Arianna Huffington: How the Insight Seminars Changed My Life

Ariana Huffington's article about her experience with Insight Seminars and how it transformed her life. Published in The Sunday Observer, on 20th May, 1979:

Something is abroad in the land. More and more people are beginning to recognise – less and less idly – that there is more in the universe than meets the eye and more in themselves than a frantic and forlorn search for pleasure. And they are looking everywhere for something that will fulfil this new longing.

It was such a longing that took me just over a year ago to New York to take the Insight training. It was not that my life was not working; it was that something in me was convinced that there was more in me and more of me to experience. I had, a few months earlier, finished a book on the title page of which I had put a quotation from Solzhenitsyn’s “First Circle”: “If you wanted to put the world to rights whom would you begin with: yourself or others?” And I wanted to begin living what I had just finished writing.

So I began my searching, exploring, or as one of my more sceptical friends put it, groping. And, overwhelmingly cerebral creature that I was, I started raiding Watkins’ in Cecil Court and coming away loaded one week with the collected works of C. G. Jung, another with Rajneesh and Aurobindo and the third with my two favourite Babas – Sai Baba and Baba Muktananda. In the meantime I had been dutifully meditating for a regulation half hour every morning.

I had indeed taken the first inward step with which the journey of a thousand miles begins, but the journey so far seemed pretty arid and the road ahead too long and dusty. I knew that I was in danger of succumbing to a powerful dose of religion in the head, of becoming yet another theoretician of self-awareness. I was living out of the tragedy of our culture: seeking to live life, to capture and understand it, through the mind alone.

In March of last year, not entirely sure why, I found myself on a plane to New York, about to embark on a fifty hour “experience” called “Insight”. I came out of it on Sunday night feeling more alive than ever before. I was at last living from my being rather than my head. “Everything was the same, but two feet off the ground”. And I knew that this surge of new life was only the beginning. In many ways Insight began when Insight ended and life itself became a series of ever deeper insights.

The best way I could describe Insight, keeping in mind that if it could be adequately described we would not need fifty hours to experience it, is as an opportunity to discover, in ways that lie much beyond the mental, what we are and what our relationship to our world is. We can look at ourselves, perhaps for the first time, on several levels of awareness at once – emotional, physical, mental and spiritual – and explore all these aspects of being alive in ways that move across traditional disciplines, schools of thought and psychological theories. The practical, day to day effect is a deep acceptance of life as a spiral – ascending but with plenty of downturns – and a greater ability to detach ourselves from our life’s melodrama and learn to hear the inner wisdom underneath our own and others’ opinions

How does Insight do it? First of all, Insight doesn’t do it. I, you, we do it. Insight is only a catalyst for us to experience more of us – more love, more joy, more strength, more aliveness. It offers nothing we do not already have. It simply helps us move beyond the layers of illusions, games, mass, beliefs, pain, anger and resentments that block us from experiencing our reality.

But how does it help us do that?

First the format. Insight starts at six o’clock on a Wednesday evening and lasts for three evenings, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, and two full days, Saturday and Sunday. There are about 100 people in each training, and you could call the whole process education in the original Latin sense of drawing out rather than in the modern sense of cramming in.   The aim of the various processes is to involve the whole being. So all sorts of methods are used: short lectures providing information and clarification, one-to-one exchanges with others taking the training or with those assisting, guided meditations and various processes that you could call “exercises” or even games, intended to hold mirrors to us and our lives and help us see – and acknowledge – what we want out of life, whatever that may be, and what it is that we do or do not do to bring it about.

There were so many moments during these fifty hours when I found myself literally as well as metaphorically sitting up: “So that’s what I’ve been doing”, or “So that’s how it is and has always been”. Some of these realisations were personal, others were universal. The personal ones involved recognising particular patterns in my life and myself – roles, belief systems, expectations – of which I was totally unaware and which were unconsciously controlling me.

