By Anuradha Vashistht
It is possible to live a day of fulfillment, of abundance, of divine inspiration, which can slowly transform one’s whole life. The cue lies in conscious breathing and being constantly aware of the Self and its actions, which comes from practicing the art of absolute attentiveness. So look at life as you create it, a day at a time, and discover harmony and happiness
Peace. Harmony. Happiness. Unity. Wholeness. Abundance… What we are looking without is essentially within us. Only, we never plummet deep enough to bring it to the surface so that a delicate current becomes a wave, which becomes a tide, which sweeps off the entire humanity to a world more responsive.
It takes but a day of fulfillment, 24 hours of completeness, for an individual to create that feeble, delicate current, which can propel him towards the tide which takes one towards deep personal fulfillment as well as universal harmony. But how to create that day of fullness, so complete that one day after another make a perfect string of beads, a wonderful rosary?
First, this can only emerge from living each moment with total awareness, responsiveness and attentiveness. This means to consciously witness and perceive each action, each problem, and react and solve, or just watch things resolving by themselves, as you go along.
Everything in the cosmos follows a rhythmic pattern. The same rhythm governs human lives, and pervades the body, mind and the soul of an individual. To flow with the rhythm and be perpetually aware of it takes us constantly away from growth-retarding process and towards higher realities. This is the second clue.
Third is the unity in thought and action. We can achieve harmony in personal relations and in professional and public life when we can perceive everything objectively and rightly and then proceed with our actions. However, most of the time, we are reacting to a situation, to a circumstance, to an individual, or to a thought-our own or someone else’s-rather than acting through correct perception.
Yes, easier said than done. Then, how to achieve all of the above?
There are ways, methods and techniques to help us reach a certain degree of awareness. To benefit from them, conscious and determined effort is required to bring about some changes in our lifestyle.
Here are some elementary tips to take us a few steps towards a day of harmony leading to a life of peace and happiness. One day at a time we can build a life more complete, more alive. In these times of overriding commercial considerations, I may say, a life more rich, where you get maximum returns from minimum investment.
Flow with the body
Human body is a micro-cosmos. This means that our bodies are made up of the same energy and matter as the entire creation. Therefore, it is important to be in sync with the Universe and our surroundings and flow with the current. In this, follow the instincts and be not chained to habit.
Make a daily routine for yourself and try to follow it as regularly as possible. Build it according to the nature of your work, however, without compromising on important things. And let us not forget, that in the whole life-game, the most important player is the Self. And cannot we grant even an hour and a quarter of the 24-hour day to ourselves? It is important to remember that the more quality time we spend with the Self, the more deeply are we involving ourselves with the cosmos, and the more responsive will be the life force energies to us.
The human body-as other creatures in the world-with a clockwork precision, follows the bio-rhythms of Nature. Each child of creation instinctively follows these bio-rhythms. If night is meant for rest and sleep, the day is certainly meant for activity. However, certain periods of the day and night are more conducive for certain activities and others for some other.
For example, as the sun sets, certain biological activities in the body, like the secretion of the digestive juices, slow down. Therefore, the later we have our evening meal the more we are inviting digestive disorders. Similarly, going to sleep immediately after having the last meal of the day causes both indigestion and restless sleep.
The pranic force Eschew all other pills, and rely on the one that is the best and the safest; in fact there is nothing like it-our breath, the pranic force, the life-giving and sustaining current which energises every element in the Universe. If we are able to wake up with an awareness of the breath, be conscious of it as we sink into slumber at night, and are constantly alert to its course through the day as we go about our daily routines, life would be as smooth a sail as one could desire. The only hurdle here is that we need to train ourselves for it, which is not as difficult as it appears on the face of it. Let us give it a try.
Tune yourself to wake up as early as you can, and not after the sun is up. As you come into wakefulness, without opening your eyes, feel and be aware of each part of your body, your senses, the beating of the heart and the throbbing of your veins. Mentally scan how your body is feeling and what state your mind is in. Thus being a witness, it is highly unlikely that any thought will beep past. Stretch each part of your body a bit and then relax. While still lying down, with eyes closed, take 10 deep but slow breaths. All this while focusing completely on every activity that you are doing.
