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Art of Living Retreat Center - Nature

Articles We Love: A Return to Nature in April

By Paige Reist
April 16, 2018

Art of Living Retreat Center - Nature

 

At the Art of Living Retreat Center, we know that one of the most profound pillars of healing and wellness is the natural world. Nature is a wise teacher, a gentle and fierce guide, and a way back into ourselves. We’re incredibly lucky to hold a space nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains, where our guests can breathe in the cool, sweet mountain air, explore the gorgeous forests, and let the beauty of the wild sink deeply in.

 

In celebration of the Mountains returning to life this spring, our favourite articles this month remind us of the deep medicine available through nature.

 

Recompose and the Conservation Burial Movement

Emma Loewe for MindBodyGreen

Death is a subject that causes many of us in the West intense discomfort. The cultural avoidance and fear of death has even affected our burial practices — we have a tradition of preserving the bodies of our deceased loved ones as best as science knows how. Unfortunately, these burial practices can be harmful to the environment. Recompose founder Katrina Spade aims to provide a more nature-friendly option. Emma Loewe speaks to Katrina for MindBodyGreen.

“In U.S. cemeteries, we bury enough metal each year to build the Golden Gate Bridge all over again, enough wood to build 1,800 single-family homes. Cremation takes its toll too, emitting 600 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere annually in the United States. Considering that 10,000 people are turning 65 every day in this country, these figures aren’t likely to go down anytime soon. As Spade puts it, “The awful truth is that the very last thing that most of us will do on this earth is poison it. I want to push back against these defaults that aren’t aligned with our ideals and interests as people.”

 

How to Cure Stress the Old Fashioned Way

Brian Stanton for Elephant Journal

Brian Stanton shares how nature can cure our “addiction to doing”, how it centers us and cures us of our stress, and how it helps us slip into an effortless meditation.

 

“It turns out that when you cure stress, you cure other things too. Researchers from Japan, in fact, have shown that lingering in the woods might even prevent cancer by boosting natural killer cell activity. This Japanese practice, called “forest bathing,” also results in lower blood pressure and cortisol levels.”

 

3 Spiritual Lessons That I Have Learned from the Ocean

Alex Chong Do Thompson for Rebelle Society

Alex Chong Do Thompson writes about his encounters with watery wisdom during his time as a U.S. Marine and beyond.

“The amount of ocean life that exists is fantastic, but what’s even more interesting is why it exists. We must remember that there are no magical incantations or preternatural powers being used to create all of this abundance. Rather, the ocean is simply the perfect container for different forms of life to manifest.

It provides the right salt content for tuna, the right temperatures for jellyfish, the right pH levels for seaweed, etc. And then the Universe takes care of the rest.

Over the years, I’ve learned that this is also true of human interaction. For example, we have no control over what people say to us throughout the day. Conversations may be pleasant, or they may be absolutely dreadful. It’s completely out of our hands. But like the ocean, we can create a container that encourages good things to happen.”

 

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

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , articles we love , death , happiness , nature , spirituality , Spring , stress , wellness
Art of Living Retreat Center

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 Retreat Center - Self-Care

In House: Marci Miles on Authentic Self-Care

By AOLRC
December 25, 2017

Art of Living Retreat Center - Self-Care

 

Founder of the My Authentic Self-Care™ (MASC™) Retreat Marcelletta Miles sat down with Andrew Keaveney to discuss the inspiration and goals of her program.

Having lost her uncle, aunt, grandmother and grandfather within a two-year period, Miles was forced to come to terms with a personal truth. Despite 22 years as a nurse, she did not know how to take care of herself in a physically and emotionally lasting way. Her struggle through this difficult time gave her the inspiration and perspective to launch a three-day retreat recently held here at the Boone Art of Living Retreat Center based on the concept of “taking care of yourself from the inside-out.” Here’s a bit of what she had to say about this idea:

 

The difference of authentic self-care

MASC is about really taking time and taking care of yourself so you can be your best self for the other people around you. I always used the example of a glass full of water. Every time you give to someone else or do something else, you’re taking away from the water. And at some point, the glass runs dry and if you don’t take time to refill your glass, then you are running on empty. And if you just think about it and just stop and take time to do something for yourself that energizes you from the inside-out.