Among the universal realisations there was one which for me summed up Insight and which had an instant thunderbolt effect and has been a continuing and growing influence in my life ever since. Like all the really important realisations it is a paradox: I knew at one and the same time that the most important relationship I will ever have is the relationship with myself and yet that my greatest strength and freedom is my conscious awareness of my oneness with everyone else. And there was – and is – nothing mystical about this feeling of oneness. Its effects are more practical than a hundred of the latest social and political measures put together. After all, our lives today and throughout the century have been dominated by attempts to overcome the most painful of all emotions: the feeling of separateness from others. Politics, sex and the insatiable craving for more and still more acquisitions have been the three favourite ways used. The political attempt that has sought to impose “oneness” through all sorts of collective monstrosities has been without doubt by far the most destructive, and may prove more destructive still.

But what if the feeling of separateness itself is an illusion and all the self-protective devices behind which we have been barricading ourselves self-destructive? What if we are, each one of us, powerful creators – creating, allowing or promoting everything that happens in our lives? What if, contrary to all our belief systems that say nothing of value can happen in less than fifty years of hard slog, something invaluably valuable can and does happen in fifty hours? What if …

I played the what if game for five days. It changed my life without – and this is yet another paradox – outwardly altering my life.

The one thing Insight is not, is yet another “thing” to believe in, to proselytise for or to single out as the one and only way. There are no “one and only ways”. Insight is one of the many ways we can use to come closer to our reality. It is a way that has worked for me and I wanted to let you know that it is now available in London and may work for you.

-Arianna Huffington (Stassinopoulos), Sunday Observer, 20th May 1979

Top Tips for Conscious Communication

Insight Seminars take each individual on an adventure of developing their self-awareness and confidence by sharing the tools and techniques needed for greater levels of success in all areas of life, including better personal & professional relationships and confident communication.

For instance, you will have the opportunity to learn clear and effective communication skills. Here, Juliette Smith, one of our Insight Grads (who, because of doing Insight Seminars, became a Personal and Relationship Coach), shares some of her top tips for confident and conscious communication.

People often assume that if there is a miscommunication, the responsibility lies with the person speaking. But communication involves both the conveying and receiving of a message, so speaker and listener have a joint responsibility for making communication work.

Top Tips for Confident and Conscious Communication

1. Notice your thoughts

Before you even begin to communicate, let go of any judgements and preconceptions. If you have made any assumptions, notice them and let them go too. If you begin a conversation with an open mind, you are more likely to be able to listen, understand and connect.

2. Be Congruent

Ensure what you are saying is congruent with your non-verbal communication. If your words are inconsistent with your body language, tone, energy and emotions, people are likely to be confused by your communication. At the very least the mismatch of words and actions will weaken the strength of the message you are attempting to convey verbally. At worst, you may come across as not being fully honest.

3. Express yourself respectfully without accusation

Telling someone how you feel is very different from attacking them with the feelings. Use “I feel” rather than “you make me feel”.

4. Replace criticism with a request

When you want someone to do something differently, avoid criticism and accusation. Otherwise what you say is likely to result in a defensive response rather than a change in behaviour.

If you want a change, make a clear request (not a demand).

5. Listen!

Good listening skills are essential for good communication.

If, whilst you are listening, you are planning your response, judging what the other person is saying, or your mind is on something else, you’re not truly listening. Listen to how the person is speaking as well as to what they are saying.

6. Use feedback

Tell the speaker what you’ve heard and how you’re interpreting it, so you can check you are hearing and understanding correctly.

7. Empathise

Try seeing things from another’s point of view – even if you don’t agree with them. Imagine what it’s like to be and feel like them.

Putting these skills into practice is made easier by developing a deeper sense of self, which is where an Insight Seminar can help.

Call us on 020 3286 6036 to find out how you could become more confident in how you communicate by participating in our next Insight 1 seminar or join us at our next evening workshop in London. Please click here for more information about next events.


