On the weekend I finally got around to doing the Art of Living course. It's recommended by Ashok in the Gupta Programme, and another friend of mine with CFS appears to be recovering while practicing the Art of Living techniques every day.
The techniques involve a combination of Yoga, meditation and breath work. I left on a high after the first evening... went to the supermarket and couldn't help but notice that I felt more confident interacting with the staff there. One of the guys offered to give me a discount of the barbequed chickens just because I asked what the story with them was. You can't normally barter in a supermarket here! Another suggested that I should come back at 4pm because that's when the nicest checkout chicks were there. Everyone seemed friendlier and more laid-back mood than normal; or was it just that I was, so I was more aware?
After the second day, I felt really tired. The breath work element (called Sudarshan Kriya) is really tiring to maintain. I kept wanting to stop, to give up. The leader said "just keep going, no matter what!". I have a lot of resistance to this whole self-discipline thing and it certainly kicks in when I do this practise. When we get to the end, I feel a mixture of exhausted and elated. All that extra oxygen seems to pack quite a punch, and banging your head against a brick wall feels great when you stop.
Day three we learned the home practice, and some Art of Living philosophy: good basic stuff about spreading kindness, living in the moment, letting go of fear and regret. A helpful reminder to lots of good stuff I've heard on courses before. I was pretty zonked by the end, and came home to bed where I slept pretty soundly.
The challenge comes after the course: you have to practice what you learned each morning for about 30 minutes. I've attempted morning Yoga before, and always given up after a couple of days. But I can see that if I don't move my body at all, I just feel wretched and jittery. I've lost all my flexibility over the last 3 years; I even have trouble putting socks on now because it's hard to reach my toes. Yoga is good for flexibility. I also think the breath work is the thing that will make the difference, but I find myself resisting enormously. Part of me would rather keep living on the adrenaline high, and doesn't want to have to do these silly breathing exercises. I think I'm just a big kid who hasn't grown up and doesn't want to do his homework.
Another part of me, though, is determined to get well. So I will do my daily yoga/meditation/breath work, goddam it!
If Ashok did the daily practice recommended by Art of Living, I suspect it had a greater effect on his recovery than the Stop-Stop-Stop business. So the central technique in his programme is looking a bit dubious to me now.
Anyone else done the Art of Living? How are you going with the daily practice?