Why a Week of Silence?
When I was 27 years old I started meditating to help with the constant pain of a three year long ulcer that no amount of zantac or Prilosec would calm. The first day I started to meditate, the ulcer never bothered me again. That was the first miracle. I remember driving home after I first meditated, colors were brighter and I felt a deep sense of calm that I had never experienced before. The second miracle. That calm turned into a deep inner peace that has never left me, almost 25 years ago now. The third miracle. That is why I love meditation.
Within three months of learning how to meditate, I went on my first weekend meditation retreat. I remember the entire weekend everyone talking about consciousness in-between long sits of meditation. I was very confused as I had no idea what consciousness was and what it had to do with my ulcer being cured.
Why did everyone else on the retreat know exactly what consciousness was and I did not! I soon learned the meaning of consciousness and the lingo that surrounded a meditation retreat. After that weekend, I was a lifer.
Another three months went by and I registered for a huge meditation demonstration that the Transcendental Meditation organization (TM) were putting on in Washington DC. The idea was to have 4,000 people meditating for 8 hours a day for two months. They predicted the presence of the mass meditation would cause many changes in the Washington, DC area. The FBI and Harvard did the statistics. The results were astounding. Click here for the published documentation which states that the crime rate was reduced over 25% plus Bill Clinton’s popularity went up. They said there would have had to have been a snow storm in the middle of summer to have the crime rate reduced even 10%. There was no snow storm and it was a 95′ high humidity summer. I was there for the most amazing and life changing 30 days of my young 27 years of life.
What did I learn in 30 days of silence? I learned that all of the answers are in the silence. I experienced the interconnectedness of everything. I saw myself playing a role but my true self was pure awareness, a vast abyss of oneness witnessing my life. That knowingness has stayed with me as I continued on this path for the past 25 years. I not only meditate daily but I am passionate about sharing meditation with others. After having attended many retreats and workshops over the years, and I am talking a ton of them, I decided simple is better and that all of the answers are truly in the silence. Hence these days I take one week off annually to just BE in silence, on retreat, to restore and rejuvenate but most importantly to connect with the Truth of who I am which is stillness, awareness and connected to everything. In truth I always feel this, but on retreat I get to delve deeper without the distractions of day to day life. Then life becomes much more playful, lighthearted and fun when I am not attached to the outcome of anything. I know at my inner most core, that life happens by itself.
That is why meditation is the foundation and the basis of all we do here at the Ivy House. It is why my life is dedicated to sharing meditation with others. Our Awareness Yoga goes hand in hand with meditation. A very different style of yoga, Awareness Yoga focuses on the release of tension in the spine which stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system which is the happiness response in our bodies. The result is a deeply healing and profoundly opening yoga that makes meditation easy when they are done back to back. All of our workshops and courses include both meditation and Awareness Yoga. This is my life…fun right?! I still pinch myself each and every day that I wake up and find myself here at the Ivy House.
If the Pursuit of Happiness is in our Constitution, then why are we so unhappy?
Every year a variety of publications produce reports on the top 10 happiest countries in the world. The USA is never in the top 10 on any of the lists! Our northern neighbor Canada is in the top 10, but we are not.
The pursuit of happiness is written in our Constitution, but statistics show that Americans are some of the most unhappy people on the planet. So we get to pursue happiness but we just don’t ACTUALLY get to experience it. However, because we believe in the pursuit of happiness, we are always trying to achieve it. Therefore, we end up being great achievers but we are not very happy people. So the people that believe most in the pursuit of happiness are actually the most miserable.
What’s even worse than that is that we really believe that we are the most happy. Even though studies show we are not happy, we believe we are the happiest of them all. This is one of the illusions of our very large egos. Ego is simply the thoughts we have about ourselves or the thought constructs that our mind imagines us to be. At the EGOIC level, we have absolutely no control over our lives. Do you doubt that statement? Right now if I asked you to sit in silence and have no thoughts for five minutes, could you do it? Or, if you are feeling some strong emotions, could you just drop them on demand? I think not! Our lives are made of our minds reliving the past, anticipating the future and a very little bit of what actually is in the present moment. So we have no control over our minds and therefore we have no control over our lives. The funny thing is, is we are absolutely convinced we have control. Basically we are all acting like Pavlov’s dogs with conditioning reactivity. That is the life at the level of the ego. This is what I realized in my late 20’s when I became disillusioned with my singing career after I learned meditation. I woke up and slowly over time started to live a more aware and happy life.
