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Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi

The following is by Guest Contributor Brian Leaf, M.A. on the Keys to Happiness –  the author of Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi draws upon twenty-one years of intensive study, practice, and teaching of yoga, meditation, and holistic health. Visit him online at

During my first two years studying at Georgetown University, I realized how deeply stressed I was, and that though I knew how to get As, I knew little about how to be comfortable, relaxed, and happy. I wanted desperately to feel more at ease. I wanted to feel more loving and more free-spirited. So I started doing experiments to learn how to live.

In one experiment I decided to follow my urges and whims exclusively. I imagined that if I studied when I felt like studying, I’d be most productive at those times, and that if I felt like hanging out with friends or working out, I should do those things then, when my intention was strongest.

I think there’s really something to this. And I see now that this has always been my foundational practice: trusting in the intelligence of true desire, authentic intuition, and flowing energy. This practice has influenced my biggest decisions, informed my professional life, and eventually led me to Kripalu yoga.

But unfortunately, that particular experiment failed . . . quite miserably. After three weeks, I awoke one morning (severely behind on reading and writing for my classes), wearing the same clothes that I had been in for several days, with vomit on my shirt where a woman had puked on me the night before, and with a sprained ankle from earlier that same night when she and I had jumped a fence so we could hook up on the fifty yard line of the Georgetown football field.

I needed some discipline and some honing of my intuition before I could completely release to the flow.

For the decade following that project, I explored, I traveled, I trained, and I experimented. I searched for ways to feel comfortable and happy. I consulted psychics, scientists, yogis, swamis, Ayurvedic physicians, life coaches, and even (accidentally, I assure you) a prostitute. I tried meditation, herbs, flower essences, psychotherapy, and shouting out my angst. I almost tried sesame oil enemas, walking on hot coals, and urine therapy (the daily practice of drinking one’s own midstream morning urine).

And I learned a lot.

From yoga, I learned how to stand and how to breathe.

From yoga’s sister science, Ayurveda, I learned how to eat, how to poop, and how to sleep.

From meditation and Kripalu yoga, I learned to awaken my feelings and my intuition.

And from Jerry Garcia, Misha the yogi, and a scary shaman named Genevieve, I learned to emote, to connect, and to love.

During this journey, I found eight Keys to Happiness, eight rules to live by for health and vitality. Eight principles, each powerful in its own right, but the first seven all trumped by the final and eighth key.

And with these keys, I healed my colitis, calmed my ADD, ignited my intuition, and opened my heart. And, luckily for me, without a single sesame-oil enema, without walking on hot coals, and without sipping even one Dixie Cup of my own morning urine, I learned how to feel more comfortable, more authentic, more relaxed, and happier.

The following are six of the eight Keys to Happiness:

#1. Do yoga. And if you already do yoga, do more yoga.

#2. Follow your heart.

#3. Follow your intuition.

#4. Meditate daily.

#5. Connect with your heart, and interact with others from that place.

#6. Speak and act from your true self.

You can try an experiment. Select just one of these Keys to Happiness, whichever one jumps out at you, and follow it religiously for three days. Even after three days, you will experience greater vitality, better health, and increased happiness. Let us know what happens at


Adapted from the new book Misadventures of a Garden State Yogi ©2012 by Brian Leaf.  Published with permission of New World Library