Juliette Smith helps us understand how to communicate more effectively. Juliette has been Relationship Coach for the last 15 years working with hundreds of coaching clients. You can find her on Twitter @CoachJuliette

How Insight Works

With 2015 over, and 2016 just beginning, do you want this year to be different?  Are there things in your life, you want to change? And if so, do you feel confident of achieving lasting change? Many of us make New Year resolutions, fewer of us actually keep them. By February, or possibly even earlier, we have drifted back to old ways, without as much as a backward glance. Although done with the best intentions, when we make New Year’s resolutions, they are often made as a statement of aspiration rather than an intention we will keep. So, when we fall, it actually comes as no surprise. And yet, there is something quietly disheartening about our own inability to change. It eats at our self- esteem and somehow slowly erodes our confidence in the future: that things can and will be different. If this sounds familiar, perhaps in 2016 you might consider doing things differently? Taking an Insight seminar, is one way of equipping you with tools and techniques that will help you make lasting change.

Insight Seminars have been operating since the late 1970’s and are designed to give practical assistance to living daily, more of the life you want to live. Its processes are experiential: short talks; one to one processes; guided meditations; group sharing and exercises (games) which give you an opportunity to reflect on, and evaluate your life: who are you? What do you want from life; what is not working and how might you change it, are some of the questions you might consider. Though, what you choose to look at, is solely a matter for you.

MaryAnn Somerville, an Insight facilitator for over thirty years, says she has witnessed through this process,

‘…tens of thousands of people discover simple and powerful ways to improve their relationships, ignite creativity, increase their health, wealth and happiness and dramatically improve the quality of their lives.’

As long ago as May 1979, Ariana Huffington described her experience after an Insight seminar, as being:

‘…a catalyst for us to experience more joy, love, strength, aliveness… ‘(Insight Blog)

 This, too, has been my experience, though it was not initially the case, (See Dare to Jump – Insight Blog). I took my first seminar back in 2000. A born sceptic who spent the first two days of that first seminar double guessing the facilitators and participants, I found the process exceptionally challenging. Deeply resistant to acknowledging my emotions, by day two I wanted out. Yet I hung in, just long enough, for something inside me to shift. That shift in attitude eventually brought a new level of self-awareness which in itself was life changing. Fifteen years on, the resistance is still there, though I recognise it now and can take steps to deal with it. As for the sceptic in me, she continues to question but these days, is usually more amenable to persuasion.

Why then are Insight seminars so successful? Trust, in my view, is at the heart of Insight’s effectiveness. Judith Glaser, in her book Conversational Intelligence, examines how trust, the most basic human instinct, provides a springboard for the transformation of individuals, companies and cultures. She outlines how research has shown that we are hardwired with the capacity for both trust and distrust to help us deal with uncertainty and that how we choose to react will impact our neurochemistry. Put at its most simple, neuroscience can now show how different parts of the brain are affected depending on whether we are in a state of trust or distrust (Angelika Dimoka of the Centre of Neural Decision Making, Fox School of Business, Temple University). When in a state of distrust, the amygdala part of the brain which controls fear, emotions and memory, is activated. Our brains lock down, the hormone cortisol increases and we are no longer open to influence. When we are in a state of trust the prefrontal cortex is activated. This part of the brain is involved in, amongst other things: decision making, determining good and bad, goal orientation, prediction of outcomes and building and sustaining trust. Researchers have found that when participants felt trusted their brains responded by producing oxytocin which reduced anxiety and in turn encouraged openness. As trust and fear are inversely related, (fear activating the amygdala and trust decreasing it) an increase in trust and openness frees up the brain for other activities like creativity, planning and decision making.

What an Insight seminar does, is to create an environment in which there is a high level of trust, with participants feeling respected and heard in an empathic and non-judgemental way. By creating this safe space, individuals are more willing to disclose their vulnerabilities and fears making for greater connection with the group as a whole. When there is an increase in trust the mind shifts from the lower brain (the amygdala - which focuses on protection and defending ourselves) to the executive brain (the pre-frontal cortex). With such a shift, we are open to communicate at a higher level, share and discover ideas as well as listen more deeply.