So we struggle because there is so much pain living life at the level of the ego with the illusion of control and so much pain and suffering. When we feel life is difficult we struggle more instead of surrendering to the process. It’s human nature and like being in quicksand, the more you struggle, the deeper and faster you will sink. When you struggle with conditioned mind, you only get yourself caught more in conditioned mind. My teacher Adyshanti calls living in the mind, living in the dream state. The simplest way to get out of the dream state and out of ego living, is simply to stop struggling with the mind. However, we struggle within our own consciousness which keeps the dream state intriguing. Therefore we remain stuck in the vicious cycle of life and the endless pursuit of happiness.
To me, this is not living. To be at the whim of life when it tosses you around, is not living. This is what got me started on the spiritual path years ago. When you change your thinking, it helps, but ultimately that is just rearranging the checker board as the dream still continues on. So how do we wake up? Well that is what meditation and yoga is all about. I was fortunate enough to have found meditation in my 20’s closely followed by taking my first yoga training also in my 20’s. Yoga and meditation is a life long study and discipline. After having study with amazing teachers such as Rama Berch and Saul David Raye my yoga has now morphed into Corrine yoga that we call Awareness Yoga. If you have the desire to stop struggling in life, come take a class here at the Ivy House. We welcome you with open and nurturing arms.
My Yoga Journey
When I discovered meditation in my 20’s, I felt as if I woke up in my life. It felt as if my life didn’t even start until I started meditating daily. Now in hindsight I know that what was different was that I started living life from my soul. I start responding instead of reacting. I became aware and conscious. I found Svaroopa yoga just a few years later, and that to me was like a meditation for the body. Svaroopa is a sanskrit word that means bliss consciousness. And so through the release of the spine, the mind gets quiet and one experiences bliss consciousness, hence the name. Now 25 years later, my yoga practice has morphed into ‘Corrine’ yoga that I call Awareness Yoga.
The best thing about being a yoga teacher is being able to do yoga anytime, anywhere and to know how to fix your own body. This is a great gift. Yet I have always loved teaching yoga as well and specifically to people who would not normally be able to practice American influenced workout yoga. To me yoga is a work in that anyone should be able to practice. Don’t get me wrong, I love all yoga but what I love to teach and practice is gentle Awareness yoga that brings about spinal opening and healing at the deepest level in body and spirit.
Awareness yoga can fix many long time aches and pains and even chronic conditions. By releasing tension in the spine with deep, gentle hip openers and lots of props, the mind gets quiet while certain angles stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system which brings about both inner healing and peace. Learn the anatomy and physiology of what makes Awareness Yoga powerfully healing and unique. It’s all about the health of the spine. All this and much, much more in our up coming Yoga Immersion Retreat. This Immersion is for anyone who wants to learn more about their body and become ageless in body and mind.
Is your time and attention. Most of us would sooner hand a stranger $5 then give them our time and attention. Therefor the most valuable commodity in your busy life, is truly your time and attention.
What do focus your time and attention on? Wherever you put your attention, grows. Pretty simple math really, but do you realize what it is you are focusing on each day, day in and day out?
They say each of us has 85,000 thoughts in a day and 95% of those thoughts are the same thoughts we had yesterday. Are you aware of what is in your mind and what you pay attention to each day? Your mind goes to the same habitual thought patterns over and over again, so think about what yours are.
Basically if you focus on work, work grows. When you focus on your relationship, it gets better. Kind of like tending a garden really. I have planted my little seedlings and every day I check to see if they have sprouted and how much. The next step will be taking my babies outside and into the garden. But if my attention goes somewhere else anytime over the next six months and I forget to check my garden, fungus may grow and ruin my tomatoes. So I must put time and attention on my garden each and every day. It’s the same thing in your life. If you want to manifest your soul mate then you must put effort towards that end, same thing with a new job or place to life.
