I was so fortunate to be able to spend the month of January 2015 in an ashram (place of spiritual retreat) in Bangalore, India.
The picture shows me with the guru of the ashram, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
One of the things I did in this Indian “Art of Living” Ashram was a course called “Happiness Program”, with about 80 others. Mostly Indian men, maybe 20 women and two handfuls of other foreigners like me. We did yoga, ate vegetarian Ayurvedic food (delicious!), meditated and contemplated life. We spoke about how to be happy. This blog is about sharing some of the questions we were asked and what I have learned.
- When you feel tired and exhausted, how to get energy?
- When will you be happy?
- During the time you propose to stay on this planet, what do you intent to do?
- And something about the remote control of your life 🙂
Many of my clients tell me they are tired. Physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. According to the Art of Living philosophy there are four sources of energy: food, sleep, breath and a calm meditative mind. We can all come up with even more energy sources, for example sunlight, good company and exercise. I focus here on food and breath.
I was reminded of the importance of eating food with life in it. I know that when we are tired we don’t feel like cooking. And that when we are busy we eat badly and on the go. But if we want more energy, we need to be aware of what we eat. Skip the boxes with powders full of e-numbers and choose fresh ingredients instead. Buy food that consists of only one ingredient (rice, tomatoes, lentils, avocado) instead of pre-fabricated meals that are full of salt and empty of nutrients. Think of simple solutions, like having a little bag of nuts with you at any time, add honey instead of sugar to your tea, drink water with lemon or mint, eat 70% cacao based chocolate instead of the very milky/sugary type. Cook in the weekend and freeze it in one-person portions. Become a member of Able and Cole, Hello Fresh or Gousto. Don’t wait too long between meals as we tend to eat worse stuff when we are very hungry (simply look in your trolley when you shop on an empty stomach 😉 We all know this stuff, but a reminder helps. And yes, treat yourself now and again! Don’t be a dictator; go for the brownie, ice-cream or pizza from time to time. But buy the quality good stuff, actually taste it while you eat, and enjoy 🙂
Many times in my sessions with clients I let them focus on their breath. Breath is the very source of life. We’d be dead without it. And yet we never pay attention and take it for granted. Breathing mindfully helps us relax, but it is also the link between our body and mind and therefore the key to our soul. When we are stuck in our heads, lost due to churning things over and over in our head, then we need to get in touch with our body to find our truth. Our truth is known in our body, and when we stop and listen, the answers will be revealed. How? Breathe. Curious to know more, start with these free guided meditations.
The teacher asked us what we need to be happy. I think we have all pondered on this from time to time in our life. And it’s a good question. What makes me happy? Clients often answer a change in career, a partner (if single), that my partner is more loving (if in a couple), travelling, no more money worries. But this way of thinking is fundamentally flawed according to the Art of Living philosophy. Because the problem is that we allow ourselves to think “WHEN I have this and this/or they do this or that, THEN I will be happy“. What if we don’t find this ideal job, or if our partner will not change and still won’t support us? What if we stay single or penniless? How will we feel if we don’t get what we want? Will we remain unhappy? Is happiness “out there”, external from us? Or can we find a way to feel happy inside, regardless of the events in the world around us? I don’t mean we should stop aiming for our dreams to come true. Give it all you can, strive to have the best life possible. And I’m also not talking about becoming a detached robot. We are supposed to feel, deeply even, the sadness, pain or anger if things don’t go the way we long for. We learn self-care when we hurt and become skilled in how to express these feelings in constructive ways. But wouldn’t it be amazing if we can always (read: most of the time, we all have our wobbly moments, I do too) rely on an inner strength, a solidity inside of us, our inner wise Self to guide us through the storms of life? I’m talking about an inner sanctuary to fall back upon, regardless of the external world around us.
We were asked to think about how long we propose to stay on this planet. And what we intent to do during the time we are here. I’d invite you to take yourself on a nice little nature walk, or to keep your phone in your pocket during the next train or tube ride and to spend some time with these questions. A wonderful answer from someone in the group was to bring out the divine qualities in other people. My answer had to do with love. Lots and lots and lots of love.
Huh, a remote control? This was a joke by the teacher, showing us how we give our power away. We let our lives be decided by everything but our Self. Opinions of others, should’s or must’s, guilt and obligation: they decide for us what we do or don’t do. And if it’s not others, it’s our own Inner Critic / Anxious Part / Wounded Child (etc) that runs the show. When I write “deciding our life based on our Self“, I put the capital S on purpose. Our true Self is free of others, and free of scars of the past. It’s our soul, spirit, heart, and the voice of inner guidance that loves us dearly and always knows what is best. And having spend some time in India, in this place of spiritual retreat, I feel closer again to the source in myself.
It’s been an absolute delight for me to be in the ashram. Big thank you to my clients who were open-minded to have sessions via Skype while I was away. If you are interested yourself, this is the website: http://www.artofliving.org/. And not to worry if you can’t visit India, they have locations and ashrams all over the world, including in London!
May you be happy.
With love, Karin