Holistic Living - Breathers on the Path
by Roohi Saluja
Work is sacred. And yet, let's face it, we need a break! Mandira Chowdhry, a reiki teacher and belly dance therapist, loves to dance, read books and bask in the winter sun. Lifestyle therapist Preeti Sethi writes poetry to purge her pent- up emotions, and yoga instructor Monicca Chand is fond of interacting with like-minded people over a close dinner or coffee. Yet, there's still so much more that you can do in your spare time to replenish your drained body, mind and soul.
To begin with, what is the purpose of recreation? Seekers say it is to completely lose yourself and be 'in flow' with your entire being-to become aware of a sacred stillness within and without. Monicca Chand puts it simply and aptly as, "Relaxation, happiness and joy."
Martial arts exponent and renowned theater personality Rashid Ansari adds, "Anything that feeds you and makes you feel wholesome is healthy amusement. At the end of the day it's the feel-good-factor that matters. And if you manage to feel positive about yourself, despite all odds, then it is a growth in all aspects-physical, psychological and spiritual." To put it more figuratively, if life is a roller-coaster ride, then leisure is the pause just before the swinging whooshes of terror and thrill!
Here are some holistic leisure options that help to calm your body and mind, enabling you to achieve a benign, spiritual stillness. Each of these outline a private niche for you, where you get a chance to know yourself better, grow and celebrate life for all that it offers.
Cultivate Your Hobbies
Hobbies are like instant pick-me-ups. They redefine, focus, and offer more leg room for active and open thinking. In an article titled Eight Ways to Beat Stress, on www.discovery.com, Bobbie Lieberman argues, "Activities that absorb you completely will slow your brain waves and put you into that 'zone' in which internal chatter is stilled. It could be bird-watching, cooking, biking, riding, painting, writing, sewing, gardening, photography, and the like."
So begin a second innings by cultivating a hobby or learning a new skill. Do you remember when last you stuffed those grand scrapbooks with antique stamps? Well, dig them out and start a new collection all over again! But in case there aren't any fond memories to fall back upon, it's never too late to discover a new hobby.
During one of my reporting assignments, as I entered Mandira's room, a haunting, sensuous instrumental score lulled my harried senses. In a moment, the mad rush of thoughts subsided. "If music appeals to you," says Rashid Ansari, "then you have a ready de-stresser. Music has an emotional connection that stimulates your senses, making you feel at ease." Create a sensuous surrounding. Darken your room and ignite a candle. Light fragrant incense sticks. Put on the music of your choice and unplug gradually. Feel yourself immersing in the pulsating beats, softly and mellifluously. Bask in the placid awakening and the overflowing ecstasy.
Shake a Leg
For many like Mandira Chowdhry, dance is more than a stress buster. Rekindling her passion for the art, she declares, "Dance reminds me of my destiny. For like dance, life is also a grand and joyous celebration." Elaborating on the chemistry of dance, she continues, "Busy routines and stressful schedules block the flow of energies in the body, which, if not attended to at the right time, can lead to a disease. Dance serves as a cathartic force that releases these stuck energies. The body, mind and soul receive an immediate high, accompanied by a soothing, inner balance." So shake a leg to tango, jazz, salsa or anything that makes you jiggle.
Writing is like meditation-it settles the mind. Preeti Sethi agrees, "Writing heals me emotionally and spiritually. Being a highly focussed activity, it enables you to ascend to a higher level of consciousness. You become aware of your sixth sense, and the mind gets in a better position to analyze and evaluate a situation." In short, writing is creative, curative and cathartic. So pick up your pen, and release those close-held secrets on a sheet of paper.
Says Bobbie Lieberman, "Physical movement is important. It opens up the chest, lifts your mood, curbs food cravings, and lowers blood pressure. You'll also sleep better at night." Make a start-try walking, cycling or jogging. Quoting from the same article, stress reduction expert Dennis Lewis says, "Walking is a vital activity not only for our bodies but also for our spirits."
Yoga instructor Monicca Chand asserts, "Yoga is an attitude of life. It's a system of growing consciousness. So the popular belief that yoga is only a discipline of asanas is like fencing a vast stretch of field." However, she maintains that practicing yoga from a fitness point-of-view is not all wrong. "To begin with, have faith in the system and receive it with an open mind," she advises.
Take a Breather
You can also practice slow or deep breathing exercises. Monicca Chand explains, "Our body, mind and spirit are interconnected, and the link is the breath. So you can reach your mind through your body. Slow breathing calms the body functions, and the mind receives a serene signal. In addition, you can also practice deep breathing - the thumb rule being to utilize your lungs more than usual."
