The world is a great big buffet of experience. Through the perspective of Ayurvedic philosophy, this statement couldn’t be truer.
While mainstream society does place importance on dietary choices, very few people pay attention to what else they put into their bodies, especially the sensory intake of their lives.
You can achieve and maintain good health by making conscious choices. But what about factors that seem to be out of your control such as the environment you live in? Media, noise pollution, public chatter, and advertising all appear to be involuntary aspects of our daily experiences.
What can you do about degrading ads that appear in your favorite magazine, or the provocative lyrics of a song blasting from a nearby car in traffic? How do you remain centered as you eat your lunch while listening to a nearby group of people who offend every ounce of Zen in your body? Where is the choice in dealing with others and the sometimes offensive nature of the world at large?
It is possible to apply a little “old world” wisdom to this modern problem. Follow these six tips to bring peace back into your life.
A little self-awareness can go a long way. From an Ayurvedic perspective, we’re all ultimately our own nexus of intelligence and energy. You are a dynamic consciousness event that is here to experience life.
At our source level there is stillness, there is existence, knowledge, and bliss. Out here where the rest of the world appears to dwell there is movement, there is change, there is the appearance of chaos, and most important to our point, there are “others.”
As our consciousness expands, the divide between self and others softens, and this is important when taking in our life experiences. It is therefore recommended to cultivate a regular meditation practice and place as much attention on getting to know yourself at this source level as possible. Ultimately it is your Self at this level which is creating, processing and experiencing your life, thoughts, actions, and emotions. So it is good for you to become aware of this part of you so that you can better understand the way in which you take the world in.
It’s good to maintain your sense of self-identity as well as your likes and dislikes. But it shouldn’t be at the sacrifice of the present moment. Observe life around you. Life is constantly in motion, something is always happening, and nature almost demands dynamism. Despite our immense power of conscious and will, we should not be any different. Go with the flow. Realize that many aspects of your life that seem offensive are merely small, unexpressed parts of your own consciousness. For example, those provocative lyrics blaring from the car beside you in traffic: Have you ever stopped to actually listen to what’s being said? Or maybe it’s meant for you to give a moment of attention to the driver or passengers of the vehicle.
This doesn’t mean you need to leer at your fellow travelers or try to engage them in conversation. However, it might be your own self saying “Hey, look at me!” More than likely this is a call for inner attention rather than outer attention. Ask: “How does this make me feel?” or “Why do I feel offended or otherwise bothered by this music or the volume of it?”
When something offends you, go ahead and give it some attention, but with awareness. Feel the emotions and thoughts that arise and don’t fight them. Be dynamic and don’t take yourself—your perceived self—so seriously. Remember, you are creating your own life experiences from the ground source level. You may open yourself up to greater expression and a more compassionate point of view.
Understand the Doshas
In Ayurveda, we are taught that everything in nature is an expression of the five elements and there are doshic tendencies to all things. While it may be simple to perceive this in terms of your food, it may take more acuity to see this in your daily experiences. It may be difficult for you to recognize the bitter “taste” of that last Facebook post or the astringent nature of your favorite news program; try to hone this ability. If you can recognize the emotional tastes of your experiences, you may be better able to balance your self by minding your intake. Here is a simple breakdown of some of the emotional tastes we experience:
Discover your dosha and see if there isn’t an underlying reason to why you have trouble with certain events that come up in your day. For instance, as a sweet-natured, routine-loving Kapha you are balanced by the tastes of pungent, bitter, and astringent. However, when it’s an emotional experience that balance might not feel good at the time. A pungent experience involving a supervisor at work can be a call toward more productivity. An astringent comment from a friend may be something you need to hear to better yourself rather than a criticism to sulk over. Understand that the experience still may be healthy for you and use your own self-awareness to peel back the blockage. Armed with this information as well as the previous tips, you may find yourself living from a more expansive dynamic point of view.
Remain Calm and Stay in Your Bliss
When experiencing others, especially if your work involves groups or multiple daily interactions, it might be useful to put up an imaginary bubble. Imagine a bubble of light that is permeable, yet present.
The point of this mental exercise is not to create division between yourself and others, but to protect your peace. Throughout our day, we are constantly being bombarded with the thoughts, energy, actions, and words of others.
You may notice that interaction with others can sometimes be draining or mood altering. This is not always a negative outcome; it can be damaging if you allow yourself to be tossed along on the waves of other people’s energy and thoughts.
Put up an invisible barrier or bubble, in which you, and you alone, are in control. This may help you cultivate the awareness of your own empowerment in your life. Much like a cell wall works for microorganisms, only allow what you deem healthy or useful to enter into the bubble. Give yourself nutritious experiences as much as possible, while passively rejecting harmful ones and your stillness will grow. Remember, you don’t have to engage every emotion or thought that comes across your mind—you can choose where to place your attention. By protecting yourself in this way, you’re being kind to you—an important step to creating a sustained state of well-being.
Cultivate a Strong Agni
There are many tips for how to cultivate Agni, or processing digestive power, in terms of literal physical digestion. Since the act of digesting food is similar and connected to experiential digestion, it’s helpful to develop a strong physical Agni.
What does it mean to have a strong Agni in our consciousness? Simply put, it means to develop a zest for life or to become one who loves life for the sake of living.
On a subtle level, we are all constantly processing life. To cultivate a strong Agni, you need to process your life with awareness. It might help to visualize you “eating” your life experiences—and when you do make sure it’s with a strong appetite as opposed to a dull passive one. Enjoy your “food” and it will become better to you as your appreciation for it grows.
Similar to an Ayurvedic food diet, give yourself a variety of tastes and colors in your life. Try new activities, meet different people, and expand your mind. These words are not just empty rhetoric, try these notions out and see how life rises up to fulfill your growing appetite.
Value of Downtime
Give yourself a sufficient amount of downtime—just like you allow yourself to digest a meal—when processing experiences.
Good restful sleep is important as well as relaxation. Meditation is a great tool for relaxation because it allows you to consciously witness your thoughts; this is a form of digestion in itself. However, even when not meditating, it’s good to allow yourself a little time during your daily cycle to just be. Sit quietly, lie down, take a quiet stroll, do something that does not require much effort and is filled with silence. This gives your mind and spirit the time it needs to reboot and passively retreat from the activities of your day. There is an ebb and flow to everything in the natural world and so should it be with your inner world.
Step away from the stimulus periodically throughout the day, or even in the evening. A few minutes of quiet reflection or a 30-minute meditation after work will leave you refreshed and ready to take on whatever comes next.