All posts tagged: mindfulness

The Gift of Attention

By Melissa Lago When we feel calm, we have more options about where to place our attention. One of the many gifts of yoga and mindful movement is that it can help us to calm our sympathetic nervous system designed for fight, flight or freeze, which causes stress, and activate our parasympathetic nervous system responsible for rest, which promotes an experience of relaxation, inner peace, and well-being. Since we are wired for survival, it’s natural that when we are overwhelmed or stressed, our negativity bias turns on, which is designed to keep us safe. In these moments we often notice what is out of balance in our bodies or challenging in our lives rather than what feels supportive or is working.  Many of us have had the experience of noticing when our back is sore, and then barely noticing it once it’s healed. This can be true in our relationships too. We might find ourselves focusing on the one thing that we find annoying that our partner, friend or family member is doing rather than …

heart of mindfulness

The Heart of Mindfulness   

by: Jon Aaron  For our retreat coming up in June, we were inspired to call it “The Heart of Mindfulness,” which has a nice double meaning.  On one hand, this retreat explores the core teachings which form the basis of most mindfulness practices offered today whether through Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction or other programs. Even shiny new meditation apps are often utilizing these core teachings, which go back 2600 years or so.   The heart of mindfulness also refers to non-judgment—or heartfelt curiosity.  This is a crucial component of mindfulness practice. Without heartfulness, mindfulness is hardly more than paying attention. When this element of compassion is integrated with the mind’s capacity to sustain attention then things start to change. Yet too often, in the rush to develop “productivity” or “focus” in our culture, this dimension gets lost.  The danger of titles is that they reify what they name. We might start to think of mindfulness as a “thing” to obtain (in only 8 weeks! 28 days!) or an instrument we can call into service when needed. In …

slow down

If You’re Tired or Confused, Slow Down and Focus on Feeling Alive & Well*

*Excerpt from the international bestseller You Were Not Born To Suffer, by Blake D. Bauer Each day we are faced with decisions in our personal and professional lives that end up shaping the course of our destiny and the quality of our health, happiness and relationships. If we want to enjoy our life, be well and respect ourselves, it is crucial we each master making choices that are aligned with who we truly are, why we’re really here and how we genuinely feel. A simple but powerful way to achieve this is to look at each moment as a fork in the road on the path to our most joyful and authentic life. In any given scenario, at least one direction will always represent a decision that does not feel good in our heart or in our body. In this same situation, at least one other direction or path will eventually reveal itself, which represents a decision that undoubtedly feels good or necessary. Quite often it can be confusing as to which path is best or …

mindful retreat for educators

May We All Be Well.  Especially Educators.

by: Andra Brill, Ph.D. This was supposed to be the year that schools went back to “normal.” Whatever that means.  Instead, we are in year three of disrupted learning across the grades.  This means that most second graders have NEVER had a “normal” year of school.  As this school year enters the final stretch, there is not only the longing for normal, there is a need for rest.  We are all exhausted. More than anything we are yearning for rest.  For being able to stop, notice and let go of the constant drive to do one more thing.  We need to allow ourselves space to slow down and nourish ourselves.  We need to be gentle with ourselves, letting go of the constant self-talk driven by what we believe we should be doing.  Even as I grudgingly loosen my own heightened awareness around wearing masks, I am still recovering from the constant work of assessing risks and the decision fatigue that comes with this.  I know that I have revisited grief in a whole new way over …

dream yoga

Dream Yoga as Preparation for the Bardos

by: Andrew Holecek If you are well trained, your first after-death experience will be the luminous bardo of dharmata. If you’re unfamiliar with the subtle states of mind revealed in this bardo, it will flash by in an instant, or be completely missed. Those who have practiced the meditations that facilitate recognition will reap the rewards, and attain liberation at the level of the dharmakaya or sambhogakaya. Without this preparation, most of us will wake up in the karmic bardo of becoming. For nearly everyone, the first experience after regaining consciousness is a sense of being in their own body. Even though the mind is without a body at this point, the habit (karma) of being embodied is so strong that it continues. You feel like your old self, and don’t know you are dead. The first and most important thing to do after death is to recognize that you are dead. This isn’t easy. Many people will not recognize. Without preparation, most of us will black out at the end of the inner dissolution. …

