WALK THE MODERN MONASTIC PATH.
We are infinite possibility. Cultivating mindfulness and walking the modern monastic path brings a sense of peace to our lives and helps us live our dharma (meaningful purpose). One of the best ways to find this inner peace is to create positive daily rituals that literally fire neurons together to create new brain maps (neurotags). These maps bolster the release of positive neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin and decrease the release of stress hormones such as cortisol which results in a greater level of contentment. Neurons that fire together wire together, and it is well researched that regular practice of positive rituals, such as expressing gratitude, can have a huge effect on how we think and feel.
Lucky for us, mystics of many traditions have offered us tools and practices to help set our internal rhythms. These tools are simple and available to everyone.
Perhaps of the greatest importance, is setting a regular sleep and rising schedule. In the most traditional yogic sense, the pre-dawn hours are believed to be the most peaceful, or sattvic, time of day. This is considered the easiest time to quiet the mind, and the ideal time for meditation. That said, I also believe that our bodies have their own natural clocks, and if you are more of a night owl you will need to adjust the schedule below to fit your needs.
Regardless of when you wake, consistency of practice is the key to being able to "walk the path." It takes 66 days to make a new habit. But trust me, the reward is worth it the effort.
The following process was originally taught to me by my guru, Baba Harihar Ramji of Sonoma Ashram
- Upon waking, take at least 3 deep breaths calming your heart and gently opening your eyes to the new day. This is an excellent time to say a mantra or express a moment of gratitude.
- Check which nostril is more open and put that foot on the ground first to start the day on the right foot.
- Drink a glass of warm water mixed with juice from half a lemon. This helps alkalize the stomach to prepare for the day. I also like to add fresh ginger to mine to help bring down my regulate any high morning glucose, strengthen my immune system, and to prepare the stomach for food.
- Brush your teeth and clean your tongue with a tongue scraper. Move around straightening your home until you are ready for the toilet. If your digestion is feeling slugglish, try gently rubbing your lower abdomen in circles from right to left to help stimulate peristalsis.
- Do yoga or exercise followed by meditation.
- Dry/Wet Brush & Shower. To save time, I like to do a wet lymphatic massage in the shower with a sisal mitt. Use long or circular strokes always moving towards the heart to help stimulate the flow of lymph. Begin the process at the feet. When I have extra time I do a dry brush outside the shower, followed by the wet brush technique in the shower.
- Finish with Abhyanga (anointing the body with oil). Sesame oil is the traditional Ayurvedic choice, but I prefer coconut oil. There are many ways to do this, but most texts suggest working from the head down to the feet. Let the oil sink into the skin as you appreciate each part of your body.
- Eat a balanced breakfast.
- Two hours before bedtime make a cup of tea to mark the end of your day and clear your desk. A clear desk equals a clear mind. All that work will be there tomorrow and trust me, you won't forget where you put it. Here are 9 easy steps on how to get it all done.
- Prepare for your next day. Prep all food, pack your bags, get your clothes ready. Take the time to make your morning transition easy.
- Turn off all electronics at least one hour before bed time. The blue light that is emitted by most electronics is terrible for melatonin production, and it keeps your mind overly stimulated.
- Take the last hour of your day to bathe, stretch and read a book. My typical evening ritual includes a long bath in magnesium chloride flakes from the Zechstein sea, followed by Abhyanga for the second time and gua asha or jade rolling for my face. Then I roll out my yoga mat and do three Rasamaya moon salutes, ten minutes of postural exercises, and some deep tissue massage using balls, foam rollers, and bands. If time permits I climb in bed and read a book.
- Before falling asleep take a moment to express gratitude. Several years ago my husband and I started a practice we call, "Tell me something lovely." We use it at the end of the day and also when we are going through difficult or disappointing moments in life. The practice is simple.
- Tell me something lovely about your day.
- Tell me something lovely about someone else.
- Tell me something lovely about you.
- Set a calming alarm for the morning, and maybe use an aromatherapy diffuser by your bed. Lavender is always a good choice, but scent is deeply personal.
- If you wake up in the middle of the night don't panic. Some researchers, including myself, believe that if you are truly in touch with nature's rhythms this may be a natural phenomenon called "second sleep."
- Rest Well.
CREATE A SADHANA PRACTICE
IN THE TIPS OF MY FINGERS ARE OPULENCE, WEALTH, AND CREATIVITY.