Now, sit up slowly. It has been suggested in yogic kriyas that as one wakes up, if the right nostril breath is active get up from the left side, and if the left nostril breath is predominant, turn to the right side and then get up. This is to balance the solar and lunar currents, which flow through the right (Pingala nadi) and the left (Ida nadi) nostril, respectively.
While still in the bed, sit cross-legged, hands in front, one over the other with palms facing upwards. Take a slow, deep breath and exhale with the sound of a deep AUM. Feel the vibrations as they pervade every iota of the body. Those who do not feel comfortable about saying AUM can get a similar effect by just reciting the humming sound of creation-a deep Mmmmmm… Do this three times. About 10 minutes thus spent in bed will infuse you with sufficient energy and well-being to see you bouncing through the day.
Puran Brahma Dua, who teaches Hamsa Yoga, suggests another technique to get up fresh and energised from the bed. Before getting up, clasp your hands and put them under the head so that the palms touch the occipital lobes and breathe deeply four to five times. While the women should keep the left hand thumb up when clasping the hands, the men should keep the right thumb up.
He also suggests that while women should get down from the left side of the bed, the men should do so from the right side. Similarly, touch the left or right foot first to the ground depending on which nostril the breath is predominantly flowing in. “As a principle, men should seek permission from Mother Earth before touching the ground, for She carries their burden for the entire day,” says Dua.
Here, what appears much like superstition actually has a great impact on our body and mind, since our body currents get aligned with the electromagnetic currents of the Universe, which help dissolve energy blockages around us. As a result, we feel lighter in body and mind, and are better equipped to take life as it comes.
Attitude of gratitude
As we move out of the bed, the first thought that we may allow to come to our mind is that of gratitude. There is so much in this world and our lives to be thankful about; we could never express our gratefulness enough. The paucity, the wanting we find in our lives is just our inability to see the abundance within and without. Just for today, we can try to dip into this pool of abundance and check out the turn our lives take.
It is important to remember that the more quality time we spend with the Self, the more deeply are we involving ourselves with the cosmos, and the more responsive will be the life force energies to us
Those who are reiki channels would be familiar with the following five principles:
Just for today, I will live the attitude of gratitude
Just for today, I will not worry
Just for today I will not anger
Just for today I will do my work honestly
Just for today I will show love and respect for every living thing
This simple doctrine, if sincerely observed and absorbed by all, can have quite an impact in our professional and public lives. However, I have observed that a few weeks of reiki practice, and all… well… almost all… forget this very sound piece of advice. Which I do not find unnatural, since most of the times we are living between somnolent and half-wakeful states, as we get sucked into our routine chores and concerns.
Therefore, as we get the of the bed, we might recite a small prayer silently after drawing in three deep conscious breaths: “I thank the Source of all life and creation for all that is bestowed upon me. I thank the Supreme Power for everything that I have and all that I do not have, since its profound wisdom will always give me what I need and not what I want. I am grateful for the light of this day, which I may use to glow the light within and spread it to wherever I go and in whatever I do. I thank the Universal Life Force for infusing in me the Pranic Breath of which I may always be aware and use it for a higher purpose in my life and for the good of the world.”
The Nature walk
After we arise from the bed and finish our daily morning rituals, go for a light walk. Over the years, my mother has ritualized her morning and evening walks as the time for conversations with Nature. These silent conversations, she tells me, make her walks the most enjoyable period of the day.
She is totally centered within herself as she is acutely aware of the gentle breeze caressing her skin, the chirping of the birds, the intoxicating scent of the grasses, the leaves, the flowers, the early morning Sun swiftly spreading its many-hued splendor all over, or the night sky all decked up with diamonds, or the changing faces of the moon…
But more important, she does not lose focus of her breath and the Name-chanting within. This is the time she feels an acute sense of oneness with the entire creation.
Only after she described to me all her inner experiences during the walks did I realize how many positive changes have come over her. She had become much more open than she ever was. She could now laugh away all her troubles and problems with a child-like ease; in fact even poke fun at them. And she was prepared to give manifold than she cared to receive. Never much of a walker myself, now I too have taken to walking. And my own experiences have enriched me further.
