
    Facing a northwest corner will let you bask in the sun’s waning rays, which ould be ideal if you’re an evening meditator.
  • Facing due east emulates Buddha, who sat beneath the Bodhi tree and meditated directly toward the early morning sun.

Where to meditate in a small home

If you don’t have much room to spare, a terrace, patio or corner of a room in a condo or townhouse might be the perfect spot to set up your meditation space. Add a privacy screen or hang billowing curtains from a single point on the ceiling to shut out the world while you connect with your inner self, or clear out a closet for instant (and expense-free) privacy.

  • Although it’s tough to find spare square footage in a condo, apartment or studio, you can make extra room by:
  • Swapping out your sofa for comfy chairs
  • Installing a loft bed in a room with high enough ceilings
  • Storing non-essential accessories and furnishings rather than trying to cram them all into your space
  • Using wall cabinets rather than freestanding bookshelves in your decor

Where to meditate in a more spacious home

Create your private paradise in a quiet corner, in an enclosed room or the garden to find your inner peace. One of the keys to successful meditation is carving out a distraction-free environment where you can get comfortable.


Spots to avoid

Steer clear of high-traffic areas or those where distractions are likely to pull you off the path to Nirvana. Try to avoid the kitchen, the living room, or anywhere too close to the lavatory, the front door, or a space that faces the street. Your home office may drag your mind toward work, and a place that makes you want to nap rather than meditate, like your bedroom, might be a little too relaxing.


Meditation room ideas

The more peaceful, relaxing, and beautiful your meditation room is, the more time you’ll want to spend there. you’ll feel it pulling you in before you start your day, each time you need a break, and when you wind down for the night.


The perfect room decor in a meditation space

Designing your Zen meditation space for self-help and personal development requires you to stick to a few principles:

  • Keep your space clean and clutter-free.
  • Only include items you love and that contribute to your happiness and peace.
  • Add natural elements where possible, such as living plants and stones.

The bare essentials

You don’t have to dedicate an entire room and a month’s salary to creating your meditation space. The simplest — and sometimes most effective — meditation spaces feature only bare essentials, such as:

  • Meditation cushions or a soft spot to sit
  • Natural light
  • Something with personal significance, like bells, crystals, or affirmation stones
  • Fresh air

If you can, spring for a serene color palette in the room. Neutrals, which are the most popular (think earth tones and off-whites), are what you’ll find in monasteries and professionally designed meditation spaces, but here’s where you can make it interesting. Dark colors make a room feel smaller, which is ideal if you want to feel enveloped in your space, and pastels lend an airy, open feeling to any room, which could be perfect if you prefer a sense of freedom while you meditate. Bright, glossy white that produces glare is generally off-limits, though, because it’s too harsh for the serene environment you’re trying to create.


Pro tip: If natural sunlight hits the wall and makes you squint, the paint color is wrong for your meditation space.


Zen touches

Your meditation room can be as simple or elaborate as you want it to be. A few carefully chosen elements can turn any space into a soul-nourishing haven. Consider adding decor such as:

  • Attractive incense burners
  • A fountain for the sight and sound combination
  • Singing bowls
  • Decorative cushions
  • A Zen sand table
  • Aromatherapy diffusers
  • Adjustable lighting
  • An altar
  • Candles

Bare wood floors can add a sense of authenticity to your meditation room, and they can make the room appear (and feel) larger – but they’re not necessary as long as you have the proper posture. A plush area rug or tatami mat on top of carpet can carve out a private space where you can meditate, practice yoga or rest without costing you a fortune.


The best plants for meditation spaces

The Art of Living Retreat Center

Most people find that having at least one living plant makes a huge difference in the quality of a meditation space. They’re essential for pulling volatile organic chemicals out of the air and allowing you to commune with natural, earthy elements. Plants that thrive in low light and contribute to Zen include:

  • Philodendron
  • Pothos
  • Sansevieria
  • Echeveria
  • Monstera Deliciosa

What not to put in your meditation space

Few things are more distracting than clutter, so your meditation room needs to be light on things that can counteract your Zen. Avoid electronics (the TV has to go!) except for music players or electronic aromatherapy diffusers, and banish toys, paperwork or other distractors that will prevent you from connecting with yourself.


Bonus tips for the perfect meditation room

  • Buy plug protectors in case you’re tempted to bring in electronics (other than that music player). They serve as a gentle reminder that technology is unwelcome in your space.
  • If your window has a bad view, use Japanese rice paper or privacy glass decals to shut out the world without compromising your natural light.
  • This room is your escape, so nothing that pulls you back into your everyday existence belongs there.

