Leading with Love - Gina Murdock

In the presence of Gina Murdock, life is expansive, full of enthusiasm + infinite possibilities. She has a gift of bringing people together and showing up in a way that supports loving connection.  She is a yoga teacher, writer and community organizer. She is the Founder of “The City of Wellbeing” in Aspen in partnership with Deepak Chopra. She is the Founder of the Aspen Yoga Society, a nonprofit organization dedicated to uniting community through yoga and offering acts of Seva (service) for the greater good. We are excited to partner with her on the Lead with Love - Mind, Body, Spirit Rx Retreat on October 25th - 28th in Aspen. Check out the website and join us in the Rocky mountains for a stellar line up of presenters and an experience that will uplift and inspire!

(Photo by Kate Holstien)

Murdock has her Master's degree in Spiritual Psychology at the University of Santa Monica and a Founding member of Dr. Deepak Chopra’s Self Directed Biological Transformation Initiative. Gina is an International Editor at Origin Magazine and a contributor at Mantra Magazine. Read on to learn more about Gina and how this journey has unfolded for her.

 What led you to living in Aspen and becoming a leader in raising consciousness?

There is a quote that my husband often paraphrases, “Most of us are born to believe a leader is someone else in the room.” I believed that to be true until recently. I was the last out of four kids in a large Italian family. I was lovingly referred to as “Gina Bambina” because I was the little sister, the littlest cousin and the “baby of the family”. I really embraced that role! I was doted on and became very accustomed to people doing things for me. As I matured, I learned how to take care of myself and have always been independent and resourceful, but I never thought of myself as a leader. Within the last 6 years or so, I noticed that people kept showing up for meetings I was hosting. I would try to get other people to take over when I would travel, but it never seemed to work. I realized at that time that I had some sort of “skill” in bringing people together. I never really realized it was a skill, because it came so naturally to me and I enjoyed it. It felt natural.

 I was born very enthusiastic about life; I have a giddiness about it all. That enthusiasm, and my belief in what “could be”, seems to be contagious. It was just this year, interestingly, that I realized I am not only a community leader, but also a social entrepreneur. This awareness came when I was invited to speak on a panel about entrepreneurship and I explained that I’d be delighted to, but that I’m not an entrepreneur. After listing off all of the organizations or movements I’ve started the man who invited me explained that I am indeed a social entrepreneur and one that has a story to share. I was happy to hear this! I sat on that panel and I’ll tell you, I did have a lot to share and I LOVED sharing my journey because I finally understood I have learned a lot along the way and that those lessons could be helpful to others. Everything I had done up to that point was so organic, never had I written a business plan or gotten coaching or gone to school for business, so I didn’t really recognize how far I’d come, or the things I’ve created until I was asked to reflect on that entrepreneurial journey in front of 100 or so people who were looking at me as if I knew what I was talking about. These things just happened as I followed my heart and my conviction that I want to make the world a better place for being part of it. That’s the driving force behind all that I do. Does this bring me and others joy? How can I navigate in such a way to experience the most resonance in my work, relationships and life? What am I grateful for? What is my Truth? How can I be of service? These are the questions that guide my life and I believe inspire people to work with me for the greater good. 

    Have you always been in a yoga influenced lifestyle?

    I didn’t discover yoga until I was in my mid 20’s. I had a boyfriend in Telluride who showed me the Bikram sequence in our bedroom one day. I thought he and it was so weird, especially the strange breathing they do at the beginning of class. He had experienced Bikram Yoga in Boulder and was so excited to share. There was no yoga in Telluride at the time. I took my first yoga class in Basalt, CO about a year later, emerging drenched in sweat, smelly and exhausted and still very skeptical of the practice. It wasn’t until many years later in 2007 that yoga became my “savior’. I had been in a car accident and gotten a concussion. Life became very difficult. Yoga was the one thing that made me feel like myself again, centered and connected. Later that year I quit my job as a news reporter and became a yoga teacher. I’ve had a devotional love affair with the practice ever since. I founded Aspen Yoga Society in 2010 to bring the yoga community together using acts of Seva or service. This is part of my dharmic path and something that truly brings me joy.