On long walks, avoid too hard a ground for walking; or wear very comfortable and well-padded shoes if it is unavoidable. Walking barefoot on dew-moistened grass is the best and most desirable. Dua has another piece of advice: keeping your thumb inside your closed palm while walking will increase the confidence level. Walking with open hands or closed in a fist with thumb outside fritters away energies. Similarly, he says, a walk with slow, elephant-like movements (mast chaal) creates eddie currents around our bodies which energies us. A walk like a soldier’s cuts through the positive energies.
I pity those who carry a cellphone even to their walks; they miss out on some of the most beautiful moments of the day when they could be by themselves. It is of utmost importance that whatever time we get for ourselves is spent focusing on the breath. For this we need to insulate ourselves from any intrusion whatsoever. Trust the Life Force. It will take care of you. Let the world wait on you!
Just for today, spend some time with yourself.
If having access to a patch of green, or a ground, while touching Mother Earth with your bare feet, try to take in the energy of the rising Sun into the third eye. Deeply breathe in this life-sustaining energy and expel out all the accumulated toxins within in the form of negative emotions, thoughts, passions and carbon dioxide. Feel yourself being filled with the Sun’s light and warmth, feel it inside yourself, in all your cells and tissues, in the darkest recesses of your being.
The gentle breeze, the chirping of the birds, the intoxicating scent of the grasses, the early morning Sun swiftly spreading its many-hued splendor… this is the time of oneness with the entire cosmos
Feel you are being cleansed, fumigated! With closed eyes, enjoy the play of colors in front of you. Ask of Him, generosity, grace, strength, wisdom and success on the path to enlightenment. Absorb it all in and then thank the Sun for giving so much to us.
It will be appropriate to do Surya Namaskar here; if possible the entire cycle 12 times. .
Spare a few moments to take through your feet and the legs the primeval energy of Mother Earth. Close your eyes. While inhaling the fresh morning air gently but deeply, make a plea to Mother Earth to bestow on you her strength, patience, humility, magnanimity and abundance. Feel her energy through your feet, coming up your legs and spreading throughout your body. .
Feel all your fears, insecurities, weaknesses, negativity dissolving and giving way to strength, vigor and confidence. Open yourself to all that the primeval Mother has to offer. Then lie down on your stomach, press your palms to the ground and express gratitude to Mother Earth with all your being, for bestowing so much on us. .
Out in the open, you will realize that you are showered with the blessings of all the five elements-Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether. The more we open ourselves to them, the more we feel aligned to them, greater are their blessings and the inner peace and harmony. .
Just for today, celebrate your Oneness with the entire creation. .
At a convenient place, do some basic and simple yogic asanas, after having learned under the guidance of an experienced yoga teacher. .
Meditate on the Self.
Before going for a bath, spend two to three minutes vigorously rubbing your body with dry hands (no oil). Take a dry towel and rub your back. This will increase blood circulation at the skin surface and help in ridding your body of toxins. While on a summer day, bathe with gently cool water. On a winter day, just keep it lukewarm-preferably, the warmth of your own body temperature. .
After a refreshing bath, spend about 20 minutes with your Self in meditation. Those who have been initiated should practice as learnt from their guru. Others can sit cross-legged on a soft woolen mat, close their eyes, and keep both the hands in the lap one over the other with palms facing up. Relax the body, shoulders drooping, spine straight. Chant AUM thrice or begin with the humming sound of creation-Mmmmm…. .
Keep your body still and relaxed, breath deep and gentle, eyes lightly closed, and witness the flow of your breath as it is inhaled and exhaled. Focus on it as long as you feel comfortable in mind and body. A thought might come. Let it pass, and come back to your breath. .
Just for today, keep your date with yourself and the Source of all life. .
Food and the Self.
Start your day, not with tea or coffee, but something which is more healthy and nourishing. For breakfast, have something light and easily digestible. Our digestive enzymes come into peak efficiency only by about 11 a.m. Eggs, bread, butter, jam, cereals and parathas need about 10 hours to digest. Do we wait that long for lunch? So eat a fruit, or even better, drink green coconut water or a seasonal vegetable juice in the morning. .