I was blessed to find meditation and yoga in my 20’s and they have been the foundation of my life for the past thirty years. That means daily for thirty years I take time to meditate and do yoga. These practices ground me and fill my soul enabling me to live a happy and contented life. From that centered space I go out and live my life. Therefor I have spent my precious commodity of my time and attention on cultivating my inner world every day for thirty years. So when you plant a tomato seed a tomato plant grows and you get tomatoes. When you plant the seed of happiness and contentment, then happiness grows. Whatever you put your time and attention on, will grow.
So again, I ask the question, where does your mind go each day? Are you grateful or do you always want more, or both!? What is your overall attitude each day? If you are 80% happy then you will draw happiness to you. If you are 80% frustrated then that is what you will see. Because what we see in the world, is what we are on the inside. What your mind thinks about each day will tell you what you have planted in the fertile garden soil of your consciousness that creates your future!
Being present and living in the moment is another key to this equation. How many times do you arrive at work and don’t recall the drive? Or in the middle of chatting with a friend, do you all of sudden realize that you did not hear the last several minutes of what they were saying. You were caught up in your own mind thinking about something else you obviously found more important or intriguing then what your friend was sharing. It happens to all of us. The mind is powerful and potent and sometimes people find their thoughts more interesting then what is happening in the moment.
I arrived to South India a few days ago and it feels great to be here, my spiritual home, the motherland of yoga and meditation, INDIA.
I have been coming to India since the year 2000 so by now it feels very much like home to me. I remember the sacred mountain Arunachala, (the oldest mountain on earth) and where we live here in India told me the 3rd time I climbed up the mountain, that this was my home. At first I was not crazy about the idea of India being my home but now, 8 years later, this is truly my spiritual home. Having spent most of my life traveling, to me home is wherever I lay down my head. But there is something different about India, something deeper, richer and older then just a place where I lay my head at night.
As a foreigner here in India, I feel like I have some kind of ancient agreement (along with thousands of others), to help usher this country into the new world.
India helps one listen to their inner world. Sometimes it is so crazy here on the outside with honking horns, countless beggars, thousands of vehicles from bull carts, to family motorcycles to Mercedes Benz all lined up together to run the same light, that you can’t help but feel your inner stillness and hear your inner voice. Because I think that is something we have lost in the west. We are so busy on our smart phones that we not only do not listen to one another but we don’t even know how to listen to that voice that is within all of us.
Let me explain it in another way. We are as much a part of nature as a tree, a blade of grass and a deer because the food we eat turns into our bodies. The air we breathe are the same molecules that Jesus breathed. Physics proves that we are all connected and all one. But how do we experience this?
Take a look at water. Water is affected by gravity and gathers in pools of indentations and not on mounds. Water does not run upstream but always down. How many times a day do you feel like you are swimming upstream. Water could never do that because of gravity. Well you have your own inner gravity, your own inner voice and inner knowingness that is just like gravity.
Nature doesn’t argue about what seed gets to grow where or who’s leaves are brights or prettier. Nature just is. We are nature but we argue with ourselves, we argue with people we love and most of the time we are so busy worrying about what other people think, that we can’t hear or won’t listen to our inner gravitational pull. Deepak Chopra calls it spontaneous correct action, Buddha called it right action. Jesus calls itlove thy neighbor as thyself and do unto others. Jesus didn’t say love thy neighbor unless he is muslim or a different religion.
Your job in this world is to enlighten you. For you to learn how to listen and move with your own inner gravitation pull. Your inner gravity. The gurus in India all say that it is more important for you to sit in meditation then it is to feed 1,000 people or find homes for hundreds of dogs. Now don’t get me wrong, we help others when we can and when it is put in front of us to serve, we do serve. However, what I see with many people is that they are so caught up in others that they ignore themselves. This was a painful lesson for me when I closed my first yoga studio. We helped many people but it was at the expense of my own inner peace and happiness. These days I help out of a place of fullness and peace and not out of a need to help, it is out of fullness that I help and not out of emptiness. What are your motivations?