 

It’s not about getting your hair done. It’s not about getting your nails done. All that stuff washes away. Now when you energize yourself from the inside-out, from the core of who you are, you’re getting love from a place of sincerity.

 

Signs that someone is ‘running on empty’

They are exhausted all the time; they are frustrated; they feel empty; they feel like they’re missing something on the inside. They are discouraged. Some people even begin to feel suicidal because they just don’t have anything on the inside that’s keeping them grounded. And over this past weekend, that’s what we’ve heard a lot of.

 

Taking care of yourself from the inside out

When you are really taking care of yourself from inside-out, you find yourself getting lost in something that you’re really enjoying doing and it really energizes you. MASC is about pulling off the mask that we put on every day, that we hide behind. We don’t want people to see the true us. But we’ve gotten so comfortable with having that mask on that we are hiding from ourselves. And so this weekend was about pulling off the mask and really reaching the core of who we are on the inside.

We just take some time to get back to the things that you enjoy because that’s what energizes you. For example, one of the participants this weekend got back into writing poetry. She said that she didn’t take the time to write anymore, and so this gave her the opportunity to really sit down and out pen to paper and express yourself. And she was like, “Oh my goodness! I forgot what this felt like!”

 

If you’re interested in a weekend to reconnect with the core of your being, register here for Marcelletta Miles’s May 2018 MASC Retreat.

 

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

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , happiness , Marcelletta Miles , MASC , self-care
The Art of Living Retreat Center

Exploring Wisdom: Annalies Richmond on Confidence and Compassion

By AOLRC
November 13, 2017

The Art of Living Retreat Center

 

There are so many benefits to the practices of meditation and mindfulness. Peace, joy, and wisdom are all natural rewards of the methods and techniques taught in the Art of Living Retreat Center’s weekly Happiness Retreat, but perhaps two of the most powerful, unexpected qualities we foster in meditation are confidence and compassion. We recently sat down with Art of Living instructor Annalies Richmond to speak about her journey to confidence, compassion, and maintaining self-worth in the face of negative interaction. 

 

Confidence & the Happiness Retreat

My first experience with Art of Living and the teachings of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar completely blew me away. I was a professional dancer, which is a high-stress and intensely focused career path, and I was always very nervous during auditions and performances. I’d practiced different kinds of meditation before, trying to overcome that nervousness, but it never quite did the trick. A friend recommended the Happiness Retreat at the Art of Living Retreat Center, and I felt like it brought a new element of mindfulness to my entire life.

 

After the Happiness Retreat, everything came to life. I started noticing the trees when I would walk to the subway. I started feeling more happy at work. Anything bothersome that would happen would just roll off my back, as long as I was practicing the techniques I’d learned. But the most astounding thing for me, and for my career, was that after I started practicing meditation daily, the nervousness just disappeared. Performance felt natural and normal, like I was in my living room. I remember walking on stage at the Metropolitan Opera in front of four thousand people and not feeling nervous at all.

After dealing with nerves for so long, that was an incredible experience that really demonstrated the power of all the techniques I’d learned in the Happiness Retreat. I enjoyed my career so much more after that, and I felt that the knowledge and wisdom I’d gained during the retreat gave me a much bigger perspective on my life. It made me realize that there was even more I could contribute to the world.

 

So I began teaching for Art of Living, and learning about how confidence and compassion are intertwined.

 

How to Navigate Negative Interactions

One of the key insights of yogic wisdom that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar speaks on is how to maintain confidence and compassion when someone treats you poorly. The way someone treats you is a reflection of their character, not yours. You are always worthy and loved, no matter how you are treated. If you have self-respect, no one can ever take that away from you, and when you treat other people with respect and honor, it demonstrates the quality and integrity of your character and actually helps them break their own negative patterns.