Whatever you eat or drink today, do not gulp it down. Feel every morsel or sip dissolve in your mouth, each taste bud alive to its flavour. Eat or drink consciously. Have plenty of raw salads and vegetables for lunch. Reduce the quantity of cereals and pulses. They are not as essential for our health and well-being as has been made out for years. The best protein comes from raw coconut or sprouts. Eggs and paneer can only be handled by musclemen. I do not mention animal flesh here, because Nature never intended it to be consumed by humans. It is dehumanised and unhealthy food. Western science and research is woefully inadequate in studying its impact on the human system. .
Try to eat only fresh food. Packaged food is never fresh, even if FRESH is written on the carton in bold red. Even food consumed after 30 minutes of preparation becomes stale and starts losing its nourishing properties. So try to consume the fruit or salad immediately after you peel or cut it. .
Just for today, have only natural and fresh foods. And thank Mother Nature for providing these to us. .
By expressing the right amount of anger at the right time for the right cause, one can unleash a lot of creative power for one’s own and the community’s good. One way to do this is to instantly be aware of your breath the moment anger leaps up
Whether at home, in office or outside, do not eat between meals. If you are to do heavy work, never eat a heavy meal, or stuff yourself with snacks or sundry items before that. This takes away the energy for digestion and reduces work capacity, capability and efficiency.
Those working from office, especially on computers, give yourself 30 minutes at lunch hour away from your workstations. Before digging into the tiffin, take three deep breaths with complete concentration. This will relax the body and the mind. Eat light. Eat with awareness, savour every morsel of food, and chew it properly. Eat with joy. Never eat while working. It is as good as dumping your food in the waste-bin-unless you consider yourself something of that sort. Such food is a burden on the system and is not nourishing.
In the evening, when you get back home, freshen up, relax and have some herbal tea (tulsi, orange peel, etc) or lemon juice with jaggery (no white sugar-it is deadly), diluted buttermilk or coconut water. If it is later in the evening, skip it, so that you avoid it close to dinner. Make arrangements for such benign beverages at office. If chai and coffee can be arranged in office, so can these. There needs to be a will-both individual and collective-for a change in lifestyle.
Late in the evening, have the major meal of the day consisting of a lot of fresh raw salads including tomatoes, seasonal leafy vegetables like spinach, coriander, raw coconut and lightly-cooked vegetables. Have less of cereals and pulses. The ideal combinations, which are most nourishing and easily assimilated by the body, are: salads/vegetables and cereals; salads/vegetables and pulses; fruit alone; salads and nuts.
Whatever combinations you choose, always chew every morsel properly. Never eat in a rush. At that moment nothing is more important. If there is, then first attend to it, and then come to your food.
Just for today, eat in peace, without hurry, or worry.
The prayer and the communion
As you sit for the main meal of the day (ideal time is finishing before 8:00 p.m.), close your eyes, breathe clear and deep three times and relax. Now, with full concentration, say a prayer. One example could be the following Vedic prayer:
Brahmaagnau brahmanaa hutam
Bhramaiva tena gantavyam
The significance of this prayer lies in that here everything-he who is eating the food, the act of eating, the food itself, the process of digestion, the source from where all natural food has come, the Supreme Being from whom everything has emerged-becomes Brahman, the Absolute. Here, Brahman is the oblation. The offering itself is to Brahman. And Brahman pours this oblation into the agni (signifying digestive fires) tatva which is again Brahman. And one who sees Brahman in all and everything will reach Brahman.
Brahma here is the Absolute Universal Power; call it by any other name if you feel comfortable with that-Allah, God, Jehova, Ahura Mazda…. The idea is to get connected to the Universal Life Force energy. If you are unable to relate to this Vedic prayer, create a prayer for yourself to the same effect. Only, say it with honesty, feeling and full involvement. Something like Grace, which Christians say before meals.
If we approach food with all our senses, be sensitive to the process of creation, nourishment and sustenance, we shall realise there is something sacred about the whole process of eating
What I find most beautiful about the Vedic prayer above is that a mere act of partaking of food becomes a deeply spiritual experience, an act of communion. If we go deep into the significant act of preparing the food we are about to eat and offer to our family, if we approach the food with all our senses, be sensitive to the process of creation, nourishment and sustenance, we shall realize there is something sacred about the whole process of eating. That is why it is important to have the meal in complete silence and utter absorption and have only those foods which are natural and nourishing. Then it becomes an unbelievably interesting and enjoyable experience.