What’s your dream meditation space like?

With a little planning and a dash of inspiration, anyone can create a spectacular meditation space — and we’d love to hear about what you’ve already done. Share your story in the comments below!


by Alejandra Roca. This article first appeared on


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: meditation , mindfulness , silence , wellness , wisdom , yoga , yoga practice
Ayurvedic spa treatments for wellness retreat center participants.

5 Reasons to Plan a Spa Retreat

January 17, 2018

Shirodhara treatment at panchakarma wellness retreat.

When it comes to pampering yourself, it’s hard to beat a couple of days at a high-quality spa. But some spa experiences go above and beyond, offering a retreat that is about so much more than merely spoiling yourself.


Are you tired to the core? Overwhelmed? Feeling that you simply don’t have enough time in the day to accomplish everything that you need to accomplish? Struggling to balance all your seemingly insurmountable responsibilities? Well, you may not think that a spa retreat could be the answer to your problems. But you’ve never had an experience like the Shankara Ayurveda Spa at The Art of Living Retreat Center.


Still wondering if it’s a right time for a trip to the spa? Just consider that a high quality wellness spa can help you do all of the following:


Overcome the effects of stress and fatigue

Like all spas, a wellness spa is a great place to treat yourself to some much needed rest and TLC. But unlike the benefits of a mere “pampering” spa, the effects of a visit to a wellness spa can last long beyond the few days that you spend there.


Connect with yourself

It’s extremely difficult to “find yourself” when you’re lost in the grind of your daily routine. A spa retreat can not only help you to get away from it all, it can help you get in touch with your long buried thoughts and emotions. Give yourself some “me time” in the most profound meaning of the term.


Try something new

If you’re intrigued by a esoteric type of massage or a spa treatment that is largely unknown to the general public, seek out an organization that provides that particular service and give it a try. Better yet, find a quality comprehensive wellness spa and explore everything that they have to offer.


Learn something new

Interested in being gluten-free? Wonder about the benefits of a vegetarian or Ayurvedic diet? A good full-service wellness spa will not only pamper but educate, giving you the information that you need to understand a wide variety of health topics and the tools that you need to incorporate them into your life.


Start the New Year with a new you

The time has come for New Year’s resolutions. Want to explore a path to health and wellness? A spa retreat can help you develop a personalized plan to get you on that path and keep you there.


Providing so much more than your ordinary spa retreat, the Shankara Ayurveda Spa at The Art of Living Retreat Center can help you do all of these things and so much more. We’d love to support you, giving you the break that you need during your visit to our facilities and the tools that you need to build a healthier and happier you for years to come. Discover the benefits that await you 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: new years resolutions , spa retreat , wellness retreat
Art of Living Retreat Center

Anger, Laughter, and the Practice

October 12, 2017
Art of Living Retreat Center
Anger can be a useful tool when used with awareness and a purpose. However, most of the anger is useless and harmful. Remembering and practicing the following may be helpful.


TAGS: anger , art of living , art of living retreat center , happiness , laughter , lifestyle , mindfulness , wisdom , yoga

In House: Paul Selig on Accessing Your True Self

October 5, 2017

This past August, award-winning author and channel Paul Selig joined us at the Art of Living Retreat Center for a deeply transformational retreat. Participants enjoyed the beauty and tranquility of the Blue Ridge Mountains while working directly with Paul’s Guides to access their True Selves and transform their lives. We recently sat down with Paul to chat about his practice, his spiritual journey, and how to awaken the potential within us.


AOLRC: So, Paul, can you tell us about yourself and your practice?


PS: Let me see if I can begin. I’m a conscious channel. I work with guides. The guides I work with are teachers. They’ve dictated five books through me so far, and these are written transcripts of oral teachings that are transcribed and published, really, in unedited form. And here, actually, at the Center this week, they are delivering their sixth book in front of the students which is something that doesn’t happen very often. So my job, really, as a conscious channel, is to be the medium for the guides. I call myself a radio, and the broadcast that I tune into is the guides, and they speak through me.


The other thing that I do is work as an empath, and they call me a medium for the living. I have an odd ability to step into people and become them. So if you want to know what’s going on with your brother, who perhaps you haven’t spoken to in a while, I step into your brother. I may begin to resemble him and then begin to hear him telepathically. So, in some ways, I’m like a switchboard, and I may be hearing you at a higher level. I may be hearing you at a level of personality, and I may be hearing your brother talking about why he hasn’t spoken to you in the last several years. In doing that, hopefully I can facilitate change.