Until you have no fear, anxiety, jealousy, anger or worry within you, your job is to heal you. Because what you think goes out into the world and perpetuates the same. So if you are peaceful, you perpetuate peace. What are your perpetuating thoughts and emotions?
One of the best ways to feel better about ourselves or to cure depression is to help another living being. However, your main job is to help yourself.
Don’t Take Anything Personally
What somebody says to you or says about you tells you more about them, then it does about you. That was a lesson that I learned many years ago and one that I still use each and every day. A natural law that says ‘Don’t take anything personal.’ Even your experience of someone doesn’t tell you anything about that person, really. Because your experience of someone which leads to some conclusions about them, is only from your own small perspective. We all see the world from our own view but we keep expecting people to act like we would act, to say things how we would say them. Wow, how dull would the world be if people acted the way we wanted them to.
There is a wonderful little book called the Four Agreements by Don Miquel Ruiz. Now I know that most of you may have read this wonderful little book or may have it sitting on your bookshelf, but can you tell me that you are honestly living every agreement?
When I first read this little book over 15 years ago, I would study each agreement for weeks. I would spend each day living, practicing and breathing each agreement for weeks and even months at a time. Transformation of the mind takes time and diligence.
The mind can make you feel happy and the mind can make you feel so so very sad. I learned this many years ago when I was in high school. I had the most gigantic crush on Rob Morrow but he was in twelfth grade while I was in the tenth. Every time I thought I saw Rob, my heart would jump into my throat. Now only half the time was it actually him that I saw, but still my body would react with the same intensity each time because my mind thought it was him.
I got my next profound lesson in the power of thought in my 20’s when I was so desperately trying to procure a recording contract. Being a singer/songwriter in Nashville caused my emotions to run up and down like a roller coaster. Before too long I developed a stomach ulcer. Then one day shortly after I discovered meditation I realized that my thoughts and emotions had been running and mostly ruining my life.
So with the help of meditation and self reflection I had a huge aha moment when I realized the mind changes and I change with it, so why don’t I take more control over it rather then it controlling me. If my mind can fake me and my body out why can’t I fake my mind out. Maybe even my mind for the better. It started off by me expecting a miracle each day. I would talk to myself and pretend something amazing happened like news of a recording contract. This is how the conversation in my head would go: How would I be acting and feeling today if I got a call for a record deal. I would be ecstatic. I would be over the moon thrilled…so why wait! Why not pretend? If that thought could put me in an amazing mood then why not expect a miracle such as that and be thrilled now, right now in this moment. I realized that I could feel good everyday by tricking my mind. Eventually I was feeling happy most of the time or at least if my mind was not happy, I wasn’t paying attention to any negative self talk. It’s a process but it did work for me.
When I discovered meditation in my 20’s it was originally for health reasons. I had a very painful ulcer at the age of 27 and no amount of prescription antacids helped. The day I got a mantra and learned to meditate was the day my stomach pain went away! Seriously, I tell no lie. I was struggling for two years with a very painful ulcer. The day I learned to meditate, was the first day of the rest of my life. Truly, I believe my life didn’t start until I started meditating. Before meditation I was a flailing singer/songwriter. I was twenty pounds overweight and in pain constantly with acid stomach. I was no depressed but I also was not happy. I was struggling both emotionally and financially hence the ulcer!
I remember driving to the TM teacher’s house in Belle Meade, Nashville. The meditation instruction was costing me $425 and my car had just broken down. I was seriously thinking of canceling my attendance in the class. But honestly, I was sick and tired of being sick and tired, so I attended the class and my life changed forever. Not only did the pain of my ulcer disappear but a sense of inner peace began to grow inside me. Colors seemed brighter and I felt more connected to everything and everyone around me. Life started falling into place more easily and I decided to go to Massage School. I feel the meditation gave me the clarity for that choice, a choice that allowed me financial freedom for the first time in my life.