IN THE PALM OF MY HAND IS WISDOM
IN THE ROOT OF MY HAND IS CREATION
IN SUCH A HAND I COME FACE TO FACE WITH THE DIVINE.
- BABA HARIHAR RAMJI
This prayer was taught to me by my guru. I have looked at my hands every morning for the last 10 years. To even talk about it makes me tear up, as I have watched the beauty of my hands age and been awestruck by taking the time to notice what they have accomplished. Sadhana translates from Sanskrit as "daily spiritual practice." It is something that you do daily that is simple and can be done regardless of place or circumstance. It serves to be a moment of pause in your life that connects you to something larger than yourself. Maybe you call "that thing" God, or guiding intuition, or the soul. Whatever "it" is, creating a sadhana not only offers you daily reminders to stay present, but also can be leaned into during the tough moments as it reminds us to take a deep breath, and recall previous more peaceful times in our life. For me, using my sadhana when my heart is aching reminds me that, "this too shall pass."
Over the years my students have created sadhanas around daily journaling, a single sun salute, lighting a candle, listening to inspirational music, reading a poem or an old letter. It has been transformative for so many of them. Whatever sadhana you choose, keep it simple, and let it's beauty manifest.
HAVE A DAILY, WEEKLY OR MONTHLY INTENTION
The nine core emotions (rasas) lend themselves beautifully to holding a daily, weekly or monthly intention. Every emotion we experience is neither positive or negative, it just exists. Working with an intention helps us to remain present moment, and stay unattached to outcomes in a healthy manner. At Rasamaya we tend to work with one rasa a month making sure to rotate through them all at least once during a year:
Jan, May & Sept - Wonder (Adbhuta Rasa) or Fear (Bhayanaka Rasa)
Feb, June & Oct - Joy (Hasya Rasa) or Disgust (Vibhatsa Rasa)
Mar, July & Nov - Courage (Veera Rasa) or Anger (Raudra Rasa)
Apr, Aug & Dec - Love (Sringara) or Compassion/Sadness (Karuna) or Shanta (Peace)
In my own personal life, I keep a bowl of our Rasamaya Intention bracelets. I normally wear whatever intention we are working with for the month, and then pick a few more randomly and let them serve as my intention for the day.
FIND YOUR OWN BELIEFS & RITUALS
Obviously this topic is loaded and we could devote an entire website to just to this, but I'll just give you my short list of guiding life principles. We must search deep inside for our own beliefs, but it may be helpful to try on some of these. Once you define your own core beliefs carry them in your heart with conviction but allow space for them to grow and change. Stay curious.
- Love with abandon. Everyone. Everything. All the time. That is what it means to live with compassion.
- Happiness takes practice. As mentioned in the opening paragraph, finding contentment means literally hardwiring joy into your brain. There is a well-researched phenomena, called the negativity bias, that states that humans are naturally hardwired towards the negative. It is considered part of our evolution and necessary to our survival. If the negativity bias wasn't there, when fight or flight occurs (sympathetic nervous system response) you would hear a roar and walk right into the lion's cave to be eaten rather than run away from the sound. This is also why when you receive constructive criticism at a job you might only remember the one negative thing said, instead of the fifteen positive things. Cultivating true contentment means to continually practice doing things that bring you joy to map them on your brain. The more you practice it, the easier contentment become. Eventually, the goal would to become so calm that the lion sits down in front of you.
- Forgive easily. Of course you will be hurt in life, that's part of being human, but the damage to the soul of hanging on to grudges and anger is poison. I am NOT saying be a push-over, not get mad, or to keep unhealthy people in your life. What I AM saying is that everyone is moving through this world from their own place of ego and attachment. Know this, take your time to process, and when you are ready, forgive completely and get on living your one precious life.
- Not everything is meant for you. This one took me a long time to learn as I have so many interests. You too may be talented or interested in many different things, but there is only so much time in this life. Choose where you devote your energy wisely so you don't become drained. This might be a stretch, but I like to think about this in terms of occupying energetic space. When I make a bunch of half-assed attempts to pursue all my interests, rather than focus and cultivate just a few, I waste universal energy. It's kind of like collecting a bunch of clutter of things you like but without any real significant emotional value. I find it fun to believe if I don't waste space and time by buying a bunch of art supplies I'm never going to use and also occupy my brain space with painting ideas I don't really I have the time for, that space I'm using might have allowed the next great Georgia O'Keefe to manifest somewhere else in the world. It's okay to set the idea down for another more appropriate time in my life, or to move on from the interest completely.
