By Suma Varughese
The New Age is here. Can the New You be far behind? Here’s how to package your body, mind and spirit for the Millennium
The New Millennium,another term for the New Age. And we are obliged to create ourselves afresh. For the New Age asks for a radical change in attitude, perspective, approach and being. The Universe, we now discover, is caring, intelligent, connected and radiant, with energy responsive to our needs and thoughts.
Fundamental to the New Age is the acceptance of a Higher Intelligence that not only created the universe but also is intimately connected to every single atom. The Creator and the Creation are one. How do we respond to this vision of oneness and divinity?
There are certain key attitudinal shifts we must make. The first is the acceptance of the supremacy of the spirit. So far our understanding of life was shaped by our use of the senses. But now we learn that our bodies are containers for our spirit and that this spirit is eternal, undying, and divine; in short, it is the God within us.
If this is so, how do we access the spirit within us? To align ourselves to our spirit and to give expression to it, we need to develop our intuition, for one thing. Our spirit speaks to us through feelings, hunches, visions. The old ways of using reason and logic to arrive at decisions must be tempered with heart. We are no longer driven to do things simply because they are sensible, but because they are what we want to do.
Using intuition as a yardstick throws us with greater dependence on the Universe. And as we abide by its dictates, a path unfolds before us. Things happen that lead us one more step towards our growth. We get insights that open new possibilities.
We sense that we are in the middle of a wonderful adventure and that all that arises in our lives is meant to lead us further towards the goal. And the goal? To access the God within. To become Pure Consciousness itself.
This leads to another attitudinal shift, namely, that our purpose in life is to grow and eventually realize our true nature. We must move from protesting against the many inequities of life to actively cooperating with them, for they teach us what we need to learn. Burdened with a cranky mother-in-law? A floundering business? Death whistling close behind? So much the better! The more the problems, the more springy your step.
It’s a long road that you and I have to travel. We have to get to the Holy Grail of Godhead. And for that we have to vanquish every impediment of the body, mind and soul. Here’s how-
We are not the body, but the body is the vehicle that bears us onward and we have a sacred obligation to take care of it. The New Age attitude towards the body is responsibility towards it. We must look after it so that it can serve us to the best of its ability. The old idea of using (and abusing) the body to experience sensory pleasures will be calibrated by the need for discipline and self-control. Nor is the body unconnected with the spirit. As all seekers know, unless the body is in perfect fettle, spiritual progress is hindered.
What is the appropriate food for the Millennium? Yatha anna, thatha manna (as the food, so the mind) goes one saying. The Bhagvad Gita was far more precise regarding the impact of food on the body-mind-spirit complex.
‘Foods which increase life, health, happiness, which are tasty and strengthen the heart, are liked by those of the character of goodness (satvic).
‘Foods which are bitter, sour, harsh, which give pain, grief and sickness, are desired by those of passionate character (rajasic).
‘That which is stale and has lost its flavor, and is unfit for sacrifice is the food liked by those of dull character (tamasic).’ (XVII, 8, 9, 10; The Song of the Lord, translated by Edward J. Thomas).
Self-realization is the progressive movement from tamasic to rajasic to satvic qualities. Satvic food would include wheat, rice, milk, butter, honey, raw sugar, green vegetables, fruits and nuts. Rajasic qualities are found in wine, tea, coffee, sodas, oily and spicy food. Tamasic food is canned or frozen, root vegetables, peanuts, leftovers as well as meat products. So, we are what we eat.
But what is the impact of food on the body? Traditional healing sciences such as ayurveda and naturopathy stress on diet and good digestion. Says Hans H. Rhyner in Ayurveda, The Gentle Health System: ‘Improper nutrition is almost always the cause of a physical illness.’
Ayurveda also introduces the concept of doshas, or three life-giving forces—vata, pitta and kapha.
