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Category Archives: Art of Living Foundation

What It’s Been Like to Meditate Every Single Day for 15 Years

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Me and my husband with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in Melbourne, 2009

I guess you can say that I’m addicted to feeling good.

I understand that doing anything extracurricular for 15 years every day, sounds freakish and unattainable. Although… I never actually set out to ‘achieve‘ anything other than peace of mind.

I was 19 years old, and in my second year at Salisbury University, living on campus. Everyone kept talking about this cute guy who taught the yoga club every week and that I ought to come and try it. A few months later, and I was DATING the yoga instructor and also going to his classes. He told me that in a few weeks, someone named Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, was coming to New York City, and that we needed to go see him. It wasn’t hard to convince me to go on a road trip to NYC, so I skipped my afternoon classes, and we drove from Maryland to New Jersey and hopped on the train into the city.

It was January, 2002, and Sri Sri was giving the talk somewhere in a hall in midtown Manhattan (?). I forget where exactly. We arrived late, but the lady at the door said it didn’t matter, as long as we got there in time for the meditation. There were a few hundred people there and we squeezed into some empty seats way up in the second floor balcony seating. From where I was sitting, I noticed that Sri Sri was Indian and dressed in a white robe. He had this sing-song voice and people were all bowing down to him. All I could think was, “What the HELL is going on?!” Keep in mind, I came from a small town in New Jersey. Very white. Very ‘normal‘. Nothing exotic. Ever. Sri Sri was giving a talk, of which, I recall not a single word, when he asked everyone to close their eyes for a meditation.

I tried it.

It was amazing.

I had never experienced anything like it in my whole entire life! All at once, I could ‘feel‘ everyone in the world. Everyone’s joy. Everyone’s suffering. Everyone’s everything… It was surreal. It was like the biggest drug trip ever… except, there were no drugs. I had found something! And, I hadn’t even been looking for anything to begin with.

All was quiet and I sort of forgot about the meditation thing, until a few months later, my boyfriend told me he was organising this program called the Art of Living course (now called the Happiness Program), a course that was designed by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. It cost money. I didn’t want to do it. To make matters complicated, my boyfriend’s ex-girlfried was helping to organise the course. Awkward… So, I came up with every excuse I could find to not do the course. Not enough time. Not enough money… But, eventually, I ran out of excuses and decided to just sign up.

I can’t remember much from the course, except that the teacher who came, was from somewhere out west, and he was really good looking, and that, most importantly, we learned this breathing technique and meditaiton that was out of this world. It was something that I could do every day, by myself.

The day after the course was over, I found a secluded spot in this secret garden part of the campus, early in the morning, and did my breathing. I was too embarrassed to do it in my dorm room with my roommates watching. You may not recall, but 15 years ago, not everyone was doing yoga and meditation. It was still something for the nutters. I felt really self conscious out there, like someone was going to catch me! But, I was willing to take my chances because that breathing and meditation had just been too good. For six months, I did my breathing and meditation every day. I found lots of new places to do it and that summer, I went to Washington state to teach at a summer sailing camp on this beautiful island in the Puget Sound.

The place was magical where I was staying, there were no people around, only me, in this this huge empty house, in the middle of nowhere, overlooking the water (the owners had gone cruising for the summer). I spent the summer this way, meditating before and after work. Doing lots of yoga too. This was also the summer that I stopped drinking alcohol and smoking pot. After so many months of purifying, I had a beer… it made me feel like total crap. I decided I would never drink again. The same happened when someone offered me a joint. Never again.

That autumn, I was back at uni. I didn’t have time to do my breathing and meditation one morning. The morning rolled on, and by lunch time, I was feeling a little… fuzzy… I couldn’t think so clearly. Then it hit me that I hadn’t done that breathing and meditation thingo and decided to go straight home before lunch so that I could do it. After I was finished, I felt so fresh again. It was then that I realised that I had learned something REALLY precious and that I needed to keep doing this. Every day. No matter what.