- Risk the heart. When I met my husband I wasn't looking for love. As I turned away from him I heard a voice clear as day say, "pay attention." I turned back around. Two days later he said, "Carrie Lee, will you marry me?" He was half-joking, but less than a month later we had moved in together. One year after that we were married.
- Take a vow. You don't need to look any further than the yoga ethics (yamas and niyamas) to find one. Choose one of these ten universal vows and it will guide you to all the others. I took a vow of satya, or truth, years ago. It has forced me to have uncomfortable conversations and to face the deep dark parts of my own being. It has also led me to have deeply beautiful authentic friendships and to follow my heart's true calling. The ten ethical vows are: non-violence (ahimsa), truth (satya), non-stealing (asteya), continence (brahmacharya), non-greed (aparigraha), saucha (purity), santosha (contentment), purification through discipline (tapas), self-study (svadhaya), finding the divine (ishvara pranidhana).
- Treat your body like a temple. You are simply the most important person in your world. The ancient mythical writings state this over and over and over. If you are not right with you, then you can't be right with the world around you. Buy yourself flowers, decorate your body, practice good health, create lusciousness in your life but work within your means. You know what you need to do. Don't waste the gift of your life.
- Find beauty in the ordinariness of the daily. Life is happening all around you. Set down your cell phone and look up. There is beauty even in the mundane of the daily. It's truly all about perspective. You can choose to see folding laundry as the bane of your existence, or instead as a an offering towards tending the heart of your personal sanctuary. Two very different views. You choose. I learned this lesson while living at the ashram and helping to cook evening meals. It is hard to cook for a lot of people, but I also knew it was a small unspoken way to show my love for the community I was serving. I also think it helps to alternate less enjoyable tasks with more positive ones. For every daily task you do that you dread, do another that moves you forward toward your goals.
- Express gratitude at least twice a day. Be grateful you woke up, be grateful you made it through the day, and be grateful for the hard moments, they are your best teacher.
- Talent comes from grit, dirt and failure. One of my favorite books is the Talent Code by Daniel Coyle and I have all my faculty read it. In the book he searches for the answer to what creates genius. What he finds is that the most talented people in the world often come out of areas that are gritty and non-glamorous, additionally, these individuals are willing to fail on the regular. To be born a genius, does not equate to becoming a genius. Get out of your comfort zone and become an expert in the thing you love. Study it from outside perspectives. My quest to study the human body has led me to studying aerial circus arts, taking dissection courses, nursing school, into underground temples in India, and literally all over the globe. To become an expert in any topic you must really get inside of it. And the beauty is, that the more you study, the less you will feel like you actually know anything about it. Stay curious. Fail hard. Get resilient.
- Value the ingredients you are cooking with. This concept comes from Anna Kunnecke a life coach who's writing I just adore. In this article, she speaks about how we are often tied up in an idealized misconception of who we think we should be becoming, or who we once were when we "had it all." Instead of spending your time wishing for a different life start thinking about the life you have right now, and what ingredients you actually are cooking with. Savor your life.
- Your body is your best teacher. Trust that inner voice. Listen to the warning signs when you are becoming ill before they spill over into a full body assault on your health. If you are ill, really tune in. Dis"ease" and discomfort are just your body's way of telling you something is amiss and needs to be addressed. All the best medical advice in the world won't replace the wisdom of your own inner voice. Get 8hrs of sleep a night and drink 2L of water a day. Rest well. Nourish. Enough said.
- Set down the worry. It will be okay. You will be okay. The "worry" isn't serving you or anyone else and is a waste of your resources. You are so much stronger than you think and the human body is an amazingly capable machine. Regardless of the stress whether it's financial, physical or psychological, worrying doesn't accomplish anything. You may need to roll up your sleeves and put the time in to do the work that needs to be done. Yes, it's hard, but no medication or quick-fix can replace the value of deep honesty, self-care, and some gumption. Alternately, if the worry is out of your control, you may have to settle it in your heart and move forward. Don't give up and above all else, be kind to yourself.
- Find your sanctuary.
- Always, always, always, LIVE INSPIRED.