 

If you react in a negative way to poor treatment, it’s not helpful to the other person. The way to help people out of their damaging social patterns is to maintain your own center and not get caught up in trying to diagnose or assign intention to their actions. If you approach someone in a calm, serene state, and with an attitude of love and helpfulness, people do pick up on that vibe, and they’re often willing to listen to you.

 

Building Relationships through Compassion

For instance, I’ve taught at youth correctional facilities, and I’ve really had to learn to suspend my own judgement and approach these kids from a place of understanding and compassion. Often times, many of them are in there because they had no choice, due to their upbringing or circumstances. The first day of these courses usually come with a lot of disrespect. The kids aren’t interested in anything I have to say. But I just have to keep reminidng myself that their behaviour has nothing to do with me, and that I can’t take offense to how they’re reacting to me.

 

But over two or three days of me just being willing to listen to them without reacting, without yelling back at them, they begin to actually develop a curiosity as to what I have to say. By the fourth day, I’m able to teach them breathing techniques, and by the last day, they don’t want me to leave. We build real relationships. Teaching these young people has been amazing, and has really reaffirmed in my mind that if you maintain equanimity and peace of mind during conflict, you can help with the healing process.

 

Making the World a More Loving Place

We’re very fortunate to have a teacher like Sri Sri Ravi Shankar alive on this planet. Someone of his enlightened stature, who chooses to share his wisdom with us, who can teach us how to go deeply inwards and get in touch with our true selves. He can show you how to heal yourself and serve the world at the same time. He teaches how to be at peace with ourselves and our surroundings, but also how to be dynamic and make the world more peaceful and loving.

 

The Art of Living is joy and balance. It’s harmony on the inside, and harmony with the outside. And the Art of Living Retreat Center is such a magnificent natural setting to help you along in your jouney. You wake up and look out the window, and you’re above the cloud lines sometimes, which feels completely ethereal. The combination of meditation and community and nature makes you feel like you’re truly in heaven.

 

Join Annalies for YesPlus Art of Silence from Dec 30, 2017 – Jan 2, 2018 and begin the New Year feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. 


The Happiness Retreat runs weekly. 


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

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , happiness , Happiness Program , knowledge , sri sri ravi shankar , wellness , wisdom
Art of Living Journeys

Art of Living Journeys: How Denise Re-framed Her Life

By AOLRC
October 25, 2017

Art of Living Journeys

 

Before joining us at the Art of Living Retreat Center for our weekly Happiness Retreat, Denise felt as though she was stuck – in an unhappy marriage, in unhealthy patterns, in the darkness. But after a weekend of lessons, love, and light, she found her own light at the end of the tunnel. We recently sat down with Denise to speak about her experiences, what she would tell her former self, and how she is living in her light. 

 

Prioritize Your Wellness

Before Art of Living came into my life, I was in a place of hopelessness. I yearned to find joy and happiness, but I was at the point where I didn’t feel like I was meant to in this lifetime. I was dealing with some emotional trauma, and I was also in an unhappy marriage. It wasn’t only affecting me, but my children as well. My unconditional love and acceptance for this person had turned a corner to enabling. Through Art of Living and the Happiness Retreat, I was able to realize that I could still love this person while prioritizing my own wellness and taking myself out of an unhealthy situation.

 

The tools and techniques taught in the Happiness Retreat took away the guilt of that decision. I was able to move forward and live the life I’d always wanted to live. I found a joy and a peace that I’d never felt before.

 

A Way Out of Darkness

If I could speak to my former self, I would apologize to her, for letting her feel for even one moment that there wasn’t a light at the end of the tunnel. That she would be unhappy forever. I would tell her that the darkness is not a place she had to stay, that there was a way out. And the Happiness Course is the very essence of the first step towards finding a way out of that place.