And, that was pretty much all it took. I’ve never missed a day since the day I learned how to do it. That includes days I’ve been too sick to leave bed. Days I’ve had to wake up at 3am to travel. Days I’ve done NOTHING but travel (planes are great places to meditate). Days of boyfriend break ups and days of enormous stress (the yoga instructor and I never worked out). Graduations. Days I’ve worked from dawn til dusk. Days I’ve given BIRTH. And, all seven + years of me being a mother. I’ve never missed a day.

Nobody told me to not miss a day. It became sort of like taking a shower and brushing my teeth. Mental hygiene. Although… I’m pretty sure I’ve skipped some showers in the past 15 years… but never skipped my meditation. Priorities folks.

Do I still get angry?

Yes.

Stressed?

Yes.

Make mistakes?

Yes.

Do I worry?

Yes.

But, the anger doesn’t last as long. The stress is less intense. The mistakes are less stupid. The worry quickly dissolves.

The biggest thing I’ve noticed, especially after having three kids, is that I tire less easily and experience less burn out. I’m able to relax more easily and be more in tune with my kids. My intuition works better because when the mind is less clouded by stress, your thought process is more clear. I have more patience. I have less fear. I’m happier.

As the years have gone by, I feel my meditation practice is the one thing that I own. Anywhere. Any time. (ok, almost anywhere and anytime) I can close my eyes, and I’m there. I don’t need anything to do it. In fact, quite the opposite. I can literally drop EVERYTHING and do it.

Even if it’s 10 minutes before bed. Or, if right in the middle of my meditation, a voice yells out “Mom, I’m done, will you wipe me?!” It’s still worth it. Even if it cuts into my time of doing other things, it’s always worth it. Even if all it seems like I’m doing is ‘thinking‘ while I close my eyes, it’s worth it. Yes, even 15 years later, I still have meditations that seem to suck… although in reality, no meditation sucks. You can’t judge how good your meditation was by the experience you had. When people say they can’t meditate because they can’t stop thinking… well… it happens to the best of us some days, so don’t worry.

Daily meditation is like an umbrella. What ever garbage comes flying down around me, I’m safe.  Sure, I have days, weeks, maybe even months when I might be down in the dumps, but in general, with daily meditation, I have less days like that. I have more days of fun. Less days of worry. More days of health. Less days of stress. It’s something I hope to be doing for the next 15 years of my life.

Fit Your Own Oxygen Mask First: Parental Self-Care is More Important Than You Think

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What good can you be to your family, if you’re walking around drained and depleted?

I almost didn’t go. The timing, the money… And then, on the morning I was meant to fly to Sydney for The Art of Silence course, a four day silent meditation retreat, my nearly 4 year old woke up with a fever and a cough. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be mean to go away while she’s not feeling well?” Mega guilt trip.

I asked in one of my mother’s Facebook pages if I should go and there was a unanimous chorus of GO! One of the responses was, “This is a fit your own oxygen mask situation! 

The past six months, I had been grumpy, tired, and snapping at the kids. Stressed from work. About to move houses. Pregnant. You name it. It was only going to get worse if I didn’t do something about it.

When I said goodbye at the airport, the kids were sad. I was sad. Was this *really* worth it??? Read the rest of this entry

What Your Nose Tells You About Your Brain… And It’s So Cool!

It's really hard to take a serious picture of your nose...

It’s really hard to take a serious picture of your nose…

Stand still or sit down.

Put you finger under one nostril like I’m doing in the picture, breath in and breath out. Put your finger under your other nostril, breath in and breath out again.

Which one was more clear, or less blocked?

If your left nostril was more clear, don’t bother reading this post (joking, just read it anyway).

If your right nostril is more clear, then you’re in luck. When your right nostril is more clear, the left side of your brain, which is the academic/logic part of the mind, is functioning better at that moment. So, comprehending this post will probably be much easier. Your metabolism and digestion is also working faster.

If your left nostril is more clear, the right side of your brain is functioning better. The right side of your brain is the more creative and artistic part of the brain. Ever noticed how sometimes, no matter how many times you read a block of text, the information just doesn’t seem to be sinking in? It’s probably because the left nostril/right side of the brain was dominant at that moment.