     

      What has been the most challenging experience in your life that turned out to be the most meaningful opportunity to your life's path?
        I would say the concussion that led me to quit my job and become a yoga teacher was a really challenging time, but a blessing in disguise. Yoga is SUCH a gift to me and to the world. That accident brought me closer to God/Spirit by creating the circumstances for me to become a devoted practitioner. I didn’t do it because I wanted to, I needed to do it and I still do. My life is so much richer and more balanced when I practice asana, pranayama and meditation daily. I don’t always do that, but I certainly feel the difference when I do and when I don’t! The Yoga practice helps me to remember I am a Spiritual being having a human experience. I experience that knowing every time I’m on the mat, out of my head and in my heart.
          In your words, how are you serving the world and contributing your gifts?
            It's interesting because I always wanted to “save the world”. I was the quintessential “angry activist” in college and in my 20’s. Everything was unfair and I was the judge and juror. I wanted to change the world and I did it by bitching and protesting what was wrong - from war, sex slavery, environmental degradation to factory farming. I remember waking up one morning when the war in Iraq was in full swing, listening to NPR news as I did every morning and feeling pissed off; I was so upset that we were involved in this unjust war. This is how I would start my morning. Me and Amy Goodman pissed off about the war. I made the decision then, for my own health, to actually stop listening to the news. I realized I was becoming angry and in that I was becoming part of the problem. The world needs more love, not more anger and upset. I needed to be the change I wanted to see. Since that time I’ve been more careful how I receive information; I limit how much news I take in and am much more discerning about it. When I stopped taking in all the bad news I realized I could be of service more by working on myself and being a conduit of love and light in my community. I went from global activist concerned and overwhelmed by all the challenges in the world and almost paralyzed by it to someone who became truly interested in how to see love and be love in all situations. This is my inward journey that started with my yoga practice in 2004 and became so much more pronounced when I enrolled in University of Santa Monica’s Masters in Spiritual Psychology program in 2013. That program, more than anything else, has allowed me to understand that the only person that needs saving is me and what makes that even more poignant is the knowledge that the only person I can change is myself. Peace begins with me and I know that in my quest to evolve and become more aware I am uplifting others. A rising sea lifts all ships. It’s the most effective form of “activism” I know to be the change you wish to see from a place of love and non-judgment. It’s much easier said than done, but it’s a journey that I embrace as a life long student in the school of life. I would say I made a profound shift from trying to “save the world” to learning how to truly serve the world.

            (Photo by Kate Holstien)

              What does living wholly mean to you?

                I am a person that wears many hats – a daughter, sister, wife, friend, student, teacher, board member, philanthropist and founder and director of several orgs. With these different hats I sometimes feel like I’m being pulled in many different directions. Living Wholly to me means that no matter what I am doing, in any of these roles that I play, that the “starring role” in my life is that part of me that is LOVE. I let the part of me that is connected to God or Universe or Spirit lead. This is the part of me that I touch into during meditation and when I’m “in the flow”, not thinking or doing, just being. It doesn’t matter what I am doing, if I am led by love, with a clear intention to be of service, I feel I am Living Wholly, in balance, acquiescing my will to Thy will and living from a place of gratitude and joy.

                  What are your top 3 tips for living a healthy, fulfilling life?
                    • Daily spiritual practice – Yoga, meditation, prayer, reading uplifting material, gratitude journal, etc.
                    • Connection with community/friends/family, in other words, your tribe. Data suggests that the number one indicator of wellbeing is our relationships. Its important to cultivate meaningful relationships and surround yourself with people who lift you up!
                    • Purpose – What is it that brings you joy, that truly resonates with your heart? Do that. Every day. As much as you can.
                      Do you have a daily spiritual practice that currently supports your evolution?

                        I practice some sort of yoga and meditation almost daily. This is the foundation for me. I do free form writing often to work through issues or emotional upsets and I reach out for help when I feel stuck. Clearing unpleasant energy, either through my own practice or with a coach or therapist, is extremely important to me and something I’ve only recently embraced. I used to think therapy was for crazy people or wimps who couldn’t handle their shit. Now I see the most powerful people are the one’s who are wiling to receive guidance and assistance and ask for what they need to evolve and grow. It isn’t weak. It is bad ass.           

                        I often read uplifting spiritual material, yoga philosophy or any myriad of self help books. Michael Singer’s two books: “The Untethered Soul” and “The Surrender Experiment” have been influential to me as well as Carolyn Myss’s work. I Love “Sacred Contracts” and “Anatomy of The Spirit”. The art of surrender and acceptance have been my biggest life lessons and teachers so far. It’s a daily practice for me to take responsibility for my life, without blame or upset, and to empower myself by releasing limiting beliefs or patterns to be the most embodied, empowered and authentically loving (and bad ass) woman I can be.

                        Most importantly, I forgive myself when I feel judgment and I always try my best.

                         

                          What teachers have you worked with and/or currently work with to inspire and support your evolution in consciousness?

                            Seane Corn, Hala Khori and Suzanne Sterling, the founders of Off the Mat Into the World, have been influential to me. I attended one of their leadership courses in 2010 and it helped me get clear on what I wanted to do in the world. I’m grateful to them and their vision with that org. I think they’ve inspired many, many yogis to take their practice “Off The Mat” which really resonates with me. I’ve led several yoga retreats with a service component and find that to be the most meaningful part of the trip. Kerri Kelly who used to run OTM and founded CTZNWELL is also a mentor and friend. I’m inspired by all of their dedication to making the world a better place.