These are found in every individual in varying qualities and form our individual natures. All depends on the balancing of your doshas with the food quality. Ayurveda suggests that each meal should have the full complement of gunas and rasas. Gunas define textures such as heavy, light, dry, oily. Rasas refer to sweet, sour, salty, astringent tastes. Ayurveda would advise a diet of 30-60 per cent whole cereal grains, 30-50 per cent fresh fruits and vegetables, 10-20 per cent of high quality proteins. But naturopathy advocates the consumption of a primarily raw diet—fruits, vegetables and nuts. Grains and cereals require cooking and are therefore not encouraged.
Tips for good digestion
• Never eat when angry, depressed, bored or upset.
• Preferably eat fresh, local, seasonal and home-cooked food. And chew well.
• Facing east when eating maximizes digestion.
• Give thanks for what you are about to eat.
• Eat only as much as would fit into your hands cupped together.
• Join the middle finger and thumb of each hand and sit cross-legged with your hand resting on your knees. Breathe calmly. This mudra improves digestion.
How does one attain perfect health? Allopathy is the study of disease and not of health. To understand the principles of good health and how to practice them, we must retrieve the traditional wisdom of alternative therapies. Morarji Desai, former prime minister of India and an avid advocate of nature cure, says in a foreword of the book, Health In your Handsby Devendra Vora: ‘The human body is a perfect machine which can regulate itself, provided the natural rules of food, work and rest are observed. When we transgress natural rules, we create toxins in the body, which the body attempts to get rid of. This attempt is considered as disease.’ Health, in other words, is the natural state. Disease is the aberration.
• Right diet: The first important thing is the need to moderate one’s diet. Have at least one glass of juice every day. Vora gives us a useful way to gauge the right and the wrong for ourselves. Stand straight, keep your left fist holding whatever food item you wish to test against the heart and stretch out your right hand parallel to the ground. Ask someone to pull your hand down. If the food item is good for you, the resistance in your right hand will be much more than if it is not. In the latter case, your right hand will slip down easily.
• Breathe right: Learn pranayama. ‘The yogi’s life is not measured by the number of his days but by the number of his breaths. Therefore he follows the proper rhythmic patterns of slow, deep breathing. These rhythmic patterns strengthen the respiratory system, soothe the nervous system and reduce craving,’ writes B.K.S. Iyengar in his book .The Illustrated Light on Yoga
• Mudras: Just a few graceful gestures with the fingers can help you stay on the cutting edge of health. Try Vayumudra: Bend the index finger down till it touches the mount of Venus and press your thumb on it. Keep the other fingers straight. It cures rheumatism, arthritis, gout.
• Try acupressure: According to this therapy, the body is one connected bioenergetic system whose contact points are to be found in the palm of the hand and the sole of the feet. All you have to do, says Vora, to keep your system toned up, is to press the whole palm starting one inch of the wrist upwards with the thumb for five minutes. Remember to do it with both palms as well as the back of them. To diagnose, become aware of pain at any point. This indicates disorder in that particular organ. To cure the problem, press the affected point for two minutes thrice a day for as long as it takes to heal.
• Give yourself reiki everyday. It will add life to what’s left of it.
How do you know when your health is okay? According to Vora, your head must be cool, the soles of your feet warm, your stomach soft, indicating that your digestive system and solar plexus are in order.
The mind is the second aspect of our tripartite selves. It too needs to be disciplined and in alignment with our souls. And that’s easier said than done. The first sign of a greater consciousness is the knowledge that the mind, as the scriptures say, is a restless monkey. We say, I will file my tax returns and the mind insolently serves up pictures of dancing girls instead. To control our moods, feelings, behavior, approach to relationship is a serious endeavor, often demanding a lifetime of work.
This is the process of learning both to control the waywardness of our minds and to realize its truly awesome potential. We are ignorant of both, how little control we actually have over it, and how much it can do if trained well. In the New Age, we are learning to go beyond truisms such as having a fixed nature or inborn limitations. Our minds and selves are infinitely malleable and within our power of change. What stops us from coming in contact with the ground of pure potential is the conditioning we picked up on the way. The process of deconditioning is two-way. One is to become aware of the old conditioning that tells us how powerless, helpless and limited we are and to accept the feelings and issues they present. The other is to simultaneously proceed towards fresh positive conditioning affirming our limitless potential.