If both are completely equal and stay that way for a while, then maybe you’re an enlightened yogi, because it’s very rare.

There are certain activities that are better to do, depending on the nostril that is dominant.

Activities You Should Do If Your Right Nostril is Dominant

  • Read/write
  • Study
  • Giving speeches/talking in public/teaching
  • Sign important documents
  • Eat (or at least after you eat the right should be more clear to indicate good digestion)
  • Exercise, be active

Activities You Should Do If Your Left Nostril is Dominant

  • Listen to Music
  • Meditate
  • Being with friends and relax
  • Do leisure activities and do creative hobbies

But, what if you need your right nostril clear, so you can think? 

Let’s say you HAVE to pay attention at a lecture or meeting or something and the information is going in one ear and out the other. There are a few things that can help.

Casually lean to the LEFT to clear your RIGHT nostril, so you can pay attention better. Nobody will even notice what you’re doing. Like this:

I know, I know, it looks like I'm leaning over to fart... People, I know you can do it better than me in real life.

I know, I know, it looks like I’m leaning over to fart… People, I know you can do it better than me in real life because I can win awards for being most un-photogenic.

If you really don’t care what people think, you can actually stick your hand under your left armpit, there are certain energy points there that help clear the right nostril. Looks like this, minus the silly posed look on your face.

Nothing going on here, folks.

Nothing going on here, folks. I’m just terrible at having photos taken of myself.

If you’ve just eaten a big meal, you want to make sure your right nostril is more clear for better digestion. If your right isn’t clear, just after eating, you can also lean to the left or even recline or lay down on your left side to help the digestion thing start to happen. Sometimes you can actually feel the shift, like this big lump moving from one side of your sinuses to the other. Gross. Cool.

Some people have ‘chronic’ nostril dominance

The nostril that is more clear, should shift every couple hours or so. But, sometimes, you’ll find that it doesn’t and one tends to be more dominant throughout the day. To make it extremely simplified, if our nostrils don’t balance regularly, that’s an indicator that there’s some sort of imbalance in our systems. Luckily, there are some things you can do to help (important stuff people!).

If Your Right Nostril Seems to Be More Dominant, you may find your body and mind are overactive or your may have trouble sleeping. To help:

  • Fall asleep on your RIGHT side when you go to bed.
  • Do alternate nostril breathing, a breathing technique which balances the brain, releases stress and tension and impression on the mind, for about 5 minutes, twice a day. Here’s a link from the Art of Living Foundation on how to do it and the benefits and the video is below.

If Your Left Nostril Seems to Be More Dominant, you may find that your digestion is sluggish, you often feel ‘spacey‘, have trouble making decisions. To help:

  • Fall asleep on your LEFT side when you go to bed.
  • Do alternate nostril breathing, a breathing technique which balances the brain, releases stress and tension and impression on the mind, for about 5 minutes. Here’s a link from the Art of Living Foundation on how to do it and the benefits and the video is below.

How to Do Alternate Nostril Breathing

Twelve years ago, I was at a public talk by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and he had us all put our finger under our noses to check which nostril was dominant. I found that part of the talk fascinating and I’ve been paying attention to my nostrils ever since. I’ve been practicing about 14 years of yoga and meditation and observing the breath as well as been involved with teaching and learning in a classroom environment. From countless experiences, I’ve found that it’s very VERY interesting to put a little awareness into your snout!

If you have time, watch this video on the mind, by brain researcher, Jill Taylor, it is AMAZING. It ties in with the side of the nose that is dominant (even though she doesn’t talk about the nostril dominance thing specifically).

The Fascinating Reason Why Kids Have So Much Energy: Balance, Behavior and Longevity

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When I was doing Know Your Child Teacher Training, my instructor asked us if we knew the reason why kids have so much energy.

None of us really knew the answer, but we all agreed that kids have ridiculous amounts of energy. Read the rest of this entry

If You Brush Your Teeth, You Ought to Read This

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Even the ocean sometimes isn’t enough to shut up my mind.