AOLRC: What’s the change you would like to facilitate?


PS: What is the change I would like to facilitate? Well, that’s so broad a question! I mean, I hope that my work is helping people in the world, certainly. I’m in an odd position, because I don’t experience myself as the teacher as much as the conduit for teaching. So my hope is that the conduit stays clear and that the teaching that comes through is met by people in a way that will support them in their own changes – whatever is required for them to support them in their own realization.


The guides that I work with are very much about the realization or knowing of what they call the ‘True Self’, or the ‘Divine Self’, or the ‘Aspect of the Creator that Seeks to be Realized’ as sent through us in form, in field, in expression. And that’s what the teach, and they come with an energy that, for most people, is very palpable. So there is a fair amount of phenomenon attached to the workshops that I do, as well as the experience of the reader with the texts. People read the texts and they can feel the energy working with them.

I loved sitting in the energy of Truth with all who were present. – Hope, workshop attendee

AOLRC: Do people also approach you, looking for more intuition or guidance in channeling?


PS: They do come with that intention, but that’s not what I say that I do. I think one of the benefits of this work is that you do become more intuitive. Do I think that everybody needs to be a channel? No, I think that’s one way to work with this stuff, is that they move into their own knowing and their own ability to know.


You know, my ability to tune in at some kind of higher level is the way that I’m serving right now. Other people serve in very, very different ways, so I don’t teach people how to channel, but I do support people in learning how to access their own true self, and consequently their own clear cognizance or their own knowing that seems to accompany that.


AOLRC: Can you share any tips on how to access your true self?


PS:  Well, the guides that I work with work through attunements, and these are energetic attunements that they say work with the student or the reader. They call them ‘Claims of Truth’. So they say if you work with this, if you peak this, there is an encoding that comes as a result in the auric field that supports the manifestation of this. Now, the claim that they make is this – “I know who I am, I know what I am, I know how I serve.” And the true self is the one that claims those things, because the true self always knows who he is, what he is, and how he serves.


My personality self may not, and they’d be totally confused about a lot of things. But the guides say that once something is true, it’s always true. The divine announcing itself – I am here. I am here. I am here – which is another claim of truth, and frankly, another attunement to the energy can actually support the people working with the language to realize themselves. You can call these ‘Claims of Truth’. You can call them, I suppose, anything you like. The books themselves that come through me are attunements to the energies of the guides I work with. So when people are working with those claims, they often feel the energetic shifts that accompany them.

Truly, Paul delivered on his part pretty flawlessly. All of the time with him was rich and worthwhile. – Amanda, workshop attendee

AOLRC: Beautiful! On a more personal note, how did you open up to this yourself? Was it sudden? Was it gradual?


PS: There was an event in 1987. I went up to the roof of my building in New York City on the night of an event people were calling ‘The Harmonic Convergence’, and I heard people were going to be waking up. I had recently come to a possible belief that there was more to the world than I had been raised to believe. I was raised an atheist.


I went up there, and I asked to wake up, and I had an experience of energy moving through my body, and it may well have been me hyperventilating. I don’t know what happened, but it was a very physical experience of energy moving up through what I now know were the chakras, and out through the top of my head. It was like a spontaneous awakening, or a shock. A ‘Soul Awakening’, was another name I heard people give it. I don’t know if it really matters what it was, but for me, it gave me a sense of an experience of something much more than what I thought was possible, and I started to open up clairvoyantly as a result of that – seeing little lights around people.


I studied the for of energy healing, and when I had my hands on people, I began to hear things for them. So if I had my hand on your throat, and I heard the name Martha or Marcia, I’d learn to say, “Who’s Marcia?” And you might say, “Oh, that’s my sister or my mother, or you know, my babysitter who locked me in the closet and never let me out.” And then that would prompt the release.


As I kept getting confirmation of who and what I was hearing, I began to trust it more and gradually the channel began to open, and the guides that I work with now began to teach through me. But that was a process, and that actually took many years. I’d been working with this in some ways since I was 25, I suppose, and now I’m 55. So you know, my guides started lecturing through me and delivering books only in 2009.

I felt that the Art of Living Retreat Center was a wonderful and loving place, a perfect physical venue to to hold the high level of light that was being brought in. Isolated but safe, nurturing as well as allowing. We were enveloped entirely in light. – Joan, workshop attendee

AOLRC: Was there an internal struggle coming from an atheist perspective to this clairvoyance and openness?