 When we speak openly and honestly it helps us to see each other as people with similar concerns and needs.  By encouraging transparency and creating a safe environment, the seminar provides learning opportunities to look at what lies behind our fears. The result? By knowing ourselves better we trust more and by increasing our levels of oxytocin we feel more joy, love, strength, aliveness. What’s more, we have, on leaving the seminar, a new framework of reference by which to live. Whilst everyone’s experience is unique to them, I can guarantee you that if you trust enough, this New Year, to take a leap of faith and participate in an Insight seminar, you will not be disappointed. For whatever your experience, it will, I suspect, be life changing.



How my awareness grew with Insight

The distance between what we “should” want and what we really want gets larger, and more blurred, day by day. After finishing Insight 1 a few weeks ago, I felt an overwhelming sense of freedom; realising that, despite living in a society where I could do, be or say anything, I had inadvertently been living in an invisible web of “should’s” and “have to’s” – feeling trapped by society and limiting my potential in the process. I had created this web for myself; and Insight helped me realise how.

Insight isn’t about becoming a better person; the point of it is that there is no “right” way to live. Nor does it change us innately; but helps us strip down the layers and habits that define and limit our day-to-day lives. It doesn’t dictate your life, in fact you are encouraged to put the seminar into your own “language.” Perceiving life on your own terms is incredibly freeing; you’re the only person who spends 100% of your life with you, so why be at war with that person, or live it on someone else’s terms?

We live in a commercial world where the key message is “more.” Higher targets, faster technologies, more money, more success, more social “likes.” The reaction to this desire for more, is a paradoxical need for the deeper things in life. Insight goes well beyond that; it provides profound personal and universal insight and could be taken by any person, at any age, in any age. It’s simply about becoming more aware. Awareness is power; if the world was more deeply aware of itself and all its seeming contradictions, life for many would be very different.

But what does “awareness” mean exactly? And how does Insight do it?

The sometimes overused quote “live in the moment” has powerfully freeing connotations; if you live in the moment you can do anything. But in fact, saying the words “right now I’m aware of…” in front of a room full of strangers is hugely challenging. From the very first task asking me to define the present, I started noticing tiny details; an awareness that grew over a series of tasks taken over three 12-hour days; from one-to-one’s and group interactions to voluntary sharing. Facing my emotions in the moment – letting them grow, evolve and speak up – was not something I was used to. Where exactly I had been up until the seminar, I’m not quite sure, but it wasn’t in the moment. This acute awareness forces you to acknowledge how you’re feeling at every stage of the seminar and pushes you to ask why… “Why am I feeling like this?” “Why can’t I answer that question?” “Why did I just respond like that?”

A big part of the learning process is also through other people’s sharing, where you start to see and understand how others feel and view the world. The profound, definitive essence of each human being suddenly takes the spotlight; proudly and unabashedly claiming its place. As a writer, I always thought I was a fairly open, perceptive person, but three days of brutal honesty showed me that I have been missing a lot. The interactive, participatory nature of the seminar is key to its success. Sharing is the best form of clarity; we’re never more succinct than when we’re in discussion and never more precise than when we’re presenting to a group.

Designed to test you, the set pattern of each task takes you on a journey where you find yourself entering a kind of maze taking you further and further inside your own mind, until you reach the point you need to. You could call it epiphany but it’s not as final as that; every time you reach a point in the maze, you’re one step closer to something else.

The Power of Choice

One of my biggest learnings during Insight 1 was the power of choice. We’ve heard it a hundred times before; that life doesn’t happen to us – we make it happen. And yet we constantly find ourselves in situations we don’t want, feeling powerless. Life is a blank canvas; we are responsible for marking and colouring it in our own way, but don’t always take ownership over it. When it doesn’t look the way we want it to we have a tendency to either destroy or cope with it. Insight taught me to be the artist of my own life; stepping back and looking at what I have – changing what I need to and enhancing the beautiful parts. I used to hate looking back and taking responsibility for my mistakes, but the seminar encouraged me to ask myself “did I make the best choice that was available to me at the time?” The answer for the most part is, yes of course. Asking this question enabled me to dispel some of the “should have’s” and “could have’s” existing in the web I had made for myself. I have a choice, in the here and now, to choose how I look at the past and move forward.