Many techniques have grown around these processes.
• Meditation: As we learn to tune inwards, for perhaps the first time in our life, we realize the fickle nature of the mind. Through attempting to watch the breath or body sensations, we actually end up watching our thoughts drag us and eventually this process of awareness stills it.
• Japa, name or mantra chanting, is another way of cleansing and focusing the mind.
• In creative visualization, we learn to use our powers of imagination to visualize whatever effect we wish to have in our lives, such as health, wealth, love. At the same time, we reaffirm the message through words. ‘I am whole, powerful and perfect. All that I need for my highest happiness is mine. I trust the universe and surrender to it’ is one. Create your own. But keep in mind certain laws.
1. Phrase your words positively. ‘I am not stupid’ is hardly the way to increase your intelligence for the mind will translate it to mean the reverse.
2. Put as much fervor and belief into it as you can. The results will be in direct proportion to your level of belief.
3. Be as specific and precise as possible. Avoid vagueness. The mind takes everything you say literally.
4. Be patient. Deconditioning and reconditioning takes time. Months, even years
The Silva Method is one system that not only shows us how to control the mind but also reveals its awesome powers. The subconscious can create anything we want it to. This means that our dreams and nightmares, both come true.
The subconscious has a perfect memory. It records every experience we have ever had.
It has ESP powers and can easily intuit future happenings and heal through telepathy. It is connected to every other subconscious and is the source of all wisdom.
Is the subconscious God? Yes, says psychiatrist M. Scott Peck. He talks about the subconscious’s power of communicating to the conscious mind through dreams, idle thoughts and through Freudian slips. He says:”It is the unconscious , that is allied with the therapist, struggling towards openness, honesty, truth and reality, fighting to ‘tell it like it is’. To put it plainly, our unconscious is God. We were part of God all the time.”
Controlling the mind and learning to go beyond all limitations is what personal growth is all about. Writes Peck in The Road Less Traveled: ”Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them? Yet it is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that life has its meaning. When we desire to encourage the growth of the human spirit, we challenge and encourage the human capacity to solve problems, just as in school we set problems for our children to solve.”
Peck posits discipline (mind control) as the master skill to help us solve problems. According to him there are four disciplinary tools: delaying of gratification, acceptance of responsibility, dedication to truth and balancing.
Says Peck:”Delaying gratification is a process of scheduling the pain and pleasure of life in such a way as to enhance the pleasure of meeting and experiencing the pain first and getting it over with.”Of acceptance of responsibility, he says,”We must accept responsibility for a problem before we can solve it.”
Dedication to truth is important, he says, because ,”the more clearly we see the reality of the world, the better equipped we are to deal with the world.”
Balancing is the ability to discipline so that we don’t go overboard and lose perspective. ”Extraordinary flexibility is required for successful living in all spheres of activity,”concludes Peck.
In the New Age our attitude towards work will also go through a sea of change. Working to bring the bacon home will cease to be a motivation. Work as self-expression, as a medium of serving humanity, as play, will strike a more resonant chord. Writes Shakti Gawain in Living in the Light,’‘When you are doing what you love, you may work harder and produce more than ever before, but it will feel like play.”
According to her, work and money need not have a direct relationship. One does what one wants to do, and money comes perhaps not from the source of your work but some other way.
The New Age, says Shakti, will no longer offer standard career options, but specific one tailor-made to your own skills, interests and passions. Certainly, as more and more people move into a spiritual way of life, they leave aside their conventional occupations and move into far more singular livelihoods. Cyrus Khambatta, for instance, was a banker and a consultant in foreign exchange, now turned into a healer and counselor.”I had a calling from within that I felt I must attend to. And my life situation worked in such a way as to allow me to take the risk. A superior power was clearly orchestrating the whole thing. The benefits to the new way of life are wonderful. I feel I am doing what I love to do, not want to do. And I also have a lot more freedom. The downside is that I don’t fully trust myself to use the freedom well. I worry that I might get sluggish.”