Somehow, I cannot imagine saying this prayer over junk food, cola in hand, or at a pub or disco. Only that food which has come from Mother Earth and which is conservatively cooked is natural and healthy; rest is all the product of a restless, craving mind. Observe that we eat in the presence of the five elements from where the whole cosmos has sprung-Earth (natural food), Water (not beverages or alcohol), Fire (digestive fire), Ether (space) and Air (not suffocating atmosphere).
This is a concept way beyond the understanding of the Western cultures or ostensibly ‘developed’ countries. Hence the culture of eating anywhere and everywhere-in buses and trains, when rushing to office, over blaring party music, couched in front of the TV (the modern civilization’s bane), in garishly lit-up pubs and restaurants.
I have nothing against eating out, except that it could be turned into a better experience. We have a beautiful tradition on how and what to serve the guest. The very fact that restaurants are business hubs, and are least interested in the physical, mental or spiritual health of the ‘customer’ (not a guest!) creates negative energies, besides raising suspicions about the freshness, hygiene and quality of the food served.
Regarding food, our Indian tradition lays great stress on the appropriateness of the kind of place, the type of company, the time of eating, besides how, when and by whom the food is cooked. As we move further ahead on the spiritual path and go deep into their meaning, we realize the true significance of such elaborately described rituals relating to food and our relationship with it.
Just for today, be sensitive to your connection with food.
Relaxation at work
While at work, especially if you need to sit in front of the computer for long periods or go through heaps of files, protect yourself from physical and mental stress. Most important, maintain the correct body posture under all circumstances. That is, guard against hunching the back or straining the neck. Unless the work demands, do not bend over or backward. And if such be the case, periodically stretch your body backward or forward gently to take off the pressure from the strained muscles or ligaments. An incorrect body posture strains the nervous system, which is a major cause of eye problems in the modern world.
Every couple of hours, do the following exercises while still in your chair. Take care that your body posture is correctly maintained and the spine is straight, shoulders gently drooping.
• With clenched fists gently rotate the wrists outward and inward alternately, about 10 times each.
• Repeat the same with the ankles.
• Keep the fingertips on the shoulders with the thumb tip on the lower portion and then rotate the shoulders forward and backward about 10 times each.
• Take a deep breath as you gently take your head back as far as you can. Hold your breath to the count of six. Now, while exhaling slowly, gently bend your neck and bring the chin to rest on the upper breast portion. Hold your breath to the count of six. Repeat this three times.
• Similarly, during one slow inhalation and exhalation, rotate your head clockwise and repeat it anti-clockwise. Do this at least five times for maximum relaxation.
• While standing upright, with feet about 16 inches apart and hands on the hips, twist your upper torso to the right and the left alternately. Breathing normal and slow, do this about 10 times.
• While working on the computer or reading, about every half-an-hour, rub the hands vigorously, then gently place the palms on closed eyes; right palm on the right eye and the left on the left eye. Do this palming exercise at least three times, holding the palms to the eyes to the count of 10.
Do not do any of these exercises mechanically. Concentrate 100 per cent on them. During all these exercises, keep the eyes closed, focus on the slow and gentle breath, and be aware of every movement of the body and its parts. While the exercises will relax the body, the concentration will massage the mind. Thus freshened, the work at hand will be accomplished faster, and with better efficiency.
Just for today, do not let your body or mind be burdened by anything in this world.
Attitude to work
It will be simpler for me to say: do your work honestly, do your work sincerely, do it efficiently, be loyal to the organization you are working with… but none of this really helps. I would rather say, work for your ‘Self’, work for the inner ‘You’. At the end of the day’s work, ask yourself: “Am I satisfied with what I accomplished today?” “Do I feel an inner joy of having earned my day’s living?” “Did I give my 100 per cent to my work today?” “Has my day’s work been of help to someone?” “Will it bring some positive change somewhere?” “Am I at peace with myself today?”