Within a month of receiving my personal mantra to meditate with, I went on my first weekend meditation retreat. Though I enjoyed the extended meditations and times of silence very much, I was confused by the discussions on consciousness. I had no idea what the word consciousness meant and I wanted to know what it had to do with my ulcer disappearing. I have come a long way from that first fateful weekend and yes, I finally figured out what consciousness was : ).
From that first retreat onward I was hooked on silence and started on the fast path. Three months later I found myself on a 30 day advanced meditation and silent retreat. There was 4,000 of us meditating in Washington DC and it was part of a three month long study. Harvard and the FBI did the statistics. Looking back now I feel so blessed to have been drawn to this journey. I mean a 28 year old doing a month of meditation with no talking…that is not a common thing! I loved it! I remember just past the half way point, after two weeks of 6 hours of meditation daily, I had some very interesting experiences. I looked in the mirror and saw myself looking at myself but the self that was looking was this huge presence and no longer a small self but a vast expansiveness Self. This feeling has never left me and I have been aware of this vast inner stillness ever since.
And the study done by Harvard? The crime rate went down in DC over that summer 48%. The FBI said there should have been a snow storm in the middle of summer for a change like that to take place but there was no snow storm. Just the hot, humid DC summer.
So this is why I go on silent retreats whenever I get a chance. I feel like i am dipping into the well, the source within that is pure peace and bliss. I just returned from the Omega Institute up in Rhinebeck, NY with a teacher named Adyashanti. There was no talking from Friday the 6th to Friday the 13th and we meditated up to 6 hours a day. I was in heaven! I really like this facilitator very much and I recommend his lectures and books. You can download a free copy of his book calledThe Way of Liberation on the homepage of his website. www.adyashanti.org. Adya says that all of his teachers are in this little book that is 100 pages long. He spent almost two years writing it because he labored over each and every word to be a helpful and specific as he could. He is what is sometimes referred to as self realized or enlightened and his life purpose is to help everyone else wake up to their own divinity that is within each and every one of us.
I became a meditation teacher in 1995 and I have taught hundreds and maybe even thousands of people how to meditate. It is my passion and the basis of all that we do here at the Ivy House. I believe, well not just believe, but I have experienced myself that all of the answers in life come from the stillness within each of us. It doesn’t come from your linear thinking but from the infinite creative source each of us has within us. But how on earth can you listen to that infinite source when you have 85,000 thoughts daily? And 95% of those thoughts are the exact same thoughts as you had yesterday. How can you hear the whispers of the universe when your life and your head is so full of business and information.
If you want to learn, we are here to teach you! Satya chooses the mantras based on your date, time and place of birth through Vedic Astrology. It is actually the sound the universe made when you were born. Do you want a personal mantra to meditate with? Hope to see you in class very soon.
I remember the first yoga class I walked into over 23 years ago. It was at the Sheraton Hotel in La Jolla, California at my first Deepak Chopra event. Can you believe my first yoga class was at a hotel? What is even more interesting is that for the next ten years I didn’t even know that other people used yoga mats to practice yoga. You see the style that I learned used big cozy blankets. At 27 years of age, I had already been meditating two hours a day for a couple of years. So when I walked into my first yoga class and it was mostly done on the floor, was deeply profound, core opening and blissful, I fell in love and didn’t have a need to look elsewhere.
I recall my interview for the application process to be accepted into Rama’s one month long intensive yoga teacher training program. I told her I had only taken 5 yoga classes in my life and they were all with her or one of her teachers in the past six months. She said that it was easier to teach someone like me who had a clean slate then someone who had taken many years of yoga. She explained that it was difficult to reconstruct the thinking of long time practitioners since this style was so different.
All I knew was that the first class that Rama led at the Sheraton Hotel oh so many years ago was a pinnacle point in my life. There were 300 people in that class, yes 300! Yet still my experience was profound. That is the power of this yoga. I recall in rotation as I turned from one side to the other on the floor, how incredibly tight my rib cage was at 27 years of age. The yoga felt like a massage from the inside out for my body and it opened me up from the deepest part of my being. I was there in San Diego as part of Deepak Chopra’s meditation teacher training and I knew that my next journey would be to take the Svaroopa Yoga teacher training.