Changing perception is another powerful tool Insight 1 gives you. Again, it’s easy to say “change the way you look at it,” but years of self-taught perception aren’t always easy to define, let alone alter. Through a clever process looking at real, concrete situations, you start to see these situations change; gaining a new sense of clarity. We all have different levels of short-sightedness or long-sightedness in life, and learning to flip your perceptions in a fresh new way (or at least being open to it), is like removing a bad pair of glasses that had been straining your vision, even perhaps, causing you pain.

A few weeks before the seminar, my life had taken a sudden turn and I found myself at a crossroads that looked something like Oxford Circus at rush-hour - I suddenly seemed like the only thing not moving – and I wasn’t in any hurry to jump head-first and headstrong into yet another race. People said “take time out for yourself,” but how do you do that exactly? Read? Go travelling? Go for a walk?  I’d heard amazing things about Insight and was curious about what it involved. So much energy and budget goes into professional – and not personal – development, and I could see that the thing I was ignoring most is exactly what needed the most attention. One of the most important things I learnt from Insight, is never saying the words “have to.” So I wouldn’t say you “have to” go to the seminar – you don’t “have to” do anything – but if you’re willing to be open to the idea, then you’ve already taken that first important step. The rest is easy. - Fiona M.

Fiona is a writer and Marketing Executive currently working in fashion. She is curious about different fashions, voices and cultures, especially the Middle East where she used to work. She has worked with quite a few London-based startups to get them up and running. You can find her on Twitter, @stylefilosophy.

Jason Peterson

"Insight was a great adventure - exciting, refreshing, exhilarating, never dull, fascinating, more challenge than any expedition I've ever done and it made a permanent change to the level I live my life at in every sphere." - JP, Adventure Tour leader

Brian Howell, Psychologist

"Insight is the best course I have ever been on - and the most powerful. I'm on psychologist, a bit of a sceptic, and I'd been on loads of courses. So, when someone told me about Insight I, I thought 'there can't be anything new in it.' Eventually I did go - I was amazed! Not only did I love it, it was new, and I came out so much happier and 'more me'. Definitely recommended. " - B H, Psychologist

How Insight has inspired me

Getting blessed by Mother Teresa whilst I was volunteering for her was a highlight of my life. What got me to Calcutta was something that happened in an Insight Seminar.

I did my Insight I in 1985 – half a lifetime ago – and on September 30th I will be back in the seminar room again (at one of our old haunts, The Columbia Hotel!) to co-facilitate the new seminar with Ruth Grodek.

I don’t have anything else in my life that has been such a continuous element – not a relationship, not my work, not where I live. All these have changed over the decades. Insight has been the one constant.

It has my heart and somehow I have kept coming back.

I was talking with Galina, the Insight London Director, and wondering why that was, what that magical and compelling element was and she asked me to write about it here.

Back in 1985 I was a bit lost, really. Great social life, work in publishing good but not really satisfying me, relationships a total mess and really no idea of who I was. I didn’t even understand the question. I wasn’t in extremis, but I did have some of that question going through my mind, “Is this it? There has to be more than this.” But through what I can really only describe as the miraculous way Insight works, I started to learn, to grow and to heal. I became accountable for my own quality of life. It really was a transformation – or rather, it enabled me to transform my own life. The life I have now has so much depth and richness to it, elements that were totally beyond me before I did my Insight I.

I have had an amazing life. Not without its bumps or stumbles, but with that sense that it is all unfolding perfectly. Even in the darkest times, there has been hope and a deep belief that I can get through it. And I have.

Directly because of Insight I worked for and was blessed by Mother Teresa in Calcutta. Directly because of Insight I have the career as a coach and facilitator that I have now and which I love. Directly because of Insight I am in the loving and nurturing relationship I am in now. The fantastic circle of friends I have – pretty much all of them came through Insight – people who share my values and way of looking at life.