PS: Yes and no. In some ways I had very little baggage. I didn’t really care about this stuff. I thought that spirituality was for other people. I don’t even know if I could have defined what it was. But not having a religious background sort of allowed me to be open to things without getting too caught up in the terminology or history of the term.


At the same time, you know, my own internal skepticism has always been present, and I suppose I bring that even to the work that I do. I question it often. I don’t understand it. I don’t understand the phenomenon or how it happens. I do understand that if I don’t seem to be capable on my own of closing my eyes and dictating, you know, now 5 and a half books that require absolutely no editing, and doing it as a spoken text that’s later transcribed into a book. I think that’s kind of amazing to me, but I’m still flummoxed by it.


This is what I was looking to do. I was a college professor. I taught at NYU for 25 years, and I did my spiritual psychic work very privately, because I was looking to maintain a life that had some semblance of normality, and that’s not what I do now. Now, I’m just doing this, and that was my choice, to leave the security of the known and to say I’m willing to go all the way with this.

Join us this upcoming August for Paul’s Second Annual Summer Retreat, a practical program for achieving personal growth and overcoming obstacles that are hindering you along the way. 

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: channeling , guidance , meditation , Paul Selig , wisdom
Art of Living Retreat Center - A Mindful September

Articles We Love: A Mindful September

By Paige Reist
September 14, 2017

Art of Living Retreat Center - A Mindful September


September is a month of new beginnings and opportunities, and in the spirit of the season, the Art of Living Retreat Center blog is excited to share our new series: Articles We Love. We’ve combed the web so you don’t have to, finding nuggets of wisdom, empowerment, and motivation for your mid-month boost. The articles we love this month address activism, aging, and rewiring our thoughts for a more mindful approach to health and wellness.


Silence the Voice In Your Head that Keeps Sabotaging Your Health

Kathleen Trotter for Huffington Post

As the year begins to wane, it’s easy to lose steam on your health and wellness routine.
In this wonderful article, Kathleen Trotter talks about how to overcome ‘brain propaganda’, or the self-defeating thoughts that are keeping us from following through with our health resolutions.


“Create a life in which you are loyal to yourself. Become your compassionate best friend — someone who wants you to become the best version of yourself that you can be. Someone who encourages you to learn from your experiences, but also does not fan feelings of body shame, self-hate, and brain propaganda.”


8 Steps Yogis Can Take to Turn Political Anxiety Into Mindful Activism

Larissa Hall Carlson for Yoga Journal

The world is a tumultuous place right now, and sometimes it feels as though balancing self-care and care for others is an impossible task to take on. Larissa Hall speaks on the beauty and necessity of shifting our personal yoga practice and sankalpa to a more community-minded focus.


“Able, dedicated yogis are taking action: maintaining enough yoga practice for daily self-care, stress reduction, mental clarity, and overall health, then getting off the mat and serving society directly. 


‘I thought it was now or never’ – how I got fit after turning 50

Michelle Hather for The Guardian


It’s never too late to take control of your health. Michelle Hather began her yoga practice after 50, and shares her story on how it transformed her health, her mind, and her outlook.


“I can slide my hands under the soles of my feet without bending my knees. I can hold a plank for more than a minute, run for a bus (and catch it), stand on my head – and very, very nearly do the splits. And yet 18 months ago, I couldn’t paint my own toenails.”


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: activism , aging , art of living , art of living retreat center , fall , mindfulness , wisdom , yoga

Exploring Wisdom: Chant and Be Happy with Kirtan

By Dr. Harrison Graves, MD
June 26, 2017
Bhaktifest, joshua tree, kirtan
Bhaktifest — Joshua Tree, California

Yoga is on fire in the West, and so it kirtan, or yogic chanting. Kirtan combines music and mantra — words and sounds that vibrate at the highest level of awareness. It is an effortless and joyful way to meditate. You simply let the music and mantra do the work for you.


Kirtan is a different kind of concert-going experience. It’s not so much a performance as it is a journey into the Self — through the practice of listening & singing. While singing along at a kirtan event, you can find your own voice and become one voice with those performing.


For those who find seated meditation difficult, a singing meditation can be just the ticket. Music bypasses the thinking mind, the worried mind,  and goes straight to that part of the brain where the emotions reside. The musical meditation of kirtan soothes the nervous system, just like a yoga class. Both are easy and fun. Kirtan calms the mind without struggling to concentrate.