Besides earning you the day’s salary, if the answer to the rest of these questions is in the affirmative, you will realize how happy a person you are. If the majority of the questions are answered in the negative, then analyze where the gaps are and try to do something to fill them up. Try approaching your work as a child approaches its toys-playfully, enthusiastically.
Often, we need to do some mundane yet necessary activity. The psychological time that we spend with such activity reduces if we concentrate fully on the job and witness ourselves doing it. Try not to separate yourself from the activity. Become one with the activity, at the same time holding the string of your breath.
Just for today, be with your work; do it with total involvement.
There are times, more often than not, when superiors at work are inconsiderate, colleagues are nasty, subordinates are grumpy, energy level is dipping and self-esteem is low. At such times, sit in your chair, hold your own hand and place it in the lap, take 10 deep breaths, slowly, very slowly, and keep looking at it as each breath comes in and goes out. Feel the life force coming in with inhalation and negative emotions going out with exhalation. Feel yourself a part of the universe, feel everyone a part of the universe. Be with this stillness for a few minutes.
When you open your eyes, look at your thought process, look at the thought process of those around you. Circumvent all that you find is nasty and negative. Before taking any action, assess whether it is a reaction or an impartial act arising from correct perception. Think about what is in everyone’s interest and not just about yourself. Your effort to stay connected with the Cosmos since the moment you woke up today is already bearing fruit and positive energies are now helping you.
Just for today, stay as calm, as receptive, and as perceptive as possible.
Befriend your anger
Anger. It’s a rare breed of people who remain untouched by this most volatile of all emotions. Like all other emotions, anger too has both negative and positive aspects. However, what sets this emotion apart is that its radius of impact is the widest of all. In fact, in these times of global terrorism, it encompasses the entire Earth’s circumference and carries its negative vibrations deep into the cosmos. But need it really be so?
Instead of getting absorbed in your anger, observe as this emotion starts to overpower you. Use anger as a tool to accomplish something positive rather than exercise it as a weapon of destruction. Express anger; do not unleash it. Accept anger; do not suppress it. Guide it; do not follow it. Whatever be the intensity of the emotion, always be aware of it.
If one can master the art of expressing the right amount of anger at the right time for the right cause, one can unleash a lot of creative power for one’s own and the community’s good. One way to do this is to instantly be aware of your breath the moment anger leaps up. If the emotion is about to take a negative or destructive turn, the breath awareness will gently douse the flames. If the anger is to be used for a purpose, the focus on breath will make it more effective. One invaluable contribution of breath awareness here is that anger will have none of the strain or pressure on your nerves or the heart.
Just as with anger, apply the principle of breath awareness as you feel swept away or limited by any other emotion or passion.
Just for today, understand your anger. Befriend it.
As we journey across the day’s horizons with the Sun, becoming increasingly alive and sensitive to our body, our emotions, our actions; as we get more and more connected with each and every activity that we do, from walking the dog to playing with a child to cooking food, we start living more and existing less. And we can calmly watch the passions getting transformed into deeper emotions and emotions getting more refined and richer.
As we become more alive to each moment of the day, we become more alive to ourselves and our being. Thence, we effortlessly move towards the more refined realms of the consciousness-Chitta (Being)-and away from what impede our path to true happiness-Manas (Mind), Buddhi (Intellect) and Ahamkara (I-ness; Ego). We actually do not need mind, intellect and feeling of identification to live; we only need them to conduct some limited functions in the material world. So move beyond the mind.
As one opens up to everything and everyone, to all kind of experiences, as one learns to receive with grace as much as to give, one becomes aware of the limitations of the mind. As sensitivity to the self and to others increases, the mind automatically becomes more balanced, thus giving more stability to personal, social and professional relationships.
Just for today, give some rest to the mind. Bypass it.
In the day gone by, there could be times when matters went awry. We might have taken incorrect decisions. We could also have had a very satisfying day. Or we might have achieved something great and earned a lot of praise for it. As the day ends and we prepare to rest, offer the day’s experiences at the feet of the Supreme Power from whom everything has emerged. See yourself as a mere tool through which some work in this world has been accomplished. Be grateful for getting to play a role in a larger plan.
End the day with a sincere prayer for peace and happiness sent out for all-this too as an offerin
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