Mother Teresa, love for insightI am so glad Galina asked me to write this as it is having me look at all the blessings in my life and I can trace most of them back to that day in November 1985 when I trusted my friend who said, “This is really good. You should give it a go.”

So here I am, saying to you – whether you did it years ago or you only just heard about it – Insight is an extraordinarily powerful three days. You should give it a go.

Hope to see you at the seminar.


Warm wishes,
Ginny Fraser
Facilitator, Insight Seminars

Full profile

Diahann Holders

“Insight I has opened channels to huge pools of inner wisdom, that are shaping my life in the most wonderful ways. Deepening my understanding of what holds me back in life has enabled me to consciously make choices that serve the highest vision I have for myself. With the help of some fantastic facilitators, not only have I developed more confidence, self-belief and drive but the capacity to reflect more intentionally on my thoughts and actions. I have gained so much and I am super excited for what follows!”

Diahann Holders

Mary Ann Somerville

Mary Ann Somerville - the lead facilitator

Mary Ann is an internationally recognized consultant, speaker, executive coach and facilitator. For thirty years, she's helped clients to:

  • Clarify their vision,
  • Expand their leadership capacity,
  • Communicate authentically,
  • Access the wisdom of their organizations. to:
  • Achieve extraordinary results.

Mary Ann’s extensive skill set includes the Harvard Law School’s research and best practices in ‘Negotiation and Difficult Conversations’. This integrates cutting edge research and applications from neuroscience.

Ms. Somerville is an expert in the design and facilitation of dynamic interactive learning initiatives. She uses this to assist Fortune 500 companies throughout the US, Canada, Europe, Australia and Asia.

Her passion is to increase the success and well-being of organizations. She elevates the conversation and taps into the unique resources of leaders and teams to create organic, organizational momentum.

Mary Ann holds a:

  • B.A. in Psychology,
  • Masters in Theology,
  • Master Coaching Certification from the Behavioral Coaching Institute, ICC. 

She is a member of the Creating We Institute. This is a thought leadership collective that provides research and education for leaders and executive teams and the Neuro-Business Group.

Visit her website for more information.

Joey is committed to helping people and workforces find direction, stay on course, meet goals, find fulfillment, and experience more happiness and awareness.

Joe Hubbard, Insight CEO

Joe Hubbard, Insight Seminars CEO and Facilitator

Joe Hubbard is the Global CEO and a senior facilitator of Insight Seminars. He has dedicated the last 25 years to facilitating motivational, life and work altering seminars. His strategic planning and facilitation work for thousands of people and firms worldwide includes:

  • The general public,
  • Sports teams,
  • Large corporations, and
  • High-risk individuals.

Joe is committed to helping people and workforces:

  • Find direction,
  • Stay the course,
  • Realize goals,
  • Find fulfillment and
  • instill happiness and insight.

Raised on the inner city streets of Los Angeles, Joe rose above the pervasive challenges to attend both UCLA and UCSD. He then began his career as a motivational speaker and performance enhancement coach.

An avid sports fan and athlete himself, for over 14 years. Joe has worked as a motivational consultant and coach to football teams like:

  • Los Angeles Rams
  • USC
  • UNLV

As a Partner and Executive Consultant for McGhee Productivity, Joe provides consulting and educational services to businesses that increase:

  • Productivity,
  • Communication, and
  • Quality of life.

At the beginning of his career, Joe was National Sales Manager for Time Design, the original Time Management Company from the early eighties.

Joe currently serves as a member of Insight Seminars' Board of Directors. He volunteers his time. Additionally, he is an Insight Senior Facilitator and plays a major role in Insight’s Business Division. This division focuses on enhancing:

  • Personal effectiveness,
  • Motivation,
  • Corporate transformation and strategic success, through:
  • Re-engaging and empowering people to
    • Better serve themselves,
    • Their clients,
    • Their company.

He also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of EduCare Foundation. Its mission is to inspire and empower young people to become responsible citizens, compassionate leaders, and to live their dreams.