 

The Happiness Retreat brought a knowledge and confirmation to me that there was something better out there. It’s not just someone telling you that you can be happy. The tools and techniques of the program transformed all of my negative thoughts and patterns into something positive. It allowed me to move forward, and to find the light, even in my darkest moments.

 

Paying it Forward

The Art of Living Retreat Center is such a wonderful, accepting place. It feels as though you are coming together as a family, connecting with anyone and everyone. We all matter – each person does have something to give to someone else. If I had not come here and seen the people around me, and felt the love and peace and happiness, then I would have never been able to conceive of that happiness being possible within myself.

 

My desire now is to share my story with others. There are women out there who are exactly where I was, and I want to show anyone who’s been where I am how I got through it, and how I ended up in this amazing place of peace and joy. I want women to know that there is hope to live a life of joy, peace, and happiness.

 

Make the choice to truly thrive in life. The Happiness Retreat runs weekly. 

 
 

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

 

Yoga Retreat Catalog for NC

 
TAGS: art of living , art of living retreat center , happiness , Happiness Program , healing , wellness
Art of Living Retreat Center

Anger, Laughter, and the Practice

By AOLRC
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.

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TAGS: anger , art of living , art of living retreat center , happiness , laughter , lifestyle , mindfulness , wisdom , yoga
Art of Living - Faith in What

Exploring Wisdom: How to Cultivate Faith

By AOLRC
September 25, 2017

Art of Living - Faith in What

Faith. We hear this word so often in a spiritual context that we’ve begun to take the meaning for granted. What is faith, exactly? And on our own individual  journeys, what do we put our faith in? Art of Living guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar spoke about the role of faith in the path of spirituality during his last visit to Boone; what it is, how to develop it, and how to develop trust in yourself and your journey. 

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TAGS: art of living , faith , happiness , healing , knowledge , mindfulness , sri sri ravi shankar , wellness
Art of Living Journeys

Art of Living Journeys: Lillian’s Creative Spirit

By AOLRC
September 18, 2017

Art of Living Journeys

Lillian Bijoux, an artist and singer-songwriter, describes her experience with the Art of Living Happiness Program as something that moves and and inspires her creative spirit.

 

Lillian remembers feeling free and open as a child, unrestricted by her mother’s admonishments to “be like everyone else.” However, with the death of her father, she buried her free and loving spirit, leaving her severely depressed as a single mom of four. Bijoux first opened her heart again with a dear friend’s support, which was a turning point that began her journey towards returning to her naturally passionate, spirited self. Here’s a bit of her account of her experiences with the SKY meditation offered by Art of Living and IAHV:

 

A Newfound Sense of Happiness

Oh, it’s given me so much happiness. It’s washed away all my sorrow and grief and pain. And even my doubts, over time; it’s taken time because I do it every day; it’s an incremental process.

 

I do my Kriya practice everyday. I do it when I feel anxious or angry or whatever. An unpleasant emotion and it washes it away. I am transformed into newness, aliveness and innocence, I guess you’d say, again. I am constantly in awe of the whole process and so thankful, full of gratitude that it’s happening. I feel like I am reaching my potential in life and that I’ll find my purpose in life through this practice.

 

A Clearer, More Creative Mind

The first week I was doing the Sudarshan Kriya, I had 13 new original songs that came spontaneously, the words and music at the same time. And I‘m a painter, and it’s like the spirit calls me to get up in the middle of the night, so I get up and paint. And the writing; you know, God sits on my shoulder when I’m writing.

 

An Accepting Attitude

I like to have new experiences now. I’m just open to whatever happens. And pain doesn’t bother me anymore. Physical pain or emotional pain doesn’t bother me like it used to.  I am able to cast it aside, let it wash through me, and then it’s gone. And then I’m new again.

 

A Contagious Passion for the Practice

I want this for my family and for my dear friends. I’ve tried to convince them but now I’ve decided to be an example, like look at me, look what’s happened to me;  how I am new; I’m different and I am thankful to be alive.