Furthermore, Preeti Sethi adds, "Deep breathing is like a stress filter. Take a deep breath - inhaling from the nose and exhaling from the mouth (loosen up your jaw). Try not to concentrate on your thoughts and flow gently with each breath. This exercise helps you to regulate your inner energies - all blockages are cleared and a gradual inner balance is attained."
Ever watched a child, on a sultry summer evening, pointing the noose of the water pipe to his face, swirling it around and dancing to the sprinkling water droplets? Life is such fun as a child but what stops us from joining the play? Mandira Chowdhry can't help rejoicing in the rain, "Life is a constant celebration. Each moment must be lived in immense joy. A shower in the rain is a blissful experience. I read it as a complete balance of inner energies. This is both naturalness and sensuality to me."
Preeti Sethi beams while reminiscing of the hills, "The valleys entice me. I love taking long walks in the green fields or simply sit by the side of the lake, and pen my thoughts. When night descends, watching the dimly-lit cottages and the smoky chimneys is sheer delight!"
If nature beckons you too, just put yourself in her care, and let her gently soothe your strained senses. Walk barefoot in your moist lawn, or simply sit on a garden bench and watch the sun set, or look at the flock of birds retiring to their nests, the twinkling stars, the patterned clouds, the radiant blue sky…a beautiful lesson to learn in each of them.
Spend Time with your Pets
Preeti Sethi, who is the fond owner of a boxer called Tipsy, dotingly asserts, "Whenever I feel weighed down by heavy feelings, Tipsy turns out to be my best companion. Her liveliness, unconditional love, and silent support uplift me. We even play hide-and-seek together!" Alternatively, maintain a fish tank. If it's relaxation on your mind, nothing beats water. And if there are colorful fish in the tank, then it certainly adds to the joy of your experience.
Interact with your Loved Ones
Love is not just the most beautiful expression in the world, but it's also the most beautiful feeling. And the economy of love is always profitable-no matter how much you give love, it always grows on you! Spend time with your family and loved ones-a cosy dinner, picnic, reiki session, or group meditation can work wonderfully. The body feels relaxed, the mind lighter and the spirit elevates to a higher level of consciousness.
Spare Some Time For Silence
An information overload can knock you off-balance, creating an artificial dependence on external stimulations. To reconnect with stillness, try this. Close your eyes. Breathe deeply and let your thoughts flow downstream like a log carried by the river. For better concentration, repeat a single word like 'om', 'shanti' or a neutral word like 'one.' When stray thoughts come up, gently float them away like the log in the river. This is an elementary form of meditation that's based on the faith-response-that is, faith quietens the mind like no other form of belief.
Treat yourself to a massage or a hot water bath. For a more lavish feel, mix milk, roses, or any other sensuous aroma in the warm water. Research proves that a regular massage or any other bodywork slows the heart rate and reduces blood pressure. It also promotes muscle relaxation and eases emotional release.
Tickle the Funny Bone
Mandira Chowdhry enjoys the romantic comedies of the '60s and reads a lot of humor. She explains, "Isn't life just playful laughter? Take an overview of any scene in your life with a detached eye, and you'll agree."
Dr Umesh Sahgal, laughter therapist reasons, "Laughter gives a hearty workout to almost every organ of your body. A whole-hearted belly laugh stimulates the endocrine system, promotes enzyme and chemical secretions that are natural pain killers, and lowers the blood pressure through sustained arterial relaxation." He continues, "Recent research proves that smiling dissolves anxiety, anger and other negative feelings in a far more rational and empowered manner. A constant smile reinforces tranquility and a state of joyfulness."
Rent a classic comedy film or tune in to your favorite comedy show. Hook on to a comic book or clip a cartoon in your bedroom or office. An interactive laughter club could also work wonders.
The Spirit of Play
The options are clearly many. But the spirit involved is singular-despite our personal pressures of responsibilities, we need to spend our leisure time spontaneously and naturally. Like children, we need to become 'masters of play'. In an insightful article titled, The Benefits of Play, at www.consciouschoice.com, Mark Harris explains play as a transcendental experience where the "emotions are primed, charged and ready for release…There is a calm, but an alert and focussed readiness…The whole being is in a state of flow. The person becomes so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. Awareness to the task at hand acquires a kind of meditative brilliance. Mindfulness zeros in like a laser beam. Everything feels in harmony. In the flow, we feel satisfied." So hurry up and play!
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