Tonight, while I floated around in the sea, trying to catch my last wave in, my mind was a bubbling mess of thoughts — worries, ‘what ifs’, doubts and insecurities. I walked home in a huff and took a shower. Then dried myself off and reveled in the fact that the house was quiet. My husband had taken the kids grocery shopping!

So, without wasting a second, I plopped down on the floor and shut my eyes for a 20 minute meditation. When I opened my eyes, I felt so fresh, alert and calm. All the stupid thoughts that had been flying around in my head 20 minutes ago, were gone. My smile was back and my breath felt light.

Do you brush your teeth everyday? Read the rest of this entry

This New Year: Stop Postponing Your Happiness!

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For myself and many others, this year seems to have been tough, compared to the previous years of relative smooth sailing. It’s been a year of limbo. Of waiting. Of exhaustion. Something stressful mixed with a whole lot of confusion. I mean, it just happens sometimes and I’ve had truly miserable years as well, this wasn’t too bad. You have some good years and some not so good years. If all the years were good ones, we would have nothing to compare with, so how would never even know what a good year really is! From our failures, our troubles, our growing pains and even from our devastation, we can take the good things with us and see how strong our experiences have made us. But… you’ve already heard this right? What I really want to know is… are you happy? Read the rest of this entry

The Art of Slowing Down

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It was hot. Steamy summer stinking hot. No breeze. And, I, had to walk 4km (2.5 miles) totting two kids to get to playgroup because I was the one with the key and I had to open the building up.

If I had gone in my usual fashion, which is to rush out the door at the last possible minute and walk as fast as I can, I would have arrived at playgroup in an frantic puddle of sweat. So, on this particular day, I left five minutes early and called a friend of mine who could intercept me on the way to grab the key off me if I didn’t make it in time.

On this day, I refused to be in a hurry. Read the rest of this entry

The Mother Swallows the Anger of the Child

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I was sitting in our big comfy recliner when Goldie (2 1/2) came running to my feet. She threw herself on top of me and started crying. I pulled her onto my lap and listened while I stroked her head, “Oh yes,” I said, “I know, you wanted something and you couldn’t have it, you’re upset, etc.” Kissed her little forehead and eventually, she started smiling and then she bounced away.

I laughed as she toddled off because our interaction was not too dissimilar to many interactions I’ve had with my spiritual guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, founder of the Art of Living Foundation. People, including myself, travel all over the world to see him. He’s a very busy man, so when we finally get the chance to talk to him, we all gather around, painfully eager to get a chance to sit with him. And… he usually sits in a big chair! We laugh, we cry, we ask questions, we tell him our problems and our triumphs. The question I’ve heard him ask me the most is, “Are you happy?” He doesn’t really care too much what we do, so long as we are happy. Read the rest of this entry

I Bet You’ve Never Done Yoga WITH Your Yoga Mat

I know lots of you have done yoga ON a yoga mat… but how many of you have done yoga WITH their yoga mat? This is how Margo, my 4 1/2 year old, did it. She gave me explicit instructions on how to fold, bend and stretch, for optimal benefit. For those of you who may not know, ‘asana‘ is a sanskrit word for yoga pose.

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Womb-asana (Footling Breech Variation)

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Paper Airplane-asana

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Yogi Taco-asana

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Head-in-the-Sand-asana

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Bow Down Before Me-asana

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Heels In Your Buttcheeks-asana

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Float in a Boat-asana

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Yoga Mat Full Body Massage-asana

 

When Yoga Teachers Get Angry

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We were right in the middle of doing some nice yoga poses, when all of a sudden, this loud blaring music from downstairs at the community center started thumping. It’s not the first time I’ve been in the middle of teaching that this has happened, so I wasn’t overly surprised, but this music was insanely loud. Like, the floor was vibrating and I could barely hear myself speak. We kept going, doing our yoga, sort of being silly and grooving to the beat. I laughed, thinking, “Oh, that person down there has no idea that we are peacefully doing yoga up here, I’ll go down in a minute and let her know that we’re here.” It was only 8:45 in the morning. I was not just teaching yoga, but teaching an Art of Living course, which is a three day program, that was a few hours each day. Yoga stretching was just one part of the class. Read the rest of this entry