 

I am so in admiration of Sri Sri because he has dedicated his life to healing the world and the other people’s hearts. I think everyone is capable of doing this and radiating love out to others because if you love yourself then you can love others.

 

If you’re interested in learning the practical applications of breathing, meditation and yoga exercises, register for the Happiness Program, which runs every weekend at the Boone Art of Living 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: art of living retreat center , creativity , happiness , Happiness Program , mindfulness , wisdom
Art of Living Retreat Center - Sail Through Summer

Wellness, Naturally: Sail Through Summer

By Diana Bellofatto
July 31, 2017

Art of Living Retreat Center - Sail Through Summer

 

Summer fun – lots of fresh air, sunshine, outdoor activities, and socializing abound, but unless we maintain balance, we may find our energy sapped and tapped from excesses when we over indulge or work hard out in the heat.

 

In spring and the onset of summer, we see lots of vibrantly colored, hearty plants and flowers. Having endured the heat, by August, we may notice that many of the plants and flowers lose their vibrancy and color and begin to wilt.

 

Mimicking what goes on in nature, we also begin to wilt in August if we have been going at it too hard at work and/or play. For many of us, the summer sun, heat and lack of discipline in daily routine take their toll and we start to notice dry, chalky skin, lack of energy, dehydration, irritability, and a need for a more steady daily routine that puts us in a good “head space” for making better choices.

 

Here are my tips for a sense of elevation, elation, and rejuvenation…

DIET

Continue to eat seasonally and favor sweet, bitter, and astringent tastes. Give special consideration to cherries, watermelon, pomegranate, and apples for their ability to activate heat removal, hydration and lymphatic flow in the body. Eating al fresco is great, just avoid being in direct sunlight and very hot temperatures. Minimize meat intake due to its heating and heavy nature and eat in a calm, relaxed environment whenever possible.

 

LIFESTYLE

Summer can be a very social time of year so, you may be fishing for a little down time at this point. Reel it in by not over scheduling yourself and plan some time for relaxing at home. It is said that music soothes the savage beast. You may want to add ocean sounds, whales, birds, and other soothing sounds to your playlist and enjoy those sounds at home, in the car, or at work if permissible.

 

YOGA

Beat the heat! Favor dissipation over perspiration with yoga. A supine, supported, restorative bound angle posture might be just what you need to cool your jets; along with some cooling breath work such as chandra bhedana, shitali or shitkari. Your yoga teacher can provide instruction.

 

SELF LOVE

Becoming overheated can induce irritability, a judgmental nature, an overall negative attitude and feelings of inadequacy. We can be hard on others but even harder on ourselves. Come in for a landing, sit down, close your eyes, take some deep breaths, scan your body to find areas of tension and restriction and give yourself permission to relax and let go. Finding the balance between “doing” and “being” is one of the most important practices we can have. Some of us tend to value doing over being. Remember, we are human beings- practice compassion for yourself and others.

 

HERBS

The wonderful wisdom of herbs can play a vital role in, what Ayurveda calls rasayana, or rejuvenation. One of the top herbs for this time of year is amalaki. Consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner for the protocol that is right for you, as it is important for your health history to be taken into consideration when herbs are recommended.

 

The methods of rasayana provided by diet, lifestyle, yoga, herbs and compassion for one’s self and others rejuvenate the cytoplasm and protein of plasma, kindle the digestive fire, maintain tone of the tissues, enhance the life span of cells, cellular memory and cellular intelligence, promote normal, healthy psychological function, a melodious voice, strength and stamina, and bring functional synchronicity to the organs. There are rasayana methods for each of the 7 tissues (plasma, blood, muscle, bone, fat, nervous & reproductive tissue) that can greatly improve quality of life.

   

Interested in learning more about 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 , August , Ayurveda , Ayurveda 101 , Ayurvedic diet , diet , happiness , healthy lifestyle , herbs , lifestyle , rasayana , self love , summer , 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.

 

History

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.

 

Summary

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