On Silent Group Meditation Retreats: 10 things I’ve learned along the way

by Janet Solyntjes In 1987 I participated in my first silent group meditation retreat.  It was a month-long program held at what is now called Drala Mountain Center (DMC).  A few friends suggested that it was the next thing for me to do on my meditative journey. For me, going on retreat was an abstract concept, a box to check off on my way to something more important.  Perhaps I had fallen under the spell of spiritual materialism – seeking higher states, an idealized state of peace, and wanting some form of credential from engaging in what seemed like a very long time to spend doing nothing. Would a month of intensive practice make me a “better” spiritual person?   In the days before the retreat began, I sensed my fear and anxiety about participating in the rigors of long disciplined days over a four-week period. I wasn’t sure what triggered the fear, but didn’t worry much about it.  The arrival day came and I got into my car to head up the mountain to DMC …

Reeling from the Pandemic?  There are things YOU can do.

by Rona Wilensky, Senior Faculty, PassageWorks Institute Many educators entered the 21-22 school year with high hopes that it would be a return to normal.  Schools would be open, students would be in schools and they could return to the work they love.  Those high hopes tumbled into deep disappointment as they confronted the challenges waiting for them.   Pandemic surges led to sickness, student and staff absences, and in some cases intermittent returns to remote learning.  The damage done in 20-21 became all too apparent:   learning losses, extraordinary behavior, mental health challenges, and bitter community fights over masking and vaccines.  As if this weren’t enough, many communities were roiled by ugly fights over what is appropriate to teach related to our complex and checkered history as a nation with regard to race, ethnicity, and gender identity.  And all of this took place in the context of economic, political, and now, with the war in Ukraine, global challenges. Teaching has always been stressful.  Too much to do and too little time and support to …

Healing Guilt, Shame and Insecurity 

Excerpt from the international bestseller You Were Not Born To Suffer by Blake D. Bauer “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. “ Jiddu Krishnamurti  Do you constantly make yourself wrong for feeling the way you feel or for desiring the things you desire in life? Do you find yourself feeling guilty after you express your emotions or after doing something just for yourself that’s not about pleasing someone else? Do you constantly fear hurting others when making a choice that’s best for you, but then find that you stop yourself and hurt yourself instead? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you’re just like me and most people on the planet who suffer with deep guilt whereby we not only feel that we are a problem – that our mere existence is a burden – but also that we are somehow wrong, bad or sinful for wanting to be happy, well and truly loved.  Is the fact that we’re surviving really enough? Should …

Overcoming Resistance to Your Spiritual Practice

by Sara Avant Stover Sara is a teacher of feminine spirituality, bestselling author, and Internal Family Systems (IFS) Practitioner. She has been leading retreats at Drala Mountain Center for many years and we are delighted to welcome her back to the Land in May 2022. In the following podcast,  Overcoming Resistance to Your Spiritual Practice, Sara walks us through some ways to work with our resistance to overcome the challenges we all experience in creating and maintaining a consistent spiritual practice.  She provides creative and thoughtful ways to carve out the time needed to nurture our meditation practice and reminds us of the importance of this lifeline to better resource ourselves to meet the needs of our dynamic existence.  Please, enjoy your time listening with Sara, and consider joining us May 20 – 22 for Sara’s next retreat at Drala Mountain Center: Coming Home to Yourself: A Women’s Yoga, Meditation & Nature Retreat Overcoming Resistance to Your Spiritual Practice        About the Author: Sara Avant Stover Sara Avant Stover is a teacher of feminine spirituality, …

awakened heart

Cultivating An Open Heart

By Cole Schlam As was true for so many of us, in the last few years I experienced some of the most profoundly transformational times in my life – both joyous and also full of deep sorrow.  I felt overwhelmed not just for myself, but also for the grief and fear that swept across the world. There were times in which I wanted to put up walls around myself to protect myself. I found myself calling upon the reserves of compassion and strength within myself to remain open. When I didn’t know if I had more, I somehow found a deeper wellspring. What is Living with an Open Heart? This wellspring, this source, was different; it was more raw and more vulnerable.  My awareness of it often came in the quiet moments after flowing tears or in the deep breaths following spontaneous laughter. As I learned to trust these moments, instead of recoiling from the unfamiliarity of it, I softened my grip, and I could witness my reservoirs of strength and compassion refilling. Looking back, …