Because kirtan has its roots in India, many of the songs are sung in Sanskrit, the language of ancient India,  the language of mantra. Most often, a singer (kirtan wallah) leads the chant call-and-response style. She or he sings out a line and the audience sings it back. At  other times songs are sung in unison. Kirtan is a bit like singing around a yogic campfire — creating feelings of oneness and joy.


As you sing with each other in a group, you may experience a deep connection with the musicians, the other group members and even yourself. This oneness and heart connection is one of the highest goals of yoga.


When the music stops, the mind is silent and calm. You are now ready for deeper meditation.


Kirtan: A Universal Language

OM symbol, kirtan


Devotional singing does not belong to any one spiritual path. It is the universal language of Spirit, the song of the soul.

Christians around the world sing Amazing Grace and Amen (AUM-en) choruses. Buddhists chant OM Mani Padme Hoom (OM to the Jewel in the Lotus.) Here the “jewel” is the gem of loving kindness. It is found in the lotus flower of the heart. Those who follow the path of Shiva, the yogi’s yogi, chant OM Namah Shivaya — I honor the highest part of my-Self, the Supreme.

Many Sanskrit chants, like “Asato Ma Sat-ga-ma-ya” (“Lead Us From the Unreal to the Real”) and Lo-kah Sa-mas-tha Suk-hino Bha-van-tu, (“May All Beings Be Happy and Free”) are energized prayers, suitable for any sincere seeker.



Kirtan began in India centuries ago as a spiritual practice. It served as the layman’s way to connect with the Divine. The simple idea behind kirtan was to sing praise to the divine in its many forms.

Although it’s difficult to trace the history of an oral tradition like kirtan, some scholars believe it began as a popular spiritual practice during the bhakti (devotion) movement that began around the year 700 A.D. Devotional singing then spread like wildfire between the 12th and 17th centuries.

“Much of the kirtan explosion in America is inspired by what happened during that later time, and many of the songs we sing are inspired by music composed in that era,” says Russill Paul, author of The Yoga of Sound. “They used kirtan as a way to get in touch with God’s presence and showed everyday people that they could have the same levels of Self-realization and the same depths of mystical experience as a priest performing a sacred ritual or a yogi in deep meditation.”


Western Bhakti

Deva Premal and Miten and Manose. kirtan
Deva Premal, Miten and Manose in Montreal

Today many American kirtans tend to look and feel more like energized pop concerts than spiritual gatherings. Chants have evolved to include undercurrents of soul, rap, hip-hop, electronica, rock ‘n’ roll, and country. The distinctly American influence on traditional kirtan seems to be attracting crowds of people who wouldn’t typically find themselves hooked on yoga’s sacred chants.

In the last ten years, kirtan has become a phenomenon around the world. The new kirtan revolution has been led by Deva Premal, Krishna Das, Donna De Lory, Jai Uttal and many others. Some, like Bhagavan Das and Larissa Stow, sing with a fervor reminiscent of American gospel music.

I attended a kirtan concert in Montreal featuring Deva Premal and Miten and Manose at the Olympia Theater. Imagine 2000 people chanting the Gayatri, starting with OM Bhur Bhuvaha Swaha: OM to the Earth plane, the heavenly plane and beyond!  Incredible.


 In The Shambhala Guide to Yoga, scholar Georg Feuerstein wrote, “The path of bhakti (devotional) yoga is constant remembrance of the Divine. It is the way of the heart, intended to channel and purify emotions through singing, dancing, meditation, and other activities that can help us merge with the Beloved.”


Benefits of Chanting

Chanting is not only the most fun way to meditate (think kirtan karaoke), but, like laughter yoga, it is also good for your health.
Doctors at Cleveland University reported that the rhythmic tones involved in chanting release a cascade of naturally healing chemicals. Imagine feeling good naturally without a pill. They called it the NLE, or Neurolinguistic Effect. Yogis call it a type of samadhi, though ususally a lesser samadhi, brought on by yogic chanting and breathing. The end result is a profound sense of peacefulness.
Chanting can be quite therapeutic — complementary medicine — for those who suffer from anxiety, depression and insomnia. French physician Dr. Alfred Tomatis wrote that chanting helps us to control our emotions and eliminate negative thoughts.
Unlike Western psychiatry, chanting goes beyond the body-mind to the realm of Spirit. It results in feelings of oneness and connection.


Beyond Words

There is a saint in India named Swami Gurumayi Chidvilasananda, a modern day swami who heads up the Siddha Yoga Centers around the world. She had this to say about the unique benefits of chanting:


At a certain point, ordinary words can no longer take us where we want to go. Through chanting, we use music and sacred mantras to enter into a dialogue with the divine.