                            I met Deepak Chopra about three years ago and I’m now on the board of The Chopra Foundation. Before I met Deepak, I thought he was kind of funny and commercial. After knowing him, I feel like I’m in the presence of a real master and someone with a deep desire to alleviate suffering in this world through raising consciousness. I admire and respect him and absolutely love hanging out with him. He’s “in the flow” of life and just being with him it rubs off. The Universe is in charge!

                            I never met BKS Iyengar, but have been studying his methodology for about 7 years and love his writings and teachings. He and my teacher Trishka who has taught me Iyengar yoga over the last 7 years have been a such a gift. I highly recommend “Light on Life” and “Light on Yoga”.

                             Rod Stryker is one of my most revered and respected teachers. He walks the talk and is a deeply devoted yogi who I admire, and just an all around great guy. His wife “The Other Gina” is one of my guru’s too;-) She is ALL Love.

                             By far, Ron and Mary Hulnick and the University of Santa Monica have been the most influential teachers in my life so far. Their curriculum is brilliantly designed to allow for greater freedom, joy and love in life.

                             I’ve met His Holiness Dalai Lama, and as you would expect, he radiates Love and spreads so much joy and compassion. He and his writings have had a positive impact on me. Thich Nhat Hanh is another one of my favorites as well. Peace is Every Step is so true.

                            My parents are great teachers to me and my husband and close friends, too. Those closest to me provide the “mirror” and reflect back to me the things I need to work on in myself to be the person I want to be, one who is genuinely loving, kind, inspired and grateful for the amazing gift of life!

                              What is the inspiration for the upcoming Mind, Body, Spirit Rx Retreat?

                                All of the things I mentioned above: The teachers (most of whom are teaching at the retreat) and my reason for being -to create a better world- are an inspiration for the retreat. I am SO excited, honored, humbled and blessed to be hosting such amazing teachers in such an amazing place, AND, it happens to be my 40th birthday so I am about to explode with blessings as I embrace this new era of life, gray hairs and all... Not to mention this incredible band Con Brio that came to me through friends and seem to be taking the world by storm right now! This is a retreat that if I wasn’t hosting it I would be going to for SURE no matter where I lived. Its my “dream team” including so many amazing speakers, like Goldie Hawn and Gretchen Bleiler, who are friends and have inspiring stories to share.

                                  For those thinking about joining the retreat, what words of encouragement and overall intentions of the retreat would you share with them?

                                    All I can say is GET THERE!! This retreat is a reflection of my heart, all of the best teachers I know in one place, an amazing yoga/conscious tribe you get to be a part of forever, and a heartfelt intention to raise the vibration of LOVE all while supporting Aspen City of Wellbeing, the non profit I started that is dedicated to measurably improving wellbeing for all. I was asked once what the world would be like if I was “World President” and this would be it: Deeply intentional gatherings and meaningful connections, uplifting yoga, meditation, pranayama and ritual, music, dancing and singing and lots of hugging + inner work to free ourselves from limiting beliefs and truly shine, and LOVE. SO MUCH LOVE. That’s what this gathering is to me. We will all be co-creating a little world full of love and light for four days which will be an inspiration for all of us to continue to live that way more fully wherever it is we return to. This event is my offering to you, from my heart, and with deepest gratitude to all the amazing people that have helped me bring it together, including Living Wholly.

                                      What are you reading right now?

                                        I am about to attend a meditation training so I’m re reading The Bhagavad Gita. Its an aspirational book that teaches us how to live without suffering. I feel myself resist the teachings at times that are about renunciation or coming to a place beyond desire, especially from any external objects. I love the sensations of being human, the pain and the pleasure of it. I still rejoice in that and yet I do see that being on a path of non attachment, purity of Loving what is and acceptance without desire is a place of freedom. I often think of one of the main lessons of the book which is “perform action without regard to the fruits of that action”. I try to live my life that way: I always try my best; I have a strong intention to serve and to be the Light and see the Light in others (The essence of the yogic greeting Namaste). My hope is that this event reflects that. 

                                          I know you travel often and love exploring the world. What is the last place you’ve traveled and what is one learning you experienced while there?

                                            I was in Italy for a while in Sept and into Oct. I learned I am a champion in The Eating Olympics. I crushed it!!

                                              What is your favorite quote?

                                                “Be The Change You Wish to See in The World” – Gandhi 

                                                (Photo by Brian Clopp)




                                                  Jenny Emblom
                                                  Jenny Emblom

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