He adds:”The key to abundance is to do what you want to do. If you get into computers or MBA because you don’t want to ‘lag’ behind, you are operating from lack.” Khambatta recommends surrender in order to make the process of following your instincts more grounded.”Once you tune into your Higher Self, you flow,” he says.
In their book, Finding Your Perfect Work, writers Paul and Sarah Edwards suggest that if you are looking for the perfect job, you first have to find out what you want to do. Ask yourself: Why do you want to leave your present job? What is the most important thing for you? It could be freedom, more time for family, creative satisfaction. Get in touch with the time when you were most happy. Relive it. This is the feeling your job should be able to evoke within you. What are the fantasies you have about your work? This is a valuable guideline on where your heart really lies. Will the prospective work take care of all your needs in terms of money, time, satisfaction, flexibility? Take a long time to answer these questions, particularly about money. You need to make sure that the money will come in.
Once you have done the spadework, become aware of your four assets—gifts: your inherent talents; passion: the things that really turn you on from public speaking to nursing wounded sparrows; mission: are you driven to do something whether it be bringing together single women or spearheading a movement against drunk driving? And finally your work experience and skills. Try and find the job that will help you maximize all four assets. When you get a matching fit, you have hit upon your perfect job.
Nandan Savnal is a chartered accountant who moved away from a bank job towards consultancy in his field and also into the zone of personal growth. He is an NLP trainer and is planning to bring Gestalt psychology to India. ”Personal growth training arose out of my own interest,” he says. ”I feel I am helping people realize their potential and that gives me great satisfaction.”
The Edwardses offer a sage bit of advice. When searching for the perfect work, ask yourself what you can give, not what you can get. Your work will only prosper if people need what you give.
Releasing the spirit to shine its resplendence on every facet of your life is the goal of every seeker. To be the perfect vessel for the outpouring of God’s grace is our highest aspiration.
How then does the spiritual aspirant live? If there’s one word that sums it up, it is probably simplification. The whole purpose of spiritual inquiry is to successively shed layers of our identity, needs and desires. That is why the traditional approach to self-realization was through the process of negation: neti, neti (not this, not this). It is only when we free ourselves of our false identity that the true self shines forth. In his book, The Science of Enlightenment, Nitin Trasi describes the liberated stage as one free of unnecessary conditioning, thoughts and desires. Says he: ‘His pleasure is not dependent on the external source to the extent that its removal would cause distress. If it is there, he enjoys it. If not, he does not miss it.’
As the individual’s spiritual inquiry intensifies, she will notice that the restless mind no longer swings from thought to thought. Much of our desires really emerge from the need to escape our thoughts. This would be particularly true for all addictions, but equally so for entertainment or sensory pleasures.
Next comes the simplification of psychological needs. Our increasing sense of self gives us an authentic self-esteem that is not dependent on proving our worth to others. We drop out of the consumer game, and with that simplify our lifestyles considerably. There may also be a simultaneous dropping out of the rat race. The need to get ahead at the cost of health, scruples and relationships is out of sync with the need for perfect balance. Knowledge of our interconnection makes us aware of the damage the consumerist lifestyle is wreaking on the environment, further doubling our commitment to simplicity.
Says Khambatta: ”There are so many things that we don’t really need. For instance, my wife works in a bank and could easily get a car loan, but what is the need for a car? We have a scooter which is adequate for the two of us, and the local trains are convenient for long-distance travel.”
Free of the need to keep up appearances and to satisfy every odd whim and fancy, the seeker directs his or her time towards personal growth—yoga, pranayama, meditation, reiki. The seeker gradually shifts the focus within, deriving his pleasure from the fascinating process of watching his true self unfold. There may be the arising of artistic expression, the ability to write or paint or sing may unfold, giving rise to fresh career possibilities.