Six months later I landed in San Diego once again but this time it was for Yoga training but it was just a few blocks down the street from my home base, the Chopra Center. I stayed on a friends floor for the next month who just happened to live right across the street from both the Chopra Center and the Yoga Academy in La Jolla. My yoga training was 30 days, 16 hours a day, no day off. We had one hour for lunch and 45 minutes for dinner. We had to arrive in class by 5:30am so that we could practice our morning yoga routine for 30 minutes before class started with Rama at 6am. We were done at 10pm some nights and others we were there until 11pm.
It was an amazing month. For those of you yogi’s out there, I did not even know what asana meant my first day of yoga teacher training. Asana means po
sture and that is why all of the yoga poses all end in asana. It is a sanskrit word. Our training was rich in sanskrit, deep in anatomy and physiology, chanting, meditation, consciousness study and of course yoga postures.
When people ask my advice about which yoga training to take I tell them that yoga is a life long study. I am grateful that my first YTT (yoga teacher training) was so deep and yet not everyone is ready for 30 days, 16 hours a day of yoga.
After graduating from that first deep immersion into Svaroopa Yoga, I opened my first Yoga studio on music row called House of Bliss. I taught 13 yoga classes a week and after three years closed down the studio due to exhaustion. They say you max out at teaching 7 classes a week and so I guess I maxed out at 13 and burned myself out. Yes, even yoga can burn you out if you don’t stay balanced.
Now I am proud to announce the launching of our first Yoga Immersion training over Labor Day weekend. Whether you want to go deeper in your own practice or help teach others, this training will prepare you for both!
Living a spiritual life begins with allowing things to be as they are. If you do anything else you are caught in ego, you are trying to control. How much are you able to allow your life to unfold? Do you accept everything about yourself? Do you accept others or do try to control the lives of the people you love? Letting go and letting God is probably the most important spiritual practice I have learned. I can honestly say that I accept everything that comes my way. Whether I like it or not, I accept it. Now that doesn’t mean I lay down and have stopped living, quite the opposite in fact. Only when we relinquish control of our lives, do we really start to live.
The way you approach your meditation, is the way you approach your life. If you engage in meditation from an egoic standpoint you will constantly be trying to control your experience. When ultimately meditation is about letting go and allowing whatever happens to happen. There’s no outcome wanted both during or after meditation. During meditation there’s nothing you need to do know and nowhere you need to go. It is the one time in your day when you just simply do nothing.
My mantra each day is to allow, allow, allow things to be as they are. I believe I have gotten here by meditating for 23 years. That means situations, people, everything, I do my best to accept it all as it is. Now that does not mean I no longer strive to make things different in the future. It is in the acceptance of what is, here and now, where the power to change the future is. Creating new and different situations in the future requires making new and different decisions in the present moment, and you need clarity and focus for that.
This is one of many things that meditation has taught me. So this will be the focus of our upcoming half Bliss Day next Sunday. How to let go in meditation. How to let go in yoga and then ultimately how to relinquish control of our lives. Surrender and allow life to unfold. Listen, life happens anyway, so you can either enjoy the ride or try aimlessly to control xit. Your choice.
Life doesn’t have to be hard, we don’t have to feel pain to grow.
After many years of getting my lessons with a brick over my head from the universe, I now listen to the whispers. One of the bricks over my head was having to close down my first Yoga Studio, House of Bliss. That was a tough one. After that I made a deal with God. I knew that I was meant to serve and help people, but it could no longer be at the expense of my own happiness and energy anymore.
I had a long conversation with God about the fact that I needed support to do my work. Now, six years later after saying no to many things along the way, and having huge gut feelings for my yes’s, we now have Ivy House, an Orphanage in India and Satya’s Guesthouse in India.
So now here we are at the Ivy House. Full of energy, service, love and guidance. We just came off of a week of powerful healing energy with Father Joshua and Ricky Yutuk. Come and soak up the vibes with the many upcoming events we have planned. Please double check the website for any last minute changes to any of our events.