Chanting is a natural way to tune into the frequency of love.The vibrations emanating from Sanskrit chants have a tangible effect on our own inner being. The sweetness of chanting stills the mind, dissolves worries, and opens the heart. Chanting gives us direct access to the spiritual world, balances our subtle energy system (chakras) and allows for deeper meditation.



Kirtan, or devotional singing,  is where yoga and spirituality come together. Krishna Das said that during satsang (company of truth), people gather together “to remember, to turn within and find their own inner path to the One. When we gather together to sing like this we are helping each other find our own paths.”


Start chanting today. Feel more connected with yourself, your Self and with each other.


Free Kirtan/Satsang Every Night

Dining Hall AOLRC/kirtan
Dining Hall AOLRC

Kirtan/Satsang is available at AOLRC in Boone seven days a week in Gita Hall, just below the dining hall on Heavenly Mountain. Come chant and be happy!


Time: 7:30 – 8:15pm.


Kirtan is free of charge. All are warmly invited.


More info? Click here.


“Satsang is the shelter from the changing time and its harsh influence on life.”  


                                                                   Sri Sri Ravi Shankar


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


Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living retreat center , bhakti , chant , chanting , happiness , harrison graves md , kirtan , sri sri ravi shankar , wellness , yoga

Exploring Wisdom: Sri Sri Ravi Shankar on Revitalizing Prana

June 22, 2017


Our breath is our life force. When it is burnt down, overwrought, or weak, that feeling extends to both our bodies and our minds. We recently spoke with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar about the movement of our breath, or Prana, and how the meditation techniques learned in our Silent Retreats can help rejuvenate you, body and soul. 


TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , breath , meditation , mindfulness , prana , sri sri ravi shankar , sudarshan kriya

In House: Dian Killian on Living in Full Authenticity

By Paige Reist
June 20, 2017

Living Authentically - Art of Living Retreat Center


Most people value authenticity in their lives—being honest, genuine and real—true to their values and their vision. If we want love and depth of connection in our lives—and most people want this too— we want that love and connection based on who we “really” are–our authentic selves.


Authenticity in the Workplace

We may see authenticity as important in intimate relationships at home but it also plays a key role in the workplace. Often, when coaching executives, I am coaching them on being more authentic—turning up more fully in their work lives and encouraging their reports to do the same. Why?


…”the more authentic you are, the more effective you are. …Authenticity is really nothing more than making sure that people are fully expressing what they think and feel. … if people are not expressing themselves fully in what they think and feel within the context of the work they are accountable to produce then the enterprise or organization is editing out data. This impairs good decision making and follow-through…and ultimately undermines success. … When you have a group that is authentic and rigorous in their dialogues, you will have a high performing team.” –from The Yoga of Leadership, Kripalu Magazine, 2009


Authenticity in Relationships

What is interesting to me is how that last line also applies to couples and families. When you have a couple that is authentic– or a family that is authentic-and rigorous in their dialogues–you will find the greatest trust, connection, and intimacy: a “high performing” relationship or family.


The practice of Nonviolent Communication is all about authenticity. What is my genuine experience-what I am seeing or hearing (rather than my story or interpretation about what’s happening)? What is my genuine response–my feelings and needs? This is our true aliveness.


And authenticity is key within ourselves. We all long for our essence— to know who we truly are, and to live true to that being. When we are triggered or acting habitually we have, in effect, in that moment, lost our authenticity.



In effect, NVC gives us practical tools to be authentic—and to live with rigor around our authenticity.

Bring Your Full Power into the World

I have three questions I’d love for you to consider:


How are you connecting authentically with yourself?


How are you connecting authentically with others?


And how are you bringing your full power and authenticity into the world?


In asking the last question, I think of that old Bible verse—about not putting your light under a bushel. Each of us is an authentic being. That authenticity can be shrouded or lost via fear. By being true to our authenticity, we can illuminate situations that otherwise can be clouded or disconnecting. By being our authentic ourselves—discovering– who am I really? What do I value? What brings me most alive? What matters to me? —we bring our full power into the world.


I hope you will sit with the questions above and if you value greater authenticity in your life see what do-able request you can make. What will support greater authenticity with yourself—and with others? What does greater authenticity look like for you, in the world? What is one step you can take this week, this month?


Join Dian for Nonviolent Communication for Better Living from August 11 – August 13.


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


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TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , mindfulness , nonviolent communication , relationships , wisdom