Above all, as our narrow focus on our own needs dissolves, we become increasingly sensitive to the needs of the world. The harness of work is now for others.
Vasudaiva Kutumbakkam (the world is one family) said the sages of yore. What they meant was the intimate realization that we are all connected. Says Peck: ”Spiritual growth is inseparable from the process of psychological maturation.” Part of this maturation process is to assume increasing responsibility for oneself and life. Full maturity is reached when the individual assumes full responsibility for life. Adds Peck: ”We ourselves will then have become one form of the grace of God, working on His behalf among mankind, creating love, pulling our fellow creatures up to our own level of awareness, pushing the plane of human evolution upward.’
Trasi observes:”A sage… sees no one as ‘other’. To him, therefore, compassion occurs naturally.’ But even those of us who are not yet enlightened will still find an increasing call to do what we can for others.
If we are not free to take direct action, we have the option of giving tithes to society. Tithes were first introduced by the Christian church, which decreed that an individual would give one-tenth of his income to the church. This concept can be extended even to those who are not part of any organized religion. If each of us were to earmark one-tenth of our income for the aid of causes we feel strongly about, there would be a more equitable distribution of income.
Already many New Age thinkers abroad are doing this. Deepak Chopra is one and so is James Redfield. In his book, Conversations With God, Neale Donald Walsch too suggests the same solution.
At the heart of community consciousness is the realization that we, and not the government, are responsible for the world. In India, particularly, our problems are too huge to be left to the government alone, and each of us is obliged to do what we can to alleviate the illiteracy and poverty of our countrymen. We have already seen the success of the illiteracy eradication drive launched by the people of Kerala, India. And to some extent urban communities are developing a new civic consciousness that leads them to take over the responsibility of solving issues such as street cleanliness and garbage removal upon themselves. From transforming ourselves we move naturally into transforming the world.
One of the fundamental shifts in New Age thinking is the awareness that we are not divorced from nature or the environment but are a part of it. This is a radical shift from the capitalist notion that the environment is a resource to be exploited. New Age wisdom would decree: destroy the environment today and it will destroy us tomorrow. Says writer Paul Devereux in the preface to his book, Earth Mind: ”There is the established so-called ‘economic’ worldview that says we have to exploit the planet for the sake of progress.”The opposing, emergent view says, that it is too expensive not to change our ways.
Says Shakti in Living in the Light: ”Mother Nature is symbolic of the nurturing, feminine aspect of ourselves. Disrespect and lack of harmony with nature are only possible in a society of individuals who disrespect and disregard their own feminine, intuitive nature.”
Eventually the solution rests with you and me. Each of us must be willing to buck the present system based on high consumerism. Winin Pereira and Subhash Sule of the Centre For Holistic Studies assert in their periodical Indranet, that people must be made to change their lifestyle either by awareness of the unsustainability of a consumer industry or by our cultural proclivity for simple living. They suggest:
• Use petrol, gas and other fossil fuels for basic necessities only.
• Use renewable energy sources such as animal power, wood fuel, vegetable oils for lighting.
• Weed out all unnecessary expenditure from your life and wallow in the dividends of wholesome food, a greener environment, richer human relationships.
• Return to the production and consumption of traditional handmade material. This would also increase employment.
• Support traditional health systems using low cost herbs.
• Develop science and technology, which people can practice themselves.
• Cultivate the understanding that all life has equal value and that the Universe is not human-centric.
A spokesman from Sanctuary magazine adds: ”Cultivate awareness of day-to-day activities and use the less energy-intensive option, whether it is in the food you eat, the clothes you wear, the transport you use.”
We say: Get to know nature. Spend time with her, appreciating her wondrous beauty and awesome powers. The reason why we don’t have a healthy respect for her is because the urban environment leads to the illusion that we can dispense with her wondrous beauty and awesome powers. The reason why we don’t have a healthy respect for her is because the urban environment leads to the illusion that we can dispense with her.
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